Non-resident importers

Attention foreign suppliers

You must export food to Canada through a licenced Canadian importer. If you are a foreign business that prepares foods for export to Canada, you cannot apply for a licence under the Safe Food for Canadians Regulations (SFCR) unless you qualify as a non-resident importer. To determine this, refer to the information below.

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Non-Resident Importer (NRI)

A NRI is a person that imports food into Canada whose fixed place of business is located in a country other than Canada. NRIs are allowed to obtain a Safe Food for Canadians (SFC) licence under limited conditions.

To obtain a licence as a NRI, your fixed place of business must be in a country that the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) has recognized as having a food safety system that provides at least the same level of protection as that of the Safe Food for Canadians Act and Regulations. See Importing foods from the United States and Importing foods from countries other than the United States of this document for the types of foods that are currently approved for import by a NRI from specific countries.

Importing food into Canada as a NRI

All requirements of the SFCR in relation to importing food apply to both non-resident and resident importers.

In order to ensure that you will meet the general import requirements for importing food and for the preparation of your preventive control plan, refer to Importing Food: A Step by Step Guide and A guide for preparing a preventive control plan – For importers.

The specific import requirements for importing food can be found in the Automated Import Reference System (AIRS). The AIRS information is updated frequently so prior to importing you should verify AIRS to ensure that the import requirements have not changed. To learn more about how to use the AIRS database to determine the requirements for importing a regulated commodity into Canada refer to the Automated Import Reference System (AIRS) Tutorial.

The SFCR requires that a NRI must send the food directly to Canada from a CFIA recognized foreign state. For food other than meat and live or raw shellfish, the United States (US) is currently the only recognized foreign state from which a NRI can send certain foods directly to Canada.

  • For example, a NRI located in the United States (US) would not be able to import cheese directly to Canada from any country other than the US since no other country is recognized for imports of such products at this time. Such a shipment would have to be imported into the US where it would be subject to US government oversight before it is sent to Canada.

For imports of meat products and live or raw shellfish, a NRI could import products directly to Canada from their foreign state or another foreign state, providing that the inspection system for the meat or shellfish has been recognized by the CFIA under Part 7 of the SFCR.

Some commodities have specific requirements that need to be met prior to import into Canada. To determine if your commodity has specific requirements please refer to Food-specific import requirements.

Note

  • The import requirements for NRIs (found in section 12 of SFCR) came into force for all food on January 15, 2019. As of this date, NRIs must ensure they meet these NRI requirements, regardless of which type of food they importFootnote 1. Importers not meeting the requirements of section 12 will not have their safe and otherwise compliant shipments rejected at this time; however they are advised to make the appropriate changes to their import business to meet all applicable SFCR requirements.
  • To balance the need to protect Canada's food safety system while supporting food businesses in their efforts to comply with the new regulations, the CFIA's enforcement approach at coming into force will emphasize working with businesses to help them understand the new requirements.
  • NRIs will still need to meet any import admissibility requirements as indicated in the CFIA's Automated Import Reference System for the commodity they are importing.

Applying for a licence

Keep in mind

In order to be issued an SFC licence, NRIs must meet all applicable SFCR requirements, including those in section 12, before they are issued an SFC licence by the CFIA.

As a NRI, your application for a licence is the same as an importer located in Canada. To apply for a licence, sign up with My CFIA and create an account and your business profile. The My CFIA service will deliver and coordinate the full range of operational administrative services required for domestic and imported food related to SFCR licensing. This account will give you access to secure online services such as requesting a licence or access information about the licence and regulations ‎through your My CFIA account. For more information about the Safe Food for Canadians licence requirements or My CFIA refer to Licensing or My CFIA.

Keeping records

The SFCR does not require that records be kept at an address in Canada; however, records must be readily available at the request of an inspector at a time and place specified by the inspector. The records must be made available in English or French and be legible. When providing electronic records the records must be easily read by standard commercial software.

Recall and complaints

All requirements of the SFCR in relation to importing food apply to both non-resident and resident importers including specific procedure requirements relating to Investigation and notification, complaints and recall in Part 4 of the SFCR. For more information on recalls, refer to Food safety and emergency response.

Importing foods as an NRI from the United States

Only in limited situations would you qualify to apply for a licence as an NRI. NRIs in the United States are only permitted to import the following foods under the specified conditions.

Recognized food Specific conditions
Shell eggs Table eggs must come from an egg processing plant in the US that is on the List of plants approved to export table eggs to Canada as identified by the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) Agricultural Marketing Service
Processed eggs Processed eggs must come from an egg establishment under the authority of USDA Food Safety Inspection Service; Meat, poultry and egg product inspection directory
Meat and poultry products Only applies to the import of specific species of meat products from the United States (US) under the oversight of US Department of Agriculture Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) that are approved for export to Canada and that come from an establishment within the US that is recognized. Refer to Foreign countries establishments eligible to export meat products to Canada
Broths, bouillons, meat flavours and meat extracts

Applies to those products originating from a facility under the oversight of the US Department of Agriculture Food Safety and Inspection Service that are approved for export to Canada and that come from an establishment within the US that is recognized;

or

Applies to those products originating from a facility under the oversight of the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA). A certificate issued by the FDA is required to accompany the shipment imported into Canada.
Live or raw shellfish Only applies to the import of live or raw shellfish that are harvested in the US, approved for export to Canada and are handled or processed in an establishment that meets the requirements of the US inspection system for live/raw shellfish found on the Interstate Certified Shellfish Shippers List (ICSSL)
Other foods, as part of the food safety systems recognition arrangement between Canada and the USFDA Applies to most food commodities except those listed above, farmed catfish and catfish products, Grade "A" milk and Grade "A" milk products, and dietary supplements and natural health products. Refer to United States food safety systems recognition arrangement

Importing foods as an NRI from a country other than the United States

Only in limited situations would you qualify to apply for a licence as a NRI. NRIs in countries other than the United States are only permitted to import meat and shellfish into Canada under the specified conditions.

Recognized food Specific conditions
Meat products Only applies to the import of specific species meat products that are approved for export to Canada, that are from a country with a meat inspection system that is recognized by the CFIA and that come from an establishment within the country that is recognized by the CFIA. Refer to Foreign countries establishments eligible to export meat products to Canada
Live or raw shellfish Only applies to the import of live or raw shellfish that are approved for export to Canada, that are harvested in a country with an approved inspection system for live/raw shellfish and are handled or processed in an establishment that meets the requirements of the approved foreign inspection system for live/raw shellfish. Refer to Importing live or raw molluscan shellfish

CFIA area contacts for NRIs in the United States

The CFIA has area offices located across Canada. When NRIs located in the United States need to contact the CFIA for issues and enquiries related to their food, they should be contacting the CFIA area office designated for their state. To determine which CFIA area office you should be contacting, please refer to table of CFIA areas designated as the contact for non-resident importers located in the United States.

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