Visitors to Canada

Sainte-Anne-de-Bellevue Canal National Historic Site

This section contains information for private boaters navigating in Canadian waters or seeking to enter Canada by boat. We also invite you to consult the Canada Border Services Agency website to plan your visit.

Entering Canada by Boat

When you arrive in Canada aboard a private boat, you must go to the nearest telephone reporting marine sites. The first docking of a private boat arriving in Canada from a foreign country must be made at a place designated for customs reporting.

Some boat-reporting stations have border service officers on duty during the boating season. At other stations, a telephone reporting system is used.

For more information, please consult the list of places designated for customs reporting.

Upon arriving in Canada, the boat’s captain reports to the Canada Border Services Agency by calling 1-888-226-7277 and providing the necessary information on their trip itinerary, passengers, declaration, etc. It is the boat captain’s responsibility to ensure that all people on board have the appropriate identification documents. Only the captain may disembark. The other people on board must wait for authorization from the Canada Border Services Agency.

Generally, customs clearance is issued verbally. However, if an inspection or documentation is required, the inspector may proceed to the boat’s location. Once customs has been cleared, the captain will receive a report number for their records. They must provide this number to a border services officer upon request.

When a private boat stops elsewhere than at one of the places designated for customs declaration purposes because of bad weather or other emergency situations, the operator must immediately report the circumstances to the nearest Canada Border Services Agency office or the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.

For more information, see the reporting requirements for private boat operators.

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Points of entry to Canada by boat

There are several maritime entry points where private pleasure boat operators can make their customs declarations.

Entry via the Richelieu River

In general, when coming from the United States, and from Lake Champlain in particular, entry into Canada occurs via the Richelieu River. Therefore, boats coming from the United States must report to the quai Richelieu customs office in Lacolle, located at the end of the pier, which is 0.8 miles north of the border.

Services at quai Richelieu

Entry via the St. Lawrence and the Thousand Islands region

When coming from the United States, from the Erie and Oswego canals in particular, entry to Canada occurs via the St. Lawrence Seaway. Most marinas on the north shore of the St. Lawrence are considered ports of entry where boaters may go to make their customs declaration.

For all marine entry points, consult the list on the Canada Border Services Agency website or call 1-888-226-7277

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Competency of Operators of Pleasure Craft 

Transport Canada requires all pleasure craft operators to carry proof of competency and proof of age at all times.

Proof of qualifications may be required for non-residents:

The regulations do not apply to non-residents who operate their pleasure craft in Canadian waters for less than 45 consecutive days. Please note that a proof of residence will be required on board at all times.

This proof of competence for non-residents can take three forms:

  1. A Canadian-issued pleasure craft operator card
  2. A completed boat rental safety checklist (for power-driven rental boats)
  3. An operator card or equivalent that meets the requirements of the operator’s state or country

Visit the Transport Canada website to find out about the requirements for foreign recreational boaters in Canadian Waters.

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Pleasure craft safety equipment

Foreign pleasure craft (licensed or registered in a country other than Canada) must be in compliance with the equipment requirements of the country in which the vessel is usually kept.

If you are not a resident of Canada and are using a pleasure craft licensed or registered in Canada, all of the required safety equipment must meet Canadian requirements. However, you may opt to bring your own personal flotation device for your own personal use.

For more information, please consult the online Small Vessel Regulations.

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