Visitors to Canada

Saint-Ours Canal National Historic Site

drawing: variety of foreign flags beginning with u.s. flag
Historic canals trace the exploration, defence, commerce, and transportation routes that helped shape Canada. Today, they lend themselves to a variety of water- and land-based activities that are enhanced by the surrounding natural beauty and rich heritage. Historic canals are managed by Parks Canada.

Entering Canada

When you arrive in Canada aboard a private boat, you must go to the nearest telephone reporting marine site. 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 services 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 or call 1-888-226-7277

Upon arriving in Canada, the boat’s captain reports to the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) 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 CBSA. 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.

Where, due to weather conditions or other emergency, a private boat docks at a place that is not designated as a place for CBSA reporting, the operator must immediately report the circumstances to the nearest CBSA office or the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.

Procedures related to arriving in Canada by pleasure boat

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Points of entry

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.

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 more information, please consult the list of points of entry or call 1-888-226-7277

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Operator competency

Proof of competency may be required for non-residents who are visiting Canada by pleasure craft for more than 45 consecutive days or if the craft they are operating is licensed or registered in Canada (including rented or chartered craft).

Proof of competency may take one of three forms:

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

Competency of Operators of Pleasure Craft Regulations

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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 PFD for your own personal use.

Small Vessel Regulations

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Useful links

Canada Border Services Agency
Border Information Service: 1-800-461-9999
Outside Canada: 1-204-983-3500 or 1-506-636-5064

Office of Boating Safety
Quebec Region
Transport Centre Canada
Tél. : 1-800-267-6687

Environment Canada
Marine Forecasts and Warnings for Canada
Tel.: 1-877-789-7733

Canadian Hydrographic Service
Tel.: 1-613-998-4931

The St. Lawrence Seaway Management Corporation
Tel.: 1-613-932-5170

Canadian Power & Sail Squadrons
Tel.: 1-888-CPS-BOAT (1-888-277-2628)

Canadian Beacon Registry
Tel.: 1-800-727-9414

Government of Canada Publications
Marine Publications and Regulations
Tel.: 1-800-635-7943

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