Canada Customs – Ottawa Airport

Posted on | November 27, 2016 | No Comments|


This year I traveled twice to the US with instruments (violin & cello) to present for conferences and a competition. Similar to a touring musician, I planned to bring my instruments back to Canada with me.

On my return and without proper documentation,  Canada Border Services Agency could assume I had purchased the instruments in the US and charge me sales tax and duties.  Just like any importation which might cost thousands of dollars in taxes.

So before leaving Canada on my flight, I did a couple of key steps to make the Canada Customs a simple process on my return.

1. I wrote a description of the violin, including measurements, photographs, wood species and the country of origin of each major wood part. Most violin dealers could write a similar certificate for a fee.

2. Before my flight, with the above paperwork in hand, I visited the Customs Office at the Ottawa Airport. The office is on the first floor (ground floor) at the NorthEast end, down a corridor and past the toilets. It was a little hard to find! Once in the office, I picked up the one black phone on an empty counter to call a customs agent. He arrived in a minute from some back room. Once I explained what I needed, he filled out the simple form below for my instruments and stamped the date on the back of my certificates. (he was very friendly!)


Flying back home, if Canada Customs asked about my instruments,  I could present the papers to show I had left Canada with the described string instruments. So I correctly avoided paying any taxes or duties during my travels.

The process was simple and I would recommend all musicians to have the necessary papers when traveling with expensive instruments.


For more information, the phone number for the Ottawa Airport office of the Canada Border Services Agency is 613 998 3709.


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    Guy Harrison Violin Maker
    792 Gladstone Avenue
    Ottawa, Ontario
    K1R 6X9
    Tel: 613 569 4803

    1997 Silver medal for viola in the Mittenwald International Violin Making Competition, Germany.

    2010 Bronze medal for violin in the Mittenwald International Violin Making Competition, Germany.

    2014 Workmanship award for violin in the Mittenwald International Violin Making Competition, Germany.

    2016 Silver Workmanship medal for cello in the VSA Violin Making Competition, USA.

    Member of the American Federation of Violin & Bow Makers and Violin Society of America.

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