5 Key Things You Need To Know About NAFTA Certificates for Canada

Filling out paperwork

NAFTA is a formal trilateral agreement between Canada, the United States, and Mexico. In order to import a good into a NAFTA country and receive preferential treatment, you will need a NAFTA Certificate of Origin. However, this legal document can be difficult to fill out properly. Here are five tips that will help you when you’re filling out NAFTA certificates.

1. NAFTA Certificates At Time Of Importation - If you don’t have a NAFTA Certificate at the time of importation, you have up to one year to obtain and provide a valid NAFTA certificate in order to trigger the post entry process and start recovering potential duties.

2. Who Can Fill Out A NAFTA Certificate? - Importers CANNOT fill out a NAFTA certificate themselves. The only people qualified to fill out a NAFTA certificate is the producer or exporter of the good.

3. Record Keeping Requirements - It is very important to understand that the importer must maintain the records for six years, plus the current year. If an importer is found to be non-compliant with record keeping when asked by customs, they are subject to AMPS penalties.

4. A NAFTA certificate is not always required - An exception to providing normally required NAFTA certificates occurs when shipping items which are of low value. An exporter can provide a low-value statement (see example below) for low-value commercial goods, which is under $2500 Canadian for NAFTA. However, you must maintain the same level of compliance as you would with a NAFTA certificate. Be aware that if the CBSA comes to the knowledge that the low-value shipment is part of a series of shipments that exceed $2500, they will reach out to you and ask for a NAFTA certificate. 

Low Value NAFTA Statement Example:

I certify that the goods referenced in this invoice/sales contract originate under the rules of origin specified for these good in the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and that further production or any other operation outside the territories of the Parties has not occurred subsequent to production in the territories.

Status: Exporter ( ) Producer ( ) of the certified goods
Country of origin: United States ( ) Mexico ( ) Mexico and United States ( )

5. Common NAFTA Certificate Errors - These are the most common errors found when filling out a NAFTA Certificate of Origin that you need to watch out for:

  • Country of origin is missing. (Just because you are shipping something from a NAFTA territory does not make it instantly eligible for NAFTA preferential treatment.)
  • Preference Criteria Is Incorrect. (NAFTA preference criteria is designated by the letters “A” through “F”. These different letters illustrate how your product qualifies for a NAFTA tariff rate. This video explains the difference between these letters
  • Producer Field left blank. (If an exporter wishes not to divulge this information due to privacy concerns, they may enter “Available to Customs Upon Request”, however, it cannot be left blank.)
  • Missing signature at bottom of the form.
  • Tariff classification field left incomplete.

NAFTA is a complicated topic that is difficult to summarize, but these five points will help you get started. Don’t forget to leverage your trade advisors and customs brokers for information, as we have immense experience preparing these forms and getting goods across borders.


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