Bringing a firearm across the border into Canada
The groups governing this process sometimes update the rules, so be sure to review the sites for the Canadian Border Services Agency (CBSA) and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), and you can call either with any questions.
Prior to departure, it’s important to know that non-residents must be 18 years of age or older to use a firearm in Canada or to bring a firearm into the country. In addition, be aware that when you are packing up your firearm or weapon, Canadian law states that you must transport all firearms, including antique firearms, unloaded. If you are transporting your firearm in a vehicle, they must be kept out of sight in a part of a vehicle that is kept locked (the trunk is ideal, if there is one).
Firearm owners and users in Canada must have firearms licences for the class of firearms in their possession. As an American hunter entering Canada for hunting, you have two options for meeting the Canadian licensing requirements for your firearm. Choose the best option for you and have all paperwork complete prior to arriving at the border crossing.
Option 1: 60-day licence
Declare firearms in writing to a Canadian Border Services agent at the point of entry to Canada, using the Non-Resident Firearm Declaration (form RCMP 5589).
Filling out the form ahead saves you time at the border, but do not sign it. You must sign it in front of the CBSA officer at the border crossing. The cost at the border is $25 Canadian Funds regardless of the number of firearms listed, but is only valid for the person who signs it and only for the firearms listed on the form.
Once this declaration is confirmed by the officer, it acts as a licence for the owner and it is valid for 60 days. The declaration can be renewed for free, providing it is renewed before it expires, by contacting the Chief Firearms Officer (call 1-800-731-4000) of the province it was issued in. The Chief Firearms Officer Ontario office is located at 50 Andrew Street South, Suite 201, Orillia ON L3V 7T5. Email address is CFOON@cfp-pcaf.ca and fax number is 705-329-5623.
Option 2: Five-year licence
Apply for a five-year Possession and Acquisition Licence (PAL).
To apply for a PAL, applicants must provide evidence that they have passed the written and practical tests for the Canadian Firearms Safety Course. A course from another country does not meet Canadian legal requirements. You must contact the Chief Firearms Officer (CFO) at 1-800-731-4000 to get all applicable forms for the safety course. The application is in the list of available forms.
This form should be used:
- if you do not already have a licence or if your licence has expired.
- to upgrade/downgrade a current licence, such as for a first-time licence
- for a new licence if your current licence has expired
- for a Possession and Acquisition Licence (PAL) for a different class of firearm
The CFO (Chief Firearms Officer) of the province or territory to be visited can provide information on any other documents that will be required to complete the background security check. You can reach the CFO by calling 1-800-731-4000 (for Canada and the United States). The Chief Firearms Officer Ontario office is located at 50 Andrew Street South, Suite 201, Orillia ON L3V 7T5. Email address is CFOON@cfp-pcaf.ca and fax number is 705-329-5623.
With a Canadian firearms licence, there is no need to complete the Non-Resident Firearms Declaration. However, an oral declaration must still be made to the customs officer. If you do not advise the officers, criminal charges can be laid.
Arriving in Canada
Upon arrival at the Canadian border crossing you will be greeted by a border services officer. You must declare all firearms and weapons to the border services officer when you arrive at the border and provide any documents that are required. Always answer all questions truthfully. Remember that the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) is responsible for deciding whether to let a non-resident bring a firearm or crossbow into Canada. The CBSA officer may check to ensure that you have stored your weapon properly for transportation. They will also review your documents and may verify that the firearm/crossbow you have matches the one described on the documents. In addition, the CBSA officer will ensure that the firearm or crossbow is non-restricted.
A non-restricted rifle or shotgun means that the barrel length is a minimum of 18 inches in length and that you are bringing this firearm into Canada for approved purposes such as hunting, target shooting, wilderness protection, or in transit movement by a reasonably direct route to another point outside of Canada.
Although crossbows are not considered a firearm there are rules and regulations for crossbows that can be brought into Canada. You cannot bring in any bow that is designed for one-handed use, nor can you bring in a crossbow that is 500mm or shorter. Crossbows and all other bows that do not meet the definition of a prohibited weapon are admissible if all other conditions are met. Again, you must declare that you are importing a weapon when entering Canada.
As a non-resident of Ontario, before you can hunt in Ontario, you will also need:
- An Outdoors Card.
- All required hunting licences and tags for the game you wish to hunt.
- Be at least 16 years old.
- Have Ontario-recognized hunting credentials from your home jurisdiction (or have recognized hunter credentials) filed with the Fish and Wildlife Licensing Service.
Please remember that while hunting in Ontario you must follow all federal firearm regulations around declaring and transporting non-restricted firearms and carry appropriate documentation with you if you are hunting with a gun. Non-residents hunting black bears must obtain, complete and carry a black bear validation certificate. You can obtain a certificate from a MNRF district office or through the resort you are visiting. Of special note: a non-resident hunter who wishes to hunt moose in Ontario must have valid hunting accreditation from another state or province and be a registered guest and accommodated at an outfitter authorized to issue non-resident moose validations tags.
Once through the border, always remember that while travelling in Ontario, firearms are forbidden in many of Canada's national and provincial parks, game reserves and adjacent areas. Please remember that hunting in Canada is governed by federal, provincial and territorial laws.
Last updated: September 14, 2023