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I'm kind of puzzled and worried after reading complaints and the nightmarish scenarios that visitors are subjected to at the Canadian customs, so much so that I'm thinking of not visiting Canada.

I'm mainly worried about the stuff I've going to bring along, which will basically be a DSLR camera, with at least 6 lenses, an audio record, 2 mics, 3 hard drives, a kindle with a macbook pro, while I visit my relatives. I'm also planning to make a video there so I'm just worried that will I be allowed to bring all those items with me in Canada and if yes, will there be any heavy duty fee.

The duty fee and taxes is what's keeping me from visiting Canada and I need to bring all that equipment to make my video, so I just want to make sure I don't get charged a ridiculous amount of money just for bringing that stuff in.

Secondly, I'll also be trying to look for work as a videographer there and hopefully apply for a work permit. Will that be an issue, should I try to extend my visa, I'll be coming from Hong Kong with the HK passport, during my visit or if I get a work permit by some miracle?

And also, what kind of duty fee can I expect if I were to ship my stuff from Hong Kong to Canada, mainly desktop computer and filmmaking gear. Do I have to pay customs/duty fee for each and every item when it arrives in Canada?

I'd much appreciate it if you can help me answer these questions and clarify any doubts since I have to make a decision whether or not I should move to Canada from Hong Kong. My main reason to move is to find opportunities in the filmmaking field and since Canada is more into Cinema and movies, I am hoping to work in the field. Unless I'm misled or mistaken and the actual reality is the complete opposite.

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    It seems you want to bring quite a bit of professional equipment and might even import it permanently if you find a job. It makes sense that customs would be wary, you don't actually need any of this merely to visit relatives. If you import stuff into Canada, you have to pay all the applicable taxes and duty, there is nothing ridiculous about it. Immigration might be concerned about the purpose of your trip as well, looking for work is usually OK but “doing a video” while looking for work as a videographer sounds awfully close to actually working, not visiting. – Relaxed Oct 22 '15 at 6:13
  • Hi relaxed, thanks for the reply, but if i tell them that i am just visiting relatives and i'm making a video also in canada, would that allow me to bring my stuff. i'm not sure if i want to stay there or look for work, just considering but i definitely want to shoot a video and i need all that stuff so i'm just wondering if bringing all that in, even if i declare it, have invoice and receipts for it, get me in trouble or charge heavy duty fee? And do you by any chance know what the fees could be based on the equipment i mentioned? Thx. – Billy Oct 22 '15 at 7:15
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    @Billy No, it comes down to how credible you are and whether the officers believe you intend to work or not. Clearly you intend to do a little more than just visit relatives. Customs and immigration are there to enforce the rules, it would be too easy if you could do whatever you want by telling them “I am just visiting relatives”. – Gala Oct 22 '15 at 22:07
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I wouldn't worry about being charged duty. I would worry about being turned away because the officer believes (correctly) you would look for work. People generally bring that kind of equipment so they can work.

My advice is to decide whether you want to visit or work. If you want to work, then do the paperwork now. You can't get a work permit when you are here or switch to working after being admitted to visit. If you don't want to or can't get permission to work, then decide you won't work. Bring what you need to do a family video and leave the rest behind.

There's nothing wrong with visiting a place to see if you want to move there. But you would need to return home and then go through the process to move. You can't turn a visit into a move. Leaving your filmmaking equipment at home is one way to demonstrate that you're not moving, just visiting.

  • Hi Kate, thanks for the clarification. Just to clarify one thing, even if I don't bring any equipment and come for a visit, is it possible to apply for a work permit during my visit, or must that be done beforehand? – Billy Oct 22 '15 at 11:00
  • continued --- Say, for example, while I'm visiting I apply for a job at a company that may be interested in hiring a person experienced in filmmaking, will that company help me get a work permit during the period of my visit or will it outright reject my application because I'm only there as a visitor and they can't get me a work permit during my visitor status? I'm asking because if I can't get a work permit during my visit, then I would not think about moving there and just visit and come back. Appreciate your help. Thanks. – Billy Oct 22 '15 at 11:00
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    I am no expert on this but I believe if you found an employer you would need to go home, do the work permit thing, and then return to Canada and enter on that. You really need to investigate this thoroughly before you come here. I do know you can't arrive as a tourist and start working without leaving. – Kate Gregory Oct 22 '15 at 11:42
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This could be considered the equivalent of a tradesman trying to enter the country with a toolbox and work clothes. It looks very much like someone who is intending to work illegally and could result in being turned back. Legitimate short-term visitors do not generally have such problems.

Suggest you bring a reasonable amount of non-professional stuff and if you need some during your visit consider renting it. That said, a DSLR camera a whack of lenses and a Macbook is not that much stuff, compared to say a professional video camera and lighting gear. What you say upon inspection and how you back it up with documentation etc. will be more important.

As far as duty goes, I don't think there generally is any duty on photographic equipment made in Japan, but there would typically be sales tax of 13% or so if you were to be permanently importing the goods. If it was deemed to be for sale, a commercial entry would be required, which might not be all that straightforward for you. But your main worry I think is immigration status not customs duty.

  • Hi Sephro, thanks for the info. I'll try visiting first, also trying to send me portfolio to a few companies to see if they are willing to hire me from here and provide work permit so that instead of going there as a visitor, i'd enter with a valid work permit. but thanks for the info. i think it's safe to say going as a visitor and then trying to apply for a work permit during my visitor status stay is not going to work. Also, do you have any info on what happens if i bring hard drives with me.i got one wit personal stuff, one flash drive and one hard drive with movies,any trouble i get into? – Billy Oct 23 '15 at 5:58
  • and that sales tax of importing stuff, is that per item or overall courier or boxes that i bring in? thanks. – Billy Oct 23 '15 at 5:59

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