Pre-clearance procedure for seed importers

This page is part of the Guidance Document Repository (GDR).

Looking for related documents?
Search for related documents in the Guidance Document Repository

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) has implemented a pre-clearance procedure for seed importers.

All imported seed that requires an import conformity assessment (ICA) can be pre-cleared. The CFIA can complete the ICA process and issue the Notice of Import Conformity in advance. When the shipment arrives at the border, the associated documentation will be verified and the seed can move directly to destination without further delay.

Prior to this procedure, only accredited industry personnel under the CFIA's authorized importer program could get seed pre-cleared prior to import. Seed from other importers had to be held separate and intact in the original packages after it was imported while the CFIA completed ICA process.

What is an import conformity assessment (ICA)?

The CFIA's ICA process includes a review of all mandatory documents (specifically, the import declaration and the seed analysis certificate) to confirm that a seed lot meets the minimum requirements of the Seeds Act and the Seeds Regulations. A Notice of Import Conformity is then issued if the seed meets Canadian import requirements. Imported seed must remain separate and intact in the original packages during the ICA process. After the Notice of Import Conformity is issued, the seed can be planted, repackaged, or sold in Canada.

How do I obtain a pre-clearance?

Email the information required under subsections 40(1), 40(2), and 40(3) of the Seeds Regulations to the CFIA's ICA office ( in Ottawa.

Clearly identify that the information is for pre-clearance of seed and provide the customs transaction number from the customs broker, if available.

A Notice of Import Conformity will be issued to you by the ICA office when the ICA is complete. Retain the original Notice of Import Conformity and provide a copy to accompany the importation.

The import declaration should state the following:

  • the name of the species,
  • the seed lot designations,
  • the quantities of each type of seed,
  • variety names (where applicable),
  • the name and address of the importer,
  • the name and address of the exporter,
  • the country in which the seed was grown,
  • the intended purpose of the seed import, and
  • a seed analysis certificate indicating that the seed has been tested pursuant to paragraph 11(1)(b) of the Seeds Regulations.

Will applying for pre-clearance mean that a shipment has priority processing?

The pre-clearance option provides the importer with an opportunity to complete paperwork before seed is imported. Although it does not change priority of processing, it provides greater flexibility to the importer to complete his paperwork ahead of time to avoid delays. As the seed will be pre-cleared, it will not need to be kept separate and intact once it enters the country and can be released at the border to be planted or sold faster.

How long will it take to issue a Notice of Import Conformity?

All ICAs are completed on a first-come, first-served basis and are only started once all required documentation is received. A Notice of Import Conformity will be issued if the seed meets Canadian import requirements.

The following table outlines the estimated turnaround time for submissions received throughout the year.
Time period Estimated turnaround time
July 16 to December 31 2 weeks
January 1 to February 28 3 weeks
March 1 to March 31 6 weeks
April to July 15 8 weeks

What is the authorized importer program?

Under the CFIA's authorized importer program, accredited industry personnel are delegated the authority to perform ICAs and issue Notices of Import Conformity before seed is imported into Canada. Companies that frequently import seed are encouraged to consider becoming authorized importers.

Will the CFIA continue to monitor imported seed lots?

Yes, the Government of Canada is committed to protecting Canada's plant resource base from diseases and pests, including prohibited seeds from noxious weeds and invasive plants. The CFIA will continue to monitor imported seed lots through regular sampling and testing at the destination and in the market place.