Saturday, August 1, 2015
Travelling with Camera Gear? (Canadian Version)
Are you a Canadian photographer who travels? Do you know what a Y38 is? You probably should.
Ok, I live in Canada so this information specific to Canadians; however, if you live in another country you may have similar regulations so you may want to check out your local requirements.
A Form Y38 ("Identification of Articles for Temporary Exportation") is a document issued by the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA). If you haven't heard of this before I'm not surprised. I had never heard of this form until few years ago after driving back across the border from a trip to the US.
I went down to St. Louis to see the Flashbus Tour featuring Joe McNally and David Hobby a few years ago. I live in Ontario fairly close to the Niagara Falls border and at times have traveled out of Buffalo due to cheaper flights. As usual, when I travel I take some of my camera gear, and have done so for close to 10 years with nary an issue. On this occasion it was a little different. When I returned to cross back into Canada I expected the usual questions, where have you been, how long have you been gone, what are you bringing back etc. I'm always honest with the CBSA agents because I have no reason not to be. So when I said that I was attending a photography seminar (the Flashbus Tour) I was questioned about my camera gear; essentially how do they know that I didn't just buy all this stuff in the US and was trying to sneak it back across the border without declaring it. The CBSA agent wanted me to prove that I purchased everything in Canada...easier said than done when all of the receipts were at home over an hour away at the time.
I showed the CBSA agent the gear I had with me, and after additional questioning she relented, but told me that I should have obtained a Form Y38 before I left Canada. Suffice it to say I was a very bad person for not knowing about a form that no one in the past had ever mentioned to me, but we all know ignorance is not defence. I guess she thought I was honest enough because her attitude changed slightly and she explained it to me in more detail.
After I got back I went searching for a little more information on how to do this, and found that it's a pretty simple process. Here's all you need to do:
1) Make a list and itemize all of your gear, I mean all of it, with make, model and most importantly serial number;
2) Take all of you gear, plus your full list to your nearest CBSA office (click here for a directory);
3) Explain to them that you travel frequently with your camera gear and understand that a Form Y38 can help when coming back into Canada.
In my case I went to the Hamilton International Airport as it was closest and not that busy. The agent there was extremely friendly. He took my list and checked out all of my gear, including verifying all of the serial numbers. He filled out the Form Y38 (it's actually a small green card), and attached it to my larger list, where he also noted the total number of items and that he had checked the serial numbers. He signed it, I signed it, and we were done; it took about 5 minutes.
The Y38 does not have an expiry date so it's good for as long as you have your gear. Even if you only travel with a few pieces, as long as they're on the list covered by the Y38 you're good. The only caveat is if you add more gear or change things out you will need to get a new one. I updated mine last year, which involved updating my list and heading back to the CBSA office to get the revised list signed off on a new Y38. However, this is probably the most important part...you need to remember to carry it with you when you travel.
So it may seem like a bit of an inconvenience to do this, but consider the alternative... getting into a dispute with a CBSA agent, getting frustrated about something you knew nothing about, getting pulled off to the side for further questioning, having to pay duty on your own gear, having to gather all of your receipts after the fact and head back to a CBSA office to prove your case. I know I may be exaggerating just a little, but how much easier would it be to drop a Y38 on them once they start to question you? You'll probably look like a pretty smart cookie, the CBSA will likely appreciate that you took the time to get informed and make their job a bit easier, too.