Entering Canada as a Canadian citizen, but with a NON-Canadian motorcycle.

When buying a motorcycle outside your home country, returning home with it can be a huge hassle. Check the requirements carefully when planning. IF the bike is an "antique" or "classic" there may be special regulations. For Canada, 20 years old eases the restrictions considerably. Owning it for more than at least a year makes a difference too. Many countries will have similar restrictions.

This was submitted by a border guard for Canada:

I work at the border in Canada and am a motorcycle junkie/RTW researcher (can't afford to go yet). While working a couple months ago, a rider pulled up to the border and was sent in to fill out paperwork. The whole scenario and situation was somewhat unique to the border crossing I work at and I ended up having to deal with it. It all started when a dirty, road-weary rider came into the office and began talking with the other officers that the real problem presented itself.

The rider was a Canadian who had left Canada on a RTW trip and had bought a nice new bike in South Africa that he had used to travel around before flying it over to South America to begin his trip north to Alaska. Nowhere along his journey did he encounter more problems than when he hit the border to his home country. The issue was/is that a Canadian RESIDENT cannot drive a non-duty paid vehicle (any vehicle plated in another country) in Canada. The only exemption is made when a rental vehicle is used in an emergency to bring that person back home etc. The man was told that he would have to IMPORT the vehicle into the Canadian market and pay all applicable duties and taxes on it to allow it up. No other options.

It seems that when people research RTW trips, they take for granted/dismiss their own country or don't ever think there could ever be any issue with returning home. The man in this story was not returning to Canada to live, resume residency or even stay for any period of time. He was only returning as part of his trip to Alaska and eventually over to Russia.  The man was understandably bothered and surprised at the realization that his bike was not allowed to come into his home country. I overheard him ask one of the other officers if they knew the documentary Long Way Round, HUBB and Horizons Unlimited. I informed him that I did and that I knew fully his intentions, what he was doing and why. It created an environment of understanding since I had some understanding of the lifestyle, choice, determination and cost of his dream trip.

I discussed the issue at length with my supervisors and argued on the gentleman's behalf that he should not be considered a resident of Canada as he had been absent for so long and had evidence that he was intent on taking up residency in another country. The problem was that since the man had not taken up residency in any other country, he (by default) maintained his Canadian Residency and could not be allowed to enter Canada with the motorcycle unless he imported it. That would have been impossible even if he had accepted it, as the vehicle was manufactured for the South African market and did not meet Transport Canada's safety requirements.

It was a difficult situation. Eventually, we allowed the man to enter Canada as it was my belief that he would be exporting the vehicle and that he had done all he could to terminate his residency in Canada. It became an issue of officer discretion as the law clearly prohibited the entry of that vehicle by the man unless he was the resident of another country.

I just thought I would pass along the story. I can't remember his name but my thoughts go out to him and hope his trip is going well.

editors comments:

FWIW, the Transport Canada safety requirements are a boondoggle so far as I've been able to determine - the problem is the bike doesn't have the STICKER - not that it doesn't meet the requirements. The bike is almost certainly identical in all respects. While there are indeed often differences for all sorts of things, there are a lot less now than there used to be. (When I was a Suzuki dealer in the '70's, the parts books were 50% "differences" for each country - but it was all very minor stuff, like different coloured parts, or racks and footpegs etc. Today they are mostly standardized.) For instance, this traveller would certainly have to change the headlight, as South Africa drives on the left, so the headlight would point left on low beam, not right as in Canada and the USA etc. But that's no big deal and is easily dealt with. It's Transport Canada's absolute ban - without an inspection system to see if it IS safe - that drives me nuts. When I imported my bike into Australia it was straightforward - pass an Aus$125 inspection and you're in. It's up to you to make sure it passes. All I had to do was get the headlight swapped and the rest was fine. UK the same, no problem. Transport Canada however says no, and that's that. Not right. :(

Also, the very important detail: "... Canadian RESIDENT cannot drive a non-duty paid vehicle (any vehicle plated in another country) in Canada." is interesting - why on earth not? Why couldn't I borrow a bike from a friend who is travelling through? I'm insured, his bike is insured, so that's not an issue. The rest is just an annoyance. aaaargghh!

paperwork... mutter grumble...

get it right and know what you're doing before you leave!


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