If you will be hunting in Canada there are a number of things you need to know regarding temporarily importing your firearms. There are two options on how to do this:
Option 1: Non-Resident Firearm Declaration Form
Those hunting in Canada only once, or once every few years, are probably best off submitting a completed Non-Resident Firearm Declaration (CAFC 909) form. This form must be filled out in triplicate, but do not sign it until you are in the presence of a Canadian Customs officer, as he must witness your signature. If you have more than three guns, you will need to attach a Non-Resident Firearm Declaration Continuation (CAFC 910) form as well.
Validation and Renewal: Once the Customs officer confirms your declaration, it will serve as your license and temporary registration certificate and is valid for 60 days. You may renew it at no additional charge if you do so before it expires.
To renew a Non-Resident Firearm Declaration, contact the Chief Firearms Officer of the province or territory where you are staying. Call 800-731-4000 or click here for a complete list of Chief Firearms Officers and their contact numbers.
Cost: There is a $25 (CDN) fee to confirm your declaration, regardless of the number of firearms you bring.
Who is covered: The declaration is valid only for the person who signs it and for those firearms listed on the declaration. If you travel with others who will be using firearms in Canada, they will each have to fill out a declaration form.
Pre-Processing: In the past, hunters had to submit their forms upon entry in Canada, which often meant waiting in a long line. But now pre-processing of the Non-Resident Firearm Declaration is available through Customs offices at some high-traffic land border and airport entry points. To take advantage of this service, you must enter Canada at one of these sites. Click here for a list of entry points offering this service.
Pre-processing also allows for the background checks to be done before the hunter reaches the border, possibly saving him the embarrassment of being turned away because of some infraction as minor as reckless driving.
Option 2: Possession and Acquisition License (PAL)
If you hunt in Canada every year or several times a year, then a Possession and Acquisition License, called a PAL, is your best bet.
Requirements: To apply for a PAL, you must pass the written and practical tests for the Canadian Firearms Safety Course.
A US hunter-education/gun-safety course or a course from any other country does NOT fulfill this requirement. It must be the Canadian version of the exam. You must also obtain a good-conduct letter from your local police or sheriff.
Cost: The PAL costs a nonresident $60 CDN and can be renewed at the end of its five-year period.
How the PAL works: With a PAL, a hunter can verbally declare his firearms (if he has already registered in Canada) at the border, and although importation into Canada remains "at the discretion of a customs officer," the practical effect is that the agent simply waves the hunter through. It also allows the possessor to borrow a legally registered firearm in Canada.
Registering Firearms In Canada
Once you have your PAL, you will need to register the firearms you wish to bring into Canada. Submit application form CAFC 998) by mail (Central Processing Site, PO Box 1200, Miramichi, NB, E1N 5Z3) or register them online.
Firearms registered for the first time need to be verified by an approved verifier. Click here for a listing from the Verifiers Network or you can call (800 731-4000, ext 1052) or e-mail (firstname.lastname@example.org) the Canadian Firearms Centre.
A hunter can always add new firearms to his registration list whenever he decides to bring a different one on his next Canadian hunt.
About The Canadian Firearms Safety Course
The written exam, though lengthy, is fairly rudimentary for anyone with firearms experience. Most knowledgeable hunters could pass it without any class time. A hunter, though, must also pass the practical portion of the exam, which involves the actual handling of a firearm according to the prescribed Canadian method. And this part of the exam must be done in the presence of a certified Canadian Firearms Safety Instructor.
In the past it was difficult for a nonresident to get a PAL because it involved traveling to Canada to take a Canadian Firearms Safety Course and exam. But now a company called SRHC, LTd., is conducting the course in the United States, making it possible for Americans to get a Canadian PAL with minimal hassle.
About SRHC, Ltd.
SRHC, Ltd. (Tel. 306-374-5200; e-mail: email@example.com; web: www.sasktrophies.com/gunexam) began providing gun safety classes in response to a need from large corporations to get their employees and clients PAL licenses due to frequent corporate hunting trips to Canada. They have offered classes at Cabela's and Gander Mountain stores and through SCI chapters, as well as at local hunting clubs.
How to sign up for the class: SRHC operates by appointment only. A company or organization contacts them and arranges for a class to be held, guaranteeing SRHC a minimum of 20 to 25 students (they have handled classes as large as 60).
What SRHC provides: SRHC provides the student with a certificate of completion of the firearms course (if he/she passes the exams) and also assists in filling out the PAL application, takes the passport-size photo needed for the application and provides the envelope with the correct address for mailing in the forms.
The applicant is still required to obtain a good-conduct letter, along with the names and signatures of two character references and a spouse or common-law partner - including anyone he/she lived with at any time during the past two years and from whom he/she is now parted - along with a check for $60 (CDN).
Cost for the class: All of the above services and all classroom materials are provided for a fee of $80 (US) per student.
Minor's License For Nonresident Hunters
Recent amendments to the Firearms Act have established a "Minor's License," permitting 12- to 17-year-old nonresidents to borrow a registered firearm in order to hunt. Without a Minor's License, the youngster may only use a firearm under the immediate supervision of the person licensed to possess that firearm. That means the firearm owner would always have to be within arm's length of the youngster, which sometimes can be difficult while hunting.
How to get the Minor's License: Contact the Chief Firearms Officer of the province that you will be hunting. The minor must be at least 12 years old and "as a general rule" must take the Canadian Firearms Safety Course and pass the tests. For more information see the Canada Firearms Centre web site.
Criminal Background Checks At The Border
Canadian Customs conducts criminal background checks on all travelers entering Canada with a firearm. If you have been convicted of anything considered a criminal offence in Canada, including driving under the influence of alcohol, you will need to get approval of rehabilitation or a temporary immigration permit from Canada's Minister of Citizenship and Immigration before you can enter Canada. Contact the nearest Canadian embassy or consulate for more information.