Booklet traffic
September 15, 2010 7:43 AM   Subscribe

How can I cross the Canada-U.S. border with a bunch of zines?

I have been invited to bring my zine to a book fair in New York. I'll be crossing the Canadian border by train or bus carrying on me around 600 small zines (6 in X 4 in, 16 pages) that will probably fit in one duffel bag or cardboard box. The little publications are hand-made but do have an ISBN and a price on the cover.

What can I do to avoid problems at the border? I've seen American micro-publishers having their stuff retained at the border when they were coming to Canada for expositions, and that would really suck.

posted by TheGoodBlood to Law & Government (10 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Ship them ahead of time?
posted by dfriedman at 8:01 AM on September 15, 2010 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Ship them ahead of time?

That seems sensible, but a package at the border would face similar problems with the customs, no? Plus, there are some time constraints, i.e. the zines will be ready just before the date of the event.
posted by TheGoodBlood at 8:09 AM on September 15, 2010

These zines will be for sale at the book fair? I'd advise contacting the organizers of the book fair to see about shipping your zines to them ahead of time. Showing up at the border with a box of merchandise that you intend to sell in the U.S. is probably not the best idea. If you do need to carry them with you, it might be a good idea to contact a customs broker near the border you'll be crossing for advice on what paperwork will be required to make legal entry.
posted by Balonious Assault at 8:14 AM on September 15, 2010

Why not call Customs at your port of entry and ask them what to do?
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 8:38 AM on September 15, 2010

Best answer: Here is what Customs and Border Patrol has to say on the issue. You would be well advised to keep the total value of the zines under $2000.
posted by ssg at 9:02 AM on September 15, 2010

Any way to wait to print/bind them until you arrive in New York?
posted by dywypi at 9:57 AM on September 15, 2010

What happened to all that Free Trade we keep on hearing about? NAFTA, FTAA? Who do you have to be in order to make that apply?
posted by Galaxor Nebulon at 12:53 PM on September 15, 2010

Response by poster: thanks for the input, everybody!

@dywypi - I checked that, but all the quotes I got from NY printers were well above my means. I have a sweet deal here in Montreal.

@Galaxor - I know, I kept thinking of that. But in reality, I could find nothing...

thanks, @ssg. That was informative.

God, it's a bit more complicated than I thought. It seems like such a headache for a project that doesn't even come close to break even.

It would be nice to hear your personal experience taking stuff of this nature - prints, t-shirts, art, small runs of a publication, etc - through the border.
posted by TheGoodBlood at 2:11 PM on September 15, 2010

Best answer: For what it's worth, irrespective of any free trade agreements it's likely that there will be no import duty on your zines. Based on your description I think they will probably be classified either 4901.99.0092 or 4202.90.2060, which like the rest of Chapter 49 of the HTSUS (pdf) are duty free. I don't believe they will be subject to any quotas, antidumping, or restrictions from other government agencies. Keep in mind that the declared value is not necessarily the full retail price printed on the zines. Another thing you might want to consider is to make sure when you print your zines each one is clearly labeled with the country of origin (presumably Canada).

I'm not familiar at all with the way the entry process works when passengers carry commercial goods across the border on a train or bus and there are no commercial documents accompanying the merchandise. I understand that on some border crossings customs agents will board the train, interview everybody, and perhaps ask to inspect your baggage. On others there is a specific stop where everything happens. It may well be the case that there is no chance whatsoever that you'll be able to accomplish a commercial entry, formal or informal, in the time allotted to clear the passengers of your train or bus. Some people may advise you to play dumb, not claim the merchandise, and take your chances. That could work, but it could also land you in a situation where your zines being denied entry is the least of your problems.

I am a customs broker, I am not your customs broker, etc. I think that in order to ensure that you're able to get yourself and your zines to the book fair you'd do well to either find a way to ship the zines separately if at all possible, call the customs office at your port of entry ahead of time to find out exactly what to expect and what they will require from you, or use a customs broker at the border who is familiar with these types of entries. Maybe the organizers of the book fair could put you in touch with other Canadians who are bringing their stuff across the border? Best of luck!
posted by Balonious Assault at 7:48 PM on September 15, 2010

Response by poster: Thanks so much, Balonius. That was very helpful!
posted by TheGoodBlood at 9:26 PM on September 15, 2010

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