How to ship to India from Canada - Gifts, Food, Personal Effects, Customs, etc.

Sending Parcels to India

With a population rivalling China’s – 1.3 billion – India boasts 580 million middle class citizens – much more than Canada and the United States combined. With a steadily growing economy comes increasing consumer wealth for more and more Indians.

As of 2018, India had 560 million internet users and E-commerce accounted for about $40 billion USD of transactions. Both are expected to grow dramatically in the next several years. And with English as the lingua franca of India, doing business from Canada couldn’t be brighter or easier.

The sources of information on this page come directly from the Central Board of Indirect Taxes and Customs (CBIC), the Directorate General of Foreign Trade (DGFT), and number of other government sources.

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While we have made every effort to ensure that the information on this page is accurate, Customs laws and procedures change regularly so it is important to consult a licensed broker in India before shipping any goods.

Types of Shipments

Not all types of shipments are created equal. For example, shipping a television requires different paperwork and incurs different duties and taxes than shipping a package containing only documents. 

Below is a list of the most common types of shipments. 

  • Documents Only

  • Gifts

  • Personal Effects (Personal belongings)

  • Food, Chocolate, Candies

  • Samples

  • Advertising material

  • Repairs

  • Temporary imports (ie. trade shows, exhibits, etc)

  • Permanent or Sold Goods

Documents Only

Most documents can be shipped to India duty free, though there are certain items that incur a 10% duty charge. See the table below for these and other restrictions.

Document Restrictions

Document Type


Airline Tickets

Airline tickets are only classified as a document if issued to an individual

Brochures and Catalogues

10% duty charged


10% duty charged

Computer software (printed hard copy)

10% duty charged

Envelopes (blank)

Maximum of 10 envelopes in a shipment (extras are charged duties).

Greeting and wedding cards

10% duty charged

Pamphlets, booklets and leaflets

10% duty charged

Photographs, printed pictures and posters

10% duty charged

Plans and drawings such as architectural, engineering and industrial

10% duty charged

Traveller’s Cheques

To be classed as a document, only used traveller’s cheques can be shipped.

If the traveller’s cheques are unused, they are classified as non-documents and charged duties


Shipping Gifts

A bona fide gift means an item for personal use by the recipient without any exchange of monies.

Bona fide gifts may be sent to India by post without duties being charged up to the value of 10,000 Indian rupees (about $190 CDN). 


Gifts may include life saving drugs and medical equipment. They will not be charged duty.


If the value of the value of the gift exceeds 10,000 INR, then duty will be applied to the entire amount of the gift.


Gifts can be shipped and accepted by individuals, societies, corporate bodies and institutions like colleges and schools, BUT they are intended for an individual’s own use.



Be aware that a number of restricted and prohibited goods cannot be sent as gifts. 

Gifts containing restricted or prohibited goods, unsolicited or not, may be confiscated and the receiver may be financially penalized. 


Prohibited goods include: 

  • Narcotic drugs

  • Arms and ammunition

  • Obscene films or printed material

  • Perishables such as dried and fresh fruit

  • Any map of India, or publication with a map of India, showing incorrect boundaries

  • Medicines for commercial use

  • Precious and semi-precious stones

  • Gold and silver, except as jewellery

Restricted goods include:

  • Maps of India must show the correct external boundaries

  • Passports may sent only to an embassy in India

  • Electronic cigarettes must be shipped with an International Special Commodities (ISC) contract

  • Mobile phones must have an International Mobile Equipment Identity



Personal Effects

Personal effects sent from Canada to India as unaccompanied baggage will incur a Customs duty of 35% ad valorem (the estimated value of the goods) plus a 3% surcharge (called Education Cess). 

Shipped unaccompanied baggage should be collected by the owner within one month of its arrival in India. A delay of up to one year may be allowed by the Deputy or Assistant Commissioner of Customs for circumstances beyond the control of the owner of the goods. However, the reason(s) will have to be documented.

The used personal and household effects of a deceased person may enter India duty free providing:

  • A certificate from the Canadian Indian High Commission or Consulate can be produced certifying the ownership of the effects to the deceased person

Moving temporarily

A foreign national may stay in India for a maximum of 6 months in any 12-month period for purposes such as study, religious pilgrimage, or business. 

If personal effects are sent unaccompanied, then duties will be imposed as listed above.

Only if personal effects are carried by a passenger are they duty free - up to a limit of 8000 INR (about $150 CDN).

Moving permanently 

A foreign national moving to India may ship personal effects duty free up to the value of 50,000 INR (about $950 CDN). 


Indian residents are subject to different duty free limits than foreign nationals as the table below shows.


Time away from India

3 - 6 months

6 months - 1 year

Minimum of 1 year

Minimum of 2 years

Duty free amount

60,000 INR (about $230 CDN)

100,000 INR

(about $1900 CDN)

200,000 INR

(about $3800 CDN)

500,000 INR

(about $9500 CDN)


Further details and rules governing each condition may be found by clicking here.


There are limits to the amount of jewellery that can accompany a passenger or their personal effects. Specifically, males may bring into India a maximum of 20 g valued at no more than 50,000 INR (about $950 CDN) and females are allowed a maximum of 40 g valued at no more than 100,000 INR (about $1900 CDN).


Further details of prohibitions and restrictions may be found in Annexures I, II, III, which can be found by clicking here.

Document checklist 

✔️ Commercial invoice must clearly indicate "Personal Effects" under General Description or Remarks section

✔️ List each item in the shipment on the commercial invoice.

✔️ Give each item a fair market value. 


Food, Chocolate, Candies

Generally, shipping food to India is complicated and most of the details are beyond the scope of this article. However, there are 2 groups with clear rules:

  • Chocolate and cocoa products will incur a duty of 30%

  • Candies and confectionery will incur a GST charge of 18%

Foreign Nationals Living in India

A foreign national living in India may import food duty free. In order to qualify for duty free exemption, the following conditions must be met:

  • The foodstuffs exclude fruit products and alcohol

  • The total value of foodstuffs in a year may not exceed 100,000 INR (about $1900 CDN)

  • The importer pays for the foodstuffs from funds in Canada



Commercial samples are those that can only be used for demonstration purposes. The aim is to encourage people to place orders of the samples, not sell them.

Bona fide samples may be shipped to India as long as the recipient is not being charged, i.e. they are free. 

Commercial samples can be imported duties and tax free provided the following conditions are met:

  • Commercial samples are valued at less than 5000 INR (about $95 CDN)

  • The total value of samples per year should be no greater than 300,000 INR (about $5700 CDN) and not exceed 50 shipments in a year

  • Parcels are to weigh no more than 70 kg

Samples of Engineering Prototypes

If the sample is a prototype of an engineering product, then the importer must produce a certificate from the Export Promotion Council indicating that the samples are required to ensure export orders.

If the sample is valued at 10,000 INR or less (about $190 CDN), it shall be rendered useless by any reasonable means. If this is not possible, it must be re-exported within 9 months.

An engineering sample valued at more than 10,000 INR must: 

  • be re-exported to Canada within 9 months; and

  • have a bond posted by the importer sufficiently large such that the Assistant Commissioner of Customs is satisfied the goods will be returned to Canada.

Sending Samples Checklist

✔️ Complete a commercial invoice

✔️ Add a nominal value for the item(s)

✔️ State on the invoice: SAMPLE(S) FREE OF COST


Advertising Material

Advertising material includes items that are handed out to promote products or services. 

Advertising items include:

  • Brochures and leaflets

  • Price lists  

  • Pamphlets

  • Posters 

  • Calendars and catalogues

  • Photographs

Most advertising material sent to India will incur a 10% duty.  



Goods manufactured in India and exported for repairs in Canada will have duty imposed on them when they are re-imported into India.

The amount of duty incurred will be the total of: 

  • The fair cost of repairs, including materials required;

  • • Insurance; and

  • Freight costs, for both directions. 

Items Under Warranty

Personal property that was imported to India but returned to Canada for renovations, repairs, or alterations that are covered by a warranty are exempt from duty and taxes. 

This applies only if the goods were repaired free of charge.

Sending Product for Repair to India

Goods manufactured in India, or parts of a larger piece of equipment, are exempt from duty and taxes providing the goods leave India for Canada within 6 months of their arrival.

Document Checklist 

✔️  Commercial Invoice must clearly state under the General Description or Remarks section the following: ‘REPAIR & RETURN’ and include the estimated time of return

✔️  Include repair contract with shipment 

✔️  Serial or product number and the cost of repairs should be indicated under the Detailed Description of Goods section


Temporary Imports

Temporary importation of certain goods into India, without incurring duties or taxes, is allowed for a period of up to 6 months. Make sure to clearly indicate the return date on the commercial invoice.

Goods that are often part of a temporary import include: 

  • Scientific and professional equipment

  • Commercial samples

  • Items that will be used or displayed at a fair, exhibition or event

  • Tools and specialised equipment required for repairing, exploring, producing or manufacturing

  • Materials and goods to be used during a public exhibition such as a trade show booth

  • Equipment required to evaluate and test the operation of other goods and equipment

  • Theatrical equipment and costumes

  • Mountaineering equipment and supplies (does not include alcohol, cigarettes and tobacco products)


Canadian tourists who enter India for a stay of not more than 6 months in a 12-month period are allowed a duty free allowance up to 8000 INR (about $150 CDN).

Legitimate, non-immigrant reasons for entering India include: touring, visiting family, a religious pilgrimage, study, sports or recreation, or business. 

Document Checklist 

✔️ Commercial Invoice clearly stating “Temporary Import” including the return  date. This must be written in the General Description section.

✔️ Include your ATA Carnet with your shipment   (if applicable)



Permanent / Sold Goods

Goods being imported to India permanently must be accompanied by a Bill of Entry.

The Bill of Entry should contain the following details:

  • Description of goods

  • Quantity of goods 

  • Value of goods

Indian importers must obtain an Importer-Export Code (IEC) number from the Directorate General of Foreign Trade. This is to be done prior to submitting the Bill of Entry.

Document Checklist 

✔️ Signed commercial invoice

✔️ Packing list 

✔️ Bill of lading or Delivery Order/Airway Bill

✔️ Certificate of Origin, if preferential rate of duty is claimed

If you’re just shipping occasionally, e.g. Ebay items…

  • You need to complete a commercial invoice.

  • You must describe the goods in detail on the commercial invoice to avoid delays as the parcel goes through Customs. 


Prohibited & Restricted Imports 

The list of restricted and prohibited items is extensive and changes often, so it's always best to check the official customs page prior to sending your packages.

Your carrier will refuse to accept your parcel if any of these items are in it. Any prohibited items will be seized and you could be prosecuted.


Prohibited items

The short list of prohibited items includes:

  • Obscene and pornographic material

  • Drugs and narcotics

  • Perishable goods

  • Plants and seeds 

  • Precious and semi-precious stones

  • Antique coins

  • Counterfeit and pirated goods

  • Wildlife including body parts and products made from them

  • Any form of arms and ammunition, including any form of toy gun or gun replica

  • Maps depicting incorrect Indian boundaries are prohibited

  • Drones, both toys and professional versions, are prohibited goods 


Restricted Items

Some of the items that have import restrictions to enter India include:

  • Passports may sent only to an embassy in India

  • Maps of India must show the correct external boundaries

  • Electronic cigarettes must be shipped with an International Special Commodities (ISC) contract

  • Mobile phones must have an International Mobile Equipment Identity

  • Gold and silver, except as jewellery

  • Goods for commercial profit

  • Used electronic and computer equipment require a No Objection Certificate (NOC) from the Ministry of Environment & Forest (MOEF). (The Consignee is responsible for the application of the NOC.)


About the author: Dan Allard

About the author

Dan Allard is a marketing specialist, guitar player, and father living in The Upper Peninsula of Michigan. In his free time he’s usually reading business and marketing blogs, watching Shark Tank, or pretending he’s Iron Man because he has an Amazon Echo. He also enjoys finding great deals online and finding ways to reduce shipping costs.

About Secureship

About Secureship

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