In general, Canadian citizens are entitled to carry an unlimited amount of cash and goods across the United States border. However, you must pay taxes and duty on items that exceed a designated dollar amount. In addition, special import and export laws apply to items that are deemed restricted. Restricted goods include food products, plants, animals, vehicles, and dangerous items such as firearms and explosives.

Entering the United States

Canadians entering the United States, regardless of the length of stay, are allowed to bring reasonable quantities of personal effects, as well as $100 per person to leave as gifts within the U.S. Food products and dangerous items are restricted, so check with the U.S. Customs and Border Protection website for the latest regulations. Travelers age 18 or older may import 200 cigarettes, 100 non-Cuban cigars or 4.4 pounds of cut tobacco. Those age 21 or above may import 1 liter of beer, wine or liquor.

Same-Day Return

If you day-trip to the United States, returning on the same day that you left, Canada does not provide a personal exemption. You are entitled to return with the items you brought into the U.S. as well as a reasonable amount of personal effects such as food purchased for the journey. If you have expensive items with you, such as jewelry, carry the receipt to prove you purchased the goods in Canada.

Staying 24 Hours

If you are in the United States for at least 24 but less than 48 hours, you are entitled to a small personal exemption. You are allowed to import up to $200 per person of purchases made in the United States. Infants and young children are also entitled to the exemption. You must have the goods in your physical possession when you cross the border, and you must declare them on your CBSA declaration card. Alcohol and tobacco purchases are not included in this exemption. Note that if your total purchases exceed $200, you must pay duty on the full amount.

Staying 48 Hours

If you spend at least 48 hours but less than one week in the United States, your personal exemption rises to $800 per person, including young children and infants. Adults age 18 or above may include 200 cigarettes, 200 tobacco sticks, 200 grams of manufactured tobacco and 50 cigars as part of the exemption. Those who are of legal drinking age in the entry province may import 8.5 liters of beer, 1.5 liters of wine or 1.14 liters of liquor. If you exceed your allowance, you must pay duty on the excess value. All imported items must be in your physical possession at the border.

Staying a Week or More

Those who stay at least one week in the United States have the same allowance as those staying 48 hours, but you do not need to have the goods in your physical possession, except alcohol and tobacco products. You may declare items when you arrive in Canada, then have them delivered by mail, courier or other delivery service after your return.