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Old March 5th, 2009, 05:57 PM   #1
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Travelling from Canada to US with Gear

I will be traveling from Canada to the US and would like to take a Sony EX3 along with the usual stuff: a couple of nice mics, mattebox, rods, tripod, yadda.

I haven't done any cross border shooting before so I don't know the drill. I will be taking a week long course; bringing camera gear is encouraged.

No commercial work will be done on this trip but it would be nice to know what steps have to be taken in order to... 1. simply cart your own gear across the border for "personal" use and 2. in the case of doing commercial work what kind of documentation or customs prep is required so one doesn't get the cavity search and paying duty on stuff you already own.
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Old March 5th, 2009, 08:14 PM   #2
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Get a carnet written up and endorsed (not sure of the process) so that there are assurances on BOTH sides of the border that you are coming back with what you left with to avoid duty and/or being accused of selling gear while "abroad". A carnet lists equipment by make, model and serial number.
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Old March 6th, 2009, 12:32 AM   #3
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On another note, make sure that your insurance policy covers theft during flight. I had all of my equipment (2 new XL2s with various lenses and sound equipment) stolen on a flight from DC to NY. The theft was not covered by the insurance policy we had nor by the airline's insurance policy. With a deadline two weeks a way, and the international press coming to an event for a preview of our work, we wound up sidelined unable to shoot or edit for an entire week. It was grim.

Be forewarned - a lot of filmmakers think they can deal with this by taking the equipment on the flight with them, but we had carry-on bags and were separated from them twice during a very difficult shoot.
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Old March 7th, 2009, 12:33 AM   #4
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Originally Posted by Andy Stone View Post
No commercial work will be done on this trip but it would be nice to know what steps have to be taken in order to... 1. simply cart your own gear across the border for "personal" use and 2. in the case of doing commercial work what kind of documentation or customs prep is required so one doesn't get the cavity search and paying duty on stuff you already own.
Always ask the people in the best position to inform you correctly - in this case, U.S. customs. Never trust second-hand information in those matters. "But Joe on the internet told me otherwise" won't be a valid defence if you have your equipment seized.


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Old March 7th, 2009, 09:35 AM   #5
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Just so you all know, just because you have carnet doesn't mean that US Customs won't hold up your equipment (as an American I am very embarrassed by how unprofessional the US Customs is). I ended up renting some gear and my time to a small production from Canada because the US Customs wouldn't accept the same carnet they had accepted in the past and they only had a few hours window time to shoot before they had to catch a flight.

But a carnet is the best and really only way to go.

Matthew
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Old March 7th, 2009, 10:22 AM   #6
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Carnet is one and perhaps a brochure of the course you are taking as well. You should really emphasize that you are not going to do "work" in the USA.
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Old March 7th, 2009, 02:19 PM   #7
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I had no idea what a carnet was until I looked it up, so for those who don't now, it's basically a passport for equipment. You can read more about them here:

What is a Carnet?

ATA Carnets - Apply Online For Duty Free Customs Clearance from Roanoke Trade

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Old March 9th, 2009, 12:28 AM   #8
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I was reading up Carnets a couple of nights ago after Shaun pointed it out. What I find difficult to swallow is the 40% "surety bond" or whatever you want to call it.

One thing I am not completely clear on is... does the carnet "list" have to exactly match what you brought? I would assume so.

Scenario #1. You get a carnet done up for your standard gear package that you expect to bring down the the States (coming from Canada). Let's say this includes a boffo lighting kit with a couple of dedolights, a couple of Kinos, a bunch of stands, a boom, a few expensive mics, camera, tripod and just for the hell of it: a stedicam. So your list means you have to drop a 12 to 15 grand holding fee to the Chamber of Commerce of your choice.

Two months later you decide to go on a spec shooting junket at Laguna Seca. You throw ONLY your camera, mics, paperwork and accessories in a backpack and travelbag along with 3 pairs of undies, socks & t-shirts... hop your motorcycle (plausible for me) and go.

What happens when you get to the border?!!
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Old March 9th, 2009, 11:04 AM   #9
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Originally Posted by Andy Stone View Post
What happens when you get to the border?!!
Have you asked U.S. customs?


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Old March 9th, 2009, 05:20 PM   #10
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Originally Posted by Andy Stone View Post
.

What happens when you get to the border?!!
You have to make sure that your Carnet is stamped by Canadian customs before you leave Canada, then you present it to US Customs. Leaving the US you need to get their customs to stamp it out again and then Canadian customs will stamp it back in again. Always make sure you get it stamped correctly.

If you're flying allow time for all this, Customs tend to be in arrivals terminals rather than departures and you may need to find them in a large airport.
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Old March 14th, 2009, 02:03 PM   #11
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Originally Posted by Andy Stone View Post

What happens when you get to the border?!!

Well, to answer this question, if you bring your gear in without the proper paperwork, they will say, and it has happened to me "you can go, but the gear cannot". We basically had to scramble, leave the gear, almost missed the flight in the process as well.

If you are going to be traveling, do it right, get a carnet.

Couple of helpful pointers 1.> its best to fly directly into/out of an international airport (into the Us), as not all airports have a US customs office, to clear the equipment. You need to import/export the gear, so from my experience its best to get flights that are directly in.

2.> Call ahead, make sure there is a US customs office, get hrs of operation, and DEFINATELY get an name to the officer you spoke to, just incase you run into difficulties.


And you asked about bringing different gear, etc.

Carnets are generally used for trip specific shoots. You just don't get one "just in case".
Its better to have more gear on your carnet, and not enough, because if it isn't on there, and you bring it, you run the risk of not being allowed to bring it into the country.

At the end of the day, just like anything, do things the right way, and you won't have any issues. Carnets arent that much hassle to do, and really its billed back to the client as well, (generally)

Feel free to throw me a pm if you need any more info, I've done the process a zillion times, and the chamber of commerce people are fantastic to deal with.
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Old March 15th, 2009, 11:05 AM   #12
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various issues

Take EXACTLY what is on the carnet. No more and no less.

I travel to Canada once or twice a year. I don't use a carnet. The Canadians don't seem to interested in what I'm bringing, only why I'm coming. But, US customs AND immigration can be difficult. Lots of rookies that don't know what they are talking about.

I have a Canadian client that has travelled to the US for over 20 years to work. Was denied entry the first time this year for failure to provide sufficient proof of what he was coming for (working FOR a Canadian company).

Definately bring the paperwork for the workshop. Your professional looking gear will draw attention and they will likely not believe your 'story' without good documentation.

The issue of gear crossing borders is mainly taxation/duties. Take all your tax receipts with you for when you return to Canada.

And yes, CALL everybody involved on both sides of the border
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Old March 19th, 2009, 02:35 PM   #13
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Originally Posted by Andrew Stone View Post
I was reading up Carnets a couple of nights ago after Shaun pointed it out. What I find difficult to swallow is the 40% "surety bond" or whatever you want to call it...
When we've done this we typically work with a local co. that expedites the process and posts the bond for the equipment. We pay a small percentage of the bond as a fee to that co., plus the carnet fee itself. This works as long as you get all your paperwork stamped in and out, because you have to return the stamped paperwork to the bonding co. Screw it up, and they pay the bond, and ??? We never found out, because we were good about it. But I'd suspect that you'd not be bondable after that, and that they may come after you for it?

It is a huge hassle moving carneted equipment in and out of foreign airports, and it takes lots of time. But it is the only way to bring equipment that looks professional with you.
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Old March 19th, 2009, 04:26 PM   #14
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Originally Posted by Seth Bloombaum View Post
When we've done this we typically work with a local co. that expedites the process and posts the bond for the equipment. We pay a small percentage of the bond as a fee to that co., plus the carnet fee itself. This works as long as you get all your paperwork stamped in and out, because you have to return the stamped paperwork to the bonding co. Screw it up, and they pay the bond, and ??? We never found out, because we were good about it. But I'd suspect that you'd not be bondable after that, and that they may come after you for it?

It is a huge hassle moving carneted equipment in and out of foreign airports, and it takes lots of time. But it is the only way to bring equipment that looks professional with you.
Same thing in Canada.. the canadian chamber of commerce works with Aon Reedstenhouse that does the bond for you.
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Old March 23rd, 2009, 12:40 AM   #15
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Thanks for the thoughtful replies everyone. I'll be able to get things sorted now.
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