Cultural property export permits

As outlined in the Cultural Property Export and Import Act, a cultural property export permit is required to export controlled cultural property from Canada. This applies regardless of: why the cultural property is being exported; whether the export is permanent or temporary; or how long the property has been in Canada.

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Controlled cultural property

In Canada, cultural property may be subject to export control if:

  • it is more than 50 years old; or
  • its creator is no longer living.

The Canadian Cultural Property Export Control List defines cultural property subject to export control. An export permit is necessary for all cultural property on the List.

The List includes the following eight groups of cultural property:

Groups of Cultural Property
Group Cultural Property
Group I Objects Recovered from the Soil or Waters of Canada (archaeological objects, and fossils and minerals)
Group II Objects of Material Ethnographic Culture (ethnographic objects including Aboriginal, Métis and Inuit objects)
Group III Military Objects
Group IV Objects of Applied and Decorative Arts
Group V Objects of Fine Arts
Group VI Scientific and Technological Objects
Group VII Textual Records, Graphic Records and Sound Recordings (archival material including documents, photographs, maps, sound recordings and films)
Group VIII Musical Instruments

It is a criminal offence to export or attempt to export controlled cultural property without the appropriate export permit. Penalties include fines, imprisonment or both.

Apply for a cultural property export permit

An export permit is required for any cultural property included in the Canadian Cultural Property Export Control List. If the cultural property is not in the Control list, a permit is not required but other legislationmay affect its export.

Who can apply

Any individual, business or institution that wishes to export controlled cultural property must apply for an export permit. Applications must be made by a resident of Canada.

Types of permits

Once it has been determined that a particular item requires an export permit, the next step is to decide what type of permit is necessary. There are three types of export permits.

Temporary export permits

Temporary export permits are for purposes such as exhibition, conservation or research. These are granted automatically, which is stated in the Cultural Property Export and Import Act.

Permanent export permits

Permanent export permits are for purposes such as sale on international markets, delivery to foreign buyers, or for owners moving abroad. These permits are not issued automatically and may be referred to an expert examiner for review. This review confirms if the cultural property is on the Control List and is of outstanding significance and national importance. If the review decides the cultural property meets these standards, the permit may be refused. You may request a review of a refused export permit to the Canadian Cultural Property Export Review Board.

General permits

General permits may be issued to a business or individual that regularly exports a particular type of controlled cultural property, either on a permanent or temporary basis. General permits are designed to facilitate business activities, and are subject to specific conditions.

Application guide and form

The Guide to Exporting Cultural Property from Canada (PDF version, 756 KB) is intended to provide guidance on our current practice and interpretation of the relevant legislation. However, in the event of any inconsistency between this Guide and the applicable legislation, the legislation must be followed.

Application forms are available from the Movable Cultural Property Program.

Submit an export application

Permanent and temporary export permit applications are submitted to and issued by the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) permit issuing offices. Find out where to submit permanent and temporary export permit applications through CBSA's memorandum, Export and Import of Cultural Property (PDF version, 73 KB).

General export permit applications are submitted to the Movable Cultural Property Program and issued by the Minister of Canadian Heritage. To get an export permit application, contact the Movable Cultural Property Program.

Export review

Cultural property that is subject to export control may not leave the country under any circumstances without an appropriate export permit. The export-control system is administered by the Department of Canadian Heritage and the Canada Border Services Agency.

If an application for an export permit is refused by the Canada Border Services Agency on the advice of an expert examiner, the permit applicant may request a review by the Canadian Cultural Property Export Review Board (CCPERB). See more information on the reviews of refused export permits conducted by the Review Board.

Returning cultural property to Canada

Cultural property that is exported under a temporary export permit must be returned to Canada within five years. Exporters must inform the Movable Cultural Property Program of the property's return to Canada.

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