Cultural property export permits

To download the PDFs in this page, visit Forms – 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.

On this page:

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 is intended to provide guidance on our current practice and interpretation of the relevant legislation.

Applicants must complete both Part I (PDF version, 270 KB) and Part II (PDF version, 270 KB) of the Application for Cultural Property Export Permit. Mail the completed application and all required attachments to the nearest Canada Border Services Agency permit office for processing.

Notice of return

A notice of return (PDF version, 188 KB) must be completed when objects exported under a temporary permit are returned to Canada. The Notice must be submitted within 15 days of the return.

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.

The Cultural Property Export Process

The image is an infographic of the steps involved in the Cultural Property Export Process as per the Cultural Property Export and Import Act.

The Cultural Property Export Process [PDF Version, 1.08 MB]

The Cultural Property Export Process – Text version

The process begins with an exporter asking whether an object meets the criteria established by the Canadian Cultural Property Export Control List.

If the answer is no, no permit is required and the object may be exported from Canada.

If the answer is yes, the exporter must submit an application to the Canada Border Services Agency.

Next step: the application form will ask if the object has been in Canada less than 35 years, if the export is temporary or if the export is to return an object loaned to an institution.

If the answer to any of these questions is yes, the Canada Border Services Agency will issue a permit automatically and the object may be exported from Canada.

If the answer to all of these questions is no, the Canada Border Services Agency will refer the application for permanent export to an Expert Examiner.

Next step: the Expert Examiner will review the object listed on the application to determine if it is sufficiently significant to refuse the permit application.

If the Expert Examiner determines that the object is not of outstanding significance and national importance to Canada, the Canada Border Services Agency will issue a permit and the object may be exported from Canada.

If the Expert Examiner determines that the object is of outstanding significance and national importance, the Canada Border Services Agency will refuse the permit.

The permit applicant may appeal the refusal to the Canadian Cultural Property Export Review Board.

If the applicant does not appeal to the Canadian Cultural Property Export Review Board, the permit remains refused and a new application can only be submitted in two years.

If the applicant appeals to the Canadian Cultural Property Export Review Board, it must either uphold the refusal or allow the permit to be issued.

If the Board allows the permit to be issued, the Canada Border Services Agency will issue a permit and the object may be exported.

If the Board upholds the refusal, it will set a delay period of two to six months. Designated organizations in Canada will be notified that the object is available for purchase.

If no designated organization is interested in purchasing the object, an export permit may be requested upon the expiry of the delay period. The object may be exported from Canada.

If a designated institution purchases the object, they may do so with or without the assistance of a Movable Cultural Property grant. The object will remain in Canada.

Option: In certain circumstances, the applicant or a designated organization can request a fair cash offer determination by the Canadian Cultural Property Export Review Board.

If the applicant does not wish to sell the object, the permit remains refused and a new application can only be submitted in two years.

If a designated institution purchases the object, they may do so with or without the assistance of a Movable Cultural Property grant. The object will remain in Canada.

To learn more about movable cultural properties consult the Guide to Exporting Cultural Property at https://www.canada.ca/en/canadian-heritage/services/export-permits-cultural-property/guide-exporting.html

The Cultural Property Export and Import Act is online at https://laws-lois.justice.gc.ca/eng/acts/C-51/

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