Customs and International Shipping: What You Need to Know

Jun 15, 2022 Sarah Saker Sarah Saker

There will be people interested in buying what you're selling, no matter where you are. Whether you're selling shoes, books, or electronic devices, your product will always have an audience. Why? Because people are always in need of these things.

They might not be able to find what they're looking for in their local area, or the price might be too high. That's why people are looking into online shopping now more than ever. As an online seller, it's essential to be aware of the customs and international shipping processes. You might be thinking, "International shipping? Isn't that expensive and complicated? "

You're not wrong. It can be both of those things. But it doesn't have to be if you're prepared. In this article, we'll go over some customs and international shipping basics.


Identify Which Products and Where in the World You'll Ship

First and foremost, you need to decide which products you want to ship and where in the world you'll ship them. While this might seem like a no-brainer, it's essential to be specific.

For example, let's say you sell clothes. You might want to specify that you only want to ship shirts or dresses to Europe. Why do you have to do this? Because each country has different customs regulations. And if you're not specific about which products you want to ship and where, you might accidentally violate customs regulations and get your shipment confiscated.

Not only will this result in a loss of product, but it can also lead to hefty fines. So, be specific about the products you want to ship and where you'll ship them worldwide.


Research for Custom Regulations

The next step is to research the customs regulations of the countries you want to ship to. It might seem daunting, but it's not that difficult. Thankfully, plenty of resources available online can help you with this.

The US Department of Commerce website is a great place to start. They have a database of all the import and export regulations for every country worldwide. You can also find out if there are any restrictions or duties on the products you want to ship.

Let's go back to the previous example. Say you want to ship shirts to Europe. You can use the US Department of Commerce website to find out that there is a duty-free limit of €175 per shipment. It means that as long as each shirt is valued at less than €175, you won't have to pay any duties on them.

But if the value of the shipment is over €175, you'll have to pay a duty of 20%. So, it's essential to know these regulations before shipping anything.

Another thing is that there may be times when you need to store your products in a bonded warehouse. For example, you might need to use a bonded warehouse if you're shipping products that require special handling or if the shipment will get held up for an extended period. Again, ensure to find Storage Units that comply with the requirements.


Get the Right Documentation

Before you can ship anything, you need to get the proper documentation. The type of documentation you need will vary depending on:

  • the value of the shipment
  • what's in the shipment
  • where it's going

For example, if you're shipping a low-value shipment to Canada, you'll only need an invoice. But if you're shipping a high-value electronics shipment to Europe, you'll need an invoice, a commercial invoice, and a certificate of origin.

You can find the documents you need on the US Department of Commerce website. They have a list of all the required documents for every country worldwide.


Get Insurance

Once you have all the correct documentation, the next step is to get insurance. Doing so will protect you in case anything happens to the shipment.

For example, if the shipment is lost or damaged, you'll be able to file a claim with the insurance company and get compensated for the loss. You can usually get insurance through your shipping company.

But read the policy carefully to know what's covered and not. For example, some policies might not cover valuable or fragile items.


Choose a Shipping Company

Now that you've done the necessary research, it's time to choose a shipping company. There are plenty of shipping companies, so taking your time and choosing the right one is essential. Here are a few things to look for in a shipping company:

  • A good reputation: You want to choose a shipping company that has a good reputation. You can read online reviews to understand what other people think of the company.
  • Affordable rates: Shipping can be expensive, so you want to ensure you're getting a good deal. Compare the rates of different shipping companies to find an affordable one.
  • Fast shipping times: Depending on where you're shipping, you might need your shipment to arrive quickly. Make sure to check the shipping times of different companies before making a decision.


Final Thoughts

Understanding the process of an international shipment is critical for your business. Doing your research can ensure that your shipments arrive safely and on time. With this, your customers will be happy and satisfied with their purchases.

Hi, I’m Sarah. I’m a freelance writer and small business coach living in Hattiesburg, Mississippi.

I love small businesses (the backbone of America!), helping them set up processes for customer support and growth, and working on creative marketing messaging.