How Does the Customs Process Work?

Did you know that roughly 90% of dry, non-bulk manufactured goods are shipped in ocean containers? If your business is trying to get into international shipping, your goods might end up in an ocean container.

No matter how your goods are shipped, they must go through the customs process. This complicated process is not easy to understand, but our guide will discuss all that you need.

Read on to learn more.

Rules of the Customs Process

Every country has different customs regulations, but before entering the United States, all goods will be subject to the US Customs and Border Protection of the Department of Homeland Security.

A shipping company might need an import license to ship goods to certain countries. The time it takes to clear customs depends on different factors such as the types of goods you are importing.

You’ll experience holdups during customs procedures when you don’t have the necessary documents.

Import Duties and Taxes

Before finishing the customs clearance process, you should pay import duties. If you don’t pay these ahead of time, the shipment will get sent to an independent customs brokerage company which costs more down the road.

A shipment that is stuck in customs will need to be stored. The cost of storage can add up fast.

Signing Paperwork

Exports procedures during the customs process hinges on paperwork. The necessary documents must have accurate and complete information to avoid problems in the import and export process.

Be prepared to supply additional documents including the following:

  • Certificate of origin
  • Duty payment documentation
  • Commercial invoice
  • Bill of lading

All of these documents are necessary to ensure the customs process goes as smoothly as possible.

Prepare for Changes

The customs process is complex so you should always prepare for possible changes. International politics and regulations can affect customs clearance. It’s not always easy to stay on top of these changing regulations.

Regulation changes might come in the following forms:

  • Tariffs
  • New import license requirements
  • Impositions of import quotas

Doing business with certain countries that require these changes often leads to additional costs.

Working With Experts

Although it is not required to work with experts during the international shipping customs process, it is beneficial. Most businesses choose to gain the skills and expertise of freight forwarders and customs brokers to avoid costly missteps.

You can find a freight forwarder to work with at

Even when working with experts, you’ll need to use the above tips for a smooth customs process. Completing the proper documentation is something your business will have to do on its own whether you choose to work with experts or not.

Understanding the Customs Process

The customs process is not easy to understand as international changes and documentation can hold you back. However, if you prepare for possible changes and fill out the proper paperwork, you will be in good hands.

Taking advice and pro tips from the experts is always beneficial as well.

Before you can ship internationally, it’s important to get the customs process down. For more advice for businesses, check out the other posts on our blog.

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