How to Fill Out a Customs Form for International Shipping

As the sender, you are in charge of handling the package and paperwork properly. Filling out the customs forms correctly is crucial regardless if you’re a one-time or big-time shipper.
This article will guide you through the process that is filling out a customs form for international shipping with PackageHopper.

The Importance of International Shipping Customs Forms

Filling out a customs form is a lot of paperwork but it’s a skill that you need to master as it will definitely be of use in the long run if you plan on continuing to ship internationally.

Since packages get examined by the local customs, customs forms are like the passports of packages. They serve to show that the package is described properly, is safe for delivery, and that you are complying with the laws of both the origin and the destination countries.

A completed customs form will ensure a fast and safe arrival of your goods, while those that have incorrect or missing information will be held at customs longer or can even be returned. This will lead to dissatisfied customers and might harm your business.

A Customs Form Doesn’t Have to Be Stressful

Even though filling out those forms can be tiring and take a lot of time, the process itself won’t be stressful if you know what to enter and double-even triple-check your information. It will be of great help if you take the time to know your duties and taxes first.

If correctly filled, a customs form will have the following:

  • Name and full address of the shipper (yours)
  • Name and full address of the receiver
  • Accurate item description
    • Make sure to list and describe each item separately if you’re shipping more than one in the same box
  • Value of the item(s) you’re shipping
  • Dimensions and weight of the package
  • Quantity of the item(s)
    • If the goods are divided in smaller boxes, add how many
  • Reason for export (commercial, personal, gift, etc.)
  • Sending date
  • Terms of payment
  • The package’s unique invoice number
  • Follow-up procedure in case the item cannot be delivered

The following is an example of how a typical customs form should look like (there might be slight differences from carrier to carrier).

Example of a correctly completed USPS Customs Form

Sometimes an additional U.S. Certificate of origin might be needed even if the country of origin is listed on the invoice. For this, it’s recommended and cost-effective that you always have a copy of your certificate to send with future shipments of the same kind.

And of course, don’t forget to label with fragile, flammable, toxic, or any other items that require special labeling.

Check Special Requirements for Different Countries

Some countries have special export and import requirements, so always do your research before shipping.

Countries like Canada, UAE, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Cambodia, Sri Lanka, and Doha require a certificate of origin.

US, Canada, Mexico, and the Philippines ask for Automated Manifest System (AMS) declarations.

While EU countries and Switzerland don’t require any special documentation to ship among themselves, they do require an Entry Summary Declaration (ENS) from packages that arrive from other countries (like the US and Non-EU countries).

Fumigation (chemical) labels are a must for the US, Canada, Japan, Korea, Israel, Brazil, Chile, Indonesia, the Philippines, Malaysia, and Panama.


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