UPS, FedEx, DHL, & More

How to Deal with DHL Customs Formalities (And Avoid Delays)

Gayatri Bhaumik

by Gayatri Bhaumik

On 2020 M03 20

by Gayatri Bhaumik

One of the biggest hurdles in international shipping is customs clearance. If mishandled, you could find yourself having to pay extra charges - or worse - that your shipment gets held at customs and causes a delay in delivery. Global carrier DHL processes millions of shipments around the world every day, so they’ve figured out how to make these formalities a breeze. DHL customs teams have a strong understanding of all the different regulations you may face and can offer plenty of guidance to simplify this irksome task.

Back in the 1960s, when DHL was founded, customs documents were sent by air to a shipment’s destination. This significantly reduced how long freight took to clear customs and allowed DHL to become a global leader in logistics from its humble beginnings in Honolulu. Of course, things have changed since then, but the company remains at the forefront of clearing imports into almost any country.

What Services Does DHL Offer to Help with Customs?

The carrier offers an extensive range of DHL customs clearance services. No matter what your requirements are, you’ll find something that meets them exactly.

Bonded Transit

This service applies when DHL is asked to send a non-document shipment of foreign origin to a location that’s different from the regular DHL gateway at a destination. This usually operates in a country, region or customs union, and must occur before a shipment can receive final clearance from the importer or designated broker.

Broker Notification

At the request of the shipper, DHL can release a shipment and its related documents to the designated broker for clearance. Once the shipment has cleared customs, DHL will resume handling of the package for last-mile delivery. The carrier makes it very clear that since they aren’t handling clearance in this instance, they can’t be held responsible for any issues or delays.

Bonded Storage

Sometimes, when shipment paperwork is inaccurate or missing, a package may be held at customs. This is when you’ll have to pay for storage. Charges are applied from three days after the package arrives or the broker is notified, whichever is later.

Permits and Licenses

This is a service that helps you fast-track the import process, especially for more tricky items like pharmaceuticals, perishables, medical devices, and computer equipment.

Multiline Entry

If you need multiline item entries for shipments with multiple products and invoices, then you’ll need to use this service. It allows all products in one shipment to be identified and classified separately, under different harmonized codes. Service charges are applied to forms that require more than five lines.

Row of DHL customs clearance documents

Clearance Data Modification

In cases where the declared value for customs for DHL shipments needs to be changed before or during the customs clearance process, a surcharge will be applied to complete the shipment.

Advance Payment

When DHL must pay duties for non-documented shipments, they will require an advanced payment from the shipper. In this service, payment for duties, taxes, and regulatory charges are paid using the DHL customs credit line. The charge is based on the credit advanced or guaranteed and is subject to a standard minimum.

Disbursements

When the receiver requests this service, DHL can pay duties, taxes, and clearance in their place. This way, the receiver saves his bond and credit line and the customs process moves faster.

Export Declaration

This service is offered in all countries where an export declaration is needed for shipments of controlled commodities or exceeding certain weight or value limits. If you make this declaration online, then you may avoid these charges, but this largely depends on the origin and destination country.

Clearance Paperwork

Many countries require a commercial invoice - or a pro forma invoice - when shipping non-document goods. DHL can attach this document on a customer’s behalf.

Of course, DHL offers a very extensive range of customs services and these are just some of the most popular.

How Does DHL Manage Customs?

Like all courier services, DHL follows the international rules and regulations about restricted and prohibited items. For example, you can’t send things like alcohol to European countries, while other countries prohibit Samsung Galaxy Note 7 devices. DHL has a pretty comprehensive list of these items on its website, but it also can refuse to ship items that are not on the list but it feels are dangerous or otherwise can’t be shipped. In cases where you want to ship restricted items, you may have to ask DHL to pay duties on top of regular charges.

DHL does its best to make navigating customs easy for its clients. As discussed above, they offer a range of services to cater to every scenario and niche; they also have a complete step-by-step guide to handling taxes and duties for both the shipper and receiver. Here are a few other things you should know.

  • DHL customs operates in more than 200 destinations around the world.
  • They process more than 7 million customs shipments each year.
  • The carrier has a team of experts handling DHL customs clearance.
  • Teams working at the regional, local, and global levels ensure this process is smooth and in compliance with regulations, ethics, and industry standards.
  • The DHL team has a strong relationship with the customs authorities of respective governments.
  • DHL uses the latest customs clearance technologies to provide top of the line international delivery services.

To ship anything though, you’ll need to accurately complete the relevant paperwork. DHL will validate this before shipping; the courier won’t accept shipments without the right forms. For commercial shipments, you’ll have to provide specific information about the value and type of goods your packages contain. This may include monetary value and a description of goods.

Man declaring value of DHL shipment in the street

What Paperwork Do I Need?

All international shipments will require customs paperwork of some kind. Some of it will be very basic; for large, high-value, or commercial shipments, though, you may have more extensive documentation to deal with.

In some cases, you may be able to use a platform like Easyship to ensure your paperwork is properly completed and won’t cause any delays. Our platform can automate almost all customs paperwork, including for DHL services, so that you won't have to worry about a little error causing a big delay with your shipments.

Here’s a step-by-step guide of dealing with DHL customs paperwork:

  1. First, you have to make sure that you use the official DHL paperwork.
  2. Use the appropriate trademark or incoterms that are used internationally for the trade or shipping of goods.
  3. Accurately write the complete information of the sender, including their full name and address. You’ll also have to add a VAT number for commercial shipments.
  4. Next, provide all the necessary receiver information, including a full name, address, and phone number.
  5. Fill out the waybill and print it.
  6. Next, you’ll need to provide the relevant shipment information such as the number of pieces included and the shipment weight.
  7. You also need to give a complete and accurate description of the goods.
  8. Then, enter the appropriate commodity or harmonized codes.
  9. Enter the country of origin of each item.
  10. State the value of each item.
  11. Calculate and state the subtotal of each item type.
  12. Now enter the total value of the whole shipment.
  13. You’ll also have to provide a reason for the export.
  14. Remember to write what type of invoice you’re creating, a pro forma or commercial invoice.
  15. Finally, provide a complete declaration with your name, date, and signature.

Do You Have To Pay Customs For DHL?

The short answer? Yes. You will need to pay custom clearance fees to DHL. But, how much those charges are will depend on certain things. First of all, you’ll need to talk to the carrier to figure out how DHL calculates duties and taxes for their shipments. Usually, this will be based on preset government tariffs based on the particular products you’re sending. Unfortunately, once you’ve opted to use a service, you usually won’t be able to cancel it and get a refund.

If you need a little help, this Easyship calculator will help you get a good estimate of how much you’ll need to pay. You simply have to input your shipment’s origin and destination countries, its value, and the category of product(s) it contains, et voila - you’ll have an accurate idea of what taxes and duties you’ll need to pay.

You may also encounter additional costs in order for DHL to pay duties on your behalf. This, of course, depends on which of their specialized customs services you use. You can get an overview of these costs in the table below.

DHL Customs Services and Associated Costs

Service Cost
Bonded Transit $85
Bonded Storage $31/day/shipment
Permits and Licenses $25
Multiline Entry $5/line after 5 lines (imports)
Clearance Data Modification $56
Export Declaration $15
Advanced Payment 2% of duties; $15 minimum
Disbursement 2% of duties; $15 minimum
Preferential Origin $10
Controlled Exports $65
Clearance Paperwork $20
Single Clearance $20
Import Paperwork $25/packet
Prior Notice $10

Ship Better With DHL’s Customs Services

If you’re sending shipments to different parts of the world, you’ll need to figure out how to navigate customs formalities. If you don’t do it correctly, you could find yourself having to pay extra fees or seeing your shipments held at customs. DHL customs can take a lot of the stress out of this process with its extensive range of niche services.

Easyship can connect you to a range of DHL services, and we can even help you prepare your packages for shipment with automated shipping labels and customs declarations. Sign up for a free account and let us help you navigate DHL’s customs formalities.