- Customs declarations are used to declare the contents and value of your shipment
- USPS, FedEx, UPS, and all other major couriers require a customs declaration form for international shipping
- Easyship's Automated Label Generator makes it easy for eCommerce merchants to fill out the necessary paperwork for international shipping
Shipping is part and parcel (pun absolutely intended) of running an online retail business. And, with any shipment, you have to handle the proper packing of the item as well as all the courier paperwork. However, international shipping comes with an added layer of complexity. That’s why learning how to fill out a customs declaration form for international shipping is a crucial part to master if you intend to have a global empire.
It will also ensure that any packages you send across borders will reach their recipients safely - and in good time. Any wrong or unclear information can mean your package gets held up at customs, causing significant delays. A note of caution - don’t try and outsmart the authorities. We promise they’ve seen every trick in the book and it will only cause you problems later.
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Why Are Customs Forms Used for International Shipping?
Custom declarations are used to declare the contents and value of your shipment. They also act as your acknowledgment that you have complied with the shipping laws of both the origin and destination countries. Any parcel that enters a country is subject to scrutiny by the local customs authorities. As part of their inspection, they will evaluate the package for taxes and duties. Since the forms will have all the necessary details, you can consider them a passport for your package.
All the information you provide on the customs declaration form should be accurate. If the customs authorities find anything amiss, they will hold your package for further inspection. In fact, some packages are even destroyed if the authorities suspect foul play. Additionally, many goods that enter a country are subject to taxes and customs duties - the authorities will need to decide if they apply to your package (and how much they might be).
Do All Carriers Require a Form?
In a word - yes. Any parcel that will cross an international border on its journey will need a customs declaration form that has been carefully filled out. It’s a requirement for international shipping procedures. The only exception is the European Union and Switzerland - if you ship between countries in this region, you don’t need a customs declaration form. We get it - these post office declaration forms can be complicated, detailed, and rather intimidating. But nonetheless, all carriers will require you to fill one out before they accept your parcel for shipping. Don’t forget that Easyship allows you to automatically generate all shipping documents to smooth the process.
The United States Postal Service generally requires a form for every package that’s sent overseas. However, there are certain exceptions made depending on what mail class you use and the value of your package. For example, you won’t need a form if you want to send a package that weighs less than 16oz through First Class Mail International, since these should only contain documents. A common question from shippers is: Can I print USPS customs forms online? Of course, the answer to this is a resounding yes (this is the 21st century, after all!) Simply register an account online to begin printing shipping labels, schedule pickups, and print USPS customs forms. If you prefer not to use online services, you can go into a post office location to get a physical declaration form. Different countries have different criteria for customs - you can get details here for each country.
Here is an example of a USPS customs declaration form.
How to Attach Customs Forms to USPS Packages?
Your shipping label is your form for international shipping for most mail classes. Simply include a copy of the form inside the package, then attach the short form or label to the outside package. Make sure you use transparent tape (or put it in the plastic envelope attached to the package) so that the form can be clearly read. Don’t forget to keep your sender’s copy with you for future reference.
FedEx also requires you to fill out customs forms for international shipping. You will need to mention what the package contains (including how many pieces are inside and what they’re made of), why you’re sending it, and how much it’s worth. If you’re vague or give the wrong information, your parcel may not be delivered. If you’re shipping with Easyship, our system can automatically generate the post office declaration forms for you; otherwise, you can use the FedEx manager to help you with the documentation and labels.
Here is an example of a FedEx customs form.
Like all the other courier companies, DHL complies with the customs regulations of all countries they operate in, which means you will need to make customs declarations for all your packages. Again, you will need to provide basic information about your package’s contents and value. Of course, Easyship can automatically generate these forms for you; if you go direct, though, you can use DHL’s step-by-step guide to fill out the international shipping forms.
Here is an example of a DHL commercial invoice form.
How to Fill Out a Customs Form for International Shipping
It’s important that you always provide complete, correct information for customs formalities. You can usually add this information to your commercial invoice, shipping label, or dedicated customs document, depending on the courier service and mail class you’re using. However, you should note that different countries have different regulations for their international shipping procedures. For example, in the UK, you need a CNN22 shipping label for items under £270 and a CNN23 form for packages over £270.
To correctly fill out your customs declaration, you will need the following information:
- Name and complete address of the sender
- Complete address and name of receiver
- Item description (if there are several different products in the same package, note them all separately)
- Quantity of items
- Value of each item
- Weight and dimensions of a package
- Date of sending
- Invoice number
- Terms of payment
- Procedure to follow for non-deliverable parcels
Special Requirements for Customs
Different countries have different laws for exports and imports. Therefore, you may have to take additional steps if you’re sending to certain countries.
- Countries that require an Automated Manifest System (AMS) declaration: US, Canada, Mexico, Philippines
- Countries that require an Entry Summary Declaration (ENS): All EU countries
- Countries that require the fumigation of wood products: Australia, US, Canada, Korea, Japan, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Israel, Brazil, Chile, Panama
- Countries that require an origin certificate declaration: Cambodia, Canada, UAE, Doha, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka.
Mistakes to Avoid With Your Customs Labels
Custom declaration forms are a very important document and require your full attention. Be very careful and honest while filling them out. Common mistakes to avoid are:
- Incorrect information about value, sender, or receiver information: If the information provided doesn’t match with items in the parcel, you could be in trouble. Customs may hold your package indefinitely or, in the case of a wrong shipping address, your package could end up at the wrong place and you won’t be able to do anything about it.
- Wrong classification of the items: You should use the correct item code and all of the ten digits when declaring what items are in your package. Don’t forget to include quantities. If you have used the wrong code or wrongly classified the goods, your package will be rejected by the Automated Export System
- Avoid entering the wrong value of the package: Even if you do this at your customer's request, it is wrong and will be considered fraud.
- Incorrect product description: This will cause shipment delays. Be very careful when you enter this information
- Wrong information about hazardous materials: If you provide the wrong information about dangerous goods, things may go wrong during the shipping process, and you could be held liable.
- Attaching the form incorrectly: Make sure the barcode on your form can be read easily.
Start Shipping Globally with the Correct Customs Labels
International shipping is the ultimate growth strategy for eCommerce businesses. But, it does require you to deal with forms. That’s because, by crossing borders, your package becomes subject to the laws of both the origin and destination countries. If you’re not careful about filling out these forms correctly, your package may not be delivered. But, now you know how to fill out a customs declaration form for international shipping - and where the customs form goes on a package - you shouldn’t have any problems. Easyship can be your guide to filling in and automatically printing all the documents you need for international shipping.
Sign up for a free account now to make international shipping a breeze.
Customs Form FAQ
Do I need a customs declaration?
Yes, any parcel that crosses an international border on its journey will need a form that acknowledges your compliance with the shipping laws of both origin and destination countries. The only exception is the European Union and Switzerland. If you ship between countries in this region, you don’t need a customs declaration.
What happens if you don't declare at customs?
The primary penalty a person will face when failing to disclose any item through the United States Customs and Border Protection is the seizure and loss of the property. Also, the failure to declare penalties may increase or decrease based on the value of the merchandise.
Can I fill out a customs form online?
Yes, you can fill out a customs form online with the courier service you choose.
Which countries need customs declaration?
As previously stated, any parcel that crosses an international border on its journey will need a form that acknowledges your compliance with the shipping laws of both origin and destination countries. The only exception is the European Union and Switzerland.