Customs Clearance (Export)

Import and export customs clearance procedures must be one of the most daunting elements of international freight shipping for small to medium-sized enterprises, especially those taking first steps into the global business arena.

What is Customs Clearance?

Customs clearance is the process by which national governments control and monetize the flow of goods across international borders.

To define clearance in the context of customs control, it’s enough to say that any goods you ship internationally must receive permission to move across an international border. This “clearance” can only be granted by the customs authority in the country concerned.

To move out of the country of origin, your shipments must receive export clearance, and they must be granted import clearance to enter the destination country.

What is the Difference between the Export and Import Customs Clearance Process?

If you use international freight shipping within your business, you are most likely to be either an exporter or an importer. The distinction between the two is pertinent because the rules, regulations, and processes for exporting differ from those applicable to imports.

In most international trading scenarios, the seller takes responsibility for export customs clearance, and the buyer for the import process. The precise arrangement will depend on the incoterm applied to the sales transaction.

Under some incoterms, such as Ex Works (if you are the buyer) or Delivery Duty Paid (if you are the seller), you will be both the importer and the exporter, in which case you will need to be aware of the customs clearance processes for import and export.

It’s also imperative to understand that import and export clearance procedures are country-specific, so you should research exactly how they work in the countries relevant to your business. That said, there are some general principles that all customs authorities follow, and it is these that we will focus on in this guide.

What is Export Customs Clearance?

Generally, we define customs clearance as the process of obtaining permission from a country’s government, by way of its customs agency, to take materials or products out of the sovereign territory, and is necessary for almost all exports, with exemptions applying only to some specific scenarios.

As a commercial shipper, your shipments will likely be subject to export customs clearance, and the process will depend upon several factors, including:

• The regulations in place in your country of export

• The type of goods or materials you are exporting

• Any agreements that exist between the countries of export and import

• The technology available to the customs agency in the country of export

What are the Key Steps in Export Customs Clearance?

The tasks that you will need to perform to clear your shipments might include:

• Registering on the customs authority’s system/obtaining an export business number

• Obtaining certificates of origin for the items you are exporting

• Ensuring that the items you wish to ship are not prohibited for export

• Ensuring the same items are not prohibited in the country of import

• Determining the export classification codes for the materials or products you are exporting

• Obtaining export licenses or permits for your goods, if required

• Filing an export declaration for each shipment, either electronically or manually

Import and export customs clearance procedures must be one of the most daunting elements of international freight shipping for small to medium-sized enterprises, especially those taking first steps into the global business arena.