ISS’ Complete Guide to Customs Clearance

  • 3 min read

The process of customs clearance can be daunting to many business owners, particularly if you’re new to international shipping. Importing your goods into different countries requires a fair amount of time, research, and preparation.

Because of this, ISS has put together a quick guide to help you navigate customs clearance and avoid complications. Read on for ISS’s complete guide to customs clearance.

Key Factors Impacting Customs Clearance

There are a number of factors that can impact customs clearance . These are outlined below.

Nature of Your Goods

Customs clearance can be a slightly more strenuous process if your goods are classified as either dangerous or restricted. Dangerous goods (such as explosives, toxic materials, firearms, etc) will require additional documents including a Dangerous Goods Declaration. Perishable items, particularly food and agricultural produce will require quality and safety certification.

To find out whether your goods require additional documentation or certification, you should consult the government website of your destination country.

Free Trade Agreements

Importing to a country that has a free trade agreement in place with your origin country may mean that you are eligible for tariff reductions. You will need to ensure that your products are eligible for such reductions, and provide a certificate of origin if it is. In addition, you will need to look up the correct Harmonised System (HS) code of your product, include it in your shipping documents, and check the destination country’s tariff schedule for the applicable customs duty.

Digital Customs

More and more countries are opting for digital customs processes. Because of this, it is important that you familiarise yourself with the platform your destination country uses for customs clearance procedures and the processes that can only be done through these platforms.

Failure to declare your goods correctly and on time either digitally or physically will lead to clearance delays.

Key Documents in Customs Clearance

Customs clearance is a very document-heavy process. You will find that you’ll need to provide a wide range of detailed and accurate licences and certificates. Here are the key documents that you will need:

Shipping Bill

This is also called a bill of export. You can't export cargo by sea, air, or road without this document.

Commercial Invoice

The commercial invoice is a contract of sale between the shipper and receiver.

Packing List

The packing list contains details about the shipment including a description, quantity of goods, and weight.

Bill of Lading

The bill of lading is a contract of carriage between the shipper and the carrier, a receipt of shipped goods, and document of ownership of the cargo.

Import/Export Licences

Certain goods cannot be imported or exported without a licence issued by the relevant authority of a country. These licences are called import or export licences.

Certificate of Origin

The certificate of origin certifies that a product was manufactured, produced, and/or acquired in a particular country. Many countries will require a certificate of origin to clear your goods.

Health Certificates

Health certificates certify that consumable goods are fit for human consumption and meet all required safety and quality standards. A health certificate will typically be required for food and drink products.

Insurance Certificates

Insurance certificates are provided by insurance companies to confirm that goods are covered for any losses/damages during transit. This certificate helps determine the applicable duties.

The exact rules and documentation requirements for the exportation and importation of your goods will differ from country to country. Your best bet in ensuring you have everything you need for hassle-free customs clearance is to contact the ISS team.

Our experienced Customs Brokers will not only ensure that your shipments are cleared quickly and seamlessly, but will also help you to avoid paying unnecessary duties and expenses throughout the process.

Call ISS today for more information!