5 Steps for International Shipping for US Businesses

In a dynamic world where borders blur and connections span continents, the journey of a business transcends geographical limits. The expansion to international markets is not just an option; it's a strategic move for US-based businesses seeking sustained growth and enhanced relevance. Discover why venturing beyond borders is imperative and learn how to navigate the intricacies of international shipping with our comprehensive step-by-step guide, drawing insights from UPS and FedEx.

The Global Advantage

  • Market Diversity and Stability: Relying solely on domestic markets exposes businesses to localized downturns. International expansion diversifies revenue streams, cushioning against economic uncertainties.
  • Exponential Revenue Growth: New markets bring new customers. International expansion holds the potential to substantially increase sales and revenue, unlocking unforeseen opportunities.
  • Competitive Edge on a Global Scale: A broader market presence enhances a business's competitiveness. Expanding beyond borders signifies market leadership and global prominence.
  • Innovation and Learning: Adapting to diverse markets encourages innovation. Insights into customer preferences across cultures drive the creation of new products and services.
  • Global Brand Recognition: An international footprint elevates brand visibility and trust. A business with global reach is perceived as credible and reliable.
  • Access to a Broader Talent Pool: International expansion enables tapping into diverse talent, fostering innovation and diverse perspectives.
  • Long-Term Sustainability: Diversification through international markets safeguards against over-reliance on domestic markets, promoting a sustainable growth trajectory.

Navigating International Shipping with Ease

Step 1: Compliance and Prerequisites Assessment

Key Actions:

  • Regulation Adherence: Verify that your shipment aligns with the specific regulations and restrictions of the destination country. This includes understanding any limitations on what can be shipped and received.
  • Prohibited Items: Familiarize yourself with items that require special care or are prohibited from international shipping. This knowledge is crucial to prevent complications during customs clearance.
  • Size and Weight Considerations: Understand the size and weight restrictions applicable to larger parcels. Ensuring that your shipment falls within these limits will help avoid logistical challenges.
  • Inspection Requirements: Double-check whether the products you're shipping require inspection. Some items may need thorough scrutiny to ensure they meet safety and quality standards.
  • Export Compliance: Check if your shipment requires export licenses or ECCN (Export Control Classification Number) numbers. Adhering to export regulations is vital for legal and smooth cross-border trade.
  • Denied Parties Screening: Utilize screening tools, such as FedEx Global Trade Manager, to prevent shipping to denied parties. This step ensures compliance with international trade laws and regulations.
  • Restricted Items Awareness: Familiarize yourself with restricted items that might face specific import requirements or limitations. This knowledge helps ensure a hassle-free customs clearance process.

Step 2: Information Gathering

Key Actions:

  • Detailed Product Descriptions: Provide thorough product descriptions to expedite customs clearance. Accurate details about the products being shipped contribute to efficient processing through customs.
  • Intended Use, Composition, Origin, and Value: Specify the intended use, composition, origin, and value of the products. These details contribute to proper customs assessment and taxation calculations.
  • Address Accuracy: Verify the accuracy of addresses, accommodating unique address formats or postal codes. Ensuring correct addresses prevent delivery delays and potential issues with customs.
  • Shipment Purpose: Determine the purpose of the shipment, whether it's commercial, a gift, etc. This information influences customs requirements and duty calculations.
  • Commodities vs. Documents: Differentiate between commodities and documents in your shipment. This distinction guides the necessary customs documentation and declarations.
  • Declaration of Value and Origin: Declare both carriage and customs value for commodities and determine the commodity's country of origin. These factors impact customs assessment and clearance.
  • Harmonized Tariff System (HTS) Code: Acquire the HTS code for accurate classification of your commodities. This code is essential for proper customs declaration and assessment.
  • Duties, Taxes, and Payment Responsibilities: Estimate duties and taxes based on accurate value declarations. Identify the importer/consignee and determine responsibilities for transportation charges and duties/taxes payments.

Step 3: Customs Documentation, Compliance, and Submission

Key Actions:

  • Commercial Invoice and Forms: Understand the significance of the commercial invoice (pro forma invoice) for customs clearance. Ensure accuracy to prevent delays. Utilize the carrier's shipping tool to simplify form-filling and explore necessary customs forms.
  • Payment of Duties, Taxes, and Fees: Recognize who pays duties, taxes, and fees (shipper, recipient, or third party). Optimize transparency by selecting the appropriate payment model (DDP or DDU). Communicate proactively with the recipient to avoid unexpected charges.
  • HS Codes and Descriptions: Grasp the importance of Harmonized System Codes (HS codes) for duty and tax assessment. Provide precise product descriptions for accurate code determination. Research your HS code for proper classification.
  • Customs Brokers and Terms of Sale: Engage a customs broker for efficient clearance. Understand carrier's services may include brokers for shipments under a certain value. Establish terms of sale (Incoterms) with the buyer for cost responsibilities.
  • Custom Documentation Assessment: Identify necessary customs documents based on origin, destination, and commodity. Use tools like the carrier's International Shipping Assist for accurate documentation.
  • Maintain Consistent Descriptions: Ensure uniformity in descriptions across customs documents. This minimizes confusion and enhances clearance efficiency.
  • Electronic Submission: Opt for electronic submission for streamlined processing. Leverage available options for efficient customs document transmission.
  • Accurate Information: Provide precise details about contents, materials, intended use, and origin. This ensures compliance and minimizes clearance delays.

Step 4: Packaging and Labeling for Safe Shipment

Key Actions:

  1. Crafting the International Shipping Label: Generate the necessary shipping labels and documents online. Fill in accurate sender and recipient details, along with commodity information and weight. Attach the label securely to the package, ensuring the barcode remains visible.
  2. Secure Packaging: Utilize the carrier's supplies or visit nearby stores to gather appropriate packaging materials. Adhere to weight and size restrictions as outlined by the carrier's guidelines.

Packaging Guidelines and Checklist:

  • Use a rigid box with attached flaps. Avoid reusing boxes that are worn or damaged.
  • Refer to the Box Strength Guidelines chart to determine the appropriate box strength for your shipment.
  • Fill empty spaces within the box with appropriate cushioning material to limit movement during shipping. Options include air-encapsulated plastic (bubble sheeting), inflatable packaging (air bags), expanded polystyrene "peanuts," engineered foam closures, and corrugate liners.
  • Use strong tape designed for shipping to seal closures and seams. Avoid using string, paper over-wrap, masking tape, cellophane, duct tape, or water-activated paper tape.
  • Wrap individual items separately to prevent damage during transit.
  • Remove or conceal any previous shipment markings, labels, or hazardous materials indicators that are no longer applicable.
  • Affix a UPS-issued paper shipping document or label with clear delivery and return information, including the UPS tracking number, shipper name and address, and consignee name and address.
  • Place a duplicate address label inside the box for additional identification.

Step 5: Getting Your Shipment into the Carrier Network

Key Actions:

  • Drop Off at Store or Drop Box: You have the option to drop off your packaged shipment at a carrier store or designated drop box location. Ensure that your package is securely sealed, labeled, and contains all necessary documentation.
  • Complete Customs Documentation: Present any required customs documents, including the commercial invoice, to the carrier at the time of drop-off. Verify that all information is accurate and consistent across documents.
  • Payment of Charges: If applicable, make the necessary payments for shipping charges, duties, taxes, and fees. Verify the payment method and ensure transparency with the recipient about potential charges.
  • Schedule a Pickup: Alternatively, schedule a pickup for your shipment from your location. This convenient option eliminates the need for you to visit a carrier store or drop box. Ensure that your package is prepared for pickup according to carrier guidelines.
  • Visibility and Alerts: Once your shipment is in the carrier's network, take advantage of tracking and visibility services provided by the carrier. Stay informed about the progress of your shipment and receive real-time alerts for any delays, custom holds, or disruptions in transit.

Additional Considerations:

  • If you're utilizing a scheduled pickup service, ensure that you provide accurate location details and are present at the designated time.
  • Keep a copy of all relevant documentation for your records, including shipping labels, commercial invoices, and receipts for payment.
  • Maintain communication with the recipient to inform them of the estimated delivery date and any potential duties or taxes they may need to cover.

By completing these final steps, your shipment will be officially integrated into the carrier's network, setting it on its journey to its international destination. Whether you choose to drop off the package or schedule a pickup, ensuring accurate documentation, payment, and staying updated on shipment progress will contribute to a successful international shipping experience.

Conclusion: The Potential of Worldwide Growth

From compliance assessment to packaging and beyond, our user guide equips you with the knowledge and tools to smoothly ship your products across borders. The process involves meticulous attention to detail and adherence to regulations. Precise product information, accurate documentation, and secure packaging are vital to ensure your shipment's successful journey.

Moreover, once your shipment enters the carrier's network, the journey is far from over. Stay engaged through real-time tracking and alerts, enabling you to address any potential delays, customs holds, or disruptions in transit. The final steps of drop-off or scheduled pickup, accurate documentation, and communication with the recipient are crucial for a seamless shipping experience.

As you embrace the global arena, remember that each shipment is more than a package – it's a connection that bridges nations, cultures, and economies. By absorbing the insights shared in this guide and executing the steps meticulously, your business can confidently venture into the world of international commerce, building new partnerships and propelling growth across borders.

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