Custom Duty Clearance

Customs clearance is the process by which customs controls the import or export of goods. Read here how it works.

Chantal van Thiel

Chantal has been writing about logistics topics for almost two decades and has worked for major international carriers.

What is Customs Clearance?

Customs clearance is the process by which customs authorities check the import or export of goods and carry out the necessary formalities so that the goods meet all legal requirements. It is an essential part of the customs process and is intended to protect a country's economy, safety, and public health.

During customs clearance, importers or exporters must provide the correct documents, such as invoices, transport documents, and possibly permits and certificates. Customs then perform a check to see if the goods match the provided documents and comply with the applicable regulations. This involves taking and analyzing samples on a random basis and inspecting the goods.

If the goods meet all requirements, customs release them and they are imported or exported. If they do not meet the requirements, customs decide to refuse the goods. Customs may also hold them until the requirements are met or a fine is paid.

What Does the Customs Clearance Process Look Like?

When you ship internationally, you can ensure a smooth and fast customs clearance. The customs clearance process and specific steps and requirements vary by country. But a customs clearance process usually consists of the following steps:

  • Collecting required documents: This includes, among other things, the commercial invoice, shipping documents, and any permits.

  • Submitting the customs documents: This is done by the carrier or the importer and includes information about the contents of your shipment and its value.

  • Inspection of goods: Customs inspects the goods to confirm whether they comply with the required rules and regulations.

  • Assessment of customs duties and taxes: Customs calculates the import duties and taxes to be paid based on the value of the goods and the specific rules and laws.

  • Payment of customs duties and taxes: After the calculation, the customs duties and taxes must be paid before the goods are released.

  • Release of goods: After paying the customs duties and taxes and after inspection, the goods are released.

How Long Does Customs Clearance Take?

Customs clearance can take a few working days, but also weeks. It depends on what you send, the destination, and the applicable customs rules and restrictions. You can contact the customs of the country for specific information. On our website, you also find customs information per country. You can make customs clearance smoother.

How to Make Customs Clearance Smooth and Fast:

  • In our shipping platform MyParcelParcel, you can export and import to and from more than 220 countries. We have built our shipping platform so that you can easily create a customs invoice or commercial invoice with just a few clicks and automatically get the right forms.

  • We have written a lot of content about customs formalities and international shipping:

    • Read in the knowledge base about customs forms and accompanying hs-codes. And about VAT on shipping costs.

    • Here you can read everything about import duties and clearance fees and an EORI number

  • You can also work with a customs agent or forwarder. This is a party that takes care of all customs formalities for import and export.

Ensure the correct documents are properly filled in. Some tips:

  • Provide specific, not too general, answers and check the document for spelling errors.

  • Ensure that the information is consistent across all required customs documents.

  • Provide a detailed, accurate description of each item. For example, extensively describe how your product is manufactured or produced, what it is made of, and how it is used.

  • Provide contact details for both the sender and the addressee.

How to Avoid Delays in Customs Clearance

  • Indicate what the (correct) value is of the item you are sending, even if it is something that is provided free of charge (sample or product not intended for resale). The value is used to assess duties and taxes.

  • If you are sending multiple items, then give a description for each item, its purpose of use, and what material the item is made of. Note: listing shipping costs as an item leads to unnecessary delays. Make sure that shipping costs are not noted as an additional line on the customs invoice. Customs can then interpret the item as a non-recognizable product for them and refuse to clear the shipment.

  • Does your shipment consist of multiple parts? Keep these together and label each piece of the shipment separately.

  • Use our shipping platform MyParcelParcel to generate a customs invoice for free and automatically, which is fully compliant with customs requirements.

Want to Know More About Customs Clearance?

Would you like to know more about customs clearance? Then look in our knowledge base. Prefer to speak with our logistics specialists? Contact us via live chat. Or by calling 085 877 16 56 (Netherlands) or 038 087 099 (Belgium). We are happy to help!


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