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How to Fill out a Customs Form for International Shipping

A customs declaration is an official document giving details of goods being imported. Legally, a customs declaration is the act whereby a person indicates the wish to place goods under a given customs procedure.

How to Fill In a Customs Form for International Shipping

When you send a shipment from one country to another, you have to make a customs declaration, or fill in a customs declaration form. Customs are taxes that are assessed to goods entering a country. Customs are administered by different government bodies in different countries, but they exist everywhere. In the United States the U.S. Customs and Border Protection is an arm of the Department of Homeland Security. In many countries the customs are administered by the local finance ministry or tax administration.

Many of SDC International Shipping’s clients qualify for an exemption from paying customs or import duties, either because they are citizens of their destination countries who have lived in the United States long enough to qualify for “returning citizen” status, or because they are moving with a valid immigration or long term residence visa which allows for the import of a container of household goods and personal effects. (If you are a citizen of a European Union member state, you need to have lived outside of any EU country at least six months, but some member countries require longer periods.) SDC also sends many shipments for tourists visiting the United States who want to send items that they have bought while vacationing here back to their home countries, they typically don’t qualify for tax exemption.

Regardless of your tax exempt status, you will still need to fill in a customs form for your international shipment. Customs officials will need to look at your declaration and make sure that everything you have written there is exempt.

Some of our clients send some commercial items along with their household goods and personal effects. These are not exempt from customs duties and import taxes. In this case, your personal goods do not need to have customs assessed, but the commercial goods will. Though usually not charged, the exemption from customs is usually for used goods, and if you send new items they might be charge.

What is a customs declaration form?A customs declaration is an official government document that lists and gives details of the goods that are being imported or exported into a different tax jurisdiction. In legal terms, a customs declaration is the act whereby a person indicates the wish to place goods under a given customs procedure.

Have you ever ordered something in the mail from a different country? If so, it probably had a big sticker on the outside saying what was in the package and how much it cost. This sticker is actually a type of customs form.

When you send a shipment overseas, you have to fill in a different customs form. Essentially, they include the same information, only since a shipment typically contains many different pieces, a longer form that allows for more details is necessary.

There is no single customs form in use throughout the world, each country will have its own form. Some countries might even have separate forms at a federal level from the local level. These forms don’t really differ that much from one another other than language, and you can usually find the form for your destination country on the internet.

Please make sure that you fill in your customs declaration fully and accurately. A faulty or suspicious customs declaration form might trigger a manual inspection of your container. Though there are random inspections at all ports, only a tiny fraction of containers are manually inspected, though x-ray inspections are becoming common. However, if there is a discrepancy between the customs declaration and the contents of the container on x-ray, or if you have made errors on the customs declaration form, you should expect an inspection.

These inspections are at the expense of shipper, meaning our client in most cases. It includes the impounding of the container for several days, and could delay your delivery by a week or more. We highly recommend that you fill in the declaration forms as fully and correctly as possible.

Differing Regulations

For the most part, used personal items are exempt from paying customs. However, each country will have its own regulations about specific items. You are prohibited from importing pornography from almost every country in the world. But there are also countries that prohibit communications equipment. Some places restrict certain types of books or music. Check what you are prohibited from bringing, and make sure that it isn’t in one of your boxes unlabeled.

Inventory

SDC International Shipping’s movers will come to your home other location to load your belongings. If you are sending a full container load, the container will be loaded and sealed. If you are sending a less than full container load, your belongings will be loaded into our moving vans, sent to our warehouse to be palletized and prepared to be sent to the port. In either case, we will prepare an inventory list while we load.

You should supervise the creation of this inventory list, as it will be the core of your customs declaration form.

We advise our clients to let us do the packing. Professional packing is more than just saving you a little bit of time, it will save you considerable headaches. Professional packing means that the packaging materials are new and conform to international shipping standards, not all do, and used ones inevitably won’t. If you insist on packing yourself, make sure that you very clearly label the contents of each box. Do not use general labels like “miscellaneous” or “kitchen”, instead try using specific terms like “vacuum cleaner parts” and “dishes and bowls”.

Some destinations insist that your inventory be consecutive. For instance if you are sending 40 boxes, make sure that all of the kitchen items will be in consecutively numbered boxes. For you, the most logical way of numbering boxes might be by room, but that is not necessarily the way all countries want the list.

Our movers will prepare your inventory list in English. This is usually sufficient for most destinations, however there will be destinations that require this list be translated into the original language. Please recall that even though we prepare the list, it is your job to make sure that it is correct, and you will be held accountable for discrepancies, so please make sure that the list is accurate.

By the way, the inventory list is also necessary for you marine insurance policy. When you order insurance, you need to insure specific things, and they are reflected in this inventory as well.

Information Typically Needed

Some of the information that is typically collected on the forms includes details about the origin, who packed your belongings, which family members are moving with you. If you have a spouse remaining abroad, for instance, you will typically be asked about that. Typically tax exemptions are granted to a family, but in some cases it might be individual.

Current regulations about money laundering will limit the amount of cash and cash equivalents that you can send. We highly recommend against sending cash. Electronic transfers are preferable. (If you don’t yet have a bank account with your name in your destination country, we recommend that you try to set this up before you move there, it will make things far easier for you in the long run.)

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