When you send household goods from one country to another, you must make a customs declaration or fill in a customs form.
What is a customs declaration form? A customs declaration is an official government document that lists and gives details of the goods imported or exported into a different tax jurisdiction. In legal terms, a customs declaration is when 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.
You must fill in a different customs form when sending a shipment overseas. Essentially, it includes the same information, only since a shipment typically contains many different pieces, a longer form allowing for more details is necessary.
Import Duties Based on the Customs Form Info
Customs officers assess the shipment contents and decide whether they should be taxed and free from taxes. Customs are administered by different government bodies in different countries, but they exist everywhere.
Many of SDC International Movers 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 European Union member state citizen, you must have lived outside any EU country for at least six months, but some member countries require longer periods.)
Most common requirements for duty exemption:
- Household goods used in the US not less than 6 months or one year (depending on the destination country) by a family or individual of which the importer was a residency holder for not less than one year. In this case, free entry is allowed.
- The use of household goods for one year should be proved and may involve documentation other than the declaration.
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 ensure that everything you have written 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. The exemption from customs is usually for used goods, and if you send new items, they might be taxed.
How to Fill a Customs Form
When filling out a customs form for household goods, the complete inventory of imported goods and the packing list must be provided upon the request of the border officer.
The Customs form usually includes the following information:
- Given and family names
- Passport number and country of issue
- Persons covered by the statement. If it’s your spouse, you are likely to provide their passport number.
- A number of children under 18 years of age.
- You’ll need to describe your intention to move to a destination country and the expected arrival date.
- Information about the shipping method (air or sea) usually includes the name of the port or airport, Sea Bill or Air Waybill number, expected date of arrival, container number, and the freight forwarder transporting your household goods.
- Returning citizens may need to list other countries visited and the period of absence from the destination country.
- You must fill in the details about who will be clearing your personal effects.
- Information about the length of your stay is also required.
- You are likely to fill in information about who packed your items.
- Give information on restricted items in the shipment, including medicines, and the specific amount of the local currency, if applicable.
- A separate sheet might be required to describe the items shipped, covering the estimated price and date of purchase.
Please remember that no single customs form is used worldwide; each country will have its own form. Some countries might even have separate forms at the federal level from the local level. These forms don’t differ 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 false 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, so x-ray inspections are common.
However, if there is a discrepancy between the customs declaration and the contents of the container on the 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 the client. 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 complete the declaration forms as fully and correctly as possible.
Are There Any Prohibited Items?
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 some countries 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.
A Permit Form for Shipping a Vehicle
Many countries allow the import of motor vehicles, which usually don’t fall under the “personal effects” category.
If you plan to import a car or vehicle to your destination country, you will likely be asked to obtain a prior import permit. As your moving company, we’ll provide you with detailed information about the form to be filled out to get the permit.
Some countries may require your vehicle, motorbike, trailer, or caravan to undergo quarantine inspection, including a steam cleaning.
How to Create an Inventory List and a Packing List
SDC International Shipping’s movers will come to your home to load your belongings. The container will be loaded and sealed if you send a full container load. 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.
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 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 to label each box’s contents clearly. 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 kitchen items will be in consecutively numbered boxes. For you, the most logical way of numbering boxes might be “my 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 to be translated into the original language.
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 your marine insurance policy. When you order insurance, you must ensure that this inventory reflects specific items.
Difference Between Household Goods and Personal Effects
Some countries make a distinction between household goods and personal effects. You may not be allowed to list them as household effects. So, please pay attention to the following.
Household effects are:
- Other general household furnishings and effects.
In contrast, personal effects may imply items that belong to and are used by one person. These can be:
- Photographic equipment
- Tape recorders
- Mobile phones
- Sporting equipment like golf clubs, bikes, skis, or windsurfers.
- Personal study materials
Some of the information typically collected on the forms includes details about the origin, who packed your belongings, and which family members are moving with you. If you have a spouse remaining abroad, 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 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 you try to set this up before you move there. It will make things far easier for you in the long run.
Popular International Moving Destination Countries: