United States

Clarity on customs clearance: tips for dodging delays

George DuChaine
Sr. Export Compliance Manager, U.S.
4 min read
facebook sharing button
twitter sharing button
linkedin sharing button
Smart Share Buttons Icon Share

One of the biggest hurdles business owners navigate when shipping internationally is the risk of delayed deliveries and the inevitably unhappy customers who are left waiting. Since these holdups are often the result of non-compliance with customs clearance regulations, the best way to avoid damaging your reputation—or even facing legal action—is to get familiar with the intricacies of the customs clearance process.  
You don’t have to do it alone, though! When you ship with DHL, our team of international shipping and logistics experts will be there to offer support when you need it. We even created a free Global Trade Services (GTS) Toolkit to help keep you informed and your shipments compliant. 
To get started, check out these essential tips for avoiding customs delays and keeping your business running smoothly!

  1. Know the country of origin of the items you’re shipping. Customs regulations consider where something comes from as well as where it’s going, so be sure to confirm the origin of the goods you’re shipping. 
  2. Learn the specific regulations of EVERY country to which you ship. Customs clearance laws, including prohibited and restricted items lists, are unique to each destination. Go here to learn more about what you can ship with DHL, and use the “Prohibited Items” tool to check compliance for specific destination countries. 
  3. Be sure to fill out ALL required documentation. Remember, this may be different for each destination country. However, you can find a general list of required documents here
  4. Include extremely detailed descriptions of your shipment contents. A good rule of thumb is that the description of goods should always answer three questions: 
    • What is it?  
    • What is it made of?  
    • What is it for? 
      • For example, instead of “clothing,” use “women’s cotton dresses,” or instead of “electronics,” use “Nikon digital camera,” etc. 
  5. Utilize the Harmonized System (HS) for easy identification of goods. Along with the written description, HS codes help accurately identify the exact contents of a shipment.  
  6. Accurately represent the value of the goods you’re shipping. In conjunction with the description and categorization, knowing the exact value of what you’re shipping is important. Under-declaring the value of a shipment interferes with the calculation of duties and taxes and can result in delays and fines. 
  7. Verify trademarks and copyrights. Importing counterfeit or pirated goods is against the law and can have serious consequences, even if done unknowingly. Be sure to obtain proof of authenticity and provide that documentation to prevent potential delays. 
  8. Research suppliers and buyers to confirm there are no restrictions associated with either party. Even if everything is compliant on your end, issues can arise at other points within the logistics network. It’s important to know and trust both your suppliers and your buyers! 
  9. Comply with ALL packing requirements. Proper packing not only protects the contents of your parcel but can also prevent delays during the customs clearance process. Learn packing best practices and download helpful guides here

Ready to let DHL help navigate the complexities of customs compliance? Open a DHL Express business account and start shipping with confidence today!