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International Gifting: Your Guide to Shipping this Holiday Season
Alexandra Dominguez
Alexandra Dominguez
Alexandra is an international marketing expert who has been guiding small businesses on going global for 10+ years.
6 min read
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Whether you’re a small business owner with a worldwide audience or simply someone with friends and family across the globe, you already know that international shipping can be frustrating, especially during the busy holiday season. In addition to the usual concerns about delayed or damaged packages, recent changes to the EU’s customs security and safety program (ICS2) pose new hurdles for international shippers. Don’t worry, though—we’re here to help you navigate! With these simple tips and a little guidance from our international shipping experts, you can ensure that every fulfilled order and thoughtfully packed gift is received on time and intact.

What is ICS2, and what does it mean for you?

Import Control System 2 (ICS2) is an enhanced security screening program launched by the European Union to help ensure the safety of its citizens and reduce the risk of terrorist threats1. It’s important to note that ICS2 regulations apply to goods both destined for and transiting via the EU, Norway, Switzerland, and Northern Ireland, so don’t assume your shipment won’t be affected just because it doesn’t have a European destination.

Increased documentation requirements will have the biggest impact on most international shipping customers. In the past, it might have been enough to write “clothing,” “food,” or even just “gifts” in the description field, but now vague explanations like this will result in your shipment being returned to sender.

Instead, you’ll need to describe in detail exactly what’s in the package2—e.g., “girls’ jeans made of 79% cotton/19% polyester/2% spandex,” “prepared cookies containing wheat, egg, and dairy ingredients,” or “remote control toy car with alkaline batteries.” Even using “iPhone” to describe a mobile phone is no longer sufficient; you’ll need to also include the color, model, memory capacity, and any other relevant features. It’s also important to choose the correct classification for each item being shipped.

person adding packing tape to the top of a gift box

International shipping tips for the holiday season

While of course shipping regulations are in effect all year long, it’s especially critical to be diligent amid the higher volume—and higher stakes—of the winter holidays. Follow the tips below to help avoid frustration and disappointment during a season that should be all about joy.

1.    Ship earlier than you think you need to
This might seem obvious, but despite good intentions, it’s easy to get caught up in the hustle and bustle of the holidays and leave shipping until the last minute. If you’re a personal shipper, plan to get international gifts to your shipping provider as early as possible. And if you’re a small business owner, make sure you have the capacity to fulfill orders in a timely fashion and set clear, realistic expectations for your customers about when their items will arrive.

2.    Provide detailed descriptions and accurate classifications.
The importance of proper documentation really can’t be overstated. Every time you ship a package internationally, you must provide a detailed, itemized description of the contents. You’ll also need the full name, address, and contact details (phone number/email) of both the sender and the receiver and the type of transaction—B2B (business-to-business), B2C (business-to-consumer) or C2C (consumer-to-consumer). Your DHL International Specialist can help determine the correct commodity codes, ID number, etc.

3.    Know the monetary value of your shipment
Commodities valued over $2,500 require an EEI (Electronic Export Information) filing. DHL can facilitate this filing for you, but it’s important that you provide the most accurate estimate possible regarding the value of what you’re shipping. If you’re not sure how to appraise your shipment, stop by any DHL service point for guidance!

4.    Go green for the holidays
While sustainability isn’t necessarily a customs concern, it’s still an important consideration for long-distance shipments. If you’re shipping online, be sure to check out our GoGreen Solutions to see how you can reduce your carbon footprint while still sending holiday cheer around the world!

If this sounds a little overwhelming, keep in mind that whether you’re shipping in person at a DHL Express Service Point or shipping online, our team will be there to provide support!

Ready for some global gifting?

When your holiday gifts are packed up and ready to bring a smile to someone’s face, our agents are here to help! Find a DHL Express Service Point  near you or use MyDHL+ for a fully-guided online shipping experience.

That’s a (gift) wrap! Happy holidays from our family to yours.