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Customs Clearance: A Run-Through

by Era Inventions
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Customs clearance is the term people used in describing the process of shipping goods across international boundaries andeach of these come from different custom territories. In countries that share a single set of rules, like the European Union, there is no customs clearance requirement.

Customs clearance and delivery applies to the import and export of all goods, including low-cost items including free samples.

The customs clearance process is broadly similar for all international regulatory boundaries. However, the details vary and are based on specific country rules and the goods that are being shipped.

For shippers, it is important to understand the specific rules for each customs boundary to avoid unnecessary delays and costs. Most logistic companies have dedicated clearance agents specially handling customs clearance.

The players 

The people who exercise their roles in the customs clearance process are called sometimes referred to as the agents.  

Ultimately, the owner or holder of the goods is in charge of the export and customs clearance process. The owner frequently will use a customs clearance, or have a forwarding agent to manage the process on their behalf. 

The customs clearance agent is the professional who is responsible for the clearing, duties and documentation for import and export of all types of goods. Typically, all of these are in compliance with the relevant customs and government regulations.

The couriers (freight shippers) are the ones who are responsible for the physical transportation of the goods. A logistics company will offer customs clearance as part of their services.

Lastly, the importer is the person or the company whose goods re delivered in the country to whom the goods are being delivered in the country. They may not be the final owner of the goods once the full logistics process has been completed.

The customs clearance process varies by geography and the types of goods that are shipped. It follows six steps. 


The key to a successful customs clearance is preparation. This is to ensure that all the documentation is clearly completed.

The particulars in the customs clearance are in accordance with the local customs requirements and that the goods are packaged accordingly. 

Since the rules vary by the customs area, it is very important that one needs to fully understand all the requirements for the import or export one wish to carry out.

Declaration and arrival of goods 

Customs authorities require that they know the detailed declaration of the goods that are shipped. The declaration acts as the checklist by which the clearance process fails or succeeds.

The level of details required will vary by customs area. While generic declaration forms are available online, it should be my duty to always worth checking. This is to what details will be required for the specific geography.

Declaration contents

The declaration form is likely to include the name, address, tax or VAT number or EORI number of the shipper, the authorized person in the sending company which includes the name, phone, or email address. 

It should also contain the authorized person in the destination company, including the name, phone and email address. Also included is the declaration of the country of origin of the goods, the quantity of the products, including the net weight and gross weight of the goods.

More particulars include the shipment purpose of the product, (commercial or sample), description of the goods, the HS code, and the packaging details such as the number of packages, dimensions, package types and others.

It is also important to establish when the declaration form needs to be sent, and any specific requirements for the physical arrival of the goods.


Once the goods arrive, they will be subject to inspection by the customs authority. This is to ensure they meet the detail outlined in the declaration. Whilst not all items being shipped will be checked in detail, it is wise to assume that they might be. 

Poor documentation, or damaged packaging, may increase the length of time the inspections will take. Sometimes the goods will be moved to a remote inspection facility. This causes additional delays to the customs clearance process.


The examination of the required documentation is perhaps the most important part of the clearance process. There are three documents required: the commercial invoice, the packing list, the bill of lading, and the airway bill or the CMR.

The invoice contains the date and invoice number, the shipper’s and buyer’s details, name and description of the goods, quantity, price, delivery method and the banking details. 

The HS Code of the goods on your invoice can help speed up the clearance process.

The packaging list also contains details of the invoice, shipper and buyer. Included too are the more detailed description of the goods, including weights and dimensions. 

The key to minimize the delays is to ensure that the details are clear, comprehensive and match the physical goods.

Bill of lading

The bill of lading is a legal document that is issued by a carrier and passed to the shipping company. It details the type, quantity, and destination of the goods being carried. 

It also accompanies the goods and needs to be signed by an authorized representative of the Logistics Company, shipper, and owner of the goods in transit. 

The equivalent document is the Air Waybill for air transportation, or CMR for road travel.

The additional documents will depend on the nature of the goods and route. However, it may include insurance details, certificate of origin, movement certificates, electronic export information (EEI) as well as test and inspection certificates.

Taxes and duties 

One of the fundamental purposes of the process is to collect any taxes, tariffs or duties that are owed. This is to ensure the legal status of goods and for leaving the customs areas.

Penalty fines may also be payable, where the country’s (or an international) law is broken. 

Release of the goods

The release the goods for onward transportation is the final step in the customs clearance process.

Typically, customs clearance takes between 12 and 24 hours. This time can vary according to the destination country, the type of cargo being shipped and the volume of the goods. 

To ensure things, it is always wise to plan for a longer duration of time and to set expectations accordingly.

The delays in the customs clearance process usually are caused by incomplete documentation, incorrect product licenses, lack of appropriate packaging and markings

And not making sure that the goods are properly described in the customs declaration.

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