How to ship to India

India has strict customs rules that can lead to delays if not followed properly. That's why it's important to check regulations and ensure the right documents are ready before sending a parcel to India.

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What documents do I need to provide when shipping to India?

Along with the commercial invoice and air waybill, you also need to provide the receiver’s KYC documentation in advance. If you’re sending high-value or regulated goods, then you might need to provide extra paperwork.

Shipping paperwork can exist in both physical and digital formats. Shipments to India need to be accompanied by printed copies of documents.

Commercial invoice

All information on the commercial invoice needs to be accurate and in English. The receiver’s details must be exactly the same as on the KYC documents.

All costs on the commercial invoice must be in a currency approved by Indian customs like the rupee, dollar, pound or euro. Make sure there are no spelling mistakes or incorrect abbreviations as this can cause delays. For more information  see ‘How to fill in a commercial invoice’.

What is KYC documentation?

KYC stands for ‘Know Your Customer’. This documentation is extremely important when sending packages to India as customs authorities need it to confirm the receiver’s (business) identity and address.

How does it work?

Before you ship to a new address in India, the receiver needs to gather their KYC proof and give it to your carrier. The carrier will save the receiver’s details in their KYC database for future shipments to the same address.

This process must be repeated each time you use a different carrier, send goods to a new address or when the receiver’s details change. Even if a business has several addresses, each location must be registered separately in your carrier’s KYC database.

How can the receiver submit KYC documents? 

If you’re using a carrier such as FedEx, the receiver can follow these steps:

  1. Before shipping, the receiver must complete these two forms:
    1. A KYC form with supporting documents
    2. A signed letter with supporting documents to authorize FedEx to clear the shipment at customs
  2. Check the receiver’s name and address on the KYC documents match the name and address on the air waybill and commercial invoice. The receiver’s phone number and email must also be correct so they can be contacted directly.
  3. When the sender books the shipment, they must immediately inform the receiver and provide them with the tracking number from the air waybill.
  4. The receiver then sends their KYC documents with the air waybill number directly to the carrier. In the case of FedEx, they should be emailed to kycdocs@fedex.com

What if the receiver’s KYC documents aren’t ready?

Missing KYC documentation not only delays your shipment, but can also lead to penalty fees. To ensure a smooth process, ask your receiver if their KYC details are already known by the carrier. If not, ask them to gather their documents to be submitted before shipping.

Customs clearance in India

When a parcel enters India, it goes through either express or formal customs clearance.

Express clearance, or courier mode, is a streamlined process with minimal paperwork for low-to-medium-value goods such as gifts, samples or documents. With correct paperwork you can expect your parcel to be released the same day.

Formal clearance, or freight mode, is for high-value, bulk or regulated goods. This process requires advance payment of duties, additional paperwork, and a customs broker to oversee the clearance process. The receiver can choose to use their own broker, or a broker provided by the carrier for an additional fee.

Express and formal customs clearance in India

Express clearance Formal clearance
Shipment types and values
  • Documents (no value)
  • Low-value goods (duty free, personal gifts up to 5,000 INR, samples
    up to 10,000 INR)
  • Medium-value goods (up to 100,000 INR)
  • Packages weighing up to 70 kg
  • High-value shipments (100,000 INR or more)
  • Some low- or medium-value shipments that contain regulated goods
Customs processing time
  • 24 hours or less if all paperwork is correct
  • At least 1-2 business days from receipt of complete and correct shipping paperwork
Required documentation
  • Air waybill
  • Commercial invoice
  • KYC documentation
  • A packing list or purchase order are sometimes required (see below)
  • Air waybill
  • Commercial invoice
  • KYC documentation
  • Additional documents are often required (see below)

Do I need to provide additional documents for Indian customs clearance?

Yes, additional documents are often required for formal clearance and sometimes express clearance (e.g. packing list, purchase order). Other documents you may need to provide, depending on your shipment, are:

To avoid customs delays, the receiver should email their documents to the sender to print and include with the shipping paperwork.

Finally, make sure you check the Indian regulations that apply to your product before shipping, as they’re frequently updated. 

Shipping regulated goods to India? See the list below for a detailed guide on what documentation you need to provide.

What product are you shipping to India?


Apparel and clothing

What are the general requirements to ship apparel to India?

  • Apparel can generally be imported without any import permit or license, but anti-dumping duties may be imposed to protect India’s local textile and clothing industries

What documents does the sender need to provide?

What documents does the receiver need to provide?

  • KYC documentation – for first shipment with the carrier
  • An import permit may be required if the apparel contains exotic animal
  • materials and is subject to the CITES agreement (e.g. snakeskin leather boots)

What details need to be included in the goods description?

  • The type of apparel or clothing (e.g. shirt, skirt, T-shirt)
  • The fabric type and composition (e.g. 100% cotton jersey)
  • The fabric construction (e.g. woven, knit, non-woven)
  • Who the clothes are made for (e.g. women, men, children, baby, unisex)
  • Price per unit, total value and weight (e.g. 5 T-shirts each US$50, total value US$250, total weight 750g)
Biologics

What are the general requirements to ship biologics to India?

  • If the biologics are of human origin and are for medical purposes such as treatment or diagnosis, they must comply with regulations overseen by India's Ministry of Health and Family Welfare
  • If the biologics are of human origin and are for pharmaceutical purposes such as drug or vaccine development, they must comply with regulations overseen by India’s Central Drugs Standard Control Organization (CDSCO)
  • If the biologics are of animal origin, they must comply with regulations overseen by the trade unit of the DADF (Department of Animal Husbandry, Dairying and Fisheries)

What documents does the sender need to provide?

  • An air waybill
  • A commercial invoice
  • A packing list
  • A Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) – with details of any chemical substances, their potential hazards and relevant handling instructions. The MSDS is also required for any chemicals used to preserve biologics, as they may be classified as dangerous goods.

What documents does the receiver need to provide?

  • KYC documentation – for first shipment with the carrier
  • An import permit – for pharmaceutical products, health-related goods and products of animal origin
Cosmetics

What are the general requirements to ship cosmetics to India?

  • To import cosmetics into India for commercial purposes the product must comply with health and safety regulations set out by India's Ministry of Health and Family Welfare
  • Businesses importing cosmetics into India must be registered with the Central Drugs Standard Control Organization (CDSCO)
  • All cosmetic products that are imported for sale into India also need to be registered with the CDSCO. This can be done online.

What documents does the sender need to provide?

  • An air waybill
  • A commercial invoice
  • A packing list
  • A declaration stating the cosmetics conform to Indian standards
  • A Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) – with details of any chemical substances, their potential hazards and relevant handling instructions. The MSDS is also required for any chemicals used to preserve biologics, as they may be classified as dangerous goods.

What documents does the receiver need to provide?

  • KYC documentation – for first shipment with the carrier
  • A registration certificate for Import of Cosmetics issued by the CDSCO
Electronics

What are the general requirements to ship electronics to India?

  • All electronic and IT products imported into India must be registered with the Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS), before being shipped. The registration, or certification, process includes product testing by BIS-recognized laboratories.
  • Second-hand and used electronic goods imported into India are restricted and subject to license regulations from the Directorate General of Foreign Trade (DGFT)

What documents does the sender need to provide?

  • An air waybill
  • A commercial invoice
  • A packing list
  • A Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) – for electronic products containing batteries, as they may be classified as dangerous goods. The MSDS must list details of any chemical substances, their potential hazards and relevant handling instructions.

What documents does the receiver need to provide?

  • KYC documentation – for first shipment with the carrier
  • Proof of the product’s BIS certification
Food

What are the general requirements to ship food to India?

  • To be able to import food, the receiver must obtain a Food Business Operator (FBO) license with the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI)
  • Food items shipped to India must have at least three months or 60% of their shelf life remaining after their customs release date. The shorter of the two periods can be accepted. This also applies to food samples.
  • Milk and milk products from China are prohibited, including chocolate, chocolate products, candies and confectionery

What documents does the sender need to provide?

What documents does the receiver need to provide?

  • KYC documentation – for first shipment with the carrier
  • Proof of their FBO licence from the FSSAI
  • An import permit from the FSSAI

Different carriers, different requirements

Please note that shipping requirements and documentation may vary between carriers. The information on this page is based on FedEx shipping requirements. These guidelines are as general as possible, however other carriers may follow different procedures. If you’re unsure of the shipping requirements that apply to you, check with your carrier.

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