How to ship to the US

When shipping to the US, providing the correct details and documents is the best way to clear customs and avoid delays. Regulated goods in particular, such as food or apparel, often have extra requirements – so make sure all your paperwork is in order before sending your package.

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What documents do I need to provide when shipping to the US?

The most important documents you need are the commercial invoice and air waybill. If you’re sending regulated goods, such as alcohol, electronics or medical devices, then you and your receiver might need to provide extra documents.

What do I need to include on the commercial invoice?

Provide the following details in English:

Make sure you provide a full and accurate description of your goods. Be specific and try to avoid generic descriptions. See ‘How to provide a clear goods description’ for more information.

You can look up an item’s Harmonized System code online using an HS code search tool or on your country’s government website. See ‘What is an HS Code?’ for more information.

You should list the country of origin of your goods. This is where they were manufactured, not where you’re sending them from.

Provide your receiver’s details in case the US customs authorities need to contact them with any questions.

How do I prepare the shipping paperwork?

Shipping paperwork can exist in both paper and digital forms. The most convenient format often depends on the sender and receiver’s countries, and what goods are being shipped. While it’s becoming more common to transfer paperwork digitally, there are still many cases where printed copies are needed with the shipment.

What does your receiver need to do?

Your receiver needs to comply with US regulations, so it’s important to check if they need any authorizations or certificates.

Send a copy of the commercial invoice to your receiver to ensure the details are correct before shipping. They may also need a customs broker (international trade experts who are responsible for preparing and clearing your goods through customs). If they do need a broker, remember to include the broker’s contact details on your invoice.

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

What is the FDA?

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is a government agency that supervises the import of regulated goods into the US such as food, biological substances and medical devices. Each FDA-regulated product needs to be electronically screened before it enters the US.

If you are shipping regulated goods to the US, see the list below for a detailed guide on what documentation you need to provide.

What product are you shipping to the US?


Alcohol

What are the general requirements to ship alcohol?

  • For alcohol shipments to private individuals (e.g. gifts or online purchases), check if your carrier allows it. Some carriers, including FedEx, do not ship foreign alcohol directly to US consumers.
  • For alcohol shipments to businesses, both the sender and receiver need to be licensed alcohol dealers/traders
  • The alcohol products must comply with US packaging and labeling requirements set by the Federal Trade Commission and the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB)
  • A signature of an adult aged 21 or over is required upon delivery

What documents does the sender need to provide?

What documents does the receiver need to provide?

  • A basic permit for alcohol importer and/or wholesaler in compliance with TTB import requirements
  • For shipments valued above $2,500, a form 5106 (Importer ID Input Record) is required with the receiver’s US tax ID – this is their company’s Employer Identification Number (EIN)
  • Their alcohol dealer registration number from the TTB – either written on the commercial invoice, or as a separate proof of registration
  • A customs bond – to secure the import transaction with US Customs and Border Protection
  • A power of attorney for the carrier’s US clearance broker

What details need to be included in the goods description?

  • Type of alcohol (e.g. wine)
  • Alcohol strength (e.g. 14%)
  • Quantity (e.g. 750 ml)
  • Packaging (e.g. glass bottle, tin can)
  • Manufacturer’s full name and address and/or the Manufacturer’s Identification Code (MID Code). This code is used as an alternative to the manufacturer’s details on the shipment paperwork. First time shippers must provide their full business name and address, which will be linked to their MID code once in the carrier’s system.
Apparel and textiles

Apparel and textiles

What are the general requirements to ship apparel and textiles?

  • For apparel or textiles containing exotic animal products (e.g. furs, exotic leathers, mother-of-pearl buttons) contact your carrier’s local customer service for advice. Regulations set by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) may apply.

What documents does the sender need to provide?

What documents does the receiver need to provide?

  • For shipments valued above $2,500, a form 5106 (Importer ID Input Record) is required with the receiver’s US tax ID. For businesses this is their Employer Identification Number (EIN), for individuals this is their social security number.

What details need to be included in the goods description?

  • The type of apparel or textiles (e.g. shirt, skirt, duvet cover)
  • A detailed description of the apparel or textiles (e.g. yellow v-neck T-shirt with front printed logo, queen-size duvet cover with two pillowcases)
  • The fabric composition (e.g. 70% cotton, 30% polyester)
  • The fabric construction type (e.g. woven, knit, non-woven)
  • Who the clothes are made for (e.g. women, boys, baby, unisex)
  • Manufacturer’s full name and address and/or the Manufacturer’s Identification Code (MID Code). This code is used as an alternative to the manufacturer’s details on the shipment paperwork. First time shippers must provide their full business name and address, which will be linked to their MID code once in the carrier’s system.
Artwork and antiques

What documents does the sender need to provide?

What documents does the receiver need to provide?

  • A signed and dated Antique Declaration - to avoid the payment of import duties on antique shipments. It can be printed separately and attached to the shipment paperwork. Include the following text:

ANTIQUE DECLARATION

I hereby certify that the items in this shipment imported on Federal Express air waybill number (insert number here) are 100 years old or older. These articles entered herein are being imported for (state whether for sale or personal use). These ethnographic objects are made in the traditional aboriginal style and the other antiques were made prior to 100 years before their date of entry; all the foregoing articles; including such articles that have been repaired or renovated, have not had their original form or character changed.

Manufacture period circa:

(Note: CIRCA represents the era in which the item was manufactured. Some examples of CIRCA are ''1872'' or ''The 1930s')

Signature:

Company name:

Date:

What details need to be included in the goods description?

  • Type of artwork/antique (e.g. oil painting, porcelain vase, wooden chair)
  • Manufacturing year or period (e.g. 1987, late 18th century)
  • The artist or manufacturer (if applicable)
  • Artwork title (if applicable)
Bearings

What documents does the sender need to provide?

What documents does the receiver need to provide?

The receiver doesn’t need to provide any additional documentation for customs clearance.

What details need to be included in the goods description?

  • The type of bearings (e.g. ceramic bearings, ball bearings)
  • A detailed description of the bearings (e.g. thrust bearings without integral shafts - ground, radial single row bearings with an outside diameter of 35 mm, combined ball and spherical roller bearings)
  • Inside and outside diameter measurements - metric or imperial units are both ok (e.g. inside diameter 0.3937”, outside diameter 20 mm)
  • Additional parts (e.g. cone assemblies, wheel hub units)
  • Manufacturer’s full name and address and/or the Manufacturer’s Identification Code (MID Code). This code is used as an alternative to the manufacturer’s details on the shipment paperwork. First time shippers must provide their full business name and address, which will be linked to their MID code once in the carrier’s system.
Biologics

What are the general requirements to ship biologics?

  • If the biologics are used as a drug, the receiver must comply with FDA requirements by being registered as a drug establishment and listing the drug with the FDA
  • The biologics must comply with US packaging and labeling requirements set by the Federal Trade Commission and the FDA or United States Department of Agriculture, Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (USDA)

What documents does the sender need to provide?

  • An air waybill
  • A commercial invoice
  • An End Use Statement – either on the commercial invoice or as a separate document. This should outline what the products will be used for when they reach their destination.

What documents does the receiver need to provide?

  • If the biologics are of human origin (e.g. vaccines, blood), they need to adhere to FDA regulations and may need an import permit. Depending on the type of biologics, the shipment may be exempt from an import permit, in which case the sender should clarify the exemption in the End Use Statement.
  • If the biologics are of animal origin (e.g. rabbit tissue, cell lines of mouse origin), they need to adhere to USDA/APHIS requirements and may need an import permit. If the shipment is exempt from an import permit, according to USDA guidelines, the sender should include a statement to prove the exemption – either on the commercial invoice or as a separate document.
  • A Toxic Substance Control Act (TSCA) certification may be required depending on the type of material

What details need to be included in the goods description?

  • Type of biologics (e.g. tissue samples, blood)
  • Origin of the material (e.g. human, animal)
  • If the biologics are of human origin, an FDA product code is required
  • Quantities, including inner and outer packing materials (e.g. 20 vials each containing 10 ml human blood, 1 styrofoam box, 1 plastic bag)
  • Purpose for shipping (e.g diagnostic, investigational)
  • Manufacturer’s full name and address and/or the Manufacturer’s Identification Code (MID Code). This code is used as an alternative to the manufacturer’s details on the shipment paperwork. First time shippers must provide their full business name and address, which will be linked to their MID code once in the carrier’s system.
Chemicals

What are the general requirements to ship chemicals?

  • The chemicals must comply with US packaging and labeling requirements, as stated in the Toxic Substance Control Act (TSCA)

What documents does the sender need to provide?

What documents does the receiver need to provide?

  • A positive certification to prove the chemicals comply with TSCA import requirements. If the shipper provides certification instead, then the receiver (importer) must provide a letter of approval.
  • If the product is not yet listed in the Environmental Protection Agency's TSCA Inventory, they must register it with the EPA.

What details need to be included in the goods description?

  • Type of chemical (e.g. oxide, organic acid, polymer)
  • Quantities, including inner and outer packing materials (e.g. 20 vials containing 10 ml oxide, styrofoam box, plastic bag)
  • Purpose for shipping (e.g. agricultural applications, scientific research)
  • CAS Registry Number (if available) – this is a numerical code assigned by the Chemical Abstracts Service (CAS) to identify chemical substances
Electronics

What are the general requirements to ship electronics?

  • The receiver must ensure the electronic products comply with all relevant standards set out by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC)
  • The electronics must comply with US packaging and labeling requirements set by the Federal Trade Commission and the FCC. If you’re unsure of the packaging and labeling requirements, then contact the relevant authority directly.

What documents does the sender need to provide?

What documents does the receiver need to provide?

The receiver does not need to provide any additional documentation for customs clearance.

What details need to be included in the goods description?

  • Type of electronic device (e.g. digital SLR camera, 2TB solid state hard drive)
  • Type of use (e.g. digital photography, data storage)
Eyewear

What are the general requirements to ship eyewear?
( Sunglasses/Prescription lenses/Spectacle frames/Magnifying spectacles)

  • Manufacturers must comply with FDA regulations for sunglasses, spectacle frames, spectacle lenses and magnifying spectacles. The regulations apply to all types of eyewear.
  • The eyewear must comply with US packaging and labeling requirements set by the Federal Trade Commission and the FDA

What documents does the sender need to provide?

What documents does the receiver need to provide?

The receiver does not need to provide any additional documentation for customs clearance.

What details need to be included in the goods description?

  • The type of eyewear (e.g. acetate-frame sunglasses with polarized lenses, metal-frame reading glasses with magnifying lenses)
  • Purpose for shipping (e.g. sale, testing, repair)
  • Manufacturer’s FDA registration number
  • Your FDA registration number (if different to manufacturer’s)
  • FDA medical device listing number
  • FDA medical device classification product code
  • Manufacturer’s full name and address and/or the Manufacturer’s Identification Code (MID Code). This code is used as an alternative to the manufacturer’s details on the shipment paperwork. First time shippers must provide their full business name and address, which will be linked to their MID code once in the carrier’s system.
Food (human and animal consumption)

What are the general requirements to ship food?

  • The sender must comply with the FDA’s FMSA rule on Foreign Supplier Verification Programs (FSVP) for US food importers
  • The food must comply with US packaging and labeling requirements set by the Federal Trade Commission and the FDA

What documents does the sender need to provide?

What documents does the receiver need to provide?

The receiver does not need to provide any additional documentation for customs clearance.

What details need to be included in the goods description?

  • Whether the food is for human or animal consumption
  • Type of food (e.g. gluten-free chocolate cookies with raisins, canned cherry tomatoes, dry fish food pellets)
  • Purpose for shipping (e.g. consumption, testing purposes)
  • Precise quantity and packaging details (e.g. 10 chocolate bars 45 g each, individually wrapped in one cardboard box)
  • Manufacturer’s FDA food facility registration number
  • Receiver’s FDA registration number
  • FDA product code
  • Manufacturer’s full name and address and/or the Manufacturer’s Identification Code (MID Code). This code is used as an alternative to the manufacturer’s details on the shipment paperwork. First time shippers must provide their full business name and address, which will be linked to their MID code once in the carrier’s system.
Footwear

What are the general requirements to ship footwear?

  • The footwear must comply with US packaging and labeling requirements set by the Federal Trade Commission and US Customs and Border Protection
  • For footwear containing exotic animal products (e.g. snakeskin boots) contact your carrier’s local customer service for advice. Regulations set by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) may apply.

What documents does the sender need to provide?

What documents does the receiver need to provide?

The receiver does not need to provide any additional documentation for customs clearance.

What details need to be included in the goods description?

  • A highly detailed description of the footwear. The sender can either write this on the commercial invoice or fill in the Interim Footwear Invoice from the IFAFRA (International Footwear Association Footwear Retailers of America) and add it to the rest of the paperwork.
  • If most of the upper (top part of footwear) is made of textiles, state the textile manufacturer’s full name and address and/or the Manufacturer’s Identification Code (MID Code). This code is used as an alternative to the manufacturer’s details on the shipment paperwork. First time shippers must provide their full business name and address, which will be linked to their MID code once in the carrier’s system.
Integrated circuits

What are the general requirements to ship integrated circuits?

  • The integrated circuits must comply with US packaging and labeling requirements set by the Federal Trade Commission

What documents does the sender need to provide?

What documents does the receiver need to provide?

The receiver does not need to provide any additional documentation for customs clearance.

What details need to be included in the goods description?

  • The type of integrated circuit (e.g. processor, controller, DRAM, SRAM, EPROM, separate parts or components)
  • State if the integrated circuits have DRAM – if they do, state the number of megabits
  • Purpose for shipping (e.g. sale, testing)
Jewelry

What are the general requirements to ship jewelry?

  • Rubies and jadeite stones from Burma (Myanmar) are prohibited from being imported into the USA
  • The jewelry must comply with US packaging and labeling requirements set by the Federal Trade Commission

What documents does the sender need to provide?

  • An air waybill
  • A commercial invoice
  • If you’re shipping rubies or jadeite then you need to provide a signed and dated export declaration about their origin as the US doesn’t permit the import of these gemstones from Burma. This statement can be printed separately and put with the rest of the shipment paperwork:

BURMESE JADE ACT EXPORTER CERTIFICATION

I, (export company name), certify that to the best of my knowledge and belief, the jadeite and/or ruby gemstones that are the subject of this Exporter Certificate, whether they are exported as loose stones or incorporated in articles of jewelry, have been subjected to a system of verifiable controls from the mine to the place of exportation or final finishing that demonstrate the gemstones were not mined in, or extracted from Burma (Myanmar). I further certify that I have maintained records for all transactions involving the importation and exportation of rubies and jadeite from countries other than Burma (Myanmar) and that such record will be made available to the relevant government authorities upon request.

Name:

Signature:

Company:

Date:

What documents does the receiver need to provide?

The receiver does not need to provide any additional documentation for customs clearance.

What details need to be included in the goods description?

  • Type of jewelry (e.g. white gold bracelet, silver ring with lapis lazuli stone)
  • Metal content (e.g. 555 gold, 925 silver)
  • Net weight of jewelry (e.g. 23 grams, 1.2 oz)
  • Details of any gemstones and their individual values (in US dollars)
  • State if the jewelry contains rubies or jade
Laptops

What are the general requirements to ship laptops?

  • The laptops must comply with FDA regulations for radiation-emitting electronic products
  • The laptops must comply with US packaging and labeling requirements set by the Federal Trade Commission and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). If you’re unsure of the US packaging and labeling requirements, contact the relevant authority directly.

What documents does the sender need to provide?

What documents does the receiver need to provide?

The receiver does not need to provide any additional documentation for customs clearance.

What details need to be included in the goods description?

  • The type of laptop (e.g. Dell XPS 13, Apple MacBook Pro 13”)
  • Purpose for shipping (e.g. sale, testing, repair)
  • If the laptop includes a CD/DVD drive or not
Medical devices

What are the general requirements to ship medical devices?

  • If a medical device emits radiation, it must meet FDA regulatory requirements for electronic products that emit radiation
  • The medical devices must comply with US packaging and labeling requirements set by the Federal Trade Commission and the FDA

What documents does the sender need to provide?

What documents does the receiver need to provide?

The receiver does not need to provide any additional documentation for customs clearance.

What details need to be included in the goods description?

  • Type of medical device (e.g. hearing aid, heart rate monitor, defibrillator)
  • Purpose for shipping (e.g. sale, testing)
  • Manufacturer’s FDA registration number
  • Your FDA registration number (if different to manufacturer’s)
  • FDA device listing number
  • FDA medical device classification product code
  • FDA intended use code (e.g. 081.000 for human medical use as a medical device)
  • Additional details depending on the product (e.g. pre-market device number, electrode lead wire or patient cable)
  • Manufacturer’s full name and address and/or the Manufacturer’s Identification Code (MID Code). This code is used as an alternative to the manufacturer’s details on the shipment paperwork. First time shippers must provide their full business name and address, which will be linked to their MID code once in the carrier’s system.
Printed circuit boards

What documents does the sender need to provide?

What documents does the receiver need to provide?

The receiver does not need to provide any additional documentation for customs clearance.

What details need to be included in the goods description?

  • Type of circuit board (e.g. bare board, populated boards)
  • For bare boards, a detailed description (e.g. flexible or rigid, wholly impregnated with plastic, base of wholly impregnated glass, ceramic base)
  • For populated boards, a detailed description including the computer, device or machine they are a part of
  • If the main function of the boards is memory or other (e.g. DRAM memory module in a computer, data-transmitting adaptor card)
  • If the printed circuit boards contain DRAM memory or not
Automotive parts

What are the general requirements to ship automotive parts?

  • The automotive parts must comply with US packaging and labeling requirements set by the Federal Trade Commission and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA)

What documents does the sender need to provide?

What documents does the receiver need to provide?

  • For oils, lubricants or other substances, a positive certification to prove the chemicals comply with Toxic Substance Control Act (TSCA) import requirements. If the shipper provides certification instead, then the receiver (importer) must provide a letter of approval.

What details need to be included in the goods description?

  • A detailed description of the automotive parts (e.g. semi-metallic brake pads, air conditioning compressor, BMW TwinPower synthetic engine oil) branded product names may be used, but only when accompanied by a detailed description
  • The composition of the automotive parts parts may be classified under different tariff codes depending on their material composition (e.g. steel screws, plastic washers)
  • Purpose for shipping (e.g. sale, repair, antique vehicle restoration)
Videos and films

What are the general requirements to ship videos and films?

  • The videos and films must comply with US packaging and labeling requirements set by the Federal Trade Commission

What documents does the sender need to provide?

What documents does the receiver need to provide?

The receiver does not need to provide any additional documentation for customs clearance.

What details need to be included in the goods description?

  • Whether it’s a film (footage with a commercial purpose e.g. a movie) or video (other footage)
  • Physical format (e.g. 5 DVDs in plastic cases, two 3 inch reels of Super 8 film, one hard drive with 25 raw video files)
  • Duration of the video or film (e.g. 3 films all 60 minutes)
  • If footage is on film reels, the physical length of the reels
  • Brief description of the content (e.g. horror film, comedy series, home movie, tutorial video)
  • A signed and dated declaration that the video/film content complies with US legal requirements. This declaration can be printed separately and put with the paperwork:

VIDEO FILM DECLARATION

I/we declare that the film(s)/video(s) contains no obscene or immoral matter, nor any matter advocating or urging treason or insurrection against the United States, nor any threat to take the life of or inflict bodily harm upon any person in the United States.

Signed:

Name:

Date:

Watches and clocks

What are the general requirements to ship watches and clocks?

  • Watch straps made from leather may be subject to regulations set by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) and the US Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS)

What documents does the sender need to provide?

What documents does the receiver need to provide?

The receiver does not need to provide any additional documentation for customs clearance.

What details need to be included in the goods description?

  • Type of watch or clock (e.g. automatic watch, mechanical watch, pendulum clock, analogue clock)
  • Composition of case (e.g. steel, gold-plated steel, titanium, ceramic)
  • The type of display (e.g. mechanical, optoelectronic)
  • The number of jewels on the watch or clock
  • Power source (e.g. battery, AC powerline, mechanical winding)
  • Watch strap material (e.g. precious metal, base metal, textile, leather)
  • Country of origin of the movement (the clock or watch mechanism)
  • Value breakdown of the parts in US dollars (e.g. movement: 20 USD, strap 30: USD, battery 5: USD, case: 45 USD, total watch value: 100 USD)

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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