How To Have A Shipment Ready To Pass Customs

Posted on: 1 August 2022

The custom process can jam up many types of shipments, especially if you don't handle a few key aspects of it properly. If you're trying to improve the process for your shipments, you can do these five things.

Know the Laws

Moving items through customs is fundamentally a legal process. Most of the time, it's a basic check, but you should always prepare for more advanced inquiries. Shipping authorities will want to see declarations for the contents, and they'll want to know the history of the shipment.

What can and can't go through customs may vary widely between jurisdictions. The smart move is to hire a customs attorney so you can get quick answers about any proposed shipment. You can ask your customs lawyer questions before you pack or order anything. They can tell you what the laws are at the departure point, destination, and anywhere in between.

Check Little Details

Small things can create havoc in the customs process. You might not think your choice of wooden pallets would be a problem, for example. However, some countries have restrictions to prevent the arrival of insects that can destroy trees. Something as little as choosing the wrong materials for your pallets or crates can lead to months of legal headaches.

Have Contact Information Ready

If a customs official has questions about a container, it's best to be able to answer them immediately. Add contact information to the manifest. Whenever possible, try to provide electronic contacts that will allow you to deal with differences between time zones. Include phone numbers with the best hours for contacting them, too. Make sure you provide direct lines to people who can answer the officials' questions so you don't get caught up in a game of phone tag.


Know the fee schedules and have accounts that can access the appropriate payment methods electronically whenever possible. If you must mail a payment, verify that you have the correct address and amount.

In-Between Points

Some customs practices prohibit transits through certain locations. For example, offloading at a location between the departure point and destination may subject shipment to additional customs scrutiny. It will also add another jurisdiction to the process, even if the goods only sat in a warehouse. If you must deal with a middle point in the transport process, be prepared to document who handled what, where it happened, and how long it took.