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What is Customs Cleared Meaning? The Process and Documents You Need to Know

Customs clearance is the most important step in the transportation of goods and it is also a headache for many people. All the detailed knowledge about customs clearance is introduced in this guide.

What does customs clearance mean?

Customs clearance definition is the process of a declaration to the customs, submission of documents, inspection, and taxation for exporting and importing. Only after these procedures are completed, the customs confirm that the goods can be released and transported typically.

It means that customs will give the green light for your shipment. Your cargo is free to enter the next stage of its journey. Therefore, customs clearance is an important part of trade internationally.

two men wearing reflective vests looking at some paperwork

How long does customs clearance take?

Many people also ask: When can I start to clear customs? Under normal circumstances, the goods can only be cleared after arrived at the port. However, if you export cargo to the United States, you can pre-clear them one week in advance.

The customs clearance time for general cargo is 1-2 days, and the customs clearance time for dangerous and sensitive items is a little longer about 1-3 workdays. The time is easy to delay due to the incomplete information provided. Therefore, it is necessary to prepare documents so that customs clearance is smooth.

What is the customs clearance process?

Custom procedure for export

1. Customs declaration

Customs declaration after the seller selects a customs broker or freight forwarder, the person in charge of the customs declaration submits the customs declaration documents to the customs for declaration, mainly including consignment notes, invoices, trade contracts, verification forms for export receipts, and various documents involved in customs supervision conditions.

The customs declaration should pay attention to the customs declaration time limit. When the goods arrive at the port, the customs declaration should be carried out within 24 hours.

2. Prepare the customs clearance documents

Confirm the order: confirm the price of the goods, the quantity of the goods, the terms of the sales contract, the latest shipping date, and the price of the goods.

The following three essential documents must be prepared are commercial invoice, bill of lading, and packing list.

If shipping dangerous cargo, you need to prepare the MSDS/SDS. The customs clearance documents in different countries are different, some countries require a certificate of origin, but others do not. The preparation of documents is subject to customs regulations.

Export clearance documents are similar to the documents required for export; the specific documents still need to understand the customs requirements.

3. Checked cargo by customs

Inspection means that after the customs accept the declaration, it is necessary to verify whether the contents of the declaration documents are consistent with the actual import and export of goods, and confirm whether there are omissions, concealment, and false declarations. For goods that need to be inspected, an inspection notice will be issued within 1 day after the declaration is accepted, and customs clearance procedures will be completed within 4 hours after the inspection is completed, except for the tax payment.

4. Taxation

Unless otherwise stipulated by the state, import and export goods are subject to customs duties. Duties are levied by the customs in accordance with customs import and export duties. For goods that need to be taxed, a tax bill should be issued within 1 day after the declaration, and customs clearance procedures should be completed within 2 hours after the tax bill is paid.

5. Release

For general export goods, after the consignor or its agent declares truthfully to the customs, and pays the due taxes and relevant fees, the customs will stamp the “customs release seal” on the export loading list, and the export goods will be shipped.

The export goods are released by the customs after they are declared to the customs for export, but they cannot be loaded on the means of transport for some reason, and the consignor requests to return the goods out of the customs supervision area and no longer export them.

Export tax rebate refers to the goods exported from the domestic customs declaration in the international trade business. After the goods are released, the value-added tax and consumption tax paid in each domestic production link and circulation link shall be refunded. It should be noted that due to the huge value of exported goods every day, it is necessary to speed up the write-off of tax rebates and to avoid greater losses, the customs declarer should fill in the export declaration form correctly.

three trucks moving consecutively on a street

Import clearance procedure

The customer provides the delivery notice, the original bill of lading or the letter of guarantee for telex release, and the exchange fee, THC fee, etc. to the forwarder, and the agent will go to the shipping company or airline to exchange the import bill of lading on behalf of the customer.

1. Prepare the documents required for import declaration.

2. After customs prints the tax bill, the exporter needs to pay the tax within 7 working days. If the deadline is exceeded, customs will levy late payment fines on a daily basis.

3. Pick up and transport the goods to the designated location.

Under normal circumstances, after the goods arrive at the port, the consignor or consignee arranges customs clearance. However, customs clearance can be pre-cleared when exporting to the United States, which means that when the goods are loaded on the plane or ship, the customs clearance application can be issued through the AMS system.

What documents are required for customs clearance?

Both import and export clearance documents have to be responsible for compliance with the laws and regulations of customs. These strict requirements ensure that clients export or import high-quality cargo and live on a level playing field. For the clients, learning more about the regulations of customs is more important to the long-term development of the company.

Whether the customs clearance documents are correct is related to the smooth passage of goods. Need to explain, there is more difference between import and export clearance certificates.

Export clearance certificate from China

To start with, these are some documents being asked to submit to customs when you export cargo from China.

1. Trade contract

It is a legally efficient contract signed by buyers and sellers for trade. It includes the contact information, address of the buyer and the seller, name of the goods, unit price, and total price.

2. Packing list

It is provided by the exporter or freight forwarder and it is used to check the cargo. The customs will check whether the goods can pass in line with the packing list. It contained the name, number, and type of cargo. The customs confirm that the packing list is consistent with the actual cargo information, and the cargo will be released.

3. Invoice

The commercial invoice contains detailed information about the cargo you will export. The main purpose of it is to calculate tariffs.

4. Customs declaration

It is the official document that lists detailed information when importing and exporting. The shipper needs to make a written statement on the actual situation of the imported cargo in accordance with the format stipulated by the customs.

5. Authorization letter

The customer needs to make an authorization letter to the freight forwarder, and the freight forwarder can execute the booking.


When exporting dangerous and sensitive cargo.

7. UN38.3

Export the battery transportation. Customs clearance of charged items such as e-cigarettes

Import clearance documents

Actually, the important factor to ensure cargo is released is the proper import clearance documents. I list the basic import documents you need to prepare to clear customs smoothly.

1. Bill of lading (BOL)

It is the document issued by the freight forwarder to the shipper. It is the proof of the recipient of goods. Buyers must have BOL before they can pick up the goods at the port of destination. In addition, BOL is also a certificate that can apply for compensation once the goods are damaged.

2. Packing list
3. Invoice

Customs clearance documents depend on the customs requirements of the port of destination and the customs clearance capabilities of the local customs broker. If the customs clearance ability is strong, generally only prepare the basic documents.

Otherwise, documents such as a certificate of origin and Form E may be required. If the shipment is dangerous or sensitive, you need to prepare MSDS, and you need to prepare UN38.3 for battery transportation.

How to avoid clearance delays?

The reasons for the delay in customs clearance are as follows:

1. The exported goods are prohibited sensitive or dangerous goods.

2. When the agent fills in the customs declaration documents, the information and documents provided are incomplete.

3. It takes time for customs to conduct an inspection. If the customs believes that the declared value does not match the actual value, it must be inspected with the value certificate of the goods.

How to avoid them?

1. To know in advance the items that are prohibited from being sold in the importing country, you can find a local professional customs clearance company to clear the customs.

2. The agent confirms the detailed information such as the name and type of the goods with the seller before transportation and prepares the documents.

3. The local customs believe that the declared value is inconsistent with the actual value of the goods; the declared value is too low and needs to be re-declared. If the value is too high, proof of the value of the goods is required.

What customs clearance service does ASL offer?

A professional freight forwarding company to assist in customs clearance can reduce a lot of losses, and Airsupply has 10+ logistics experience and is familiar with customs clearance regulations in various countries.

The customs clearance we provide:

1. Assist in preparing customs clearance documents.

2. Clear customs of general, dangerous, and sensitive cargo smoothly.

3. Assist in packaging dangerous cargo.

4. Customs clearance in any country.

5. Bonds and insurance services

When you want to reduce customs clearance risks, our experts here can help you. Contact us by clicking the button below to get unique consultation.

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