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Get answers on international shipping

Get answers on international shipping

International shipping can be difficult to sort out. From duties to documentation, regulations to trade policies, there are a lot of requirements to be aware of and understand.

Pack-and-ship store owners who are comfortable shipping internationally and have a following of customers needing their assistance and expertise find it a valuable money maker. But some owners shy away from marketing international shipping services.

We asked some FedEx Authorized ShipCenter® (FASC) participants what they find most difficult about international shipping. To help make understanding the basics of international shipping easier, we answer some of their questions below.

The types of documents needed depend on what is being shipped, the value of the shipment and the destination country. These are most common required documents:

Commercial Invoice. Shipments that contain only documents and have no commercial value do not require a Commercial Invoice. Commodity shipments (those that have a commercial value, including most gifts), require a Commercial Invoice.

Certificate of Origin (CO). Many customs authorities require a Certificate of Origin for commodity shipments being imported into their country. Completed by the exporter and certified by a chamber of commerce, the CO validates where the commodity was originally grown or manufactured.

North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) Certificate of Origin.* This document is necessary for shipments to Canada, Mexico and the U.S. territory of Puerto Rico under these conditions: 

  • The goods being shipped qualify for reduced or duty-free tariffs, and; 
  • The customer would like to claim the preferential duty treatment provided by NAFTA.

If the merchandise does not qualify within NAFTA or if the customer does not want preferential duty treatment, this document is not needed; use a standard Certificate of Origin instead. Note that without the NAFTA Certificate of Origin, duty will be assessed on the shipment. 

The FedEx International Shipping Assist site can help you determine what other documents are required based on information you enter about your customer’s shipment. It’s also helpful for finding the Harmonized System (HS code and estimating duties and taxes, among other useful information. 

An EEI filing is used by the U.S. government for official export statistics to ensure compliance with U.S. export regulations. If an EEI is required for a shipment, it must be filed electronically and record of it must be kept for five years. 

You may not see a lot of shipments that need an EEI if your customers are mostly private persons shipping gifts to another private person for personal use. But if your customers export goods for their business, their shipments may require an EEI.

Generally speaking, shipments with merchandise valued at more than US$2,500 per item require an EEI. Most shipments destined for Canada do not need an EEI; however, there are exceptions.

For more information, including how to file an EEI and a list of what types of shipments require an EEI, go to the Electronic Export Information page on fedex.com. We also cover EEI in the feature story for this issue: “A step-by-step guide to international shipping documents.

The World Customs Organization maintains an international standard — the Harmonized System (HS) — that government officials in destination countries use to identify imported goods in order to collect the proper taxes.

All international shipments require a six-digit harmonized code, so make sure you include the correct one on your Commercial Invoice. Not including a code, or including the wrong code, could lead to delays, fines and/or more-expensive tariffs. 

The International Shipping page on fedex.com has a tool you can use to find harmonized codes by entering information about your customers’ shipments. 

The FedEx International Shipping Assist site can also help you find the Harmonized System (HC) code. Additionally, the site can help you determine what other documents are required based on information you enter about your customer’s shipment, and estimate duties and taxes. 

Not every item can be shipped to every country. Certain goods — like alcohol, tobacco, aerosols, and fresh fruits and vegetables — are restricted from being shipped internationally. You can find detailed, up-to-date information about the exporting and importing requirements and restrictions of many countries by referencing the country list at the International Trade Administration site.

Having incomplete addresses can cause delays at customs, so you’re right in helping your customers hunt down the information. Here’s a site that lists ZIP and postal codes for most countries: World Postal Code.

Duties and taxes are billed to the party indicated on the air waybill. Generally, that would be the importer of record, which could be the shipper, recipient or a third party. Keep in mind, as a FedEx Authorized ShipCenter® (FASC) participant tendering the shipments, you are considered a third party in the transaction.

You can get help calculating your rate with our online rating tool. Rates will be affected by weight, size, value and destination of your shipment. Also, pay attention to fees and surcharges, and keep in mind that they can be subject to change.

Pro tip: Go to FedEx® Great Rates Hotline; for information on last-minute savings you can get for FedEx International Priority® and FedEx International Economy® shipments weighing 11–150 lbs. You simply complete an online form or call the hotline Monday–Friday, 7 a.m.–7 p.m. CST, for the best available daily discount rate.

Once USMCA is fully ratified and becomes the official trade agreement for U.S., Canada and Mexico, the names of some documents and the information required will change, as will the list of what can be shipped and the amounts assessed for duties and taxes. We’ll address specifics when we learn more.*  

Yes! The International Shipping page on fedex.com provides tools and resources you can use to fully serve your customers with international shipments. 

You can also order the International Shipping Guide from the Marketing Toolbox on FASCnet.com. This is written specifically for FedEx Authorized ShipCenter® (FASC) participants.* 

*NOTE: NAFTA is expected to be replaced by the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) in the coming months. Once the USMCA is implemented, we will provide information on how the changes will affect international shipping documents, duties and taxes, and other information relevant to you as a pack-and-ship store owner.