International Shipping Guide

International Shipping Guide

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In today’s global economy, importing and exporting go hand in hand. As a small-business owner, you will likely need to import raw materials and components used to manufacture your products. A streamlined import process helps you, your suppliers and your customers.

See how you can control your supply chain with import shipping management tools from FedEx and find answers to common import shipping FAQs on the FedEx® Small Business Center.

If you’re selling only in the U.S., you’re reaching only a small share of your potential customers. According to the U.S. Commercial Service, 95 percent of the world’s consumers live outside of the U.S. In addition, small businesses account for 30 percent of all U.S. export shipments. In fact, the fastest-growing segment group of U.S. exporting companies — making up a whopping 65 percent of all U.S. exporters — are companies with 20 or fewer employees. So, size is no longer a requirement for international success in global markets.

Some of the benefits for your business include:


  • Increased sales and profits. If your business is succeeding in the U.S., expanding globally will likely improve overall profitability and increase productivity.
  • Short-term security. Your business will be less affected by fluctuations in the U.S. economy and marketplace.
  • Long-term security. The U.S. is a large, mature market with intense competition from domestic and foreign competitors, so international business trade may become a necessity if you want to keep up in an increasingly global marketplace.
  • Increased innovation. Extending your customer base internationally can help you finance new product development.
  • Economies of scale. Exporting is an excellent way to expand your business with products that are more widely accepted around the world.


Before you dive head first into the exporting game, you need to make sure you’re ready. Our Export Road Map is designed to simplify your exporting journey and provide you with resources that can make your life easier.

Use our Export Road Map to explore the steps to developing an export strategy:

  • Evaluate your product’s export potential.
  • Determine whether your company is export-ready.
  • Use market research to identify key international markets for your products.
  • Find customers and/or suppliers in international markets.
  • Establish an overseas distribution system.
  • Determine export prices, payment terms, methods and techniques.
  • Familiarize yourself with shipping methods, documentation, financing and other exporting requirements.
  • Understand government regulations, stipulations and restrictions regarding exporting.

Each country has specific document requirements for international shipments. To prevent customs clearance issues and prepare the right documentation every time, go to the "Create your documents" section of the FedEx International Shipping Resource Center

To determine and print the documents needed to accompany specific international shipments, you can also use the "Find International Documents" tool on FedEx® Global Trade Manager. Then, while you’re on FedEx Global Trade Manager, you can save time by using the FedEx Document Preparation Center to prepare, store and reuse your international documents. Please note: You must have a user ID and password to access both of these tools.

NAFTA is a pact between the U.S. (including Puerto Rico), Canada and Mexico. It provides preferential tariff treatment for certain products traded between these countries when the goods meet specific qualifications and certification criteria.

If your goods qualify under NAFTA, you can export products duty-free, which makes it easier for your business to compete in the global market.

The NAFTA Certificate of Origin is not a required entry document for shipments between the U.S. and Mexico or Canada. You should complete one only if your product qualifies for preferential tariff treatment under the NAFTA Rules of Origin.

If you’re not sure if you need a NAFTA Certificate of Origin, use the ”Find International Documents” on FedEx® Global Trade Manager, or call FedEx International Customer Service at 1.800.463.3339 (and say "international services").

For help understanding the certificate — as well as to learn more about NAFTA, how your business can benefit from new markets in Canada and Mexico, and how FedEx® services and solutions can help — see our information on North American trade solutions.

Estimate duties and taxes:

  • The origin and destination countries.
  • The product’s value for customs. (Enter the selling price or fair market value, even if not sold or for resale, of your shipment contents.)
  • The product’s country of manufacture. (List the country where the product was built or created.)
  • The currency of transaction. (This is the currency in which you’ll be entering the value and charges related to this shipment.)

Identify your product’s Harmonized System code:

  • The product name, a detailed product description and a list of the raw materials the product contains. (Harmonized System codes are used internationally to catalog and describe products for tariff and regulatory purposes.) 
    Note: The first six digits of the code are used globally.
  • The purpose of the shipment (e.g., commercial, gift, sample).

Determine which customs documents are required:

  • Research destination country requirements. Your shipment’s destination country will help you determine the proper documentation, special clearance requirements, what duties and taxes will need to be paid, and much more.
  • Determine whether you’re shipping a document or other commodity. Depending on your product’s classification, you may or may not need to include a Commercial Invoice. To be sure about your commodity's classification, check the Country Profiles or use the "Find International Documents" tool on FedEx® Global Trade Manager.
  • Provide a detailed product description. Not only will a thorough, accurate product description help you estimate duties and taxes and identify your product’s Harmonized System code, it also helps you identify and complete other commonly used customs documents, such as:
    • Commercial Invoice
    • Packing list
    • Certificate of Origin
    • North American Free Trade Agreement Certificate of Origin
    • Electronic Export Information
    • Shipping label (packages)
    • Bill of Lading (freight)

Whether you’re shipping packages or freight, you can stay a step ahead by taking advantage of our tools and resources to prepare the right documents every time.


ECCN: An Export Control Classification Number is a five-digit, alphanumeric classification code that describes a product and is essential information for determining whether a U.S. government export license may be required to sell the product in other countries.

The ECCN identifies the technological capabilities of your product, which allow the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Industry and Security to easily track U.S.-origin, dual-use, commercial products.

EEI: Electronic Export Information is the electronic information collected by the U.S. Census Bureau that reports all the pertinent export data of an international shipment. The U.S. exporter (or authorized agent) is responsible for filing EEI data with Census.

This information is used for compiling official U.S. export statistics and for enforcing U.S. export laws. Records must be retained for five years from the date of export.

HS: The Harmonized Commodity Description and Coding Systems (HS for short) is an international nomenclature of product classification administered by the World Customs Organization and is used to collect U.S. import and export statistics.

HS numbers are used by customs authorities around the world to identify a product's rate of duty, its import and export admissibility, and whether it should be physically examined. Importers and exporters are legally required to declare their products to customs by means of HS codes. Virtually all countries base their tariff schedules on the HS, making it easier to conduct international trade.

Use our quick reference guide, full of acronyms, to get familiar with the other terms and abbreviations you’ll encounter during the export process.

There are two great resources right here on the FedEx international shipping site.

Yes. FedEx offers import and export services between the U.S. and 220 countries and territories. Please note that services available to and from countries vary.

You can find country-specific international shipping information by visiting the Country Snapshots. The profiles may include some or all of the following information:

  • Prohibited and restricted items that cannot be shipped into or out of the particular country.
  • Items that can be shipped into or out of the particular country but require export controls or additional paperwork.
  • Special provisions (such as free-trade zones and special conditions that apply to personal effects, gifts and samples) that reduce or eliminate tariffs for certain shipments.
  • Import and export clearance information, such as the clearance process, document requirements, and duty and tax assessment.
  • Regulatory contact information for the particular country.

FedEx gives you flexibility to match the right international service to your speed-to-market needs. Ship your international packages to more than 220 countries and territories worldwide with our portfolio of international shipping options to meet any timeline, budget, or service needs.

We have two express services designed for package shipments of less than 150 lbs.: FedEx International Priority® and FedEx International Economy®.

For your most urgent package shipments, consider FedEx® International Next Flight or FedEx International First®.

Review service information for all international package shipping services in the FedEx Service Guide.

FedEx International Ground® offers a flexible, reliable and cost-effective delivery service for shipments to Canada. You’ll enjoy day-definite, door-to-door delivery in 2−7 business days to 100 percent of Canadian business and residential addresses.

For more information about how FedEx International Ground can help you save time and money when you ship to Canada, go to the FedEx International Ground web page.

We have two express services designed for individual pallets of 151 lbs. or more: FedEx International Priority® Freight and FedEx International Economy® Freight. Pallets exceeding 2,200 lbs. require prior approval from us, but both services allow unlimited total shipment weight.

For your most urgent freight shipments, consider FedEx® International Next Flight.

Review service information for all international freight shipping services in the FedEx Service Guide. For a complete list of all international services offered by country, check out the international services coverage map.

FedEx offers two reliable LTL freight service options — plus value-added and specialized options — all within one streamlined network. Choose the LTL freight service that fits your needs: FedEx Freight® Priority when speed is critical or FedEx Freight® Economy when you can trade time for savings.

Learn more about LTL freight shipping, time-definite delivery options and value-added service options under FedEx Freight® services.

Use the Get Rates & Transit Times tool at or call FedEx International Customer Service at 1.800.463.3339 (and say “international services”).

Use the ”Estimate Duties and Taxes” tool on FedEx® Global Trade Manager to classify your shipment and estimate the duties and taxes that will apply. Please note: You must have a user ID and password to access the tool.

You have the same range of billing options for international shipments as you do for shipments within the U.S., including FedEx® Billing Online Plus. This paperless solution enables you to view and download your FedEx invoice data, pay charges electronically, create custom reports and even dispute charges.

Schedule a pickup online.

Plus, when you schedule a pickup online, you get a pickup history record that enables you to check, edit, or cancel your pickups. Please note: You must have a user ID and password to use this tool.

Yes. You can track the status of your international shipments as quickly and easily as you can your U.S. shipments. Here are some of the shipment-status tracking options available to you:

  • FedEx® Tracking allows you to track the status of up to 30 FedEx® shipments from origin to destination — whether it’s via tracking numbers, door tag numbers, account numbers or order numbers.
  • FedEx Advanced Tracking provides shipment status updates in an easy-to-scan format, with powerful search and filtering capabilities that help you quickly find information about your shipments.
  • FedEx InSight® is a shipment-status tracking and management tool for shippers with a moderate to high volume of high-value shipments. It monitors your shipping activity and provides status updates about your shipments. FedEx InSight is ideal for managing shipments across multiple locations and accounts. Please note: You must have a user ID and password to use this tool.
  • FedEx Desktop allows you to actively monitor your shipments. Simply download the software to your desktop and you will be able to receive notifications, drag and drop important shipments to your desktop, and email tracking results to your customers.
  • FedEx® Mobile allows you to get instant shipment status updates anytime, anywhere. Through FedEx Mobile, your cell phone or Apple® iPhone® can become an on-the-go shipping device.

Call 1.800.463.3339 (and say "track a package”) to get updates over the phone.

Learn more about these tracking options.

iPhone is a registered trademark of Apple Inc.

For most international shipments, you can request an image of the recipient's signature in a downloadable letter or via email or fax. This service is not available for FedEx International Express Freight® or FedEx International Airport-to-AirportSM services.

Learn more about FedEx® Delivery Signature Options.

You can pick up shipping supplies immediately at FedEx staffed locations.

You can order them online at or call 1.800.463.3339 (and say "order supplies"). Please note: To order shipping supplies online, you must have a FedEx account number and a user ID and password. Orders are typically shipped for delivery in 2−5 business days.

It depends on what you are shipping in the envelope. If you’re shipping documents, you may only need an international shipping label (air waybill). For assistance completing an international shipping label, please refer to the How Do I Figure Out What International Labels and Documents I Need? section of these FAQs.

If you want to ship low-value, low-cost commercial items, such as samples, apparel, promotional items, CDs, DVDs, books, or electronic parts accessories, you can use FedEx International MailService®. This contract-only service also helps save time and money when you ship printed materials, such as statements, brochures, catalogs, and traditional mail.

When you ship internationally, you'll need to determine if the item you’re shipping is considered a document or a commodity by the destination country. Although the question seems straightforward, some countries classify documents differently, and those classifications can be confusing.

Generally, a document is defined as typed, written, or printed matter that has no commercial value. Typically, a document shipment does not require a Commercial Invoice. If the commodity you’re shipping is part of a commercial transaction or has commercial value, it's considered a commodity, thus requiring a Commercial Invoice.

To determine if your envelope shipment requires a Commercial Invoice, use the "Find International Documents" tool on FedEx® Global Trade Manager.

Many countries and economies allow unsolicited gifts and personal items to enter the country duty-free, up to a certain value limit. Gifts exceeding that value limit are subject to import duties and taxes. View country duty-free limits.

To qualify for gift exemption, your international shipment must meet the following requirements:

  • It must be sent person-to-person with no company involvement or indication of involvement on the shipping documentation.
  • The shipping documentation must be clearly marked "Unsolicited Gift" in addition to the commodity name and the detailed description.
  • The total value of the shipment must not exceed the values prescribed by customs. Additionally, in order to avoid customs delays, we recommend including a description of the gift.

It's your responsibility as the shipper to identify, classify, package, mark, label and complete documentation for dangerous goods according to all international governmental regulations. Failure to do so could create dangerous conditions on the aircraft and result in your being subject to governmental fines and penalties under applicable laws. Additionally, certain dangerous goods are prohibited to some international destinations.

Learn more about shipping dangerous goods.

Many countries allow tax relief — either duty and tax exemption upon entry or a refund after exportation — for Temporary Importation Under Bond (TIB) shipments.

Temporary imports are goods imported for a specific purpose and then either exported back to the country of origin or destroyed. Examples of such shipments include goods to be repaired, trade show displays and tools of trade.

TIB shipments can be accepted using FedEx International Broker Select® service.

Need Help With International Shipping Preparation?

Enjoy stress-free international shipping with FedEx International Shipping Assist, a simple, easy-to-use online tool that pulls together international shipment information for you. Simply tell us about your shipment, and the automated tool:

  • Provides an estimated Harmonized System code
  • Projects your duties and taxes
  • Helps identify required customs documentation
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