Shipping Terms Glossary
Shipping Terms Glossary
Customs Clearance

Customs Clearance

Every time goods are transported to a new country by rail, road, air or sea, they must pass through the customs clearance process.

What is Customs Clearance?

Every time goods are transported to a new country by rail, road, air or sea, they must pass through Customs. The process involves a few steps and is called customs clearance.

Bookairfreight Tips:

"When you’re travelling internationally, you go through immigration and security checks at the airports - Customs Clearance is the same process but for cargo."

What do you need for customs clearance?

The customs clearance process usually requires documents such as:

If you’re shipping dangerous or prohibited goods , you’ll also need:


• License or permits (in both export and import countries)

• Other necessary documents that may be required

Why do you need these documents?

The documents help customs authorities determine the nature of the goods, where they are coming from, and how to calculate import duties and taxes.

Who deals with Customs?

It is common for the freight forwarders to deal with customs, and if they do provide this service, they will perceive a customs clearance fee.

Normally, export duties & taxes are paid by the seller, while import duties & taxes are paid by the buyer.

Download Our
Import Guide

How does the Customs Clearance process unfold?

There is customs clearance in both exporting and importing countries, and the process involves 4 steps:

Step 1 - Preparing and submitting documents required to facilitate the export or import

Export Documentation: Purchase Order from Buyer, Commercial Invoice , Packing List , Bill of Lading or Air Waybill , Certificate of Origin, and any other documentation based on the type of goods (licenses or permits)

Import Documentation: Commercial Invoice, Packing List, Bill of Lading or Air Waybill, Certificate of Origin, and any other documentation based on the type of goods (licenses or permits)

Step 2 - Customs examination or assessment of the goods designated for export or import

Step 3 - Payment of duties and taxes (in both export, and import countries)

Step 4 - Collection of goods from Customs after the clearance is granted

How long does the Customs Clearance process take?

Roughly 1-2 days.

If taxes are not applicable, the goods will get cleared through customs and continue with the delivery process within 20-30 minutes.

Under Delivery and Duties Paid (DDP), the clearance process will be much faster because the taxes and duties have been paid in advance.

Under Delivery and Duties Unpaid (DDU), the clearance process will be slowe r because taxes and duties have not been paid. In this case, the customs office will contact the importer for payment. This could take a day or two .

When payment is finalized, the goods get clearance and are made ready for collection.

Is your shipment stuck in Customs?

Do not worry. Customs officials will notify you if your shipment is not getting cleared and they will tell you what to do.

Usually, Customs will store your shipment in their warehouse for 25-30 days, which is plenty of time for you to solve the issue.

The most common reason for clearance delays is missing or incorrect information on documents. So, make sure to double-check and triple-check your documents before submitting them.

Daisy Jiang

Proud Co-Founder and CEO of Bookairfreight. Shortly after starting to work in the world of logistics, I was astonished at how difficult and time consuming it was for businesses to get their hands on a simple air freight quote. I saw this as an opportunity to really make a difference in people’s lives, and felt like I had to do something. It was the spark that lit the fire of Bookairfreight’s creation.

Say goodbye to industry jargon.

Download our free shipping terms glossary! 👊💥

Best decision you made! Check your email for our download link.
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.

You'll Also Love ❤️...

Take Your Logistics to the Next Level.

Sign up today for free and get access to 20% cheaper freight rates from top forwarders all over the world.

Hundreds of fast-growing e-commerce businesses are working with Bookairfreight.