How do I declare items when shipping internationally?

When mailing goods overseas, you must properly fill out a customs declaration.

A customs declaration is an official document that lists and gives details of goods that are being imported or exported.

Completing the form correctly will help your shipment successfully arrive. Incomplete or inaccurate forms can result in the shipment being forfeited, returned, and/or delayed by customs officials. This comes at a cost because shipping couriers do not refund the shipping cost in these cases. Additionally, shipping couriers sometimes charge fees if the shipment is returned. To help prevent any of these situations from happening, lets go over how to successfully complete a customs declaration.

A customs declaration consists of a description of the good(s), quantity, and value. You will be prompted to enter this information during the shipping process if one is required to be filled out.

When entering the description of the good, an accurate description is required. For example, if you are mailing out a leather handbag that cost $500, you will want to enter:

  • Description: Leather handbag
  • Quantity: 1
  • Cost: $500

Vague descriptions like "bag" can result in the shipment being returned by Customs.

Learn how to use harmonized codes to help declare your goods below.

Shipping to European countries

In addition to an accurate description of the good(s), most European countries now require additional harmonized code to be added for each declared item:

  • European Union (EU) countries
  • Northern Ireland
  • Norway
  • Switzerland
  • Iceland

While not listed, we also noticed that most other European countries have similar requirements.

Due to these changes, if you create a shipment containing a good (regardless of value), you must also include a harmonized code (minimum of 6-digits) for each declared item.

To obtain the harmonized code, we recommend using one of the following sites:

Our user interface currently does not have a field to enter harmonized codes, so they must be entered next to the description. For instance, if you are mailing out a leather handbag that cost $500, declare the leather handbag as follows:

  • Description: Leather handbag (HS 42022100)
  • Quantity: 1
  • Cost: $500

The harmonized code is only required for European countries, but we highly recommend adding this information to all customs declarations.

If our Shipping Specialists notice that the harmonized code is missing from the description and your shipment is going to a European country, we will place your order on hold while we obtain this information from you.

Shipment Declared Value

When you ship a package containing over $2500 in value or items that require export license, you are required to go through a much more complicated export process. Specifically, you will need to file the export data through the U.S. Customs Border and Patrol (CBP) AESDirect system, which is accessed through the Automated Commercial Environment (ACE). The information you file is called Electronic Export Information (EEI).

NOTE: VPM does NOT file an EEI for you. Therefore, we cannot ship packages that are declared over $2500 in value.

There are a few options you can do here:

  • Separate items into different packages to be shipped, each one under $2500 in value. This increases shipping costs but will allow you to go through this.
  • If the items cannot be separated into different packages, you will have to look at filing the EEI yourself and then providing us the Internal Transaction Number (ITN), which is provided to you when your EEI is filed and accepted.
  • An EEI / ITN may not be required if your shipment falls under special exemption categories. See a list of exemptions below. If a category applies to you, you can let us know the exemption category you'd like to use.

EEI Filing Exemptions

In most cases, an EEI / ITN may not be required when mailing goods internationally. Here's a general list of exemptions:

  1. “NOEEI 30.36” for shipments to Canada.
  2. “NOEEI 30.37(a)” for shipments when the value of each class of goods is $2,500 or less. This is default category used for all shipments under $2500 in value.
  3. “NOEEI 30.37(h)” or “NOEEI 30.37(y)” or shipments of gift parcels and humanitarian donations that are eligible to be sent to Cuba, North Korea, or the Crimea, Donetsk, or Luhansk regions of Ukraine (or any other regions of Ukraine designated by the Secretary of the Treasury as “covered regions” under Executive Order 14065). In addition, the mailer must endorse the item with the marking “GIFT — Export License Not Required” on the address side of the package. The mailer must also write “GFT” in the same block as the AES Exemption on the applicable required customs declaration, as described in USPS IMM 527. The mailer must complete all other blocks of the customs declaration form, including the “Detailed description of contents.”

    Note: Certain shipments of gift parcels and humanitarian donations to the destinations might require a license from OFAC and/or the BIS (see USPS IMM 510 and 530). If a license is required, then a filing is also required and the AES Exemptions in item c do not apply (see USPS IMM 524.21d).

  4. “NOEEI 30.37(w)” for shipments to APO, FPO, or DPO addresses.
  5. “NOEEI 30.37(y)” for shipments of published books, software, maps, charts, pamphlets, or any other similar media available for general distribution that are eligible to be sent to a library or similar institution in Cuba, Iran, North Korea, or Syria.

    Note: “NOEEI 30.37(y)” does not apply to shipments of informational materials that are eligible to be sent to the Crimea, Donetsk, or Luhansk regions of Ukraine (or any other regions of Ukraine designated by the Secretary of the Treasury as a “covered region” under Executive Order 14065). For such shipments, filing might or might not be required, depending on requirements in 524.21a524.21d-f, and 526.2b.

For a complete list of ALL exemptions, please see Subpart D of the Foreign Trade Regulations, 15 CFR Part 30.

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