China Customs Broker: How to Clear Customs from China?

Apr 05, 2024 Chapter 1. Sourcing

Cross-border shipments of goods must go through customs before entering or leaving a country. To do this, you need to prepare some extra documents and be aware of the rules in Canada and the USA.

While dealing with customs might seem complicated, it’s not as tough as it appears, especially if you partner with a trustworthy shipping company and customs broker. This helps you avoid unexpected delays or fees.

Our guide on navigating import customs clearance can help you understand and complete your international shipments smoothly.



What is Customs Clearance from China?

Customs clearance means submitting documents to the government’s customs agency, which then oversees and clears the goods for import or export. The customs broker provides the necessary documentation to prove taxes or duties are paid, and once verified, the goods can be released.


  • Customs clearance documents are compiled by the designated customs broker to the shipper. It will prove that any taxes or duties have been paid. The goods are then released for import or export.
  • The customs clearance process refers to the movement of goods through customs, the government agency responsible for overseeing compliance with international trade laws. Customs officials monitor every shipment coming in and out to ensure it complies with the country’s regulations. Then proceed with import or export customs clearance. However, goods can be inspected at any time.




What is the Customs Clearance Process from China?

Although the meaning of customs clearance is simple, the process itself involves multiple steps and can be overwhelming at first glance. So how long does it take to clear customs for imported goods? Understanding import clearance schedules is crucial for businesses engaged in international trade. Let’s break it down to understand exactly what happens when your shipment arrives at customs.


US Customs Clearance Process


Document Check.

Customs officials will review documentation for your shipment to indicate that the customs clearance process has been initiated. This can include a commercial invoice (CI) (noting the contact information of the shipper and consignee, date of export, description of the goods and their value), the buyer’s purchase order, packing list, shipping order, bill of lading (BOL) or air waybill. , and a certificate of origin (such as a NAFTA or USMCA certificate of origin). Further documentation may be required by the buyer, financial institution or letter of credit terms or importing country. For example, Canada also requires a Canadian Customs invoice for incoming shipments.

Tax and Duty Calculations.

Depending on the goods being shipped, the customs broker will ensure that the appropriate taxes and duties are prepaid or collected for the type of goods you are shipping, their declared value, and the customs laws of the importing country. Customs officials are responsible for verifying and tracking whether these fees have been paid.

Pay Taxes and Duties.

If the taxes and duties applicable to your shipment have not been paid, customs officials will require payment. ​

  • DDP (Delivered Duty Paid). If the shipment is marked DDP, all taxes and duties are prepaid, typically through your customs broker, who can calculate and process tax and duty payments in advance to cover customs clearance fees.
  • DDU (Delivered Duty Unpaid). Shipments marked DDU will be forwarded to an independent customs broker to charge the recipient the amount due as well as additional costs for inspection, storage, handling, insurance and payment.
  • Release of shipment. Once all outstanding taxes and duties have been paid and the product has cleared import customs, the goods will be released by customs and can proceed to their final destination. Some freight companies have warehouses that allow goods to continue “bonded” across the border in the warehouse until they clear customs. Fees are often incurred for not having the correct documentation to properly clear goods through customs. In other words, a carrier’s ability to be “bonded” is beneficial but should not be something a shipper relies on every time a shipment crosses the border.



How to Clear Customs from China?

Clearing customs from China involves several steps and requires meticulous attention to detail to ensure compliance with both Chinese and destination country regulations.

Here is a step-by-step guide to help you navigate the process:

  1. Hire a Customs Broker:

    • A customs broker can help manage the documentation, ensure compliance with regulations, and expedite the customs clearance process. Brokers are experienced in handling the complexities of international trade and can prevent costly mistakes.
  2. Obtain Necessary Documentation:

    • Commercial Invoice: Details the transaction between the exporter and importer, including the value of goods.
    • Bill of Lading (BOL): A legal document issued by the carrier to the shipper detailing the type, quantity, and destination of the goods.
    • Packing List: Provides specifics on the shipment, including item details and packaging information.
    • Certificate of Origin: Sometimes required to verify the origin of the goods.
    • Import License: Certain goods may require an import license or permit.
    • HS Code: Ensure correct classification of goods under the Harmonized System (HS) for tariff and duty calculations.
  3. Prepare for Importer Security Filing (ISF):

    • For shipments to the U.S., the Importer Security Filing (ISF) must be submitted at least 24 hours before the goods depart from China. This includes details about the shipment and parties involved​​.
  4. Comply with Import Regulations:

    • Understand and comply with the import regulations of your country. This includes knowing the applicable duties, taxes, and tariffs based on the HS codes of your goods​.
  5. Submit Entry Documentation:

    • Upon arrival at the destination port, submit the entry documentation to customs authorities. This includes the commercial invoice, bill of lading, packing list, and any other required documents.
  6. Pay Duties and Taxes:

    • Calculate and pay any applicable import duties, VAT, and other taxes. These are often determined based on the HS code classification and the value of the goods.
  7. Customs Inspection:

    • Be prepared for a possible customs inspection. Authorities may examine the goods to ensure they match the documentation and comply with regulatory requirements.
  8. Release of Goods:

    • Once the goods clear customs, they can be released for delivery to their final destination. Ensure all transportation arrangements are in place for smooth transit from the port to your warehouse or end destination.





When is Import Customs Clearance Required?

All international commercial shipments of goods require customs clearance, but the process is relatively streamlined if you have the required paperwork and use a broker to help coordinate and help you calculate and pay the required taxes and duties.

One of the easiest ways to streamline the import clearance process is to work with a customs broker who can process tax and duty payments up front and charge a fixed clearance fee. For example, CSA Shipping participates in the Customs Self-Assessment (CSA) program, allowing us to quickly clear CSA-eligible shipments at the Canadian border and expedite the entire customs process. When you choose an importer that provides high-quality customs clearance services, you can focus on growing your business while leaving the details of import clearance to experienced and capable personnel.



Customs Broker Fees: Explained

Navigating complex international trade procedures can be challenging. However, with the expertise of a customs clearance agent, passing through the system becomes easier and provides additional protection. When you hire a customs broker to assist with your international shipping, the price you pay is peace of mind.

What does it mean?

The broker will obtain all the documents you need and assist with the paperwork so that the customs clearance process goes smoothly. They help you navigate the alphabet soup of import and export codes and forms (including HTS codes and CF-28 or CF-29 forms), assist with valuation analysis and country of origin determination, and provide support through electronic filing and reporting systems such as ACI, RLF, EDI and ACE.

Customs brokers are also experts in trade agreements that provide preferential tariffs and rates, such as USMCA/CUSMA (the new agreement to replace NAFTA for North American trade), and can help you take advantage of any opportunities these agreements may provide, as well as when shipping from Canada to the United States. Expected customs fees

Although each customs broker typically specializes in serving a specific region and may offer different rates, most calculate their fees based on product, value, and country of origin. Fees generally include customs clearance fees, inspection fees, and agency or bank transfer fees. When using a specific freight company, cross-border delivery services will include coordination with your designated customs broker to help reduce your workload.



How to Avoid Customs Clearance Delays?

The key to avoiding delays in the customs clearance process is to provide your freight forwarding company with complete and accurate documentation so that they can coordinate with your customs broker and ultimately submit your documentation for clearance by government officials.

Understanding how import clearance requirements apply to you and staying current on the latest import regulations and related tariff laws are critical to avoiding delays. Experienced shipping companies and brokers can assist in ensuring that your documentation is complete and contains correct business information, inventory, and cargo value.

Doing so will ensure that appropriate taxes and duties are applied and that your shipment is not flagged by authorities.


How Long Does a Package Take After Clearing Customs?

It normally takes a matter of minutes or hours for a package to clear customs, but it can take days or even weeks if there is a problem. So in order to speed up the customs clearance process, product declaration as well as document compliance your freight forwarder must be transparent presented to you





China Customs Broker Lists:

Finding a reliable customs broker in China is crucial for smooth import operations. Here are several options for customs brokers in China that you can consider:




VIE Logistics Supply Chain Co., Ltd. – Located in Guangzhou, this company offers customs brokerage services at various ports, including Guangzhou, Shanghai, and Shenzhen​​.

Seehog International Logistics Co., Ltd. – This broker operates at multiple ports including Shanghai, Guangzhou, and Shenzhen, providing comprehensive customs clearance services​​.

Vanhang Supply Chain Management (Shanghai) Co., Ltd. – Based in Shanghai and Guangzhou, Vanhang offers extensive customs brokerage services to help streamline your import process​.

Global Trade Specialists – This company specializes in helping with the necessary documentation, duties, taxes, and payments required for importing goods into your country, ensuring compliance with all relevant regulations​ (Global Trade Specialists, E.U.)​.

Freightnet – A platform that lists various customs brokers across China, such as those in Beijing, Tianjin, Qingdao, and Ningbo, allowing you to contact and compare services to find the best fit for your needs​​.

supplyia shipping service Offers a directory of customs brokers and freight forwarders with comprehensive services, including sea and air freight, ensuring efficient handling of customs formalities and clearance​ (Made-in-China)​.


These brokers are experienced and equipped to handle the complexities of customs regulations, ensuring that your shipments are processed efficiently and comply with all necessary legal requirements. When selecting a broker, consider their responsiveness, experience, and the specific ports they service to ensure they meet your logistical needs.




6 Tips to Make the Customs Clearance from China Process Easier

While the Customs Clearance Process may seem simple, it can also be overwhelming, especially if you are new to importing and exporting. However, the following tips will help make the process smoother and more manageable.


Hire an experienced freight forwarder or carrier

A carrier or freight forwarder is the most important gift you can give yourself when starting an export business. The convenience you will enjoy by having an experienced and reliable freight forwarder handle your exports is priceless. With their experience, professional freight forwarders know everything there is to know about shipping and customs clearance procedures. This knowledge is priceless and can save you from headaches.


Make sure your paperwork is complete and 100% accurate.

Incomplete paperwork or paperwork with even the slightest error can be costly. If your paperwork is incorrect or incomplete, the customs department will not clear your merchandise.

Instead, it will remain in customs, and you will have to pay a detention fee. In addition, your shipment will be released late, resulting in missed delivery dates and more hassle for your business. Therefore, it is best to make sure all the information is correct on your paperwork. One way to do this is to have your freight forwarder or carrier ensure that nothing is left out of your paperwork.


Know that your shipment will clear customs in every country it passes through.

This understanding is valuable when deciding which shipping method to use to move your shipment. For example, if you choose to ship by air, your merchandise will only pass through the destination country’s customs, saving you a great deal of time.


Understand that international trade laws and regulations change frequently

The import/export market is fluid, and its laws are constantly changing, so it can be challenging to keep track of what’s going on, and the process you followed in the past may not work the next time you use it. Therefore, you should keep up to date with what’s going on in the import/export industry, so you’re not caught off guard.


Make sure you pack your shipments properly.

It cannot be stressed enough that you must pack your shipments properly. Simply put, properly packaged shipments mean a faster customs clearance process. In addition to faster customs clearance, a properly packed shipment has less chance of being messed up during transit. In addition, when it arrives at the receiving port, it is easier to handle the shipment if everything is in the right place and not upside down.


Make sure your documents are attached to your shipment in an easy way to get.

If the paperwork regarding your documents is easily accessible, customs agents will not have to go through the shipment to get them, and they will be able to clear your shipment faster.

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