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Mastering Customs Clearance to and from the EU: A Step-by-Step Guide

5 min read
Rubber stamp confirming customs cleared

Mastering Customs Clearance to and from the EU: A Step-by-Step Guide

International shipping can feel overwhelming, especially when navigating the customs clearance process. To help new starters streamline the customs clearance element of their shipping operations, we’ve crafted a comprehensive step-by-step guide that covers everything from preparing customs documents to understanding key customs documents.

Step 1: Understand Your Customs Clearance Documents

Before initiating the customs clearance process, familiarise yourself with the essential documents:

Commercial Invoice: Provide detailed information about the goods, including their value, quantity, and country of origin. Accuracy is crucial to avoid delays or disputes with customs authorities.

Packing List: Ensure the contents of each package are accurately listed, including dimensions, weight, and packaging type. Properly labelled packages facilitate customs inspections and prevent mishandling.

Bill of Lading (BOL): Review the terms of transportation outlined in the BOL, including delivery terms, carrier responsibilities, and consignee details. Understanding these terms helps ensure smooth transit and delivery.

Certificate of Origin: Verify the origin of the goods and obtain the necessary certification to qualify for preferential trade agreements or tariff reductions. Compliance with origin requirements is essential for customs clearance.

Export License: Obtain the required export license for goods subject to export controls or regulations. Failure to obtain proper licensing may result in shipment delays or legal penalties.

You can find out more about each document at the UK Government website.

Step 2: Prepare Your Customs Clearance Documents

Gather and organise the necessary customs clearance documents, ensuring accuracy and completeness. Allow sufficient time for document preparation and verification to avoid last-minute delays. Consider consulting with customs brokers or experts for assistance with complex documentation requirements.

Step 3: Submit Documents to Customs Authorities

Submit the customs clearance documents to the relevant customs authorities for review and processing. Be proactive in providing any additional information or documentation requested by customs officials to expedite the clearance process. Monitor the status of your submission and follow up as needed to ensure timely processing.

Step 4: Await Customs Clearance

Once the documents are submitted, await clearance from customs authorities. Be prepared for potential delays due to customs inspections, audits, or regulatory issues. Allow extra time for clearance during peak seasons or when shipping regulated or high-value goods.

Step 5: Settle Duties and Taxes

Upon clearance, settle any applicable duties, taxes, or fees associated with the shipment. Ensure timely payment to avoid storage fees, demurrage, or other penalties. Consider utilising duty deferment or exemption programs where available to minimise costs.

Step 6: Release Shipment for Delivery

Once all requirements are met and payments are settled, the shipment is released by customs authorities for onward delivery. Coordinate with your logistics provider to schedule delivery and track the shipment’s progress. Communicate with the recipient to ensure readiness for receipt and provide any necessary documentation for local customs clearance.

Step 7: Choose Your Customs Clearance Solution

When it comes to managing customs clearance, businesses have several options to consider:

We have a blog post that provides a direct comparison between using a customs agent and using CustomsPro.

Why Choose CustomsPro?

This digital solution simplifies customs clearance for businesses, offering the same capabilities as a customs agent while providing additional benefits:

By leveraging CustomsPro, your business can simplify customs clearance, reduce administrative burden, and gain greater control over the process.


Mastering the customs clearance process is essential for successful trade. By understanding the importance of each customs clearance document and following the step-by-step guide, new starters can navigate customs procedures with confidence and ensure timely delivery of goods to customers. Remember to allow sufficient time for document preparation, submission, and clearance to avoid delays and setbacks in your operations.

For further assistance with customs clearance consult our team at ChannelPorts. We’re here to help you navigate the complexities of customs clearance.

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