Knowing how long the customs clearance process will take to import or ship your goods is challenging, given the wide variety of global and internal protocols and systems. However, there are some factors that you can – and should know in advance and some steps to take to speed up the process.
How long does it take to clear cargo at customs?
Customs clearance is complicated; however, you can assume that the process can start as soon as goods are still in transit and before they arrive at their destination.
Many countries offer advanced electronic online systems for transferring, filing, exchanging, processing customs information. Other online systems allow customers to submit relevant documents and pay duties online themselves – DIY. All these systems streamline the clearance process saving all parties time and money – authorities might release goods in just 24 hours.
If the authorities need more documents, have questions, or demand an inspection of your goods, delays can drag on for days or weeks, and all the while, you’re paying storage charges at the airport or port of arrival. To avoid this, the seller and buyer must cooperate in providing all documents required – and on time!
What impacts the timeline for this process?
Countries with the most efficient trading setups have certain features in common. As mentioned, traders can exchange information with control agencies and customs electronically. They also implement risk-based evaluations of goods to reduce physical inspections to just a minor percentage of shipments, thus cutting the time for customs clearance. Similarly, these countries have a tendency to trade within customs unions or participate in other methods of bilateral and multilateral trade agreements, significantly reducing the cost and time for complying with border regulations. So, another factor in customs clearance duration is the country of origin and export.
How long does it take to go through customs for specific goods?
If you’re venturing into the import/export business, be aware that certain goods will take longer to go through customs.
Several prohibited products are considered contraband and cannot be imported into the U.S. at all. While the obvious may come to mind, other items such as tainted food products can also be seized by the CBP and be followed by criminal or civil sanctions.
There is also a category of restricted merchandise that cannot be imported without a license or permit from an appropriate regulatory authority. These items include plant, dairy, and food products; tobacco and alcohol; animals, fish, or birds and related products; goods from embargoed countries; ammunition and firearms; cultural artifacts from specific countries; and copyrighted material. Prescription drugs are also restricted and dependent on approval by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
If you are exporting from the U.S., note that most countries have similar import regulations. Make sure you know the rules, whether importing or exporting to avoid inspection delays, having your goods seized, or even facing criminal charges. Some goods sold for export are subject to specific US CBP requirements, such as cars and items with potential military applications – including software and some electronics and must be cleared by the CBP before export. Moreover, if goods being exported are worth over $2,500, you must follow official export measures. Similarly, specific actions and documents (i.e., taking out a customs bond) are required for importing goods above $2500 and over $250 for Chinese manufactured goods.
What can an importer do to reduce the time?
Assuming that the import or export process starts while your goods are in transport is based on particular criteria. These criteria include having all the required paperwork in place, submitting it on time, researching the latest security developments and compliance rules, and knowing what products are subject to what laws. So, the importer or exporter has a big part in determining how long clearance will take.
You can avoid frustration and boost import speed and efficiency. Start by controlling your imports to the maximum by using eezimport’s platform and consider becoming a self-filer.