Seven Tips to Shipping Internationally

Guy at a computer in a warehouse
Guy at a computer in a warehouse

As a small-business owner, you’ve probably become accustomed to wearing a lot of different hats. On any given day, you might be called upon to play the part of chief operating officer, director of customer service, and a marketing guru.

When the time comes for you to assume the role of president of global trade and international shipping, you can relax a little. FedEx® international shipping services make it easier to complete documents, navigate through customs, and export your products. A little preparation can make managing your international shipments almost as easy as managing your domestic ones. Just follow these 7 simple tips and instructions to help streamline the process:

Step 1: Check shipping restrictions to your destination country

The first step to shipping internationally is to make sure you can legally ship your commodity. Depending on where you want to ship to, there might be certain restrictions as to what kind of materials can be accepted and how your shipment needs to be prepared. For a list of individuals, companies, and entities that either require additional screening or may be prohibited from receiving U.S. exports, go to FedEx® Global Trade Manager and select the “Denied Party Screening” box.

Step 2: Prepare your customs documents

Accurate documentation is essential to international shipping and customs clearance. After all, delayed shipments tie up your inventory and create unwanted issues for your customers.

Save yourself valuable time by ensuring you have all the information you need on hand when you’re filling out customs documents. You’ll need to include your product’s Export Control Classification Number, Harmonized System Code, and the accurate description and value of your commodity. Additionally, for international safety reasons, some products that are considered dual-use, commercial products require that you have an Export License.

While you’re preparing your paperwork, it’s also a good idea to determine the following points of information and confirm them with your buyer: 

  • Your importer of record, since it might be a different party than your ultimate consignee.
  • Who will be paying for any duties and taxes that may be assessed.
  • Your estimated total landed costs, including duties and taxes. 

Once you’ve gathered your information, familiarize yourself with your resources. We’ve compiled our knowledge about international documentation into one place to make customs compliance easy. Finally, make sure you’re compliant with FedEx HeadStart, a free service to help businesses and individuals get the right documents they need to ship internationally.

Step 3: Determine your broker

For most international shipments, a customs broker is necessary. When you ship with FedEx International Ground® or FedEx Express, FedEx can provide a broker for you with the Broker-Inclusive option. However, if you prefer to use your own broker or you’re shipping with FedEx Freight, then Broker-Select is your best option. Learn more about your broker options to determine which makes the most sense for your business.

Step 4: Pick the best service for your needs

You can choose from a wide variety of international shipping services with FedEx — from time sensitive to budget friendly. If you are shipping package, freight, or both, FedEx offers solutions to fit your budget and distribution needs — making crossing borders easy, so you can focus on growing your business.

Simply go to our easy-to-use online tool and enter your info. You’ll be provided with all the choices that meet your needs, plus a rate quote and expected delivery times.   

Note: When choosing you shipping method, it’s important to remember that shipments weighing less than 150 lbs. are considered packages, while shipments weighing 150 lbs. or more are considered freight. Also, keep in mind that your service choice may affect which international documents you’ll need.

Step 5: Get started shipping

Save your business time and paperwork by taking advantage of free tools from FedEx to print shipping labels and prepare international documents.

If you’re shipping packages, select “create shipment” under the “shipping” tab on fedex.com. You’ll be directed to a login screen. After you are logged in, just follow the steps to create your shipping label and complete your shipment.*

Note: If you don’t already have a login, it’s simple to create one. Simply click on one of the three options available to new shippers and follow the steps to create an account.

If you are shipping freight, you will first need to select “generate bill of lading” under the “shipping” tab on fedex.com. You will also need to be logged in to complete this step, so if you do not have a log in, then create one first and enable LTL Freight. To complete your freight shipment, simply follow the steps to generate your shipment.

While you’re creating your label on fedex.com, you can see which shipping documents you will need to complete or upload — like the Commercial Invoice, Certificate of Origin, or Packing List. FedEx Global Trade Manager can help you find exactly what documents you’ll need and fill them out as efficiently as possible, saving you time now — and more importantly, later.

With international shipping, packing and preparing your shipments correctly is one of the most important steps you can take to protect your business from wasted costs, missed deadlines and customer complaints. To help you learn how, we offer these complimentary guides: 

When you’re ready to send your shipment off, simply drop it off at any nearby FedEx location, or schedule a pickup.

Step 6: Track your shipment online, anytime

Now that your shipment is on its way, tracking its status is easy. You’ll have the advantage of a variety of FedEx tools that can help you easily track and monitor your international shipments. In addition to tracking the status of your shipments, you have the option to nickname your packages for quick reference, create a personal watch list, and filter your shipments to see the details you want.

Go to our tracking page to learn more about all of your options, including tracking by reference number, obtaining proof of delivery and more.

Step 7Find more information on going global

Think international shipping could be the next big step in growing your business? Make sure you’re properly prepared to go global, by taking advantage of the in-depth information, instructions, and checklists available on the FedEx® Small Business Center or the FedEx International Shipping Resource Center.

* You also can create your label and complete documents by hand if you choose not to use fedex.com.

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