What is Customs Clearance?

Part of the Freight Term Glossary


All goods shipped internationally must pass through customs before they are allowed to enter or exit a country. This includes anything sent by sea, air, or land.

Once cleared, the shipper is provided with a document that confirms that all customs duties have been paid and that the shipment of goods may proceed.

A freight forwarder will usually handle the customs clearance process, but you may also choose to hire a customs broker.

what is customs clearance

How can I ensure a smooth process?

If you don’t prepare your shipment correctly, customs can hold or even confiscate your goods. There are, however, steps you can take to ensure a smooth process:

Proper Loading of Your Shipping Container

One of the biggest red flags for a customs agent is an improperly loaded shipping container. Some factors to consider when loading a container include proper stowage and space utilization.

Complete and Accurate Paperwork

Customs agents are a skeptical bunch and often err on the side of caution. It is therefore important that you do, too. Your paperwork should be as accurate as possible, with everything from your business details to the contents of your shipment described precisely.

What paperwork will I need?

Our list of key freight documents should provide you with everything you need to keep your shipment moving. If you are sending goods that require special inspection (ie, FDA-regulated products), additional documents may be required.

You can calculate container, box, or pallet freight shipping costs with our freight rate calculator. Simply enter your dimensions and weight to get an instant estimate.