Don’t Get Overwhelmed by International Shipping

take your business to the next level by expanding to a global customer base

  • Written by Meg Thunell
  • Published on April 30, 2021
  • Time to read 9 minutes

If you’re like most business owners, this photo of someone being literally boxed in by shipping containers probably feels familiar.

Ask yourself:

  • Am I ready to expand my business but overwhelmed by international shipping procedures?
  • Do I have to turn away customers because I don’t want to deal with international shipping rules and regulations?
  • Um…is the process of shipping goods internationally really that different?

If you nodded your head emphatically to any (or all) of these questions, we can help. 

EHub is an integrated platform that simplifies shipping by connecting your eCommerce systems. We have agreements with major carriers that allow us to get you more competitive rates without sacrificing customer service.

We’ve also perfected the art of international shipping. Let us teach you our ways.


What is international shipping, anyway?

Domestic shipping involves shipping goods or documents from and to locations within a single country’s borders.

By contrast, international shipping (also known as cross-border or global shipping) is precisely what it sounds like: importing and exporting goods across national borders by land, air, or sea. 

While the definition is simple, the application tends to trip people up. 

If you are ready to start shipping outside the United States, there are a few things you need to know right off the bat:

  1. International shipping will take longer and cost more. Don’t waste time fighting it. Embrace it and find the best solution for your company.
  2. Customs and duties, both in the originating country and the receiving country, are all forms of import/export taxes you can’t avoid.
  3. Because every country has unique import/export requirements, it’s easiest if you start shipping to a country that is part of a strong US trade agreement.  Mexico and Canada are the easiest since the US-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) simplified taxes and other requirements, but 20 other countries also have free trade agreements with the US.


Domestic vs. international shipping

As long as you aren’t shipping something liquid, fragile, perishable, or potentially hazardous, all you need to ship a package domestically is a shipping label.

International shipping is more complicated, with restrictions on the types of goods that can be shipped and more documentation requirements. 

Navigating all these regulatory requirements can be confusing and overwhelming, but if you’re ready to take your business to the next level by expanding to a global customer base, keep reading.


What qualifies as international shipping?

Shipping from the US to Canada is considered international shipping, even though they share a border because two sovereign nations are involved. On the other hand, if you want to send a package to Hawaii, 2,285 miles from the US mainland, you have multiple domestic shipping options.

But is shipping to Puerto Rico or Guam considered international shipping? They aren’t sovereign nations, but they aren’t states either. Do you need to fill out forms and pay duty taxes?

Here’s a basic rule of thumb:

Any one of the 50 US statesNope (all carriers)
Puerto Rico & US Virgin Islands(US territories in the Caribbean)USPS: Nope (no customs forms or duty tax)Fedex/UPS/DHL: Yep (regular customs forms)
American Samoa, Guam, Northern Mariana Islands (all other US territories)Yep (all carriers)
Every other countryYep (all carriers)

What can I ship internationally?

Requirements vary between shipping providers (between the USPS and FedEx, for example), but there are limits on what you can ship within the United States. Generally speaking, things like airbags, ammunition, explosives, gasoline, illicit drugs, and marijuana (including medical doses) cannot be shipped domestically.

In addition to the list of prohibited items, some products have restrictions on domestic shipping, including:

  • Aerosols
  • Paint
  • Perfumes
  • Lithium batteries
  • Firearms
  • Alcohol
  • Cigarettes and tobacco products
  • Perishables
  • Poisonous chemicals

All items prohibited and restricted for domestic shipping cannot be shipped internationally. Additionally, you can’t use priority mail express to send packages containing currency (coins, banknotes), securities of any kind that are payable to the bearer (like traveler’s checks), precious stones and metals, and other valuables to other countries. 

international shipping (also known as cross-border or global shipping) is precisely what it sounds like: importing and exporting goods across national borders by land, air, or sea

What documents do I need to ship outside the US?

Remember your pre-Covid trip to Cancún? Before you landed, the flight attendants had you fill out a tourist immigration form listing where you were coming from, what airline you flew in on, where you were staying, and when you’d be leaving. 

After landing, you likely gave this form to an immigration officer before going through customs, where you had to fill out another form “declaring” whether or not you were bringing restricted items and/or large amounts of cash into the country with you.

Most governments treat packages like tourists and require similar documents to accompany them across borders. The most common forms needed for international shipping are:

  • A commercial invoice that includes specific descriptions and quantities of products, price, and harmonized code of each item
  • A packing list, which should include the commercial invoice number, the types of packaging, the net and gross weights of each package, package dimensions, visible markings, and buyer/seller references

Depending on where and what you’re shipping, you may also need a/an:

  • Electronic export information (EEI) filings (used for most countries if shipment value exceeds $2500)
  • Certificate of origin explaining where the commodity originated
  • Export license (if you are shipping a restricted product)
  • Insurance certificate
  • Inspection certificate


International shipping with training wheels

EHub is basically international shipping with training wheels. We have carrier and cart integrations that can save you the time and stress of figuring out documentation and tax requirements while capitalizing on your expansion opportunities.

Shipping, savings, simple. Get in touch with us today to get started.

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