SAE Logistics - Customs Clearance Specialist
Customs Clearance

Guide to international goods clearance

Getting one of your freight shipments held up by customs can result in frustrating (and costly) delays, especially if the goods awaiting customs clearance are to be sold at retail. Not only that, but with the potential of some rather steep penalties for non-compliance, it’s crucial to follow correct customs procedure at all costs to ensure no additional costs or charges on your cargo.

Because customs clearance can be so complex, it’s important to have an experienced logistics company by your side. That’s why SAE Logistics is proud to provide a complete service and expert advice for all things customs clearance to our customers in an effort to make your company run better by getting shipments through customs smoothly.

It doesn’t matter if you’re moving a full container load or a partial one, if you’re using airfreight or sea freight, if you’re importing during the seasonal rush or consolidating a single shipment from multiple vendors: SAE Logistics knows how to get it done for you without the red flags.

There’s no reason for you know all the regulations letter and verse – let a logistics expert like SAE handle the heavy lifting for you. If you do want some top tips though – we’ve made it simple for you.

Custom’s clearance isn’t a case of one country fits all

Variations in regulations mean that importing and exporting can differ drastically from country to country. You need to ensure that you are fully aware of licensing, special provisions and restricted and prohibited goods in the country you are shipping to or from. Paperwork required can include transport documents, commercial invoices, pro-forma invoices, documentation of proof of origin, customs value declarations etc. Here is a useful link to what you need to know:


An Economic Operator Registration and Identification number (EORI) is a European Union registration and identification number for businesses which import or export goods to and from the EU. If the UK leaves the EU with no agreement in place, traders will need a UK EORI number to import or export from the UK to the EU in order to prevent customs delays and charges.

EORI numbers are given to importers and exporters by EU country authorities for free. In the future, to trade between the EU and UK, the shipper and receiver will each need to be registered for an EORI in their respective country. UK EORI numbers will not be recognised in the EU. EU EORI numbers will not be accepted in the UK.

It only takes 10 minutes to register here:

Commercial invoice

The Commercial invoice is the primary document used by foreign customs agencies. Every shipment will need a commercial invoice with information for customs authorities. This helps the authorities assess if the goods can move in or out of a country and what, if any, controls are needed. It also helps the authorities determine duties and taxes. It is vital to supply an invoice with the right information as it reduces the potential for delay.

Your Commercial invoice should include:

  • Export References (order or invoice number)
  • Exporter (Name, address, telephone, EORI or tax ID number)
  • Importer (if not final recipient – name address and phone number are required)
  • Item descriptions

Always remember that customs officials do not have in depth knowledge of your business or your industry terminology. Their role is clear. They have a set of criteria that your goods have to pass before they can be released and if they can’t identify what your items are, then unfortunately they’re not going anywhere. You will need to provide the following minimum information:

  • Full description of the contents
  • Commodity codes (or HS codes). This code allows Customs officials to identify exactly what your goods are and how much should be charged in terms of local duties and taxes. Here’s a useful link to find yours –
  • What it’s made from
  • Its use and function
  • How it’s packaged
  • Are there any electronics or batteries included (in particular lithium)?
  • Which country manufactured the goods. This is important as some countries have bans on goods entering the country that have come from countries they do not “recognise” or with whom they are in dispute. You will need to check with your supplier if this is the case.

Packing it right

Customs officials will look at the packaging and assess if it’s appropriate for the contents and the journey – if it is protected, well packaged and if it labelled adequately – hazardous materials, heat treated wood, fragile, perishable etc. This is where the expert packing service from SAE will ensure that items are not damaged in transit and arrive at their destination exactly as you intended – as well as exactly how customs like them.

Teamwork makes the dream work

Throughout all of this you need to have a logistics company that knows their stuff and can keep you in involved throughout the full journey of your shipment. If it should get caught in customs for any reason, you need to be sure that the team are able and competent enough to get you the answers that you need and to facilitate it through. Make sure that you are being supported by a logistics team who value your shipment as highly as you do.



How SAE can help

You will find us the idea choice for your logistics requirements, as our premises are just outside Rickmansworth in Hertfordshire, conveniently near the M25, M1, M40, M4 and Heathrow.

At our operating centre in Hertfordshire on the outskirts of West London, we provide storage facilities for all types of goods ranging from individual carton, multiple pallets, exhibition equipment and specialist services including medical devices. Our dedicated warehouse is fully protected by the latest in security measures to provide you with complete peace of mind that your goods are safe and secure.

T: 01895 825258

We provide a breadth of expertise to make it happen just the way you want it.

At SAE, we take our responsibilities very seriously. Being fully ISO 9001 and ISO 14001 accredited means that you will have absolute assurance in SAE’s ability to deliver high level services supported by a well-managed, audited structure. We recognise that our industry leaves a carbon footprint. As a result it is our objective to ensure that, where possible, our activities do not have an adverse effect on the environment.

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