You’ve gone through the intensive process of setting up your import-export business, ironed out details of the supply chain, packaged up your products, and sent them on their way…and now your goods are stuck in US customs. What can you do?
First of all, you’re not alone. Lots of businesses have suffered the disappointment of finding out their packages are stuck at the border. Needless to say, this can have a huge impact on your reputation as a company, not to mention your bottom line.
Here are some common reasons your shipment might be stuck at the border and your best shot at remedying each situation:
1. Inaccurate Documentation
This is the most likely reason your shipment is stranded at the border. You might have incorrect, incomplete, or missing documentation. Customs officials tend to be strict when it comes to having all the paperwork in perfect order.
A typical issue with documentation occurs when the address on the forms does not match the customs database of importers. Make sure to dot all your I’s and cross your T’s before sending your shipment in order to avoid common mistakes.
The more information you include in your documentation, the better. If you realize you’ve made a mistake or forgotten a form, contact your carrier or broker to assist you with providing the correct paperwork. While it may be too late to get your shipment through customs, you should be able to have it returned to Canada so you can reship it.
If you’re looking for Canadian customs forms, check out this ultimate list.
2. HS Code Error
Customs ascertains which duties and taxes must be paid based on the HS Code your goods are declared under. HS Codes allow goods to be classified using a six-digit code system.
It may be that your carrier has neglected to provide the correct HS Code for your goods. In that case, your shipment will be held at customs until it’s resolved.
Contact your carrier to find out whether they’ve declared an HS Code if one is required. Utilize an HS Code classification tool to verify the suitable code for your shipment. You may be able to receive a lower duty rate if you have sufficient knowledge of the different commodity categories—or if you partner with someone at BorderBuddy who does.
For more information about HS Codes, go here.
3. Incoterms Issues
Here’s another spot where you might have unintentionally racked up some unpaid duties, taxes, and customs fees. If you haven’t appropriately specified the proper incoterms to your carrier, your shipment will likely get stuck at the border.
Depending on your carrier, you may not be able to easily resolve this issue. Consolidated carriers such as DHL, FedEx, and UPS might not be able or willing to advance the duty fees on your behalf.
You’ll probably need a customs clearance agent to help in this situation. Once you’ve discussed the options with your carrier, consider reaching out to a broker who can liaise the transaction.
Check out this Introduction to Incoterms for more details.
4. Random Inspection
It’s not unheard of for customs to do a random inspection of shipments. This can result in a delay if the customs official determines more information is required. If you don’t have the proper permits and authorizations in place, you’ll probably have trouble getting your shipment to clear customs.
Of course, there are certain products that you’re not allowed to ship at all. Click here for a list.
Ask your carrier about the specific information that’s been requested by the customs official. If you’re not able to provide the necessary information, you’ll need to work with your carrier or broker to get your goods sent back to Canada so you can start over.
5. Incorrect Declared Value
While this is a rather unlikely scenario, it’s still important to be mindful. Sometimes, customs finds that the value of the item in question is different from the value of similar items they’ve come across in the past.
In this situation, it all depends on whether the declared value of the shipment falls outside the customs-approved valuation range. If it does, the shipment will likely not be cleared.
If this happens, you’ll need to contact your carrier so they can help you amend the shipping paperwork to substitute a higher declared value. If it’s impossible to change the paperwork, you’ll probably need to work with your carrier or broker to have your shipment sent back to Canada.
If your merchandise has been seized by Canadian customs, read this.
6. Inexperienced Logistics Company
It goes without saying that experience is priceless when it comes to the customs clearance process. If you’ve chosen an inexperienced logistics provider, your shipment is likely to pay the price.
There are many ways an experienced company can assist you with your shipment, including awareness of all requirements, paperwork, cultural familiarity, and knowledge of PARS and other unique processes.
If you feel lost in a sea of unanswered questions and don’t have a clue how to get your stranded shipment through to the US or back to Canada, it’s time to give BorderBuddy a call. We have the tools your business needs to navigate the turbulence of the customs clearance process.