International Parcel Delivery – Know the Law

November 2018

International parcel delivery can be tricky to navigate, with almost every individual country having its own importing laws and regulations. The majority follow similar guidelines and, while the UK remains part of the EU, at least the same rules and regulations are applied when sending parcels cross-border with other EU countries. 

There are many ways to send parcels internationally and expand your business overseas but it’s important that everything is done within the law. Here we detail the legalities around customs and taxes, along with the most commonly restricted and prohibited items for sending internationally.

Customs Clearance

Firstly, check the customs requirements of the country where you want to send goods. This can highlight any legal obligations as well as preferential arrangements where you can benefit from reduced or nil rates of duty. With many of these, you may have to prove the origin of the goods, with the correct paperwork that legally shows customs authorities in the destination country that goods can be imported there under preference.

Whenever a UK company is exporting goods to a country outside of the EU, it needs an Economic Operator Registration and Identification (EORI) number. This was introduced to improve the speed and security of customs clearance for both importing from and exporting to non-EU countries. This is usually GB followed by your nine-digit VAT number and 000. Or you can apply for an EORI number online.

Commodity codes are also a requirement for commercial shipments to and from countries outside of the EU. These inform customs authorities of the exact contents of any shipment, so they can check for any restricted or prohibited items.

International Restrictions

The countries that are under sanctions, embargoes and restrictions for exports changes all the time. The same is true for individuals and organisations, so it’s always best to check first with the receiving party or country whether any are currently in place. Often a licence is required to legally go ahead with any such exports.

While not banned completely, there are restrictions on the international parcel delivery of a range of goods:

  • Aerosols: Everything from spray paints to deodorants and oven cleaner can be subject to restrictions in some cases.
  • Alcohol: Legal limitations vary between countries. Within the EU these include a maximum of 10 litres for spirits, 90 litres for wine and 110 litres for beer. To send larger amounts you will need a special licence.
  • Batteries: Those classed as dangerous goods, such as lithium ion, lead acid car batteries and more. This includes electronic devices that include lithium ion, polymer, metal or alloy batteries.
  • Flammable liquids: Lighter fuel, paint thinners and even nail varnish may be restricted or even prohibited.
  • Obscene materials: Indecent images and obscene publications.
  • Pesticides: Such as weed killer and fly sprays.

There are many more restrictions but usually, it will depend on the destination country and international parcel delivery service being used.

Prohibited Items

The majority of items that are banned from being sent internationally are dangerous and illegal goods, such as firearms, narcotics, medical waste and more. Yet certain countries do have bans on the import of some more common items you may think are safe to send.

To understand more about prohibited items for export to specific countries, an extensive A to Z list can be seen here. This includes everything from the prohibition on exporting maize (corn) to Argentina, to all live animals except bees, leeches and silkworms into Sweden. This gives a good idea of how complex international import and export laws can get from country to country.

Start Sending Parcels Internationally with Whistl

One of the easiest ways to send parcels internationally in a legal manner is to get started with Whistl. We provide efficient and safe international parcel delivery management solutions that can meet your individual needs for shipping overseas. From collecting your parcels to transporting, sorting, handing over to our international delivery partner, customs clearance and the final delivery to your customer, we take care of everything.

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