Exporting inventory to a US fulfillment center or Amazon FBA can be complicated. Being an international seller means dealing with US Customs which can be incredibly stressful and difficult to manage. You need to get everything right to make sure your shipment gets to the warehouse safely and efficiently. One mistake can cost you tens of thousands of dollars in inventory and delays in fulfilling orders for your customers.
Unfortunately, there is very little information out there to actually help international sellers when sending their inventory to a US 3PL or Amazon warehouse. We made this guide to walk you through the process so you can feel confident your goods will get where they need to go safely.
There are a few things you need to consider when planning the import and export of your inventory. You can certainly figure out yourself some of the requirements for yourself. However, we recommend hiring a logistics expert, like a customs broker or freight forwarder, to take care of the process for you. The process can take some time, and there is a lot of paperwork to fill out. They will be able to ensure your goods get to their destination quickly and securely without the hassle of doing things yourself. It is important to note that your fulfillment provider will not be able to act on your behalf for these services, so you should reach out to your logistics expert directly for assistance.
When you reach out to a customs broker or freight forwarder to help you move your inventory from one country to a fulfillment company in another country, you will need to make sure you have a few terms down.
Exporter of Record (EOR):
This is usually the shipper. The shipper can be you, or you may be able to work with your customs broker or freight forwarder to get them to act as the EOR.
Importer of Record (IOR):
The IOR is the party in charge of ensuring the successful importation of your inventory into the destination country. The IOR must file all the required legal documents and pay any import duties and taxes. Your third-party fulfillment provider will not be able to act as the IOR.
In the US you can arrange to be the foreign IOR for the entry of your goods. There are a few steps and documents you must fill out to make this happen, however you need a customs broker to do this.
Power of Attorney
Once you sign the Power of Attorney, the customs broker or freight forwarder is able to act on your behalf to make sure your inventory gets through customs safely.
Your fulfillment provider can be listed as the deliver-to party on your shipping documentation. Here are some examples of how this should appear on the shipping documentation:
OTW Shipping LLC
[Seller Legal Name] c/o OTW Shipping
9418 S Feulner Park Rd
West Jordan, UT 84081 USA
Again, your fulfillment center will not be the IOR. However, they can be listed as the ultimate consignee on your shipping documents. You must put “c/o“ (which means “in care of”) before the name of your fulfillment provider.
If you do list the 3PL warehouse as the ultimate consignee, you must arrange for your customs broker to contact your 3PL before you ship any inventory. The customs broker must obtain the company’s EIN or Tax ID # to clear customs.
Once your inventory is ready to ship form the manufacturer or distributor, the shipper fills out the commercial invoice. If there are any issues with the commercial invoice, your shipment can be delayed at customs. You should include the following information on the invoice:
The date of the invoice
The names and addresses of the buyer and seller (Your 3PL is neither the buyer nor the seller on the commercial invoice)
The name and address of the manufacturer or seller
The shipper's contact name, company name, address, and Tax ID #
The ship-to address. Here, enter “c/o" or "In care of," and then the name and address of the fulfillment center where you are shipping the product.
Importer of Record. This field must contain the shipper's name, if the same as the owner of the products. Do not leave this information blank; this will result in the shipment being refused and returned.
Description of the goods being invoiced. Include the following:
- Customs Harmonized Codes, if known
- Number of units
- Unit values
- Total value of each product. For samples or products with no commercial
value, you must state a nominal or fair-market value for customs purposes.
The type of currency of the transaction
The terms of the sale. Note that correct terms must be Delivered Duty Paid (DDP). The shipper should pay all applicable duty and taxes and be responsible for clearing customs before delivery to the fulfillment warehouse. You cannot import goods in the name of your 3PL partner, not can you add them as the declarant or importer of record.
Shipment tracking number
Name of the carrier transporting the goods
Freight payment terms
Reason for export
Shipping Best Practices
Your fulfillment provider (especially Amazon) will have requirements for receiving any inbound shipments. You should consult with them before shipping your product to make sure that you are sending the inventory correctly. Usually, palletized shipments are preferred.
For shipments that are loose cartons instead of pallets, it may be cheaper to use a carrier service. Depending on the country, you may have different carriers available. If you use a carrier service, you should make sure the carrier can clear your inventory to customs with the commercial invoice you provide. If they can’t then you should contact a customs broker.
There are countless resources to help you determine rates and simplify shipping. The following are some links that have been useful for some sellers. Use them to approximate shipping charges for your inventory!
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