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A Guide on Shipping to The United States

Shipping to America is a really easy, hassle free process when the right preparation has been completed. In this guide you will learn what is necessary to get your parcel over the Atlantic and into the United States, regardless if you are a first-time shipper or business regular.

What's on this page?

USA Customs Clearance, Duties and Paperwork

When shipping to the US all goods must go through Customs to be cleared. This therefore means that you will need a Customs Invoice for your shipment. This document will determine how much tax and duties you will need to pay – so ensure it is completed properly and clearly.

For example, when completing the form, make sure to accurately describe each item included in the package. Instead of saying that your package contains ‘clothes’, write ‘t-shirts for boys aged 10-12’. The better the accuracy, the speedier the process – US Customs is notorious for its due-diligence.

No duties or taxes will be applied if the total parcel value is below certain thresholds. For example, the Gift value threshold is $200. If you are sending a gift to the US then declare the item as an unsolicited gift on the invoice, its complete description and value. Make sure to send your gift to a residential address and not a US business address, otherwise you will have to pay duties and tax. The Formal Clearance threshold is $2,500. This means that if your shipment is worth over $2,500, it will be subject to delays as it goes through formal clearance.

If your package has duties or taxes applied, the receiver will be contacted by customs to confirm their Tax ID. They will then need to pay the additional costs applied to your parcel. You can pay for the costs yourself by contacting customer support prior to booking and arranging for the charges to be sent to you, instead. Some items require an import license for them to enter the United States legally. If you are unsure if you need one or not, then please view the official US Customs import licenses page for more details.


Additional Reading:

  • When sending personal effects, you need to complete an ‘Unaccompanied Articles’ customs form (form 3299). This includes personal goods, excess luggage and household goods. Customs have a guide to completing the form here.
  • A guide to gift tax in the United States

Restricted and Prohibited Items in the United States

The US operates a list of prohibitions and restrictions on what can be imported. To view them, please visit the official US Customs page for restricted and prohibited items. We highly recommend customers view these items before booking a delivery, to avoid any additional fees or delays to the parcel.

Other items are specifically restricted from entry in the US by Customs. Some of these include ink and other poisonous materials. If you would like to import goods like this, you will need a TSCA (Toxic Substance Control Act) form/declaration, with a breakdown of the ink composition. We also advise customers who are importing photographic film that you will be charged duty on it, if it was purchased in a different country. If it was purchased in the US, and you are returning to the US, then you will not be charged.

Electronics in the US

The import of electronics is governed by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). When sending electronics to America, the FCC requires an additional form for customs clearance. This must be completed by the sender and confirms that the electronics being sent abide by the FCC standards of import. The form should be completed and attached with the customs invoice for the parcel.

Sending food to the USA from the UK

Food is a wonderful gift for anyone missing home and shipping food to the USA is not complicated, but there are a few things you need to be aware of. You can send food gifts to the US; however whenever sending food abroad, you do need to check out what you can and cannot send.

Importing food products into the United States is governed by the FDA (US Food and Drug Administration) and there are some food products which are not allowed to be shipped. However you can send chocolates to the USA as well as other popular types of food gifts to America.

What you can send: Non-perishable foods

  • Store bought foods with a best before date over 6 months away.
  • Items must be in the original manufacturers packaging and unopened.
  • The food label needs to list all the ingredients.
  • The best before date must be displayed on the packaging.

What you cannot send: Perishable foods

  • Foods with a shelf life of less than 6 months.
  • Homemade foods or any foods not in the original manufacturers packaging.
  • Foods that can spoil during transit.
  • Food in packaging that have been opened.
  • Food that does not contain a food label listing the ingredients.

At a Glance: Shipping Food

  • In the description write: "Unsolicited gift."
  • In the customs declaration write: "Non-perishable food for personal consumption, not for resale"

Useful links

Learn more about sending food abroad

US Embassy guidelines on sending food to the US

FedEx guidelines on sending food and gifts

FDA guidelines on sending food to the United States

How to Package Your Goods to Arrive in the US

When sending goods to the USA, your packages will be handled many times when they are loaded and off-loaded from vehicles and aircraft. They may have boxes placed on top of them and experience vibrations during transportation. When sending a parcel to America, it's really important that you ensure your items are packaged safely.

  • Use a strong rigid box with no creases.
  • Use a double lined box if the package exceeds 10 kg and a triple lined box if it exceeds 30 kg.
  • Wrap each item separately
  • Fill each box fill of internal cushioning such as polystyrene packing chips and ensure the items cannot move around inside the box.

Need more information? Click here for our packaging and labeling guidelines.

Our Top Packaging tips:

  1. Whenever you send a parcel, especially one containing fragile items, it is best to invest in a new double-corrugated cardboard box for the outer packaging.
  2. For added protection, you can even purchase a triple-corrugated box for those really special items.
  3. For internal packaging, use bubble-wrap and wrap your items individually. Remember to fill any remaining space left in the box with any left-over bubble wrap, newspaper or foam.

Learn more about packaging your parcel

Shipping Personal Effects to the US

While personal effects and gifts are generally exempt from customs duties, they have to meet certain criteria.

  • Foods must be in the original manufacturer’s packaging.
  • Food packaging must be sealed and not tampered with in any way.
  • Food label must list all ingredients.
  • Foods must have a shelf life of longer than six months from the date of shipping.
  • All foods that have a shelf life of less than six months will be classed as perishables, and cannot be sent via courier, even if store bought.

Clothing must be owned and personally worn by the sender for at least six months. For the USA, there are no value exemptions but, generally speaking, items valued below $200 USD should be exempt as long as they are declared as personal effects. The receiver will need to complete this form.

Important points to note:

  • The definition of personal effects are products that are used by one person, such as jewellery or clothing.
  • Products that are used by a household are considered as 'household effects' and have different duty exemption thresholds.
  • When sending personal effects to the US, you will need to complete a personal effects form.