Customs procedures for exporting to the EU

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Camilla Jacobsen
by Camilla Jacobsen 02/03/2021

If your business is based outside the European Union and you want to export goods to the EU, you need to know the customs procedures.

Customs procedures for exporting to the EU

Do you know the customs procedures, taxes, fees, duties and documents that are required when exporting goods to the EU? If not, read this guide and learn more.

The European Union is a market of 500 million consumers based on 28 countries, so it’s an attractive market for many businesses. But if you want to export goods to the EU, you need to be aware of the customs regulations.

While there is free trade between countries in the union, the conditions are different when exporting goods to the EU and this is where you need to pay special attention. However, getting acquainted with the various customs procedures and regulations can seem overwhelming, and that’s why we’ve put this guide together.

What do exporters need to know?

When it comes to customs procedures and trade issues, the countries within the EU operate as one single market. This means that there are some general procedures and requirements that apply to all the countries within the EU. This is what you need to know:


Before exporting goods into the EU market, you must ensure that your products meet the EU legal requirements, as well as requirements within the respective country. There are four types of legal requirements set for products marketed in Europe:

  • Product-specific legislation
  • Legislation restricting substances, chemicals and contaminants.
  • Legislation on CE-marking
  • Framework legislation

You can check the requirements for your product in the Trade Helpdesk database at

The European Free Trade Association

Norway, Switzerland, Iceland and Liechtenstein are four European countries which are not EU members. However, they take part in the European Free Trade Association (EFTA), which is an organisation set up for the promotion of free and economic integration between its member states within the EU.

The countries in EFTA are allowed to trade with the EU single market without or at reduced customs tariffs. If the country your business is based in has an existing trade agreement with the EU, that will be a great advantage for you.

Organise your logistics and customs procedures

In order to succeed in exporting to the EU, you must organise your logistics and customs procedures, including having the correct documentation. When exporting to the EU, you need the following documents for customs clearance:

  • Customs Import Declaration
  • Commercial invoice
  • Freight documents
  • Packing list

Customs Import Declaration

All goods imported into the EU must be declared to the customs authorities of the respective country using the Single Administrative Document (SAD).

The main information you must declare is:

  • Data on involved parties including importer, exporter, country of origin and country of export and destination
  • Customs-approved treatment
  • Identifying data of the goods (tariff code, weight, units), location and packaging
  • Commercial and financial information
  • List of documents associated with the SAD, such as import licences, document of origin, inspection certificates and so on
  • Declaration and method of payment of import taxes

Commercial invoice

A commercial invoice is always required for customs clearance. It is a legal document issued by the exporter to the importer, and it serves as a contract or proof of sale. Therefore, it is one of the most important customs documents.

The commercial invoice contains the basic information on the transaction, and the minimum information is details of the exporter and importer, date of issue, invoice number, description of the goods, unit or measure, quantity, unit value, total item value and total invoice value and currency of payment.

Freight documents

Depending on how your goods are transported, you need to fill in and present freight shipping documentation to the customs authorities in order for your goods to be cleared. For instance, an air waybill is required for all freight shipments, while a bill of lading is required only for sea freight shipments.

Packing list

A packing list is a commercial document that details information on your goods and packaging details of your shipment. It is required that all shipments be accompanied by a packing list for customs clearance. However, it is not a substitute for a commercial invoice.

Export your goods through Shipmondo

Filling out the many customs documents can be a time-consuming process. But with Shipmondo you can automate the completion of customs documents and thus save time. You can also fill out the information needed for your pro forma and commercial invoice electronically when booking the shipment.

Shipmondo is a complete freight solution that collects all your shipping agreements in one system. With a Shipmondo account, you can export goods with a broad range of carriers which include, among others, Bring, Geodis, FedEx and DHL.

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