Shipping to the USA from Europe

The logistics world at the moment is a very dynamic place – from extra tariffs to new and pending trade deals it’s becoming increasingly difficult to stay up to date with the bureaucracy. With that in mind I have compiled a guide, as below, which should help if you do, or plan to, ship to the USA from Europe. With the correct preparation shipping to the USA can be very straightforward. I have added hyperlinks for all the required forms so, if you need one, you can click and download it instantly.

Commercial Invoice Requirements

To ship goods from Europe to the USA you will need to include a commercial shipping invoice. This should, at the very least, include:

  • A detailed description of the goods being shipped in basic terms e.g. ‘steel soft jaws for the lathe chuck tool’ – not just ‘tool parts’
  • If you are shipping documents you will need to describe the type of documents e.g. ‘Insurance documents’ – not just ‘paperwork’
  • Be sure you mention what the item is made of e.g. ‘steel soft jaws for the lathe chuck tool’
  • Include full details for both your company (consignor) and the receiving company (consignee) including tax / VAT numbers and contact details
  • Commodity Code (HS Code) per item
  • The value and currency used per item e.g. $ 400 USD
  • Quantities per item being sold
  • Country of Origin of each item
  • Reason for Shipping i.e. Commercial sale, Return, Sample etc..
  • Signature and date on each invoice.

Failure to include all these details on your invoice could lead to your shipment being delayed in USA customs.

Additional Specific Requirements

Some industries have additional specific requirements which, in addition to the commercial invoice, must be provided.

Electronics – Laptop Computers

Laptop computers retire FCC (Federal Communications Commission) data either via Form FCC 740 or added to the commercial invoice. The shipper also needs to state whether the laptop hard disc drive is internal or external.

Electronics – Integrated Circuits and Printed Circuit boards (IC and PCB)

If the shipment is over USD $800.00 a complete and detailed description must be included. For example ‘computer memory’ is not acceptable but ‘2GB SDRAM units’ would be. For printed circuit boards again ‘PCBs’ would not acceptable – you would need to state if they are populated (components fitted) or unpopulated. Also include details such as the board make-up i.e what are they made of and how many conducting layers they have.

Electronics – Electronic Items which emit any radio frequency

This includes items such as mobile phones, wifi modems, radio equipment and transmitters, televisions, CD/DVD/Blu ray media players, digital cameras or video cameras. All will require FCC data via Form FCC 740. Note some items may also require a radiation declaration (RadDec) such as CD/DVD/Blu ray media players, laser projectors, microwave ovens, x-ray machines. These will require Form RadDec FD2877 to be completed.

All Metals

Due to the additional tariffs on steel and aluminium imports you will need to specify exactly what the of metals are being shipped.


If the shipment is over USD $800.00 a complete detailed description is required including:

  • Bearing type i.e Roller, Ball, Housed or Plain
  • Bearing size

Personal Items or gifts

Used personal items require the statement ‘Personal Effects‘ to be on the invoice with a specific description of the goods being shipped. ‘Unaccompanied Articles’ Form CF3299 should be completed. This can include personal goods such as excess luggage and household goods.

Items for personal use (commercial sale for personal use of the importer) can be new or used (such as items bought via eBay) are duty free up to $800 USD

Gifts must have a complete description of the goods and the names of each recipient for each gift (if you are sending multiple gifts in one shipment). Duty free up to $100 USD per recipient.

Media – Videos / Movies / Films

If the shipment is over USD $2,500.00 you will need to complete, sign and include a Video/Film declaration form CF3291 or add the required information to your Commercial Invoice.

Vehicle Parts

You will need to include a completed Highway Safety Form (HS7) for most car parts such as (but not limited to):

  • Air bag or seat belt parts including child restraints
  • Car or Motorcycle Helmets
  • All glazing materials such as windscreens, windows, light glass, lamps.
  • Body parts such as bumpers and trim
  • Wheels & Tires
  • Brake parts including fluids
  • Lights including front, rear, side indicators/side repeaters and parts thereof
  • External Warning devices such as lights or warning triangles

Clothing – Including Footwear, Eyewear and Textiles

Footwear – If the shipment is over USD $800.00 you will be required to complete a Footwear Declaration (CF5523) form. You will need to specify the material content, footwear type (e.g. sports/running shoes), Gender and Style.

Clothing (New) – ensure accurate and detailed descriptions are included on the commercial invoice. As an example: ‘Clothing’ would not be acceptable but ‘Cotton t-shirts for boys aged 10-12’ would be.

Textiles – If the shipments over USD $800.00 you will be required to state the gender, fabric type, Knit type and manufacturers name and address or MID code. An MID code is a unique identifying reference number allocated to each manufacturer that imports goods into the United States. 

Eyewear – Spectacles or Sunglasses / Shades and Contact Lenses require a ‘Dropball’ Statement to be completed.

Failure to include any of these additional specific requirements could lead to your shipment being delayed in USA customs.

Please note this list is by no means exhaustive. If you have any questions or concerns over shipping to the USA always check with your shipping agent first – delays after shipping can work out costly!

An earlier version of this article was previously published in issue 17 of IoSCM Supply Chain Outlook Magazine.

Published by A Kennedy

An award winning, UK based, International Logistics Manager for a multinational tool company. Over 25 years experience in international logistics and supply chain management. Elected ‘Chartered Status’ by the CILT and ‘Expert Status’ by the IoSCM.

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