Customs clearance for exporting goods: what you need to know

Whether you are exporting goods abroad to develop your professional activity or shipping a package to a loved one, it is important to provide all the required information to facilitate customs clearance, to avoid any holds on packages and to have your shipment run smoothly. sendcolis explains everything you need to know.

Homme qui justifie de son identité auprès d’agents des douanes

Understand the custom regulations


  All goods exported from France are subject to custom formalities which depend on the import legislation of the countries of destination.

  All goods imported into French territories must be declared to the French customs if they come from a country outside the European Union.

These import and/or export declarations are subject to customs procedures which determine the real economic value of a good because it is taxable and therefore subject to duties. To achieve this, the customs code has established customs regimes. This is a legal status attributed to what is called customs-cleared goods and concerns both exports and imports. Each regime characterizes the duties and taxes that will be paid or not and decides whether regulations will be carried out or not.

Which countries are affected by customs clearance?


For package exports, envelopes, or pallets sent abroad from mainland France, customs formalities are compulsory procedures which concern all destinations, with the exception of the European Union, including the departments and regions of Overseas Territories and Communities. Indeed, all the EU Member States (1). benefit from the Customs Union, which allow goods to circulate freely within their borders.

(1) the 28 EU member states: Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Romania, Czech Republic, Denmark, Germany, Estonia, Greece, Spain, France, Ireland, Italy, Cyprus, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Hungary, Malta, Netherlands, Austria, Poland, Portugal, Slovenia, Slovakia, Finland, Sweden.

Customs documents


When going through customs, the customs authorities check that the declarations made by the sender comply with the contents of the shipment. All information relating to the goods shipped is entered in customs documents: shipper, recipient, origin, nature, quantity, value of the goods shipped, etc.

Homme qui remplit une déclaration en douane

Please note: depending on the country of destination, specific restrictions or regulations may apply to certain goods. Be sure to check the rules to know and respect the local specificities.

Customs documents must be securely attached to the outside of your package (preferably, in a transparent adhesive envelope). There are several and will correlate to your shipment depending on your situation.

Examples :

Pro forma invoice for professionals who ship goods not intended to sale or for individuals.

Commercial invoice for professionals who ship goods for sale.

Single Administrative Document (SAD) for all the import and export operations between the EU and a third country.

Declaration of Origin on Invoice (DOF) which certifies the preferential origin of goods and allows benefits from reduction or exemption from customs duties under the preferential regime of the EU.

After the checks are complete, you may have to pay customs duties and taxes that will be paid by the recipient upon receipt of the package. Any false declaration involving the payment of duties and taxes may be accompanied by customs penalties.

Shipment destination

Document without value

Merchandise (object or good) intended for sale

Merchandise not for intended for sale (professionals and individuals)

Member Countries of the European Union

No customs formalities

No customs formalities

No customs formalities

Countries outside of the European Union

No customs formalities

You must attach 3 copies of a commercial invoice

You must attach :
three copies of a Pro-forma invoice,
the copy of “Declaration of entry free of unaccompanied items” if the value of the shipment exceeds $150.

Classification of Shipments


International shipments are classified into two categories: document or commodity. To know which customs documents to attach to your shipment, you need to know how the destination country views your shipment because export customs clearance always considers the destination of the postal package. Something that is considered to you, a document, can be considered a commodity in some countries and have commercial value.

If you have questions concerning the movement restrictions or bans for certain goods for import or export, see the Prohibited Goods section.