Shipping & Customs From China to Amazon EU Warehouse – The Ultimate Import Guide

In this guide we’ll cover everything you need to know when importing your Amazon products to the EU – especially the Amazon FBA warehouse.

Making sure you are well prepared to import your products to the EU is crucial!

If that’t not the case, you are at risk of having to pay extra fees, or in the worst case, the EU customs will force you to ship the entire shipment back to where it came from! So read this guide carefully and follow the steps.

Let’s get started:

Customs Clearance & Parties Involved

Authorities in the destination country require import customs clearance for all cargo moving into the country. The import customs clearance is the process of preparing and submitting the declaration and the required documentation to customs authorities.

The import customs clearance process can usually start before the cargo arrives at the destination, and needs to be completed before the cargo enters the country.Cargo is considered as entering the country when it crosses the border and leaves a customs bonded area.

Besides customs authorities, customs clearance procedure assumes an existence of a freight forwarder, his agent or a nominated customs house broker, which are able to perform the import customs clearance, as long as they hold a valid license.

The party performing the import customs clearance would need to receive all the required documents to initiate the process. EU customs code is the set of rules covering customs matters in trade with non-EU countries. These rules ensure that customs practices in all EU countries are uniform and transparent.

First step is registering as an economic operator (EORI number).

The Economic Operator Registration and Identification (EORI) number is a unique identifier, assigned by a customs authority in an EU country to all economic operators (both companies and individuals) persons engaging in activities covered by EU customs legislation.

Importers established outside the EU will be assigned an EORI the first time they lodge:

  • a customs declaration
  • an entry summary declaration (ENS)
  • an exit summary declaration (EXS)

Operators use this number in all communications with any EU customs authorities where an EU-based identifier is required, for example in customs declarations.

Next, there is a question of entry summary declaration.

The entry summary declaration (ENS) contains advance cargo information about consignments entering the EU.

It must be lodged at the first customs office of entry to the EU by the carrier of the goods (by the carrier of the goods, although in some cases it can be done by the importer-consignee, or a representative of the carrier or importer) – even if the goods are not going to be imported in the EU. Examples of the deadlines for lodging the ENS (depending on the mode of transport):

  • Container maritime cargo: at least 24 hours before loading commences in the foreign port
  • Bulk maritime cargo: at least 4 hours before arrival
  • Long haul flights (4 hours or more): at least 4 hours before arrival at the first airport in the customs territory of the EU
  • Road traffic: at least 1 hour before arrival.

Note: The Entry Summary Declaration requires information included in documents originating with the exporter (bill of lading, commercial invoices, etc).

When goods arrive at the customs office of entry to the EU, they are placed into temporary storage under customs supervision (no longer than 90 days) until they are assigned one of the following customs approved treatments (or re-exported):

1. Release for free circulation

Goods are released for consumption once all the import requirements have been met:

  • all applicable tariff duties, VAT and excise duties have been paid
  • all applicable authorizations and certificates (e.g. health requirements) have been presented

2. Special procedures

Goods may be placed under any of the following treatments. Transit, which comprises external and internal transit:

  • External transit – non-Union goods may be moved from one point to another within the customs territory of the EU without being subject to import duties, other charges related to the import of the goods (i.e. internal taxes) and commercial policy measures. Moving goods to another EU Member State means the customs clearance procedures are transferred to the customs office of destination.
  • Internal transit – Union goods may be moved from one point to another within the customs territory of the EU without any change to their customs status. This includes transporting goods through another territory that is outside the EU customs territory.
    Storage, which comprises customs warehousing and free zones:
  • Customs warehousing – non-Union goods may be stored in premises or any other location authorized by the customs authorities and under customs supervision (‘customs warehouses’) without being subject to import duties, other charges related to the import of the goods and commercial policy measures.
  • Free zones – Member States may designate parts of the customs territory of the Union as free zones. They are special areas within the customs territory of the Union where goods can be introduced free of import duties, other charges (i.e. internal taxes) and commercial policy measures, until they are either assigned another approved customs procedure or re-exported. Goods may also undergo simple operations such as processing and re-packing.

For more information on other forms of special procedures, please visit the official EU source for import procedures 

Documents for Customs Clearance

Commercial Invoice

The commercial invoice is a record or evidence of the transaction between the exporter and the importer. Once the goods are available, the exporter issues a commercial invoice to the importer in order to charge him for the goods.

The commercial invoice contains the basic information on the transaction and it is always required for customs clearance. Although some entries specific to the export-import trade are added, it is similar to an ordinary sales invoice.

The minimum data generally included are the following:

  • Information on the exporter and the importer (name and address)
  • Date of issue
  • Invoice number
  • Description of the goods (name, quality, etc.)
  • Unit of measure
  • Quantity of goods
  • Unit value
  • Total item value
  • Total invoice value and currency of payment. The equivalent amount must be indicated in a currency freely convertible to Euro or other legal tender in the importing Member State
  • The terms of payment (method and date of payment, discounts, etc.)
  • The terms of delivery according to the appropriate Incoterm
  • Means of transport

Customs Value Declaration

The Customs Value Declaration is a document, which must be presented to the customs authorities.

The main purpose of this requirement is to assess the value of the transaction in order to fix the customs value (taxable value) to apply the tariff duties. The customs value corresponds to the value of the goods including all the costs incurred (e.g.: commercial price, transport, insurance) until the first point of entry in the European Union. The usual method to establish the Customs value is using the transaction value (the price paid or payable for the imported goods).

In certain cases the transaction value of the imported goods may be subject to an adjustment, which involves additions or deductions.

Freight Documents (Transport Documentation)

Depending on the means of transport used, the following documents are to be filled in and presented to the customs authorities of the importing European Union (EU) Member State (MS) upon importation in order for the goods to be cleared:

  • Bill of Lading
  • Road Waybill (CMR)
  • Air Waybill (AWB)
  • Rail Waybill (CIM)

Bill of Lading

The Bill of Lading (B/L) is a document issued by the shipping company to the operating shipper, which acknowledges that the goods have been received on board. In this way the Bill of Lading serves as proof of receipt of the goods by the carrier obliging him to deliver the goods to the consignee.

It contains the details of the goods, the vessel and the port of destination. It also evidences the contract of carriage and conveys title to the goods, meaning that the bearer of the Bill of Lading is the owner of the goods.

A number of different types of bills of lading can be used. “Clean Bills of Lading” state that the goods have been received in an apparent good order and condition. “Unclean or Dirty Bills of Lading” indicate that the goods are damaged or in bad order, in this case, the financing bank may refuse to accept the consignor’s documents.

Road Waybill (CMR)

The road waybill is a document containing the details of the international transportation of goods by road, set out by the Convention for the Contract of the International Carriage of Goods by Road 1956 (the CMR Convention).

It enables the consignor to have the goods at his disposal during transportation.

Air Waybill (AWB)

The air waybill is a document, which serves as a proof of the transport contract between the consignor and the carrier’s company.

It is issued by the carrier’s agent and falls under the provisions of the Warsaw Convention (Convention for the Unification of Certain Rules relating to International Carriage by Air, 12 October 1929). A single air waybill may be used for multiple shipments of goods; it contains three originals and several extra copies.

One original is kept by each of the parties involved in the transport (the consignor, the consignee and the carrier).

The copies may be required at the airport of departure/destination, for the delivery and in some cases, for further freight carriers. The air waybill is a freight bill, which evidences a contract of carriage and proves receipt of goods.

Rail Waybill (CIM)

The rail waybill (CIM) is a document required for the transportation of goods by rail.

It is regulated by the Convention concerning International Carriage by Rail 1980 (COTIF-CIM). The CIM is issued by the carrier in five copies, the original accompanies the goods, the duplicate of the original is kept by the consignor and the three remaining copies by the carrier for internal purposes.

Tariff Codes, Import Duties & VAT

Tariff Codes

All products are classified under a tariff code that carries information on:

  • duty rates and other levies on imports and exports
  • any applicable protective measures (e.g. anti-dumping)
  • external trade statistics
  • import and export formalities and other non-tariff requirements

The EU classification system consists of three integrated components:

The Harmonized System (HS) is a nomenclature developed by the World Customs Organization (WCO) comprising about 5,000 commodity groups, organized in a hierarchical structure by

  • sections
  • chapters (2 digits)
  • headings (4 digits)
  • sub-headings (6 digits)

and supported by implementation rules and explanatory notes

The Combined Nomenclature (CN) is the EU’s eight-digit coding system, comprising the HS codes with further EU subdivisions. It both serves the EU’s common customs tariff and provides statistics for trade inside the EU and between the EU and the rest of the world.

The Integrated Tariff (TARIC) provides information on all trade policy and tariff measures applicable to specific goods in the EU (e.g. temporary suspension of duties, antidumping duties, etc).

It comprises the eight-digit code of the combined nomenclature plus two additional digits (TARIC subheadings).

Example of the EU classification system

64 = Footwear, gaiters and the like; parts of such articles

(HS Chapter)

6406 = Parts of footwear (including uppers whether or not attached to soles other than outer soles); removable insoles, heel cushions and similar articles; gaiters, leggings and similar articles, and parts thereof

(HS Heading)

6406 10 = Uppers and parts thereof, other than stiffeners

(HS Subheading)

6406 10 10 = Of leather

(CN Code)

6406 10 10 10 = Hand-made

(Taric code)

6406 10 10 90 = Other

(Taric code)

Classification can be determined by a number of factors, including composition, form, and use.

Let’s take potatoes as an example.

Frozen potatoes get the HS code of 0710.10 under the header, “Vegetables (uncooked or cooked by steaming or boiling in water) frozen” and then under the sub-header of, “Potatoes.”

On the other hand dried, cut potatoes get the HS code of 0712.90 under the header “Dried vegetables, whole, cut, sliced, broken or in powder, but not further prepared”

The correct classification of the goods is the responsibility of the trader. Failure to classify correctly can lead to:

  • Non-compliance penalties
  • Border delays
  • Seizure of goods
  • Denial of import privileges

Unless you want to have your goods seized, lose your import privileges, or have things held up at the border, do the research to find the proper HS code.

Import VAT

When goods are imported into a country with a VAT regime, import VAT is charged as a percentage of the value of the imported goods. In addition to the VAT, customs duties will also be payable, depending on the type of goods. The European Union has a special definition of imports when it comes to VAT: a transaction is only defined as an import if the goods originate outside the EU.

Once the goods have been imported into the EU they are considered in “free circulation” and simplification measures apply for movements of goods between EU member states. The value of imported goods for the purpose of VAT is their value for customs purposes increased by:

  • the amount of any Customs Duty, Anti-dumping Duty, Excise Duty (excluding VAT) payable in relation to their importation
  • any transport, handling and insurance costs between the place of introduction into the European Union (EU) and the origin country
  • onward transportation costs to the place of final destination, if known, at the time of importation.


The customs warehousing procedure allows traders to store non-European Union (EU) goods without payment of customs charges or Valued-Added Tax (VAT). Normal rules regarding import or export prohibitions or restrictions continue to apply to goods in a warehouse.

Digital Freight Forwarding Platforms

This Information was provided by Shypple – the digital Freight Forwarding Platform:

As a digital forwarder, Shypple offers customs brokerage and freight forwarding services. they offer importing and exporting enterprises a central and digital web-app that acts as a supply chain dashboard for all in transit, planned and delivered shipments.

The web-app helps importers and exporters as it foresees in a variety of booking, planning, delivery and communication possibilities. Multiple users from company can access this tool and are in direct contact with our operations coordinators.

When a shipment is booked within our web-app, users within the company are automatically updated via a milestone overview that sends automated updates with regards to ETA adjustments and milestone achievements (for instance: booking confirmed, shipment departed, customs clearance completed, delivery date can be planned).

Shippers can easily select the services they need, add weights and dimensions and request (when door to door / ExWorks) or book a shipment (when port to door / FOB) directly from the easy to use web-app. Several shipping possibilities will be shown for sea freight, whereas airfreight can be easily requested via this search tool. By offering direct insight in shipping tariffs and sailing schedules from and to Rotterdam and Antwerp (Hamburg also possible as request) they can offer cheaper rates and the possibility to directly arrange a shipment via our web-app, instead of hassling over phone and email!

After a shipment is booked, a central overview is created, with several tabs that offer all the required information. Both our shippers and our operations managers can up- and download information, documentation and add comments. Whenever you or your colleagues add information, documentation or comments we will receive notifications and vice versa when we do so.

This foresees in very fast communication, limits errors and offers more insight and control in / over shipments. Another great tool for shippers is our integrated track & trace plugin, which foresees in live insight of the current location of your shipment (for both sea and airfreight shipments).

Is your shipments’ estimated time of arrival delayed? You will be notified within 15 minutes. This helps you to better inform clients in time and enables us to work towards possible solutions faster.

Sending Goods to Amazon FBA Warehouse

In the last year, we have experienced an ever-increasing demand from European based Amazon buyers and sellers to have more visibility, insights and control over their shipments and have helped out a wide variety of businesses from purchase, collection and labeling of goods up to warehousing or delivery.

Are you looking for new ways of organizing your freight shipments from or to Europe or are you planning to start buying or selling goods via Amazon in Europe?

We are in position to offer freight forwarding & customs brokerage service via major European seaports such as Hamburg, Bremen, Rotterdam and Antwerp.

When it comes to sending goods to Amazon warehouses, most important requirements are those related to labeling and shipping & routing.

We bring you an insight into all of these tiny details important for flawless process.


FBA uses barcodes to identify and track inventory throughout the fulfillment process.

Each product sent to an Amazon fulfillment centre requires a barcode.

There are two kinds of barcodes that are used to identify products:

  • Manufacturer barcodes(eligible barcodes include GCID, UPC, EAN, JAN, or ISBN)
  • Amazon barcodes(ASIN, FNSKU, or MSKU)
    Products that do not use the manufacturer barcode for tracking, require an Amazon barcode. A seller can print Amazon barcodes from within the seller account and apply the barcodes. If a seller does not want to apply the barcodes, they can sign up for the FBA Label Service and have Amazon apply the labels for a per-item fee ($0.2).

Each box or pallet shipped to an Amazon fulfillment center must be properly identified with a shipping label. Guidelines for labeling boxes:

  • Labels supported measure 3-1/3″ x 4″.
  • Don’t place labels on a seam on the box where they will get cut by a box cutter.
  • The FBA shipment label should be placed next to the carrier (UPS, Fed Ex or other) label.
  • Both the FBA shipment label and the carrier label (UPS, Fed Ex, or other) must remain uncovered so they are scannable and readable.
  • Each box you include in the shipment must have its own label. Each pallet needs four labels, one in the top centre of each side.

Besides product barcode and shipping label, there is a question of a shipping mark.

A shipping mark is simply a mark on the outside of the exterior shipping carton of an item being exported.

At the minimum, shipping mark should include weight and dimension of a single carton, the number of the carton and total number of cartons (such as 1/50, 2/50, 3/50), the number of units in carton and information on actual product (content), country of origin (“Made in China”), manufacturer’s information.

Shipping & Routing

There are standard requirements that apply to all boxes shipped to Amazon fulfillment centers whether by small parcel delivery, less than truckload (LTL), or full truckload (FTL).

These requirements are related to box content information, box dimension (“Boxes containing multiple standard-size items must not exceed 25″ on any side), box weight (“Boxes must not exceed the standard weight limit of 50 lb, unless they contain one single oversized item that exceeds 50 lb), approved containers and even approved dunnage!

Based on the shipping method used, there are additional requirements:

  • Small Parcel Delivery Requirements: Shipping Requirements by Amazon (Small Parcel)
  • Arranging for Less than Truckload (LTL) or Full Truckload Deliveries to Amazon Shipping Requirements by Amazon (LTL & FTL)

We’ve already discussed briefly and shared valuable guidelines for small parcel delivery requirements.

As for LTL or Full Truckload shipments, including wrapped pallets, these require additional preparations.

Seller and chosen carrier are responsible for meeting these when sending large-volume shipments to Amazon.

Some of these requirements are related to:

  • Using acceptable pallets
  • Building pallet shipments
  • Adhering to pallet label requirements
  • Providing the bill of lading (BOL)
  • Scheduling a delivery
  • Providing your carrier with Amazon reference IDs, shipment IDs, and tracking (PRO) numbers

There are even carrier related requirements.

So, what carrier needs to do?

  • Has Amazon Reference IDs, Shipment IDs, and tracking (PRO) numbers
  • Schedules advanced delivery appointments
  • Adheres to the vehicle condition requirements

Are you looking for new ways of organizing your freight shipments from or to Europe or are you planning to start buying or selling goods via Amazon in Europe?

This post was provided by Shypple, learn more about them here: Digital Freight Forwarding for Amazon FBA Import by Shypple.

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