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Freight from the USA

Valued packing list and commercial invoice in international cargo transportation from the USA

In shipping goods from the USA overseas, a valued packing list (VPL) is a substitution for commercial invoices (CI) if accepted.

Commercial invoice

A commercial invoice is the essential shipping document in international cargo transportation. It must be submitted to any international shipment unless a valued packing list substitutes it. Your cargo cannot be released to international shipping until you provide a commercial invoice on your shipping goods or valued packaging list.

In shipping goods from the United States, a commercial invoice serves different purposes. The most important commercial invoice is to consider and assign customs duty upon arrival shipping goods to the destination. However, a commercial invoice can be used to calculate marine cargo insurance, act as proof in international trade, identify a commodity shipping abroad for the U.S. CBP, etc.

When shipping goods from the USA, commercial invoices must be in English. In the U.S., commercial invoices must comply with Section 141.86 of U.S. customs regulations on shipping merchandise internationally from the United States of America. It must provide information on:

  • The port of entry, which the goods are designated to;
  • Shippers (sellers) and buyers' full name, address, and valid contact information;
  • A detailed description of shipping goods;
  • The number and type of shipping units, the weight, and measures;
  • Value of each item in USD based on the exchange rate on the date of export;
  • The country of origin of the goods; and
  • All products or services furnished for the production of goods being imported are not included in the invoice price (if any)

Typically, an accurate invoice from a seller or a detailed purchase receipt from a buyer complies with the above requirements. If you buy and ship or sell and ship from the United States, this is a good idea to submit a copy of the original invoice to your international shipment.

Valued packing list

However, if you're shipping commercial cargo, and for some reason, you cannot submit a copy of your sale-purchase receipt, you may consider submitting a proforma commercial invoice in the form of a valued packing list. Most of the time, it works, but it may cause questions at customs.

Valued packing list in shipping household goods and personal effects from the USA overseas

If you ship from the U.S. household goods or personal effects, then the only way to comply with the international shipping regulations is to submit a valued packing list.

To prevent confusion when an inexperienced shipper fills a valued packing list, here are some suggestions:

  • When working on a valued packing list, don't make it complicated, but stick the common sense. The document has to provide a clear picture of what exactly you are shipping.
  • In respect of international shipping from the USA mixed household goods or personal effects, if there is no major commodity described, we may suggest the HS Code 4016.99.05 “Household articles not elsewhere specified or included.”
  • If you ship boxes of about the same content and value, combine them all in one line. Do not list each box.
  • You do not know the exact weight of your boxes. That's OK. Just roughly estimate.
  • For used household goods, you assign value in US$ on your own. Like at a yard sale. Is no need to search for 20 years old purchase receipts. However, keep in mind that customs can at any time match the value with a fair market value of similar items.

And perhaps this is the most frequently asked question, "How detailed should I describe the content in boxes?" 

The answer is: On the one hand, you don't have to list each spoon and fork that you are shipping. On the other, the description should clearly reflect the content.

You can describe it like this: 3 boxes with used clothes, toys, and dishes. The weight is 60 lbs. The value is US$600.

However, avoid too uncertain descriptions. Do not submit the whole shipment like this: 12 boxes with household goods. The weight is 360 lbs. The value $2,499.

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