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Customs import checks: how does it work?

Customs import checks: how does it work?

Ritra Cargo’s customs declarations department drafts thousands of import declarations every year. Some of the corresponding consignments are selected for a customs check, causing delays to these shipments. Unfortunately, it is impossible to predict which consignments are selected. How does the customs selection procedure work, and what can you do to minimise delays?

Which shipments are checked?

The customs office decides which shipments are to be checked. External parties cannot influence this process. As such, there is always a possibility your goods are subject to checks. The customs office checks on average 5% of all import consignments every year.


It is impossible to predict in advance which shipments will be checked by customs, and this process is usually random. However, customs checks may be focused on one or more factors:
  • Type of product being imported
  • Country of origin of the imported products
  • Value of the product
  • Reputation of the customs broker drafting the import declaration


What’s more, the customs office occasionally carries out extra checks on certain product groups or countries of origin. They will do this if there is justified doubt about the value of the product, for example, as was the case with textiles and shoes over the last few years.


Less import, same number of checks

Importation has been at a standstill – more or less – for weeks, due to the Coronavirus. Far-reaching limitations are still in place in various countries across the globe. Import levels will not be back to normal for a while.


Despite the reduction in import shipments, the customs office still strives for the annual 5% quota as usual. As a result, there are proportionally more checks on incoming goods at the moment. The unfortunate result is a higher than usual chance your shipment is selected for checks.


Limiting delays caused by customs checks

A customs checks can easily delay a shipment by a couple of days. The exact timeframe depends on the type of checks that are carried out. A physical check is more time-consuming than a document check.


Advance declarations could minimise customs delays. An import declaration in advance means that it is already clear whether a shipment has been selected for a check even before it has arrived in port. If it concerns a document check, this can be carried out with the goods still on board. If a physical check is required, you will be notified sooner and take it into account when scheduling.


Please be aware that an advance declaration requires the customs broker to be in possession of all documents required for the import declaration. This includes the supplier’s invoice, so we advise you to always forward all documents to us as soon as possible. This way, we can minimise delays together.


If you have any questions after reading this news item, please contact us.

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