How to ship to China

When shipping to China, keep in mind that China's customs procedures are strict and some goods, such as food and cosmetics, are highly regulated. So find out in advance what paperwork you need to prepare, and if your parcel will be shipped through express or formal clearance.

What documents do I need to provide when shipping to China?

The most important documents are the air waybillcommercial invoice and packing list (if shipping multiple boxes). Regulated goods will require extra paperwork. 

Ask your receiver in China in advance what additional documents or certifications may be needed for the goods you’re shipping. Without them, your parcel might be held by customs or sent back.

Commercial invoice and air waybill

All information on the commercial invoice needs to be accurate, in English and consistent with the details on the air waybill. 

Costs on the commercial invoice can be in any currency, usually the currency in which the transaction was made.

Packing list for larger shipments

If you’re sending multiple boxes, or your shipment weighs over 100 kg, include a packing list so the Chinese customs authorities can conduct the physical inspection quickly and easily. 

The list must clearly and accurately describe the parcels and their contents. This includes the quantity of goods, the packing method, and the net and gross weight for each carton. It also needs to be signed by the shipper or bear the company stamp.

What is the CCC Mark?

The China Compulsory Certification (CCC) Mark is a safety and quality label for regulated products, like electronics, that enter China for use or sale.

Want to check if your product requires the CCC Mark? Visit the European Commission’s Market Access Database, select ‘China’ and enter your product’s HS code for an overview of relevant requirements. If the China Compulsory Certification is required, it will be listed on the ‘Procedures and Formalities’ page.

The CCC Mark is overseen by the Certification and Accreditation Administration of the People’s Republic of China (CNCA). Register for the CCC Mark online in the China Inspection and Quarantine E-Cert System. You can also apply via certification companies that carry out inspection, verification and testing in your global region. Or contact FedEx China for more information.

What is CIQ?

International shipments entering China are controlled and inspected by China Inspection and Quarantine (CIQ), a department within China’s General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine (AQSIQ). 

CIQ works separately from China Customs to ensure imported goods comply with Chinese regulations including labeling, packaging and safety requirements.

If your goods pass the CIQ inspection, a stamped clearance slip, or Entry Commodity Inspection Certificate, will be attached. The shipment can then move on to customs before being released. A Certificate of Inspection of Goods Inwards, issued by CIQ,  may also be required for customs clearance.

Customs clearance in China

China Customs is the shortened name of the General Administration of Customs China (GACC). After a shipment is checked by CIQ it will then pass through China Customs via express or formal clearance.

Express clearance

Express clearance is a streamlined process with minimal paperwork for three categories of goods: CAT A (documents), CAT B (personal effects, gifts and online purchases) and CAT C (samples and low-value items).

Formal Clearance

Formal Clearance, also known as freight mode, or CAT D clearance, is for shipments of dutiable goods with a high value, or that are regulated or sent in bulk, such as cosmetics, food or toys.

Express and formal customs clearance in China

 

Express clearance

Formal clearance

Shipment types and values

  • CAT A - Documents
    - No commercial value- Declared value of documents should be US$1 or 7CNY
     
  • CAT B - Personal effects, gifts, online purchases or a single item
    - Value is less than 1,000CNY (800CNY for parcels from Hong Kong, Macau, Taiwan)
    - Value can be above 1,000CNY for a single item personal shipment (e.g. handbag) if approved by customs. Taxes and duties still apply.
     
  • CAT C - Non-dutiable goods like samples, low-value products, advertising material
    - No commercial value
    - Total duty and taxes are less than 50CNY
     
  • CAT C - Some dutiable goods
    - Value is less than 5,000CNY and goods are not regulated
    - Total duty and taxes are more than 50CNY
  • CAT D - Dutiable goods that are subject to customs duties
    - Value is higher than 5,000CNY
    - Value is less than 5,000CNY, but goods are regulated

Customs processing time

  • 24 hours or less if all paperwork is correct
  • At least 24 hours from receipt of complete and correct shipping paperwork

Required documentation

  • Air waybill
  • Commercial invoice
  • For shipments of multiple boxes: a packing list
  • For online purchases: proof of payment
  • For CAT B personal shipments: a copy of the receiver's ID card or passport; "personal articles" should be written in the goods description on the commercial invoice
  • Air waybill
  • Commercial invoice
  • Packing list
  • Additional documents often required (see below)

Do I need to provide additional documents for Chinese customs clearance?

Yes, for formal clearance in China additional documents are almost always required. Here’s a list of extra documents that may be needed, depending on the shipment:

  • If the shipment is a purchase by a private individual, (e.g. webshop order) – proof of payment such as an invoice or receipt
  • If the shipped goods have been purchased by the receiver from the sender –  A sales contract as proof of the agreed price, payment and transaction
  • If the goods have been shipped before the receiver has paid for them – A purchase order as proof that an order has been placed, even if no payment has been made yet
  • For products that require the CCC Mark (e.g. electronics) – A declaration of conformity confirming that the goods conform to Chinese standards and norms. This document is a prerequisite for the CCC Mark and is often also required for customs clearance.
  • If you’re shipping a complex product that requires detailed explanations to understand its function and composition (e.g. mechanical parts, medical devices or medicines) – An information bundle such as data sheets or technical literature (often referred to as a customs handbook or E-handbook) that provides information about the product’s use and composition. This is to help customs authorities determine tariff codes. 

To avoid customs delays, the receiver should provide their documents for the sender to include in the shipping paperwork.

Chinese registration and licenses for formal clearance

There are also a number of documents and licenses that are always required for formal customs clearance in China. The most important are:

  • The receiver (importer) must be registered with China Customs and must provide their Customs Registration number (CR number) for shipping paperwork
  • The receiver must have an Import and Export Business License, issued by China’s Ministry of Commerce (MOFCOM), that allows Chinese businesses to trade goods internationally 
  • The receiver must grant power of attorney to their customs broker, authorizing them to act on their behalf
  • If the shipped goods have additional regulations in China (e.g. food), the receiver must provide a special import license granted by the relevant regulatory authority (e.g. The Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs for food). See below for a list of strictly regulated goods in China.

Which goods are strictly regulated in China?

China has a licensing system to monitor and control the import of regulated goods. These products often require a special import license and extra documentation or certifications. It’s therefore important to check the Chinese regulations that apply to your product before shipping, as they’re frequently updated.

Strictly regulated goods in China include:

  • Medical devices
  • Pre-packaged food
  • Animal products
  • Plant products
  • Biological products
  • Cosmetics
  • Drugs and medicines
  • Battery-powered products
  • Toys
  • Paints
  • Wine
  • Agricultural items
  • Cinema film, beta tapes and audio/video publications
  • Commercial publications (books or magazines with an ISBN)
  • Shipments with wooden packaging
  • Some electronics and machinery products
  • Used electrical and mechanical products (some waste electrical or mechanical products known as “overseas rubbish” are prohibited entry into China)
  • Exhibition items, and other Temporary in Bond (TIB) shipments that will return to their original location, require an import deposit so China Customs can grant temporary entry
     

Shipping regulated goods to China? See the list below for a detailed guide on what documentation you need to provide.

What product are you shipping to China?

What are the general requirements to ship clothing and apparel to China?

  • If the shipment goes through express clearance (CAT B) as personal effects or an online purchase to a private individual – there are no restrictions except that the total value is limited to 1,000 CNY and the apparel must be for personal use only. Commercial use or resale is not permitted.
  • If the shipment goes through formal clearance (CAT D) – some garment types (e.g. jeans), depending on the HS code , are subject to a CIQ import commodity quality inspection where they will be checked for correct labeling and chemical treatment compliance

What documents does the sender need to provide?

What documents does the receiver need to provide?

For apparel shipments to private individuals – a signed letter explaining the apparel is for personal use and a copy of the receiver's passport or ID card

What are the general requirements to ship biologics to China?

  • A special import license from AQSIQ (China's General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine) must be obtained by the receiver prior to the arrival of the shipment
  • Other necessary documents required to ship biologics to China are determined by the type of biologics that are being sent, and their HS code

What documents does the sender need to provide?

The sender needs to provide:

  • An air waybill
  • A commercial invoice
  • A packing list
  • A Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) – with details of any chemical substances, their potential hazards and relevant handling instructions. The MSDS is also required for any chemicals used to preserve biologics, as they may be classified as dangerous goods.

What documents does the receiver need to provide?

  • Proof of the special import permit from AQSIQ

What are the general requirements to ship cosmetics to China?

  • If the shipment qualifies for express clearance, there are no special restrictions, but it must not exceed the CAT B value limit for personal effects or online purchases

For shipments going through formal clearance (CAT D) additional requirements must be met:

  • The receiver must register the product with the drug safety branch of China's State Administration for Market Regulation (SAMR)
  • Foreign manufacturers and exporters must register with AQSIQ before shipping
  • The cosmetic product must have a label in Chinese that complies with China's GB standards and is approved by CIQ

What documents does the sender need to provide?

What documents does the receiver need to provide?

  • Proof of the general requirements listed above

What are the general requirements to ship food to China?

  • If the shipment qualifies for express clearance, there are no special restrictions, but it must not exceed the value limit for CAT B personal effects or online purchases.

For shipments going through formal clearance (CAT D), additional requirements must be met:

  • The receiver must register the food products with China's Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs 
  • Foreign manufacturers and exporters must register with AQSIQ before shipping
  • The food product must have a label in Chinese that complies with China's GB standards and is approved by CIQ

What documents does the sender need to provide?

What documents does the receiver need to provide?

  • Proof of the additional requirements listed above

What documents does the sender need to provide?

For shipments of infant formula milk powder from business to businesses, the sender also needs to provide: 

  • A certificate of origin
  • A Sanitary Inspection Certificate
  • Proof of CIQ approval – foreign milk powder manufacturers and exporters must register with CIQ and gain CIQ approval for their product before shipping

What documents does the receiver need to provide?

For shipments of milk powder to private individuals, the receiver needs to provide:

  • A signed letter explaining that the milk powder is for personal use
  • A copy of the receiver's passport or ID card

For shipments of milk powder from business to business, the receiver needs to provide: 

  • A Food Label Certificate
  • Application of Import/Export Special Articles for Verification of Health and Quarantine

What shipment value is allowed?

  • Shipments of milk powder to private individuals are limited to six containers (of max 900g each) and/or a total value of 1,000 CNY. This is for personal use only, commercial use or resale is not permitted.
  • Business-to-business shipments of milk powder have no value limit

What are the general requirements to ship toys to China?

  • Toys shipped to China, both to private and business receivers, must either bear the CCC Mark or be accompanied by a declaration of conformity

What documents does the sender need to provide?

What documents does the receiver need to provide?

For shipments of toys to private individuals, the receiver needs to provide:

  • A signed letter explaining that the toys are for personal use
  • A copy of the receiver's passport or ID card

For shipments of toys from business to business, the receiver needs to provide: 

  • An Entry Commodity Inspection Certificate from CIQ

What shipment value is allowed?

  • Shipments of toys to private individuals are limited to a total value of 1,000 CNY and must be for personal use only. Commercial use or resale is not permitted.
  • Business-to-business toy shipments have no value limit

Different carriers, different requirements

Please note that shipping requirements and documentation may vary between carriers. The information on this page is based on FedEx shipping requirements. These guidelines are as general as possible, however other carriers may follow different procedures. If you’re unsure of the shipping requirements that apply to you, check with your carrier.


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