Guide to Customs Clearance For Your Freight at LAX

Guide to Customs Clearance For Your Freight at LAX

LAX has some of the most strict customs clearance regulations. Here is everything you need to know when shipping your freight.

LA International Airport is the highest-ranking customs district in the nation. This crucial transport center engages more than 800 freight forwarders, 360 customs brokers, and over $118 billion in cross-border goods. 


If your freight company is looking to ship in products from outside of the country, chances are you will have to go through LAX at some point. This means your cargo will have to go through the strict customs clearance the airport is known for. 


Because LAX is responsible for so many goods entering and leaving the country, they run a very tight ship. This is great for safety and security but adds a lot of time-consuming paperwork to the operation. 


Fortunately, the customs clearing process doesn’t have to be difficult. If you know what you need and prepare ahead of time, you can pass through any transport center (even LAX) within a day. 


Don’t let the complexity of customs stop you from capitalizing on cross-border shipping. There’s a lot of money to be made in ensuring the safe travel of wares overseas if you take the time (or hire a company to do it for you.) 


To know if your cargo will pass a customs check, you must understand the process of customs clearance. 

The Customs Clearance Process

Getting your freight cleared through customs involves a lot of paperwork and even more patience. You can ever get ahead of this process by pre-paying your import duties and taxes.


  1. Fill Out Your Customs Paperwork

This is the longest part because it involves compiling documents from every part of the shipping process. You will need to complete:

  • A purchase order. This contains the official details about the transaction, including what exactly is being shipped and how much. This proves that there was a legally binding agreement between the buyer and the seller. 
  • A Commercial Invoice. This is the verified proof of sale. This document includes the shipping terms, the description of the wares, and the total value of the product.
  • A Bill of Lading (BOL.) This is the contract between the freight carrier and the seller of the cargo. It proves that the wares were put in their care and confirms the details of the shipment, including how delicately it should be handled. This is one of the most important papers because it ensures the legality of the cargo. 
  • An Airway Bill (AWB.) Like a BOL, this is a contract that outlines the details of the shipment. The difference is it is an agreement between the freight carrier and the airline. This confirms the cargo was received by the airport. 
  • An Export Packing List. This is another detailed list of the contents of the shipment. This will help the product clear customs by verifying what is inside. This may be used to create a BOL and can help settle disputes between the freight company and the airline. 
  • A Letter of Credit. This guarantees the buyer will pay the seller on the word of a verified bank. If the buyer is unable to complete the payment, the bank will pay the difference. This ensures the product does not pass through customs unnecessarily. This confirmation is one of the safest and most verifiable forms of international monetary transactions. 
  • A Dock or Warehouse Receipt. This document confirms the shipment and details of the cargo were received by an international carrier. This includes the weight, dimensions, and owner of the product. This receipt is necessary for anyone trying to access a stored shipment and is often passed along throughout the carrier process to transfer accountability. 
  • A Certificate of Origin (CO.) This declares what country the shipment was manufactured in. This also states where the product is going. The destination of the order helps determine if it is eligible for free trade or how much you will be taxed. The exporter of the goods is accountable for the rules of the receiving country. 
  • An Insurance Certificate. This certifies that the specific shipment is covered by an insurance policy. Because cross-border shipping can be risky, your insurance certificate can prevent you from experiencing huge monetary losses.  
  • An Export License. This is an official confirmation from a government agency that a carrier is allowed to ship a specific quantity of a particular item. You may not need one for your cargo, but it’s important to figure out ahead of time if you do. 


  1.  A Customs Officer Examines Your Paperwork

All of this information must be complete and accurate to be cleared, especially the commercial invoice. The officer will check carefully to make sure you have filled everything outright and charge you taxes on the contents accordingly (see step #3.) If all is well, your shipment should pass through within a day.


  1. Import Duties and Taxes are Assessed

The price of these fees will depend on the value of the wares being shipped. Restricted goods will likely incur an additional payment. If you were able to complete the paperwork and pay the accurate taxes ahead of time, you should be able to skip this step.  This is where the benefit of hiring a third party to facilitate this becomes clear. When you hire a last-mile freight company, the price you pay for shipping may cover additional import fees as well. 


  1. The Shipment Clears 

Once all is paid and the paperwork is confirmed, the shipment will clear customs and go to its intended destination. This process can take as little as a day, but if the paperwork isn’t in order, it can take a week or more.  While this process isn’t too difficult, the paperwork can be time-consuming and confusing. It can add days, even weeks to your endeavor if not handled properly. Once you’re cleared, move your shipment along quickly by utilizing an additional freight company such as Coastal Cartage to handle your international shipment to its final destination. Coastal Cartage is the safest and most cost-effective option for those looking to transport goods in and out of the country. Put your shipment in great hands and contact us today!


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