Getting Started With International Shipping

by Joanna Lupo

First Choice Shipping has been in business since 2010, but its founders have been working in the shipping industry for over 15 years. So, their foundational knowledge of the ins and outs of international shipping is extremely valuable. They’ve shared the following tips with us in this guest blog post.

Getting started with international shipping can be daunting, especially when you don’t have a clear idea of the types of permissions needed to ship to different countries. We’ve prepared this blog post to give you a jumpstart on shipping internationally via your Amazon account from the U.S.

Chances are, if you’ve been an Amazon merchant for a while, you’ve looked into the possibility of expanding your business to the international markets. You may have decided to wait, since it seems extremely complicated and there are a lot of steps to remember. Freight specialists have relationships with carriers, who then have relationships with Amazon, and all put together help take the headache out of international shipping. However, there is more to it than signing up with a freight company. While companies like ours can do most of the heavy lifting for you, there are some things you need to know to get started.

EORI (Economic Operator Registration and Identification) Number

If you’re planning to ship to the UK, you’ll have to create an EORI - which is a method of tracking imports and exports. It’s required by the UK and is especially important with UPS. The number is simple to obtain. All they require is an address, phone number, email address and US tax ID number. Getting your number is a 1-2 day turnaround - 3-5 at most. To learn more, visit the website.

Further Information About Shipping to UK

If you’re planning to ship a product or item that requires special regulatory permissions, it’s necessary to obtain a certificate of conformance. These instances include items made from certain animals, like shoes made from snakeskin or alligator skin. Dairy items require a complicated process wherein the shipper (you) needs to get a certificate of conformance. It is complimented with a certificate from the supplier, and, often, an original certificate is needed from the USDA.

NRI Number

If your plans are to ship to Canada, you’ll need an NRI (non-resident importer) number. This, too, is a simple process. Simply call 855-846-3731 and you can start the process. As long as you’re in the system, even if you haven’t obtained the NRI number you can still ship your package. You’ll just need to call and update the carrier with the number once you receive it.

Value-Added Tax

Anything you ship into a foreign country (European, in particular) carries a tax. It’s usually 20%. Duty ranges from 0% - 5%. You can use for three free trials to calculate duty. Soon, this feature will be available with the First Choice Shipping software.

Books happen to be VAT and duty-free, as are children’s clothes.

You can use your supplier’s invoice to determine the value of your shipment, or you can create your own. Declare the value of what you paid for the item, not what you’re selling it for.

Shipping Hazardous Materials

Shipping alcohol, perfumes, aerosols and items with lithium batteries have an added step. These items require an IATA certification. This lasts for two years and the certification means that you are an authorized seller permitted to ship these materials.

DHL has a loophole, however, when it comes to lithium batteries. If the battery is inside the device, no paperwork is needed.

Another issue to note is your packaging. Hazardous materials must be labeled as such, but if you are shipping non-hazardous materials in boxes marked for Haz-Mat, it’s going to delay your shipment. Be aware of this when packing your items. Of course, if you use FBA, this is not an issue.

Importer of Record

Amazon, along with most freight companies, will not be the importer of record for your shipments. You will. This requires an EU address. To help customers expedite shipping as much as possible, for example, First Choice Shipping has an address in London that customers can use.

Customs & Shipments Over $2500

Any shipment over $2500 requires an EEI (electronic export information) tag. This is required by the US government. It shows the tax ID and basic information. The documentation is included in a pouch on the box. The facility that receives the package will check that, along with the commercial invoice required. The commercial invoice tells the receiver what is in the box, where it’s going, where it came from, the importer, and the value of the contents.

The Rest of the Story

After the driver picks up the package, it is taken to a facility where it is reweighed and measured. You’re billed for the weight recorded at the time. The facility scans the commercial invoice and sends it to the importing country. Then, the package is taken overseas by ship or air freight and keeps moving until it gets to a UK receiving facility or an Amazon FBA UK warehouse. By this time, the package has cleared customs and will be delivered to the end user.


Of course, there’s a lot to think about when shipping internationally, but there is a lot to be said for giving your business a global reach. First Choice Shipping is here to help, so contact us any time. We can assist you every step of the way.

Originally published on September 8, 2015, updated May 9, 2019

This post is accurate as of the date of publication. Some features and information may have changed due to product updates or Amazon policy changes.