HS codes for international shipping

Harmonized System (HS) codes are used globally to classify and identify items being sent internationally. 

This article will help you understand what HS codes are, why they are important for exporting and importing goods, and how to send an international order with Sendle using HS codes. It’ll also cover what happens if you have the wrong HS code (but hopefully that won’t happen because you’ll be armed with this helpful article)!

Why are HS codes used in Sendle orders?

When you’re sending a parcel internationally, you will need to take extra care to ensure your parcel’s item description complies with any international regulations, including using HS codes – this will also help you avoid delivery delays and additional charges.

It’s also standard practice for almost all countries to use this system for importing and exporting goods going through customs, so that customs officials can keep track of what is entering and leaving home soil.

We use HS codes for international shipping because it makes sending items quicker, more efficient, and safer.

How do HS codes work?

The 6 digit HS codes we use here at Sendle are used globally, but some countries have their own extensions that include duty tax and other tariffs (for example, when sending to or from the US, you could come across HTS codes which are 10 digits). 

After shipping your parcel, customs officials use these codes to quickly process your parcel, scanning the items inside and making sure its contents are approved for travel. They do this by checking the HS code declared on the parcel matches what’s inside.

Each number of the HS codes are in a particular sequence, relating to composition, product name, and function.The first two numbers represent the chapter, the middle two represent the next heading, and the last two represent the sub-heading within the broader heading. 

We’re using the internationally recognised database of HS codes from the Census Bureau for international Sendle orders. 

So if you’re sending a t-shirt printed with your cat’s face on it to your mate in London, it would look like this:

Chapter: Apparel and clothing accessories, not knitted or crocheted (62) 

Heading: Women's or girls' blouses, shirts and shirt-blouses: (06)

Sub-heading: Of cotton (30)

And the HS code would be: 6206.30

How to add HS code to your international Sendle parcel

  1. Book your international parcel for delivery as per usual on your Sendle dashboard, including entering the destination country, receiver details, and the usual parcel info.
  2. In the parcel contents section take care to accurately describe your parcel contents for customs.
  3. Then, if you know your HS code, start typing it into the HS code field, making sure the description matches the contents. You can also start typing the item description and look it up that way.
  4. If your HS code refers to a prohibited or restricted item, you'll get an error message – this means you won't be able to use Sendle for that parcel.
  5. If you don’t know your HS code, view more information and head to the Census Bureau link to search for your HS code or find out more about them.

What happens if the HS codes don't match the items in the parcel?

All international parcels go through processing and scanning at depots and at customs. If the wrong HS code is selected, the parcel could get returned to the sender or even confiscated by customs (it's dependent on the destination country's import rules as well – there may be fines attached to incorrect HS code application). 

But you can avoid this by making sure your parcel contents accurately match up with the correct HS code – and please don’t send anything on our list of things you can’t Sendle!

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