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ClickShip’s Complete Cross-Border Shipping Guide



Many experienced eCommerce entrepreneurs can attest to the fact that a solid cross-border shipping strategy is a must. For most Canadian business owners with an eCommerce presence, expanding their customer base south is a key milestone, and offering affordable, reliable cross-border shipping is instrumental in that.

To that end, ClickShip recently announced an all-new lightweight cross-border parcel program offering the best rates and services on one-to-two-pound cross-border courier services!

With that in mind, we decided to compile this comprehensive guide to help eCommerce newcomers and veterans alike make sure that you’re shipping your cross-border orders the right way.


Fulfilling Your First Cross-Border Shipment: A Checklist

Below is a step-by-step checklist of all the things you need to account for when you start fulfilling your first cross-border orders.


Research Customs Regulations

Understand the customs regulations and requirements for importing goods into the US. Familiarize yourself with the Canadian Border Services Agency (CBSA) guidelines to ensure compliance.

Determine Import Duties and Taxes

Calculate the applicable import duties and taxes for your products. The Canada Border Services Agency's website provides resources for determining the duty rates based on the Harmonized System (HS) code of your goods.

Obtain an Import/Export Business Number

Apply for an Import/Export Business Number (BN) from the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA). This unique identifier is required for customs clearance purposes and enables you to report and remit taxes.

Choose a Shipping Method

Select a reliable shipping method that offers tracking and ensures timely delivery. Consider using a courier service or partnering with a fulfillment provider experienced in cross-border shipping.

Complete Shipping Documentation

Prepare all necessary shipping documents, including a commercial invoice, a packing list, and a certificate of origin if applicable. Accurate and detailed documentation is essential for customs clearance.




Package Goods Securely

Properly package your goods to protect them during transit. Consider using appropriate padding, sturdy boxes, and secure packaging materials. Ensure that your packages are labeled correctly with both the shipping and return addresses.

Fill Out Customs Forms

Complete the required customs forms accurately and provide detailed information about your products, including their value, quantity, and description. These forms typically include the Canada Customs Invoice (CCI) or a commercial invoice.

Declare the Goods

Declare the contents and value of the shipment accurately. Be transparent about the merchandise and its purpose to avoid customs issues or delays.

Prepay Customs Duties and Taxes

To expedite the customs clearance process, consider prepaying the import duties and taxes before shipping the goods. This can be done through a customs broker or using the CBSA's electronic payment system.

Track the Shipment

Monitor the progress of your shipment using the tracking number provided by your shipping carrier. Stay informed about any updates or delays to address any potential issues promptly.




Prepare for Customs Clearance

Be prepared to provide additional documentation or information if requested by the customs authorities. Respond promptly to any inquiries or notifications regarding the customs clearance process.

Understand VAT and Provincial Sales Taxes (PST)

Research the applicable Value Added Tax (VAT) and Provincial Sales Taxes (PST) in Canada. Determine whether you need to register for and collect these taxes based on your sales volume and the province in which you sell your products.

Customer Service and Returns

Establish a clear customer service process to address any inquiries, concerns, or returns from your cross-border customers. Provide comprehensive information about returns, warranties, and any associated fees. 


Cross-Border Shipping Mistakes to Avoid


Skipping Shipping Insurance

When cross-border shipping you need to be prepared for uncertainties that come with the shipping process. Stolen merchandise, damaged shipments, accidents, piracy, natural disaster, etc. are all unfortunate events that are heightened due to the longer transit times and multiple touchpoints during transit. Furthermore, these issues can cause deliveries to be delayed Impacting your customers experience with your company.





Being Careless with Carrier Choice

As you search for affordable rates you will want to ensure the company you are doing business with can offer responsive customer service and have the technology in place to monitor the shipment.

With proper technology in place your merchandise will be better monitored and tracked to reach the desired destination in its intended condition. Reading reviews left by customers can identify and indicate any red flags with companies you are planning to ship with. Pre-test shipments before busy seasons or launching your product to cross-border destinations to ensure the stability of the chosen carrier.



Skimping on Your Packaging

The packaging you utilize for your merchandise can impact your business in multiple ways. The way you package your shipping is important in both reducing the risk of damage, and the perception your customers have of your brand.

If you use a box that is too big, your customers may view your business as having too much waste as it requires more dunnage (packaging materials) to protect the product inside. In addition, using a box that is unnecessarily large means that you are paying more for shipping.

Carrying a wide variety of packaging sizes allows you to reduce the cost of supplies, mitigate protentional damage of the product, reduce shipping costs, reduce return merchandise and show your customers an environmentally friendly unboxing experience.






Miscalculating Your Packages

When selling your merchandise, it is important to factor in the weight and dimensions of the product and package by measuring it properly. Measure your packages using the outside box measurements. Round up on both weight and dimensions to ensure accurate pricing. Be aware that each mode of transportation and each carrier has specific weight and dimension limits that when exceeded can lead to hefty charges.


Shipping carriers weigh the packages at their routing centers, to which they determine the “chargeable weight”. This is done usually on the routing conveyor by digital measuring devices with a high degree of accuracy. If the weight or dimension that is entered to produce the shipping label is different then that of the chargeable weight, a chargeback will be issued for the shipment.  


The best way to measure the exact product weight and dimensions is to do it before and after packaging.


Not Setting Shipping Expectations with Customers

In many cases, shipping your products cross-border will simply take longer than shipping them domestically. With customer expectations for shipping at an all-time high, this has the potential to impact your customer experience negatively unless proper steps are taken to set customer expectations.

Having clear, upfront shipping information readily available on your online storefront can help to eliminate potential confusion. This can be reinforced by offering estimated shipping times directly at checkout and providing end-to-end real-time tracking on your shipments.


Tips for Shipping LTL Cross-Border

Whether you’re sourcing goods from the US, shipping pallets to your customers, or anything in-between, this section covers some key information you need when you need to ship pallets cross-border.


Ensure All Your Documents are Accurate

While this is true of all shipments, the importance of complete and accurate documentation is even more vital when discussing cross-border shipments, particularly for inspection at the border.

Including the proper documentation will not only make it easier for border guards to do their jobs, but will also prevent potential delays, or even seizure of your shipments. You will require the following documents:

Certificate of Origin
A document declaring a shipment’s country of manufacture. Required as part of the USMCA.  

Customs Invoice
A document declaring the value of goods contained in a shipment. Sometimes known as a Pro Forma Invoice.

Bill of Lading
A document that acts as a deed of title, as well as a contract between the shipper, consignee, and carrier.


Organize and Clearly Label Everything

When preparing your cross-border shipment, you'll need to determine the tariff classification number. This number, in combination with your shipment’s country of origin, will help you determine the duties you will need to pay on the shipment.

While a customs broker can identify which tariff classification will apply to you, You can also determine your classification through the Harmonized Tariff Schedule Search.

If your shipment contains a variety of items within it, remember to label all goods clearly and accurately. This will not only save time and prevent potential confusion in the event that your shipment is inspected at the border, but it is also a courtesy to your customer or consignee, as itemized labelling will help make the process of sorting the shipment faster and easier once it reaches its destination.


Estimate Your Duties and Taxes

Even with the Harmonized Tarriff System in place, determining duty rates isn’t easy. Many variables can affect duties, and being thorough in estimating those duties can be essential in making sure your shipment is not held at the border on account of them being unpaid.

It's important to mention that, in certain instances, duties and taxes may not be a concern. Shipments valued at $800 USD or less typically fall within the de minimis threshold and are often exempt from duties in most cases.



Source: Coyote.com


ClickShip Helps You Save on eCommerce Shipments of All Sizes, No Matter Where They’re Headed!


ClickShip’s all-in-one platform integrates seamlessly with the leading eCommerce platforms and online marketplaces to give you access to discounted rates on parcel and pallet shipping from the most trusted carriers in North America, as well as a robust suite of shipping and fulfillment tools to help streamline your order management, all for zero upfront or monthly fees!

Contact one of our shipping experts and see how ClickShip can help you expand your eCommerce business’ borders for less!

Learn how ClickShip can help speed up your fulfillment process with our innovative, all-in-one shipping solution.

Focus on running your business. We’ll ship orders for you — as soon as they come in.