The Beginner’s Guide to International Shipping Requirements

By Baillee Perkins
Feb 24, 2023
Learn how to expand your business's reach and start shipping internationally!

With stores opting to move online or add online buying options, it’s projected that 2023’s ecommerce sales will reach around $6.3 billion. That’s $593 million more than 2022’s $5.7 billion! Your business’s sales are included in this number, but how can you keep your sales growing with the annual increase in ecommerce? Expanding your customer base across the pond is a great place to start. 

International shipping consists of shipping to countries outside of the US, with the exceptions of military mail and Puerto Rico. Additionally, International shipping opens up your business to a new market of customers and helps your business compete in the ecommerce space. While there are different sets of documentation, guidelines, and restrictions with international shipping, don’t be discouraged! We’ll be your tour guide through the forms needed and the ShippingEasy features available. 

Table of Contents

  1. What are customs forms?
  2. International shipping restrictions
  3. What’s the difference between the UK and the EU?
  4. What is a VAT number?
  5. What is IOSS?
  6. How are duties and taxes calculated?
  7. Can I change who pays the duties in my ShippingEasy account?
  8. What are HS codes?
  9. International shipping with ShippingEasy
  10. UPS Paperless™ Invoice
  11. Conclusion
You can find more shipping guides over on our blog!

What are customs forms?

Customs forms are pieces of physical or electronic documentation submitted to the proper customs authorities. These forms include information we’ll cover later on like VAT and IOSS numbers, HS codes, and taxes and duties. The amount of information needed and whether the forms will be physically or electronically submitted will depend on the carrier. 

Note: Shipments to military addresses and Puerto Rico are technically considered domestic shipments but still follow several of the requirements and processes for international shipments, including attached customs forms. 

International shipping restrictions

Similar to domestic shipments, there are carrier restrictions and guidelines for shipping products internationally. International shipping restrictions for each carrier can be found on their websites.

One major variation between domestic and international shipping is, shipping to certain countries will be restricted. Reasons for the restrictions can vary from political to environmental. Resources for USPS and UPS are listed below, and we recommend reaching out to FedEx for more information. 

What’s the difference between the UK and the EU?

In 2020, the UK left the European Union, or EU; the split is also known as Brexit. The difference between the UK and the EU is the UK is a country, and the EU is a group of economically and politically aligned European countries. 

What is a VAT number?

Value Added Tax, or VAT, is a tax given to the products you’re shipping. The VAT given to a product is based on the item’s cost and the entire production cost of the item. This excludes any pieces/parts of the product that have already been taxed. 

What is IOSS?

Import One-Stop-Shop, or IOSS, is a number given to your business by your store or marketplace. This number enables your business to pay the taxes and duties given to shipments instead of having your customers pay the fees when products arrive. You can use your IOSS number to pay for packages up to €150 or around $159.86 US dollars.*

*Note: This conversion rate was calculated on February 16, 2023 and is subject to change.  

How are taxes and duties calculated?

The taxes and duties on your shipments are determined by several factors, including the products you’re shipping and the country where your product is being shipped. For most carriers, taxes and duties are automatically added to your label. There are also two different options for paying duties: Delivery Duty Paid (DDP) and Delivery Duty Unpaid (DDU). 

DDP is when your business pays the duties for a shipment upfront, so your customers won’t be responsible for paying duties on arrival. DDU is when your customer will pay the duties when their package is delivered. Your customers may receive a notice stating their package is being held at the nearest carrier location where the duties can be paid. 

Learn more about international shipping in Shipping Unboxed: FAQs about International Shipping.

Can I change who pays the duties in my ShippingEasy account?

If you have a FedEx account or DHL Express account connected to ShippingEasy, you can select who pays the duties on international shipments. The duties can be paid by the sender, the recipient, or a third party. You can update the duty payor by following the directions below. 

  • Go to the Carrier Funds section on the side menu of your dashboard
  • Find your connected FedEx or DHL Express account 
  • Click the Manage Account button 
  • Select Sender, Recipient, or Third Party from the Default Duties Payor dropdown menu 
  • Save your changes by clicking the Update button

These changes will apply to future synced orders, and we recommend confirming the duty payor on all existing orders. 

For more information on duties and taxes, read our blog!

What are HS codes?

On March 1, 2023, the EU will require all incoming shipments to add Harmonized Style tariff codes (HS codes) on customs forms. This includes shipments passing through the EU during transit. HS codes are numerical codes that categorize a product going through customs. HS codes help custom offices to quickly identify the contents of your shipments and avoid language barriers. Each set of 2-3 numbers in an HS code represents the type of product you’re shipping and the product’s attributes. 

If you’re using our partner GlobalPost as your international carrier, HS codes will be added through their free HS Code Fulfillment Service! Once your package arrives at a GlobalPost facility, the correct HS code will be assigned to your customs forms. Additionally, printed customs forms aren’t required for GlobalPost shipments.*

*Note: Shipments to Puerto Rico aren’t eligible for GlobalPost. 

International shipping with ShippingEasy

International shipping shouldn’t leave searching the globe for a better shipping process! ShippingEasy merchants have access to features like: 

  • An address correction tool 
  • An International settings page 
  • UPS Paperless Invoicing 
Say bonjour to streamlined international shipping with a 30-day free trial to ShippingEasy.

Address correction

Our address verification feature uses the Melissa Data Global Address Check Tool to confirm orders with international addresses. You can also enable address verification to automatically correct any detected errors in order addresses: 

  • Go to Settings > Automations 
  • Click the checkbox beside Always Use Selected Address (towards the bottom of the screen) 

International settings

Entering customs information like VAT and IOSS numbers for every international order is repetitive and leaves room for errors. Did you know you can save international information in your ShippingEasy account? 👀Here’s how it works: 

  • Go to Settings > Then Shipment Settings 
  • From the Shipment Settings menu > Select International Shipments 
  • Scroll down to Tax Identification Numbers > Click Add New 
  • Save your numbers 

These numbers will appear in a drop-down menu for you to select with your international shipments, so you don’t have to reenter them with each new order. 

UPS Paperless™ Invoice

UPS Paperless™ Invoice simplifies shipment processing and eliminates the need to print paper commercial invoices for your exports. Benefits for UPS Paperless™ Invoice include: 

  • Saving your shipment time in transit by automatically including customs forms
  • A more sustainable approach to shipping 
  • An increase in confidentiality, as customs forms are not physically attached to your
  • package
  • Fewer chances of incorrect information on your customs forms


Both domestic and international shipping have guidelines and restrictions; however,  international shipping just requires a few more steps. Completing and understanding documentation like customs forms will help your packages move through customs with ease. Also, features within your ShippingEasy account and carrier services GlobalPost are designed to prevent additional work.

Make international Shipping Easy with a 30-day free trial!
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Baillee Perkins

Baillee Perkins is a writer of shipping by day and pop culture by night, so her Google search history is an actual nightmare.

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