UNITED STATES—In today’s fast-paced world of trade and commerce, air freight is the ideal solution to move freight across the country or around the world quickly and safely. Air transportation of cargo is a critical part of operating an efficient supply chain as it allows shippers to respond to customer and market needs as they emerge.

When a service manufacturer experiences a breakdown in an assembly line and needs an immediate replacement part, air freight can ship it with an arrival time of a few days with express shipping.

Air freight is also a service many pharmaceutical companies use to ship temperature-sensitive immunizations domestically and internationally. Relief and support in the form of supplies and food are also shipped via air freight to deliver them quickly and surpass rough terrain that would otherwise be challenging or impossible for ground freight.

Completing the Customs Clearance Process

Predicting how long the customs clearance process will take is challenging, mainly because of the systems and protocols in place worldwide. Import custom clearance can begin when goods are still in transit if necessary documents are provided to authorities in a reasonable timeframe. Many countries have online systems for submitting customs entries as an added convenience that enables customs authorities to release the goods in as little as 24 hours.

In some cases, customs authorities can request further documentation and comprehensive inspections that can extend the customs clearance from a few days to even a couple of weeks. To avoid storage charges at the port location or airport of arrival, the seller and buyer must provide all the necessary documents.

The Complexity of Documents Can Affect Clearance

The more information that is present in your documents, the longer it takes to process the information about your shipment. Since customs agents are tasked with inspecting paperwork and certifying all goods can be received safely by the buyer, they are often strict with what arrives and leaves a country’s borders.

Common Documents Needed for Customs Clearance

Commercial Invoice

A commercial invoice is a document that serves as proof of sale between a buyer and a seller. When importing goods, the customs broker uses this document to determine the true value of the shipment and assess the duties and taxes due.

Packing List

This is a list that includes all details about the contents of a shipment and plays an important role in the shipping process.

Certificate of Origin

A certificate of origin declares which country a shipment originated from or where a product was manufactured. It also contains information about the good itself and its destination.

Letter of Credit or Other Payment Terms

This is a letter from a bank that guarantees the seller will receive their payment on time and for the correct amount. If the buyer cannot pay, the bank will be required to cover the full or remaining amount of the purchase, protecting the seller.

Bill of Lading or Airway Bill

These bills are legally binding documents issued by a carrier to a shipper. They outline details such as the type, quantity, and destination of the goods being carried. Both documents serve the same purpose.