Personal Shipments and Gifts

When shipping a product overseas, the exporter must be aware of packing, labeling, documentation, and insurance requirements.

The US Commercial Service of the US Department of Commerce is charged with supporting the export of US products and services for commercial transactions.

Queries related to personal shipments, gifts, and other individual, non-commercial needs, should be directed to your local shipper. We provide useful links and a few suggestions below to facilitate your shipment and inquiry with the shipper.

Who can ship my package?

You have a variety of options for sending personal shipments such as the US Postal Service, an Express Carrier, or other freight forwarder that can consolidate and handle small shipments. Please note that the most secure option involves using a tractable system.

Is there a duty (import tariff) for my shipment?

Most countries have allowances for personal shipments within a certain value, or certain item quantity. Prohibited items vary by country, as do postage prices and mailing conditions. Contact your shipper for clarification.

How do I find the Duty?

Should your shipment be subject to an import duty, it is collected at time of customs clearance or when the recipient takes possession of the package. Some shippers may also allow prepaying duties and taxes at the time of shipment.

To determine the import duty, first confirm your product Harmonized System (HS)/Schedule B number. This HS number can then be referenced against specific country's tariff schedule. Major shippers should have this information available. Please note that only a licensed Customs broker or foreign customs are permitted to make a definitive classification determination.

Do I need to fill out a Shipper Export Declaration (an EEI) form when making a private shipment?

If your shipment value is greater or equal to $2,500 (of one HS/product category), then you need a Shippers Export Declaration (SED). Your shipper can fill out one on your behalf (with power of attorney) or you can do it yourself by going to For assistance with SED you may call 1-800-549-0595 (US Census). You will need the SED form regardless of the value of the shipment when an export license is required.

Do I need an export license when making a private shipment?

Just like commercial shipments, certain products may be subject to export licensing laws and regulations. While the number of such items is very small relative to all products being shipped, you may want to consult the Bureau of Industry and Security at 202-482-4811 or consult the Office of Foreign Asset Controls for list of sanctioned countries where shipments may be prohibited or may require special license. Products subject to US Government export license, must comply regardless if the shipment is personal, small value, or a commercial transaction.

What about Gifts and Personal Luggage?

Most countries treat gifts like regular shipments and therefore are subject to potential duties and taxes. Some countries have gift exemptions for small value gifts (e.g. Canada has duty and tax exemptions for gifts up to $60

When shipping personal luggage, your items may still be subject to duties and taxes based on declared value. Consider using a company that specializes in shipping personal effects, luggage, or overseas relocation assistance.

My child is studying overseas and I need to ship an iPad, laptop or a cell phone.

Even though these items are for personal use, they may still be subject to duty and taxes by the foreign customs. Below are suggested HS numbers for shipping these items. Note that the only definitive authority on product classification is a licensed customs broker or Customs.

  • HS number of iPads/tablets 847130
  • HS number for laptop 847130
  • HS Number for cell phone 851712
  • HS Number for MP3 player 851981

Based on the HS number, your shipper should be able to estimate duties and taxes that you will prepay or must be paid at the time the item clears foreign customs. Are there special requirements for shipping Textile items?

Shipping textile items in small quantities (i.e. gifts) usually does not pose a challenge. However, large shipments of textile items may require certificate of origin signed by manufacturer. Some countries also have restrictions on used clothing or may require fumigation. Get more information on exporting textiles, including information on used clothing, labeling, HS numbers for textiles and tariffs.

Personal Goods when Moving to a Foreign Country

For shipping personal goods when moving to another country, please consult the consulate of that country and a major international shipper specializing in such transactions. The commercial section of Foreign Embassies and Consulates can be found in Washington D.C. as well as many US major cities and may also offer direction on their particular country requirements.

What are the requirements for exporting Motor Vehicles?

For U.S. Titled Vehicles, the owner must provide a Certificate of Title or a Salvage Title. If vehicle is leased or a recorded lien exists, the provisional owner must provide a separate note from the lien holder which expressly states that vehicle may be exported. For newly manufactured vehicles that are purchased from a U.S. manufacturer, distributor, or dealer a Manufacturer's Statement of Origin (MSO) must be provided

Vehicle must be registered with the US Customs 72 hours prior to leaving the country. For more information on exporting a motor vehicle consult the US Customs. There may be restrictions on the age or type of vehicle that may vary from country to country. A customs broker or freight forwarder should be able to answer most of your questions.