International Shipments Everything You Need to Know

International Shipments Guide With Example of different couriers

International Shipments Everything You Need to Know

Deciding what is the best process for international shipments is quite complex, but there are a few points that are essential to keep in mind.

International shipments present many more complications than national ones, such as greater number of risks, customs control and stricter regulations.

It is essential to have a solid ecommerce logistics strategy to meet all the essential points. What is the international carrier that best suits my needs?

We have created this article to help you find an optimal solution for your online store, so that you do not have to complicate yourself with international shipping.

International shipments from Spain: What do you need?

Today, there are many opportunities for online retailers who decide to ship abroad. But at the same time there are some challenges. Let’s take a look together at what to consider when shipping internationally from Spain:

  • Higher shipping costs: Of course, sending your packages further afield also means higher shipping costs. However, with smart planning and the right carrier, you should get a good return on your investment.
  • More resources are needed: this means that more time is needed to manage the necessary bureaucracy that international shipments require. You may also need to update your shipping software and adapt your product packaging.
  • Customs document management: it can be (or is) the most boring part of international shipments, the management of customs documentation. For your luck, we have dedicated a section to all those documents in this article later.
  • Take into account the possibility of loss or non-delivery of the order: There are always risks that an order is lost, damaged or not delivered, but when it comes to international shipments, the risk may be higher. For this reason, it is important to think about insuring shipments (from a certain order value, for example). 
  • Choosing the right carrier: this is undoubtedly the most important point. Choosing the right carrier for your international shipments will avoid any hassle during ordering and delivery to the end customer. But don’t worry, we’ll cover this point in more detail later in this article.

International shipments: documents and procedures

As we mentioned earlier, the documentation required to ship abroad can be a real problem, especially if you don’t have any international shipping experience. 

With a little patience and some of the tips in this article, you will be able to send your products abroad without problems and with all the necessary documentation.

What documents are necessary for international shipments and what are their characteristics? Let’s see them!

Customs forms CN22 and CN23

Forms CN22 and CN23 are necessary if you are going to send your products outside the European Union. They contain important information about the goods and products being shipped, for example:

  • What items are included in the shipment
  • What is the value of the items
  • The sender and recipient of the shipment
  • The subjects involved in the shipment

Together with commercial invoices, these modules allow customs authorities to decide whether or not to apply import duties to the goods that are shipped. Next, you will see attached a couple of example images. The images of the CN22 and CN23 forms are in English, since – generally – this documentation is compiled in English to facilitate its understanding (the same applies to the commercial invoice).

Surely you are wondering what is the difference between documents CN22 and CN23. The choice between one or the other basically depends on the weight and value of the shipment. In the event that the package weighs up to 2 kg and its value is up to € 425, the CN22 document is the one that should be used. The CN23 is required if the weight of the package is from 2 to 20 kg and it has a value equal to or greater than € 425.

Commercial invoice

The commercial invoice is a mandatory customs document that includes information about the content of the package and the agreed conditions, such as who is responsible for paying customs expenses (the Incoterms).

As with the CN22 and CN23 forms, the commercial invoice is not required for shipments within the European Union.

Normally it is necessary to attach three copies of the commercial invoice, one for the country from which it is exported, one for the country to which it is sent and one for the recipient.

Attach two copies to the outside of the package in a document envelope suitable for packing lists. We advise you to include a commercial invoice inside the package.

International shipments: differences between documents

If you make international shipments outside the EU , need one, or several, of these documents: A CN22 form and CN23 and CP71 forms . The customs forms are required if you make these shipments with postal service transportation like the post office, for example.

When do I need them?

Depending on what you send, you will need a CN22 or a CN23 + CP71.

And whenever you send to a country outside the EU , to the Canary Islands or now to the United Kingdom after Brexit.

Which of them do I need to attach?

The differences between the commercial invoice and the CN22 / CN23 customs forms can be summarized in three cases :

  • If you send to one of the destinations mentioned above through a postal transport service , you will need a CN22 form (it will be the adhesive sticker generated with the postal service and that will go on the outside of the package) and also a CN23 customs declaration .
  • If you send to one of the destinations mentioned above through a private transport service , depending on the characteristics of the shipment, one or the other will be attached.
    • If you ship with carriers such as UPS or DHL Express , you will not need to attach anything. These carriers have paperless technology . This means that the documents are generated when you create the label and this information is sent directly to the carrier electronically .

In addition, you must  always attach 3 copies of the commercial invoice : two of them will go on the outside of the package in a transparent folder and the other, inside it. As well as the CN23 form if required; Attached 3 copies.

HS Code

HS codes or customs codes will help your package pass customs avoiding problems in them or delays. It is a code composed of at least six digits and they are recognized internationally. In other words, it is a harmonized system of customs codes that are used in most of the countries of the world.

These codes are necessary when you make an international shipment outside the European Union. Probably, once there is a final trade resolution on Brexit , you will have to apply them for your shipments to the UK as well .

And what do those HS codes mean? They describe the content of the package you send: if it is food, fur, natural medicines, etc.

If you are interested in delving into this topic, visit our detailed guide on HS codes or tariffs. In addition, we have developed a free and interactive tool where you can search for the code you need: HS or tariff code finder .


International trade terms (commonly known as Incoterms) are a set of standardized international agreements for the transport of goods. They serve as a contract between the seller and the buyer and describe all the tasks, risks and costs associated with commercial transactions. The

Incoterms were created to avoid misunderstandings during the buying and selling process.

Before you start shipping internationally, it is important to decide which Incoterm (s) you will use, with which products, and to which countries. Incoterms are used to:

  • agree who is responsible for shipping costs, insurance, and import and customs costs.
  • decide who is responsible for transportation and to what extent.
  • determine when the risks and costs of delivery pass from the seller to the buyer.

When choosing your Incoterms, keep in mind that not all carriers accept them all. Therefore, find out beforehand about the carrier with which you want to make your international shipments.

Do you want to know more about Incoterms, including the updated list for 2020, what each Incoterm means and how to use them? Read here our complete guide on Incoterms 2020 .

EORI number

If you import and export outside the EU , it is vital that you familiarize yourself with this code. The EORI number is an acronym for “economic operator registration and identification” . It is used to track and record customs information within the EU.

In other words, this code allows customs authorities to identify who is importing or exporting goods .

Who needs this code? Any company based in the European Union and that imports or exports to countries outside the EU. Whether you are an individual or a company, you need to identify yourself to the customs authorities for these operations.

The EORI number is usually attached to the commercial invoice , and sometimes to the CN22 and CN23 forms.

If you don’t have it yet, you can request it at the Tax Agency . In a maximum of 3 days, you will receive it by email. In addition, your application is completely free.

Important: If you ship to the United Kingdom, after Brexit it is mandatory to have this code. Read the article about the EORI number that we have prepared where you will find all the answers to the most frequently asked questions.

International shipments from Spain: what are the best options

There are different options when it comes to making international shipments from Spain. Which is the best option? It depends on two factors:

  • Delivery time , how fast do you want your shipment to be?
  • The shipping price, how much are you willing to charge your customers?

Obviously, in the decision you can also take into account the value of the order and the type of merchandise you want to send.

Based on these premises, these are the international shipping options from Spain:

  • Express courier: one of the most used methods by online sellers, especially for those who send goods of small volume and weight. There are multiple options within express messaging and they vary depending on the speed of the service and price. We will see them later in this article.
  • Air shipments: reliable and most used method for shipping to other continents, such as America and Asia. The delivery is faster, but at the same time, the price is higher.
  • Sea shipments: reliable method but much slower than air shipments, sea transport is used to send large volume goods that do not require urgency.

And what about free shipping? It is true that adding this shipping method to your checkout increases conversions, but this should not be at the expense of your margins. You can offer free international shipping above a threshold.

Carriers for international shipments from Spain

Let’s now see which carrier offers the services mentioned above.

International shipments with Correos

Correos is one of the most popular carriers in Spain. And if everyone knows them for something, they are for their standard national shipments. But Correos, for those who did not know, also make international shipments. These are the methods with which you can send abroad with Correos:

  • Correos Paq Light Internacional: for packages of up to 2 kilos that are deposited directly in the mailbox, without the need for a signature on delivery. Delivery times in Europe are 3 to 5 business days. But, for international destinations like Asia or America, the package will take 5-9 days.
    Since July 2020, the US postal service has broken the agreement with Correos with this postal service. Therefore, it cannot be sent to the United States through this method.
  • International Standard Paq: door-to-door delivery and under the client’s signature. Standard deliveries with the same delivery times as Light International.
  • International Premium Paq: same conditions as International Standard Paq, but Premium makes urgent deliveries.
  • Economic International Package: for packages less than 30 kilos and not urgent. Door to door delivery and under signature.

International shipments with Correos Express

Before making international shipments with Correos Express, you must take into account certain things:

  • Coverage of 192 countries.
  • Package dimensions cannot exceed 3 meters.
  • For air shipments, the longest measurement cannot exceed 200 cm and the weight cannot exceed 65 kilos.
  • For land shipments, the weight of the package cannot exceed 40 kilos.
  • If you are shipping outside the European Union, your shipment must include the original commercial invoice plus four copies. Each invoice must be signed and stamped and in English in addition to the official language of the destination country.

Correos Express has two methods of international shipping:

  • International Express: door-to-door express delivery service. Includes standard insurance, multi-bulk shipments and package tracking. Delivery times depend on the destination: Europe in one day, outside Europe in 2 or 3 business days.
  • International Standard: less urgent shipments to Europe. Single bulk shipping, with package tracking and international insurance. Delivery times also depend on the destination: they will arrive in France in two days, while Italy or Germany in 3 days.

International shipments with SEUR

With SEUR, you can send to 230 countries with four shipping methods:

  • SEUR Classic: service through land transport.
  • SEUR Courier: urgent service that only accepts packages up to 31.50 kilos. If the package is sent outside the European Union and weighs more than 15 kilos and its value is greater than € 150, you will have to pay an export customs clearance.
  • SEUR Net Express: packages of up to a thousand kilos. For any destination in Europe.
  • SEUR Cargo Plus: to send packages of up to 70 kilos. Shipments are made by plane. Your merchandise must be properly packaged and labeled. What’s more, if you use a wooden packaging, you must present a fumigation certificate.

International shipments with MRW

With MRW you can ship internationally to more than 45 countries with door-to-door delivery. MRW services are characterized by their speed, the choice of a time slot for delivery and its network of collection points.

If you want to send abroad, these are the MRW shipping methods:

  • Express: shipments are made using MRW’s express air service. You can send anywhere in the world.
  • Economic: for packages smaller than the Express and cheaper. There is no weight limit for packages. Combine air and land transportation.
  • Ecobox25: economic service for single bulk shipments of packages up to 25 kilos to Europe, Asia, Oceania and America.

International shipping with DHL Express

DHL Express also offers alternatives for international shipments from Spain. Let’s see which are the best options for your ecommerce:

  • DHL Express 9:00 am – Door-to-door delivery before 9:00 am the next business day after pickup.
  • DHL Express 12:00 – Home delivery before 12:00 noon on the next business day after pickup.
  • DHL Express Economy Select – Door-to-door delivery on a specified day in Europe and around the world. This service is suitable for heavier loads and less urgent deliveries.
  • DHL Express Worldwide – Door-to-door delivery at the end of the business day after pickup. Again, only business days are taken into account.

International shipping with UPS

For your international shipments from Spain, you can also count on UPS services. You can choose between their Express or Standard services depending on the urgency of the shipment.

  • UPS Standard: your client will receive the package throughout the day, depending on the destination, between 1 and 3 working days, although it all depends on the scheduled date.
  • UPS Express Saver: Packages will be delivered throughout the day between 1 and 5 business days depending on the destination.
  • UPS Express: delivery will be made in the mornings and between 1 and 3 business days depending on the destination.

Tips for making international shipments from Spain

1: Do not sell unauthorized merchandise that cannot be shipped internationally

You are responsible for the merchandise you send. Products that are prohibited from shipping will be confiscated or destroyed, which constitutes a loss to you. Each country has different rules, so before selling your products it is important to be 100% sure that they can be shipped. Otherwise, you could end up losing money and a dissatisfied customer who has not received their purchase.

What products is generally not allowed to send abroad?

  • Aerosol sprays
  • Alcoholic drinks
  • Cigarettes
  • Perishables
  • Gasoline or oil
  • Nail polish
  • Perfumes and aftershaves
  • Poisons
  • Lighters
  • Fire extinguishers
  • Gas mask
  • Lottery tickets
  • Rough diamonds
  • Damaged batteries
  • Magnets

2: Don’t surprise your clients with unexpected expenses

Make sure to clearly communicate your Incoterm (s) and any other conditions to your customers before they make their purchase. The Incoterm will determine what the customer is responsible for, including expenses and transportation.

If the chosen Incoterm means that the client has to face personalized expenses, make sure they are aware of it. If your client is not aware of these extra costs, they may reject the shipment. This means that you may have to pay customs fees and return the package.

Clearly communicate in your shipping and returns policy the costs that international shipping will entail for the customer. Clearly describe the Incoterm (s) you have chosen in such a way that any average consumer can understand it, explaining exactly what each of the conditions implies.

3: Calculate shipping costs to avoid losses

When you have already decided which products you are going to send, where you are going to send them and who is responsible for each of the expenses, inform your customers of all the costs associated with the delivery of their orders.

Here’s a quick example of how to calculate the total price of a product. Shipping costs are included in the calculation, also taking into account all added costs.

  • Product cost – € 12.00
  • Packaging – € 2.25
  • Shipping costs – € 6.50
  • Handling costs – € 2.00
  • Customs and taxes – € 4.50
  • Card payment supplement – 2.9%
  • Profit margin – 50%
  • Total price – € 56.00

4: Properly pack products for international shipping

Safely pack the goods that you are going to send abroad so that they arrive without damage or other problems. International shipping guidelines state that your package must be able to withstand a 1.5 meter drop.

Tips for packing your products:

  • Fill the box with packing material like bubble wrap or Styrofoam.
  • Put extra tape on the corners of the shipping box.
  • Do not use newspaper as filler material, because there may be censorship regulations abroad.
  • Avoid boxes that are too small for filling materials, and don’t use string or twine to seal the package.

5: Please write the address correctly to avoid failed deliveries

Each country has its own rules on how to write the addresses correctly. In some countries it may be the case that the addresses do not include a door number, postal code or even a street name. This can be confusing. To ensure that your shipment reaches the final destination without problems, keep in mind the general rules that we indicate below.

How to correctly indicate the address on the package:

  • Recipient’s name
  • Street with the number of the portal, door, staircase, etc. / PO box number
  • Postal code and name of the town
  • Country name

Always write the name of the destination country in capital letters, after the name of the recipient’s town. Write the names of the country and locality in English.

Do not include any ISO codes in postal codes or town names, such as FR, D, CH, etc. This can lead to errors and delays in the classification process.

6: Consider the possibility of insuring your packages to avoid loss

Shipments abroad are more prone than domestic shipments to damage or loss. It does not hurt to take out insurance for international shipping, especially if you are shipping high-value items. This way you will avoid the risk of facing losses if something happens to a package.

Some carriers carry standard insurance for a certain amount on some shipping options. However, you can also choose to insure your packages regardless of carriers. This option is faster, as some carriers take more than 3 months to respond to a claim and take appropriate action.

7: Consider offering returns for your international shipments

Returns are an important aspect of e-commerce. Although it is not mandatory to offer returns for products sent outside the EU, it is your attention to make that option available to your customers.

If you decide to create a returns strategy, you can opt for one of the following options:

  • Outsource to a partner who takes care of returns in the destination country: customers will be able to make returns at a lower price and the local partner will take care of returning the products to your warehouse.
  • Collaborate with an international logistics group: you can create labels already prepared for the return package if you already have agreed prices for both shipments and returns.
  • International Returns Solutions – Choose a partner that offers a comprehensive international returns solution.