Looking to ship international goods to or from New Zealand but don’t know how they will get through international parcels customs clearance? Lucky for you, there are many things you can do to make sure your goods get through without a hitch.  

Just remember that preparation is critical. The more you prepare, the less likely your items are going to get delayed. If this sounds like the answer for you, but you don’t know what exactly you need to prepare for, keep reading for advice about correctly declaring your international goods when sending them.  

What is an International Good?

International goods are any goods that have been shipped or sent overseas by post or international courier.
Commonly sent international goods are foods, alcohol, sports equipment, or animal products.

These items can fall into different categories, such as ‘restricted’ or ‘dangerous’, so keep that in mind when sending items overseas from New Zealand. Also, keep in mind that international goods can be either ‘personal’ or ‘commercial’. It is essential to know what category your things fall under because they can have different sending rules. 

International Procedures and Laws must be followed

You may be wondering why you need to adhere to such extensive procedures and laws just to ship a single item. Be rest assured that all of these policies are in place to keep you and other citizens safe. The processes are essential, and you must follow them closely. Your items could be dangerous, and without the right information, you’d never know it.  

A common bugbear for senders can be delays. If you’re ever wondering why your parcel is held up, it’s most likely because you failed to comply with international post or courier service policies. It could be as simple as understanding the NZ customs duty rates or NZ prohibited items. 

delivery delay nz post

It is also essential to know that NZ maintains comprehensive and strict security procedures. If you fail to declare international goods, especially ones considered risky or NZ-prohibited items, you may be fined, arrested, or deported even if it was accidental. This will all depend on the severity of the misinformation you’ve provided. Save yourself the hassle of dealing with these consequences, and make sure to follow the necessary procedures!

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Getting Through NZ Customs Without a Hitch

If you’re shipping an item overseas, then it means you’ll need to get through international parcels customs clearance.  Keep reading – it’s not as tedious as it sounds! 

It’s simple if you follow these three steps:

  1. Prepare your items
  2. Declare your items
  3. Pay any required fees

If you follow these three steps, your parcel should sail through customs.

1. Prepare your items

Along with declaring your goods, you will also need to fill out some paperwork before shipping your items internationally. This will either be a Air Waybill or a commercial invoice (fill these out on our online portal).  

What is the purpose of a Air Waybill or commercial invoice?

The Air Waybill and commercial invoice are two different forms that do similar things. They both notify international parcels customs clearance of what you are sending, where it came from, why you are shipping it, and how much each of the items are worth.   

If you are shipping a document internationally, you will only need to fill out a Air Waybill. But if you are sending an item that is not a document, you will need to fill out a Air Waybill along with a commercial invoice.  

Follow this guide on what you will need to fill out your Air Waybill or Commercial Invoice successfully.  

Air Waybill:

  • Both the receiver and sender’s contact information
  • A description of the goods you’re sending 
  • The service you prefer for sending your package 

Commercial invoice:

  • The receiver’s information
  • Consignment note number/Air Waybill
  • How many packages you plan to send
  • Your NZ customs client code
  • How many items are inside your box and their unit value
  • The total value by product
  • The total invoice value of all the things you are sending
  • Where the items came from(manufacturing plant/facilities)
  • Why you are exporting them
  • The name of your company along with their address
  • Your name, signature, and date

You might also get asked to send in additional information or paperwork if you send in items such as food or health products. Collect the additional information and include it with your Air Waybill or commercial invoice if this is the case. 

declare goods so they don't get delayed

How to fill out a commercial invoice or Air Waybill?

The best way to ensure you can fill out all the requirements for a commercial invoice or Air Waybill is to use a template. A template is an excellent way to keep your item’s information organised and easy to find. This helps you make sure all the necessary information is filled out.

2. Declare your items

When thinking about what items need to be declared, think about the following:

  • What is the item?
  • What is it made of?
  • What is your item used for?

Restricted items

Some items can’t be imported or exported from New Zealand for health and safety reasons. These are called restricted goods. Restricted items fall into two categories: prohibited goods you can’t send and some you can, so long as you have a permit.

Some NZ Prohibited items: 

  • Objectionable information in videotapes, films, records, etc.
  • Weapons
  • Items used to consume cannabis/methamphetamine
  • Items you would use to commit a crime
  • Some medicines
  • Species considered endangered
  • Hazardous materials

Items you can send into the country with a permit include: 

  • Prescription medicines
  • Children’s art supplies 

There may also be items not on this list that need a permit to be sent to specific countries. For example, you can send food items to Australia such as commercially prepared and packaged chocolate, but you cannot send whole eggs without a permit.

If you are unsure which category an item falls into, contact the New Zealand Customs Service before shipping. Illegally or incorrectly shipping restricted items could result in legal consequences, including jail time, so do be careful! 

Dangerous Goods International Shipping

Other goods you will need to be aware of when shipping are ‘dangerous’ goods. These are essentially any explosive, toxic, flammable, corrosive or infectious items or those that pose any threat to the environment. You may be able to recognise them by their logos – many have labels indicating that they are hazardous. 

Some goods are classified as ‘dangerous’ due to the potential reaction that may occur while they are carried in the air. Planes undergo many changes during take-off and landing, some of which can cause goods on board to react to the elements. Potential risks include explosions, leakages, breakages and so on. This could pose a threat to anyone and anything on the plane. 

Dangerous goods also include Aerosol cans, Ammunition, Flammable Liquids/Materials, Lithium-ion batteries and more. View a more detailed guide to sending dangerous goods here. 

You can only transport these items by packaging them specifically and properly registering them before and after arrival. 

Risky Items

Some of your items may be considered ‘risky’ instead of ‘dangerous’. These items have a greater chance of making it into the country as long as you declare them at customs. If you do not declare them, they will be confiscated. 

If you have any items that you are unsure of, it is best to be safe rather than sorry and declare them. You’d be shocked by what is considered dangerous! 

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3. Pay any required fees

If you’re importing goods into New Zealand that cost less than NZ$1,000, you won’t have to pay anything to customs since GST is collected when you buy your items. Regardless of the value, there will be NZ customs duty charges and GST on alcohol and tobacco products. Use NZ Customs’ custom duty estimator to find out what sort of charges there may be: What’s my duty estimator.  

If you’re exporting goods out of New Zealand, there are some general fees to consider. Base price is the cost to ship the package, which takes into consideration the destination, size and weight of the parcel. Additional services like faster delivery and insurance will incur extra charges, and Fuel surcharges will be applied as well. The fuel surcharge will differ based on the route the parcel will take. There is now in many cases a COVID-surcharge to pay for as well. 

Ship Your International Goods

As you can see, international shipping does require some prep and know-how, and it can be stressful to get it right if you’re not well-versed in the matter. Working with an untrained courier partner can also introduce stress to your operation you just don’t need.  

Whether you need a little help getting the finishing touches right, or whether you want us to look after you from start to finish, NZ Couriers is more than prepared to correctly and safely ship any of your international goods. We’ve been taking care of our customers’ international shipping needs since 1964, and are experts at getting your goods to where they need to go.  

Visit our website to create an account, download your commercial invoice, or learn more about our international shipping services here.