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International Shipments and Hand-carrying Equipment or Materials Abroad

Learn about the regulations on transporting equipment and materials internationally.

Importance of regulations

Failure to follow these requirements for both international shipping and hand-carrying of items abroad can lead to:

  • Customs delays
  • Seizure of goods
  • Violation of federal export laws such as:
    • Failure to obtain an export license when required: could result in fines of $250,000 to $1 million per violation and prison time for criminal convictions
    • False export declarations: fines are $10,000
    • Customs fines: vary by country and can also include seizure or detention of goods

How we can help

We provide training videos on export control issues in international shipping.

Before shipping internationally, contact the Export Control Office at export@ucsd.edu for assistance in:

  • Determining whether an export license is required
  • Securing a license when needed
  • Advice on what records need to be maintained in cases where the item can be shipped without a license

Fill out the Shipping Request form (Word file) to expedite the shipping process, or have this information available when contacting the Export Control Office.

Legal requirements for all international shipments

Note: US government export regulations described below are in addition to any other regulations regarding select agents, dangerous goods transportation or other controls related to the specific item being transported abroad.

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Embargoed countries

Cuba, Iran, North Korea, Syria and Sudan have strict import and export license requirements. If you have a collaborator, or will be sending or receiving items from one of these countries, contact the Export Control Office regarding license requirements.

Restricted Party Screening (RPS)

The US government maintains various lists of individuals and entities that US organizations are prohibited from collaborating with or shipping to, and require an export license for any shipment to a restricted party. VisualCompliance.com offers a Restricted Party Screening (RPS) tool for complying with this requirement. All UCSD employees may sign up for an account at VisualCompliance.com.  Find more information about Restricted Party Screenings and using this online tool (Word file, login required).

Important Note: Contact the Export Control Office with any potential screening matches.

Export license review and declarations

US export regulations may require an export license or license exception based on:

  • The item (including technical data)
  • Shipping destination
  • Value
  • End user

Automated Export System (AES) filing for shipments valued over $2500 or those that require an export license are required under the Foreign Trade Regulations. The Export Control Officer can review and advise on available license exceptions.

Export classification: Export control and Harmonized Tariff classification

US specific export classification:

  • ECCN (Export Control Classification Number alphanumeric code) 
    • or
  • ITAR Category (Roman numeral)

These are determined based on technical listings in export regulations. Based on the export classification, an export license or license exception may be required based on ship to entity, end user or country destination.

International export classification:

  • Harmonized System Tariff code (HS code)
    • 6-10 digit number: Internationally standardized system of names and numbers for classifying traded products
    • The USHTS is the US version of the Tariff Code

Improper classification can lead to duties (taxes) or fines. Browse or search the complete list of HS codes at the United States International Trade Commission or the Schedule B Search Engine.

In order to provide the most accurate classification an adequate description or part number is required. The HS code and export classification can also be requested from the manufacturer.

How to value the items in your shipment

Minimum declared value

The World Trade Organization and Customs in each country require accurate valuation of the goods. No country accepts a zero dollar value. The minimum value that can be declared is $1.

If the item is not being sold the invoice should indicate:

  • "Value is for Customs purposes only; Item not for sale"
    • or
  • "For research purposes only"

Determining value

  • Purchased goods
    • The value declared should = the PO price or quote
  • In-house developed item, i.e. test equipment
    • The value declared should = the cost of goods + labor
  • Prototypes provided free of charge
    • The value declared should = the price of the item if it were to be sold (supplier should provide this price)

Importance of valuation declaration

The Value determines if there are special government filings required in the US prior to the export of the goods (AES/EEI). Declared invoice value is the basis for any applicable duty or taxes/fees that are due in the ship-to country. Customs knows what the typical value is for goods; a low value can be a red flag. If there are any import or export penalties, the penalties are assessed against the value of the goods.

Pro forma or commercial invoice requirements

A pro forma invoice is required for all exports. You may also see this referred to as a commercial invoice (CI). For assistance in completing a pro forma or commercial invoice, please contact Export Control or UCSD Shipping through BFSupport (login required).

A pro forma invoice may be automatically generated if you are using an online expediter system (such as FedEx or UPS). If you are using an expediter paper system then you will need to create your own pro forma invoice and include it in your package and keep a copy in your shipping records.

Information required (all items in the shipment must be declared on the invoice):

  • The date that the invoice is created
  • A unique invoice number
  • The complete name and address (including country) of the ship from and ship to party/ company. These are also known as the Exporter of Record / Shipper and the Importer of Record / Consignee
  • A complete and concise description of the goods shipping
    • Example: do not indicate “Cells;” you need to indicate what kind of cells
      • Wrong: "Cells"
      • Right: "Human liver cells"
  • The country of origin (manufacture) of the item
  • Quantity: Accurate number of each piece shipping
  • Weight listed in kilograms
  • Value of Product: Unit price and Extended total price
  • The total invoice amount

The Invoice also needs the diversion statement "These items are controlled by the U.S. Government and authorized for export only to the country of ultimate destination for use by the ultimate consignee or end-user(s) herein identified. They may not be resold, transferred, or otherwise disposed of, to any other country or to any person other than the authorized ultimate consignee or end-user(s), either in their original form or after being incorporated into other items, without first obtaining approval from the U.S. government or as otherwise authorized by U.S. law and regulations."

If your items are being exported under an ITAR export license, consult with the Export Control Office.

When no Electronic Export Information (EEI) is required, the following statement needs to be noted on the invoice: “No EEI required - no individual Schedule B number valued over $2,500."

Requirements for shipments valued over $2500 and/or licensable items

Automated Export System (AES) Electronic Export Information (EEI) must be filed for exports valued over $2500 (per HS code) or if an export license is required. This requirement applies to items that are shipped and items that are hand carried.

If an EEI is required, the AES ITN (proof of filing transaction number) must be listed on the airway bill. The export declaration EEI can be filed through a UC authorized freight forwarder or the Export Control Office.

Exceptions for “tools of the trade”

To qualify for the “tool of trade” exception, the export must:

  • Be for less than one year.
  • Be a piece of equipment that people in the traveler’s discipline would generally recognize as a “tool of trade.”
  • Be under the traveler’s effective control. This means that the item must be kept in the traveler’s physical possession at all times, or secured in a hotel safe, a bonded warehouse, or a locked conference facility.
  • The travel cannot include a sanctioned country (Cuba, Iran, North Korea, Syria or Sudan).

Travelers should not take ANY of the following without first obtaining specific advice: 

  • Data or information received under an obligation of confidentiality.
  • Devices, systems or software specifically designed or modified for military (ITAR) or space applications (even if these items are used in an academic research setting)
  • Devices, equipment or computer software received
    • with restrictions on export to foreign nationals
    • or
    • with restrictions on access by foreign nationals.

Contact the Export Control Office for assistance with properly evaluating your qualifications and executing this exception.

Temporary exports and re-importing considerations

US goods returning

Affidavit of Manufacture – when shipping US made goods abroad temporarily, prepare an Affidavit of Manufacture (PDF) for the customs broker to submit to customs at the time of re-entry into the US. This document certifies the items as US origin. Preparing this document at the time of export ensures your customs re-entry is not delayed or rejected due to missing documentation.

Addressing duties on temporary exports

  • Certificate of Registration – for higher valued shipments returning to the US, registering the goods with customs prior to exporting may help avoid duties or delays with re-entry into the US. Complete CBP Form 4455 (PDF), then take the goods to customs for inspection and signature.
  • Carnet – The Carnet is a standardized mechanism accepted in most countries to facilitate duty-free import and export for temporary shipments. All items covered on a Carnet must return unaltered within one year from the date of export. The Carnet includes a bond for the anticipated duties value, which can be claimed by customs if the items are not re-exported within this timeframe. American Cargo Service (ACS) can apply for Carnets in support of UCSD business and research.
  • Temporary In-bond (TIB) – used for duty-free entry in lieu of a Carnet; the rules and fees for TIBs vary from location to location.
  • Always inquire with the local agent about the best way to import your temporary shipments duty-free.

Import documentation

  • Formal Clearance with one of UCSD’s Freight Forwarders is required for shipments valued $2,000 or more, or when using an export license. Other special conditions may require use of a customs broker for your import. In order to avoid delays, it’s best to plan ahead and consult a Freight Forwarder before the item you’re importing is shipped.

Canada and Mexico

For shipments between the US and Canada or Mexico, a NAFTA Certificate of Origin (CBP Form 434, PDF) may be required. Be sure to review NAFTA regulations carefully when determining whether NAFTA applies to your goods.

Recordkeeping requirements

You are required to maintain all shipping records for a period of 5 years from the date of the export. This includes pro forma invoices, airway bills, export filings and associated communications.

Request a copy of relevant documents from your shipper or print them when using an online application. Your shipper (such as DHL, FedEx or UPS) will not keep copies of shipping records for you.

Communicating with your international collaborator for shipments

Exporters are advised to contact their collaborator to inquire regarding the import requirements for the destination country. Imports may be stopped by Customs officials in the importing country if the proper import licenses are not included in the paperwork. Import requirements vary greatly by country.

Freight forwarders

The University of California has Systemwide Agreements for Customs Brokerage & International Freight Forwarding Services with American Cargo Service (ACS) to clear import and export shipments through U.S. Customs and provide freight-forwarding services.

American Cargo Service, Inc. (ACS)
Local: (858) 565-4125
Toll free: (800) 508-4888 
Email: UC@acssan.com

Additional import/export requirements

In addition to the regulations and procedures listed above, your import or export may be subject to the following where applicable:

Related UCSD Procedures

Federal Agencies

Controlled Substances

Nuclear Related Exports

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