Top 10 Things to Consider When Shipping from China to US

Top 10 Things to Consider When Shipping from China to US

April 8, 2024

Trade between the United States and China is extensive, making shipping from China to the US a prominent topic. If you’re unsure where to begin when it comes to shipping from China to the US, this comprehensive guide has you covered.

From selecting your supplier to navigating document preparation and customs duties, this guide will equip you with the knowledge needed to excel in shipping from China to the US. Additionally, if you’re seeking assistance from a freight forwarder to streamline your shipping process, your search ends here.

1.What Documents are Required to Import Goods from China?

Importing goods from China to the United States requires several important documents to ensure smooth customs clearance and compliance with regulations.

Here are the key documents typically required:

Commercial Invoice:

This document provides details about the transaction, including the description of the goods, their value, quantity, and terms of sale (Incoterms). It’s essential for customs clearance and valuation purposes.

Packing List:

The packing list itemizes the contents of each package or shipment, detailing the type and quantity of goods. It assists customs officers in verifying the contents and facilitates accurate clearance.

Bill of Lading (B/L):

The bill of lading serves as a contract between the shipper and the carrier, detailing the shipment’s origin, destination, and terms of transportation. It also acts as a receipt for the goods and is necessary for claiming the cargo at the destination port.

Airway Bill (AWB) (for Air Shipments):

Similar to a bill of lading but used for air freight shipments, the airway bill serves as a contract between the shipper and the airline. It includes essential information about the shipment and serves as a receipt for the goods.

Customs Declaration (Customs Entry Form):

This form provides detailed information about the imported goods, their classification (using Harmonized System codes), value, country of origin, and other relevant data required by customs authorities for assessment and clearance.

Certificate of Origin:

This document certifies the origin of the goods and may be required to qualify for preferential tariff treatment under free trade agreements or to comply with import quotas or restrictions.

Import License or Permit:

Some products may require an import license or permit issued by relevant authorities in the importing country, especially for regulated goods such as pharmaceuticals, food, or chemicals.

Additional Documentation:

Depending on the goods’ nature and specific regulatory requirements, additional documents such as inspection certificates, sanitary or phytosanitary certificates, or special permits may be necessary.

Accurate completion and submission of all required documents to customs authorities are crucial to prevent delays, fines, or penalties.

Collaborating with experienced freight forwarders or customs brokers can facilitate the documentation process effectively.

2.    How to Import from China to the USA

The process of shipping goods from China and importing them for resale into the United States can be broken down into several key steps to ensure a smooth and successful transaction:

Product Selection:

Begin by carefully selecting the products you wish to ship. Conduct thorough market research to identify products with high demand in the USA and those commonly manufactured in China.

Tariff and Regulation Research:

Investigate whether the selected products are subject to any special tariffs or regulations in the USA. Account for any additional expenses or inspections at the border. If significant restrictions apply, consider alternative products to avoid complications.

Supplier Identification:

Find reputable suppliers capable of providing the chosen products. Online platforms like Alibaba can be valuable resources for connecting with suppliers in China.

Tax Estimation:

Estimate the tax liability associated with importing the selected products into the USA. Understanding tax implications is crucial for accurate financial planning.

Incoterms Definition:

Define the Incoterms governing your shipment. Incoterms specify the responsibilities of buyers and sellers regarding transportation, insurance, and customs clearance. Choose terms that align with your business needs and risk tolerance.

Freight Forwarder Selection:

Choose a reliable freight forwarder with expertise in handling shipments from China to the USA. Look for a forwarder based in China who has experience navigating the intricacies of USA-bound shipments.

Document Preparation:

Collaborate with your freight forwarder to prepare the necessary shipping documents, including the commercial invoice, packing list, bill of lading, and customs declaration. Accurate documentation is essential for smooth customs clearance and compliance.

Logistics Coordination:

Work closely with your freight forwarder to coordinate logistics, estimate shipping costs, and ensure timely delivery of your goods. Clear communication and proactive planning are key to a successful shipment.

By following these steps and leveraging the expertise of trusted partners, you can streamline the process of shipping goods from China to the USA and importing them for resale, setting your business up for success in the international market.

3.    How to Find the Best Freight Forwarder for Shipping from China to US

Finding the best freight forwarder for shipping from China to the US is crucial for ensuring smooth and efficient transportation of your goods. Here are some steps to help you find the right freight forwarder:

Research and Shortlisting:

Begin by researching freight forwarders that specialize in shipping from China to the US. Look for companies with a proven track record, experience in your industry, and positive reviews from past clients. Compile a list of potential candidates.

Check Credentials and Certifications:

Verify the credentials and certifications of each freight forwarder on your list.

Ensure they are licensed and registered with relevant authorities in both China and the US.

Look for certifications such as the Federal Maritime Commission (FMC) license for ocean freight forwarders.

Evaluate Experience and Expertise:

Assess each freight forwarder’s experience and expertise in handling shipments from China to the US. Inquire about their familiarity with customs regulations, documentation requirements, and transportation networks in both countries. Choose a forwarder with extensive experience in your industry and a strong understanding of your specific shipping needs.

Request References and Testimonials:

Ask for references or testimonials from past clients who have shipped similar products from China to the US. Reach out to these references to gain insights into the freight forwarder’s reliability, communication, and overall performance.

Compare Services and Pricing:

Request quotes from multiple freight forwarders and compare their services and pricing. Consider factors such as shipping methods (air, ocean, rail), transit times, insurance coverage, and additional services like customs clearance and warehousing. Choose a forwarder that offers competitive rates and comprehensive services tailored to your needs.

Communication and Responsiveness:

Evaluate the communication and responsiveness of each freight forwarder during the initial inquiry process. A reliable forwarder should be proactive in addressing your inquiries, providing timely updates on your shipment’s status, and offering personalized support throughout the shipping process.

Visit Their Facilities (if possible):

If feasible, visit the facilities of shortlisted freight forwarders to assess their operational capabilities, infrastructure, and quality control measures. A reputable forwarder should have well-maintained facilities and advanced technology to ensure the safe and efficient handling of your goods.

Negotiate Terms and Contracts:

Once you’ve selected a preferred freight forwarder, negotiate terms and finalize the contract. Clarify pricing, payment terms, liability coverage, and any other important details to avoid misunderstandings later on.

By following these steps and conducting thorough due diligence, you can find the best freight forwarder for shipping from China to the US, ensuring reliable and cost-effective transportation of your goods.

4.    Shipping Routes from China to the USA

Shipping routes from China to the USA are primarily determined by the chosen mode of transportation: sea, air, or rail. Here’s an overview of the main shipping routes for each mode:

  1. Sea Freight Routes:

    • Trans-Pacific Route: This is the most common sea freight route from China to the USA, involving shipping containers across the Pacific Ocean to West Coast ports such as Los Angeles, Long Beach, Oakland, and Seattle.
    • East Coast Route: Some shipments may also travel via the Panama Canal to reach East Coast ports like New York/New Jersey, Savannah, and Charleston. This route offers access to markets on the East Coast and Midwest regions of the USA.
    • Gulf Coast Route: Another option is to ship goods to Gulf Coast ports such as Houston and New Orleans, providing access to markets in the southern and central regions of the USA.
  2. Air Freight Routes:

    • Direct Flights: Major airports in China, including Shanghai Pudong, Guangzhou Baiyun, and Beijing Capital, offer direct flights to several US airports like Los Angeles International Airport (LAX), John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK), and Chicago O’Hare International Airport (ORD). These direct routes provide efficient transportation for goods.
    • Transshipment Hubs: Alternatively, some air cargo may pass through transshipment hubs such as Hong Kong, Seoul, or Tokyo before reaching their ultimate destinations in the USA. These hubs offer connectivity and consolidation options, optimizing the efficiency of air freight transportation.
  3. Rail Freight Routes:

    • Trans-Eurasian Rail: Rail freight services between China and Europe, such as the China-Europe Railway Express, may include routes passing through countries like Kazakhstan, Russia, and Belarus before reaching Europe. From Europe, goods can be further transported by sea or air to the USA.
    • China-US Rail: While less common than sea and air freight, there have been initiatives to establish rail freight services directly connecting China with the USA. These routes involve transiting through multiple countries in Asia and Europe before crossing the Atlantic Ocean via rail ferry or other means.

Each shipping route offers distinct advantages in terms of cost, transit time, capacity, and accessibility to different regions of the USA. The choice of route depends on factors such as the urgency of the shipment, budget constraints, the nature of the goods, and the final destination within the USA. Working with a knowledgeable freight forwarder can help you select the most suitable shipping route based on your specific requirements.

5.    What is  the Best Shipping Routes from China to the US

Determining the “best” shipping route from China to the US depends on various factors such as transit time, cost, reliability, and the specific requirements of your shipment. However, some routes are generally considered more popular and efficient due to their frequency of service, capacity, and accessibility. Here are some commonly used shipping routes from China to the US:

  1. Sea Freight Routes:

    • Trans-Pacific Route to West Coast Ports: This route is frequently chosen for its cost-effectiveness and frequent service. Major ports on the West Coast of the US, including Los Angeles, Long Beach, and Oakland, are crucial entry points for cargo from China.
    • East Coast via Panama Canal: Although it may entail a longer transit time compared to the Trans-Pacific route, shipping through the Panama Canal provides access to East Coast ports like New York/New Jersey, Savannah, and Charleston. This route is advantageous for shipments bound for the eastern and central regions of the US.
  2. Air Freight Routes:

    • Direct Flights to Major US Airports: Opting for direct air freight services from major Chinese airports to key US hubs such as Los Angeles (LAX), Chicago (ORD), and New York (JFK) ensures fast and reliable delivery, ideal for time-sensitive shipments. These routes are preferred for high-value or perishable goods due to their efficiency.
    • Transshipment via Air Cargo Hubs: Alternatively, shipments may be routed through air cargo hubs in Asia or Europe before reaching their final US destinations. This approach offers flexibility and consolidation opportunities, especially for cargo originating from or destined for multiple locations.
  3. Rail Freight Routes:

    • Trans-Eurasian Rail to Europe, then Sea or Air to the US: Rail freight services between China and Europe offer an alternative route for goods destined for the US. After reaching Europe, goods can be further transported by sea or air to the US. This route is suitable for certain types of cargo and offers a balance between cost and transit time.

The best shipping route depends on your specific needs, including budget, urgency, volume, and destination within the US. It’s essential to work with experienced freight forwarders or logistics providers who can assess your requirements and recommend the most suitable route based on factors such as cost-effectiveness, transit time, and reliability. Additionally, staying informed about market conditions, capacity constraints, and regulatory changes can help optimize your shipping strategy for the best possible outcomes.

6.    China to US Shipping Time

Shipping time from China to the US can vary significantly depending on several factors, including the chosen shipping mode (sea, air, rail), the specific origin and destination points, and any potential delays or disruptions along the route. Here’s a general overview of typical shipping times for each mode:

  1. Sea Freight:

    • Trans-Pacific Route to West Coast Ports: Shipping by sea from China to major West Coast ports like Los Angeles, Long Beach, and Oakland typically takes around 12 to 20 days, depending on factors such as the specific port of origin in China and the shipping line’s transit time.
    • East Coast via Panama Canal: Shipping to East Coast ports like New York/New Jersey, Savannah, and Charleston via the Panama Canal may take longer, ranging from 20 to 35 days due to the additional distance and transit through the canal.
  2. Air Freight:

    • Direct Flights: Air freight offers the fastest shipping option from China to the US, with typical transit times ranging from 1 to 7 days, depending on factors such as the departure and arrival airports, airline schedules, and customs clearance procedures.
    • Transshipment via Air Cargo Hubs: If your shipment requires transshipment through air cargo hubs in Asia or Europe, transit times may be longer, ranging from 7 to 14 days or more, depending on the routing and connections.
  3. Rail Freight:

    • Trans-Eurasian Rail to Europe, then Sea or Air to the US: Shipping by rail from China to Europe usually takes approximately 12 to 20 days, varying based on the chosen route and transit times.Upon arrival in Europe, additional time is necessary for further transportation by sea or air to the US, thereby extending the total shipping duration by several days.

It’s important to note that these are general estimates, and actual shipping times may vary based on factors such as weather conditions, port congestion, customs clearance procedures, and carrier schedules. Additionally, expedited or premium shipping services may offer shorter transit times but at a higher cost.

When planning your shipments from China to the US, it’s advisable to work closely with your freight forwarder or logistics provider to obtain accurate transit time estimates and to account for any potential delays or contingencies to ensure timely delivery of your goods.

7.    Customs Charges from China to the US

When importing goods from China to the US, several customs charges and fees may apply, depending on various factors such as the value of the goods, their classification, and any applicable trade agreements or regulations. Here are the main customs charges you may encounter:

Customs Duties:

Customs duties are taxes imposed by the US government on imported goods. The rate of duty applied to your shipment depends on the classification of the goods in the Harmonized Tariff Schedule (HTS) and their country of origin. Duty rates can vary widely, ranging from zero for certain items to higher percentages for others.

Import Processing Fees:

The US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) may assess an import processing fee for processing and handling imported goods. This fee is typically a fixed amount per shipment and is separate from customs duties.

Harbor Maintenance Fee (HMF):

The Harbor Maintenance Fee is levied on imports arriving at US ports to support the maintenance and dredging of these facilities.

Typically calculated as a percentage of the cargo’s value, it contributes to the upkeep of US ports and harbors.

Merchandise Processing Fee (MPF):

The Merchandise Processing Fee, assessed by CBP on most imported goods entering the US, is another fee to consider.

Calculated based on the value of the imported merchandise, it is subject to minimum and maximum limits.

Antidumping and Countervailing Duties:

Antidumping and countervailing duties may be imposed on imported goods sold in the US below fair market value (dumped) or subsidized by foreign governments.

These measures aim to uphold fair competition for domestic industries.

Additional Charges:

Depending on the specific circumstances of your shipment, additional charges such as inspection fees, storage fees, or penalties for non-compliance with customs regulations may apply.

It is important to work closely with your freight forwarder, customs broker, or consult with topshipping professionals to understand and anticipate the customs fees and charges associated with importing goods from China to the United States.

Proper classification of your goods, accurate valuation, and compliance with customs regulations can help minimize the impact of these charges on your import costs. Additionally, taking advantage of any available duty relief programs or free trade agreements may help reduce customs duties and fees for eligible shipments.

8.    Requirements to Import from China

Importing goods from China to the US involves several requirements to ensure compliance with customs regulations and other legal obligations. Here are the key requirements you need to consider:

Business Registration:

Make sure your business is properly registered and authorized for import/export operations.

Obtain any required licenses or permits from relevant authorities.

EIN or Tax ID:

Obtain an Employer Identification Number (EIN) or Tax Identification Number (TIN) from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) if you are importing goods for commercial purposes.

This number will be used for tax reporting and customs clearance purposes.

Importer of Record (IOR):

Designate an Importer of Record (IOR) who will be responsible for ensuring compliance with customs regulations, paying customs duties and fees, and representing the importer in customs transactions.

Customs Bond:

To expedite customs clearance, obtain a customs bond. It ensures payment of duties, taxes, and fees to CBP.

While customs bonds are mandatory for imports valued at $2,500 or more, it’s advisable to obtain one for all imports.

Importer Security Filing (ISF):

Submit an Importer Security Filing (ISF), also called 10+2 filing, to CBP.

Ensure it’s done 24 hours before goods are loaded onto a vessel for the US.

The ISF gives CBP advance details about the importer, consignee, seller, and imported goods.

Commercial Invoice:

Create a commercial invoice detailing imported goods for customs clearance by CBP.

Include descriptions, quantities, values, countries of origin, and other pertinent information. This document determines customs duties and taxes.

Packing List:

Prepare a packing list that itemizes the contents of each package or container in the shipment. The packing list helps customs officers verify the contents of the shipment and ensure compliance with import regulations.

Country of Origin Marking:

Adhere to US customs regulations by marking each imported item with its country of origin.

Marking requirements vary based on goods and trade agreements.

Compliance with Regulations:

Ensure compliance with all relevant regulations, including product safety standards, labeling requirements, and any specific import restrictions or prohibitions that may apply to certain types of goods.

Payment of Customs Duties and Fees:

Prepare to pay taxes, fees, and customs duties imposed by CBP on imported items.

Payment must precede the release of goods from customs and is determined by their value and categorization.

Meeting these obligations and adhering to customs regulations streamlines the importation process from China to the US, reducing the likelihood of delays or penalties.

Engage experienced freight forwarders, customs brokers, and trade advisors to navigate complexities and ensure compliance with regulations.

9.    Cheap Products to Import from China

When considering importing products from China, it’s essential to balance cost-effectiveness with quality and market demand.

Here are some product categories known for their affordability and potential for importing from China:

Electronics Accessories:

Items such as phone cases, chargers, cables, headphones, and electronic gadgets are popular and relatively inexpensive to manufacture in China.

These products have a wide market appeal and can be sourced at competitive prices.

Apparel and Fashion Accessories:

Clothing items like t-shirts, hoodies, dresses, and fashion accessories such as hats, scarves, and jewelry are commonly manufactured in China at competitive prices.

Given the rapid evolution of fashion trends, it’s vital to remain abreast of current styles and consumer preferences.

Home Decor and Household Items:

Shop for affordable decorative items, kitchenware, bedding sets, and home organization products made in China.

These products suit diverse consumers and are available in bulk at competitive rates.

Discover a wide array of toys and games from China, ranging from traditional toys to electronic gadgets and educational games.

These products are cost-effective to manufacture and cater to different age groups and interests.

Personal Care and Beauty Products:

Skincare products, cosmetics, hair accessories, and grooming tools are readily available from China at competitive prices.

However, it’s essential to ensure compliance with regulatory standards and quality control measures, especially for products intended for personal use.

Household Electronics:

China manufactures a variety of small household appliances, gadgets, and electronic devices such as power banks, Bluetooth speakers, and smart home devices.

These products combine affordability with functionality, making them favored options for importers.

Stationery and Office Supplies:

Stationery items, office supplies, and school supplies such as pens, notebooks, folders, and desk organizers are inexpensive to produce in China.

These products have a steady demand and can be sourced in bulk at low costs.

Outdoor and Sports Equipment:

Affordably manufactured camping gear, sports accessories, fitness equipment, and outdoor recreational products are commonly produced in China.

These items appeal to outdoor enthusiasts and fitness-conscious consumers.

When seeking inexpensive goods from China, thorough research is vital. This includes evaluating market demand, supplier reliability, and product quality.

Consider shipping expenses, import duties, and compliance with regulations.

Building solid relationships with trustworthy suppliers and conducting quality checks can ensure a smooth importation process.

10.  How to Get a Quote for Your Shipment

To obtain a quote for your shipment from China to the US, follow these steps:

Gather Shipment Details:

Collect all relevant information about your shipment, including the type of goods, quantity, weight, dimensions, and packaging requirements. If you have specific delivery deadlines or preferences for shipping methods, provide these details as well.

Research Freight Forwarders:

Identify and research freight forwarders that specialize in shipping from China to the US. Look for companies with a proven track record, experience in your industry, and positive customer reviews.

Contact Freight Forwarders:

Reach out to selected freight forwarders via email, phone, or their website contact form. Provide them with the shipment details you gathered and any specific requirements or preferences you have.

Request a Quote:

Ask each freight forwarder to provide a comprehensive quote for your shipment. Include details such as the shipping method (air, sea, rail), Incoterms, origin and destination ports, transit time, and any additional services required (customs clearance, insurance, etc.).

Provide Necessary Documentation:

Depending on the freight forwarder’s requirements, you may need to provide additional documentation such as the commercial invoice, packing list, and product specifications. Ensure that all documentation is accurate and complete to facilitate the quoting process.

Compare Quotes:

Once you’ve received quotes from multiple freight forwarders, compare them carefully. Consider factors such as total cost, transit time, service quality, and any additional value-added services offered by each provider.

Ask Questions:

Don’t hesitate to ask questions or seek clarification from freight forwarders regarding any aspects of the quote or their services.

This ensures a clear understanding of what is included in the quote and what to expect throughout the shipping process.

Negotiate and Finalize:

If necessary, negotiate with freight forwarders to secure the best possible terms and pricing for your shipment.

Once you’re satisfied with a quote, finalize the agreement with the chosen freight forwarder and proceed with the shipping arrangements.

By following these steps and working closely with reputable freight forwarders, you can obtain accurate quotes for your shipment from China to the US and make informed decisions to ensure a smooth and cost-effective shipping process.

 Why Choose Topshipping Logistics?

Why Choose TopShipping Logistics? TopShipping Logistics stands out for its exceptional services tailored to meet the needs of our valued customers. Benefit from:
  • 24/7 Dedicated Customer Support: Our team is on standby round the clock to promptly address your inquiries and concerns.
  • Extensive Network of Offices: Strategically located offices in key Chinese cities like Shenzhen, Guangzhou, and Shanghai ensure swift pickups within 3 hours of authorization.
  • Free Pickup Service: Simplify logistics with complimentary pickups from multiple supplier warehouses, saving you time and money.
  • Expert Repackaging: Our team offers complimentary repackaging upon pickup, optimizing shipping costs and ensuring safe transit.
  • Quality Inspection: Request thorough product checks pre-shipment for added peace of mind, with optional photo documentation for transparency.
  • Free Warehousing: Enjoy complimentary warehousing until the agreed ship date for flexible logistics planning.
  • Global Shipment Assistance: We provide comprehensive support for shipments worldwide, ensuring seamless coordination to all major destinations.
  • Strict Customer Confidentiality: Your privacy is paramount to us; rest assured, your sensitive information is safeguarded at all times.


Shipping goods from China to the United States requires careful planning, attention to detail, and collaboration with reliable partners.
Each step – from selecting products and suppliers to navigating customs and arranging logistics – is vital for a successful importation process.
TopShipping, an experienced freight forwarder, offers valuable services like 24/7 customer support, efficient pickup, expert repackaging, quality inspection, and global shipment assistance.
These services streamline shipping, ensure product integrity, and provide peace of mind. Maintaining confidentiality is crucial in the import-export industry and TopShipping Logistics
prioritize protecting customer information. Partnering with trusted logistics providers and following importation best practices is key for cost-effective and hassle-free shipments from China to the US. With support from reliable partners, businesses can navigate international trade confidently and successfully.

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