Harmonized Tariff Schedule (HTS) Codes for International Shipping

June 22nd, 2016 Comments off

HTS BlogYou may have spotted a box called “HS Tariff” in the Stamps.com International Shipping Label’s Customs Information section. What is it and what is it used for?

The Harmonized System, or HS, Tariff code is used to classify physical goods and traded products for export to another country. In the Stamps.com software, you have the option of entering a six-digit HS Tariff, a value developed and maintained by the World Customs Organization (WCO).

Why would you need this code? The codes are used by countries’ customs services to assess product quotas and correctly levy tariffs. This is not necessarily a bad thing: your commodity may qualify for a preferential tariff under a Free Trade Agreement.

Getting Your HS Tariff Code
So where would you get an HS Tariff code? To locate a specific code, please visit: http://hts.usitc.gov/

The Harmonized Tariff Schedule allows you to classify a specific product or product type with a numbered code. It will also provide information on the Tariff Rate of Duty.

Are you an exporter of table-tennis equipment? In the Tariff Schedule search engine, type in “table-tennis.” Reviewing the results, you’ll see HS Tariff code 9506, which is for “articles and equipment for general physical exercise, gymnastics, athletics, other sports (including table-tennis).” What if you’re an exporter of extracts, essences and concentrates of coffee, tea, or roasted chicory? Then your HS Tariff code is “2101.”

The goal is to pick the most specific tariff code for your item. For example, knives with silver handles would have the Tariff Code of 7114.11.10. Tricycles, scooters, and pedal cars would be 9503.00.00.  Perfumed bath salts would be 3307.30.

Using HS Tariff Codes in Stamps.com
To use an HS Tariff code, please select “Commercial Sample” as the Content Type in the Customs Form. You’ll notice some codes are longer than six characters, the maximum limit for the HS Tariff code in the Stamps.com software. Don’t worry: because the HS Tariff classification protocol is used by almost the entire international community, participating countries can add more digits to classify items with more specific detail. However, the first six digits are the same across all participating countries. Because of this, only the first six are used on Stamps.com Customs Forms.

The Customs Form will also ask for a “Country of Origin.” This refers to the origin of the product, not the origin of the mailpiece as a whole. This is required for the sake of security and to prevent any illicit or fraudulent activity, or anything that violates existing export laws.

Once you enter the Itemized Package Content Details, Value, Weight, Country of Origin, and add each line item by clicking on the “Add Item” button, you will be asked to acknowledge the USPS Privacy Act Statement and Restrictions and Prohibitions. Review that, and click OK.

Your form is now ready to print. The HS Tariff Number will appear in a box on the left of your International Shipping Label/Customs Form.

How To Send Packages To Cuba With Stamps.com

June 1st, 2016 Comments off

Blog_Shipping_Packages_To_CubaSometimes historical forces will affect what and where you’ll be able to mail.  In 1963, mail service was cancelled between the U.S. and Cuba, and mail was sent indirectly through countries such as Mexico and Canada.

However, direct mail service has been restored officially by the USPS as of March 16, 2016, thanks to the recent restoration of diplomatic relations between these former Cold War foes.  This lifting of the ban means that you can now send to Cuba First-Class Mail International® items, First-Class Package International Service® items, and Priority Mail International® Flat Rate Envelopes and Small Flat Rate Priced Boxes.

Printing postage with Stamps.com
You can print postage for these approved mail classes and types to Cuba easily using the Stamps.com program. If you need to send a First-Class Mail International letter or postcard, you can use our NetStamps feature and print postage using an Original NetStamps sheet.

To print International Mail with NetStamps, please follow the steps below:

1. Log in to your software and click on “Stamps.”
2. Under “Postage Details,” select “I want to specify the value for each stamp” by clicking on the white circle.
3. If you are unsure about the postage rate for your mailpiece, click on the icon bearing the image of a globe and the word “Int’l.” to access USPS’ International Mail Calculator.  Select the country, territory, or dependency to which you would like to send mail.  Select the Mailpiece Type and enter the weight of your mailpiece and click “Check Rates.”  You will be given a list of available mail classes and rates for the country you have selected.

For First-Class Mail International Large Envelopes/Flats, First-Class Package International Service, Priority Mail International Flat Rate Envelopes and Priority Mail International Small Flat Rate Priced Boxes, you can click on the International tab in the Main Navigation Bar in your software.

Remember that package contents must be declared for U.S. Customs.  Stamps.com has made this process easy by combining shipping labels and U.S. Customs Declaration Forms into a single-sheet label.  You can use our Plain Paper option or a self-adhesive label like our SDC-1200.

Mailing restrictions
If you’re a business, don’t miss out on the opportunity to be part of the new commercial partnerships that will result from the Cuban Thaw.  An easing of trade and travel rules means potential new markets.   We recommend staying abreast of postal regulations on shipments to Cuba, which are maintained by the USPS here: http://pe.usps.gov/text/imm/ce_017.htm.

Understanding Package Weight Limits for International Shipping

May 18th, 2016 Comments off

UnderstandingInternationalWeightLimits

You have a Priority Mail International® Small Flat Rate Priced Box ready to be shipped to the country of Antigua and Barbuda. It weighs 5 pounds, but you’re not seeing an option for Small Flat Rate Priced Boxes in the Stamps.com drop-down mailpiece menu. What’s going on? The answer: the maximum weight for a Priority Mail International Small Flat Rate Priced Box is 4 pounds, so your mailpiece weighs too much for this flat rate box.

When preparing international shipments, it’s important to remember that there are weight limits depending on which mail class and packaging you’re using.

For example, the maximum weight for a Priority Mail Express International® Flat Rate Envelope or Small Flat Rate Priced Box is 4 pounds, and 20 pounds for Medium and Large Flat Rate Priced Boxes.

First-Class Mail International® Letters are capped at 3.5 ounces while First-Class Mail International Large Envelopes/Flats, these cannot exceed 4 pounds.

Variations by Country: Availability of Services 
An important aspect to shipping internationally is knowing that services vary by country.

For example, if you’re using Priority Mail International to mail something to Bolivia, Cuba, the Falkland Islands or Ascension Island, you would only be able to use Priority Mail International Flat Rate Envelopes and Small Flat Rate Priced Boxes.

Want to ship using Priority Mail Express International Service? Do your homework, as this service is not available for more than 20 countries and dependencies, including Afghanistan, Iran, Greenland, Tuvalu, East Timor (Timor-Leste), and Suriname.

Variations by Country: Weight Limits for Non-Flat-Rate Mailpieces
The absolute maximum weight of all international packages is 70 pounds, but not all countries will accept this maximum weight. For example, 33 pounds is the maximum weight for a package going Priority Mail Express International to Taiwan, but it is 69 pounds for Nepal. Knowing that varying thresholds exist is an important step towards becoming a successful global shipper, and will help you determine what kinds of products you can ship to certain overseas markets.

These thresholds can also vary by mail class for the same country. For example, Bulgaria’s weight limit for Priority Mail Express International packages is 66 pounds, but 70 pounds for Priority Mail International packages.

Looking for a complete chart? You can find one here: http://pe.usps.com/text/imm/immpg.htm or look at individual country listings at: http://pe.usps.com/text/imm/ab_001.htm.

Understanding USPS International Shipping Zones

May 10th, 2016 Comments off

Not sure what price group to use for a flat rate envelope to Switzerland?  Check out the table below to determine shipping zones for your shipments for each country.

International-Zones-Chart-For-Blog-1

Changes to USPS International Flat Rate Products
As of January 17th, 2016, all Priority Mail International and Priority Mail Express International Flat Rate products moved from a two-price system (one price for Canada and one price for every other country) to a multi-tiered pricing structure.  This restructuring means that your shipments will be priced based on their destination rather than their weight.  Keep in mind that the price group for the same country may change depending on the mail piece, so, for example, Antigua and Barbuda is in Price Group 9 for Priority Mail International but Price Group 8 for the Priority Mail International Large Flat Rate Boxes.

How To Find USPS International Zones
It is always a good practice to give your customers quotes and price estimates.  So how do you find out beforehand under which price group your destination falls under?  Check out USPS’ Country Max Limits and Price Groups Finder.  This calculator will allow you to determine maximum weights for each mail piece as well as average transit times.

How To Use Foreign Characters Inside Stamps.com

February 26th, 2016 Comments off

244182_Blog-How-To-Use-Foreign-Characters-Inside-Stamps.comYou have an international order to go out and the delivery address you’ve been provided by your customer includes foreign characters such as 青岛市5号楼,8号室, or Не́вский проспе́кт, or רחוב דיזנגוף.  What’s your next step?

The first thing to know is that the Stamps.com software only accepts delivery addresses written with Latin/Roman characters, in order to comply with USPS regulations.  Your first step is to make sure that any addresses that contain Cyrillic (used by languages such as Russian, Bulgarian, and Kazakh), Greek, Arabic, Hebrew, Chinese, or Japanese characters are converted into the Latin/Roman characters to meet this guideline.

Packages that are to be shipped overseas must first be processed by the USPS and thus the labels need to have Latin/Roman characters so it is handled and routed efficiently and correctly to the foreign postal service.

How to Translate Foreign Characters into Latin/Roman Characters

The good news is that you can easily convert foreign characters into Latin/Roman script using a character converter, which can easily be found online.  Some powerful conversion tools include Paralink and Lexilogos.

Pasting an address with Cyrillic and Japanese characters, for example, into an internet search engine will also generate the transliterated form with Latin/Roman characters.

Examples of Foreign Character Conversion 

Greek:  Αθήνα should be written as Athína, for example, or translated as “Athens.”

Japanese:  〒110-0007 東京都台東区上野公園 9_8 3 should be converted into Latin/Roman script as 9-83 Uenokōen, Taitō-ku, Tōkyō-to 110-0007.

Without this character conversion, non-Roman characters will be converted by the Stamps.com software into question marks and other symbols that could create problems for mail delivery.

What about Accents and Other Special Characters?

What if a customer in Denmark wants you to send a package to him in Århus?  Or a Brazilian customer in São Paulo has ordered a product from you?  Does Stamps.com support the A-ring in “Århus” or the A-tilde in “São Paulo”?  Yes, Stamps.com does support most of the common special characters, including A with a diaresis (e.g. Mynämäki), the acute accent (e.g. Álftanes), the grave accent (e.g. Òdena), and the eñe (e.g. A Coruña).

Stamps.com and Character-encoding Standards

Stamps.com offers support for the majority of the character-encoding system known as ASCII (American Standard Code for Information Interchange), with some exceptions, such as the macron (e.g. Ēdole) and the double dagger or diesis (‡).

We do not offer support for the character encoding standard known as Unicode at this time, so our software would not support special characters such as Ḱ and Ǵ.

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