Customs clearance for imports from China

Update date:
01 Dec 2023
Date of publication:
12 Jun 2023
Reading time: 7 minutes

For all imports from China, customs clearance is required for the goods to be released into the European Union. We can authorise a customs agency to represent us before customs and declare the goods on our behalf. To do so, we will need to complete two documents, a fairly simple formal act. When contacting the customs agency, we will be given a number of precise details about what we need to do. 

When choosing a logistics company to transport our goods by sea, rail or air Companies usually have their own customs agencies or have established partnerships with independent agencies. In such a situation, it is worth using a trusted agency of the company that handles our transport.

What does import customs clearance consist of? 

Import clearance is a legal procedure required by customs regulations when importing goods from outside the European Union. Both the documentation and the goods are subject to inspection and clearance, and the entire process is managed by the National Tax Administration (KAS).

In order to carry out import customs clearance, traders must present evidence of the purchase of goods, such as a VAT invoice or other document proving the relevant commercial status. The completion of these documents is sometimes accompanied by a calculation of the value of the cargo in question, as well as customs and excise duties. All these charges serve

How long does it take to clear customs from China ?

Customs clearance should normally take about 1-2 days. In some cases, if there are complications or if the customs office finds any irregularities, this time may be extended. 

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What documents are needed for customs clearance: 

A commercial invoice, packing list and transport invoice will be needed to declare the goods for customs clearance. In some cases, for example in electronic goods, documents such as a CE certificate and a declaration of conformity will be required. Other documents may also be required, and there are so many product categories that it is sometimes difficult to know whether a product will require additional documents or not. 

For more information, see our article here:

Types of briefings with a detailed description of each: 

Standard/final briefing: 

This is the most common type of customs clearance. It involves the release of goods into the European Union. When the goods arrive in Poland, we provide the customs agency with the necessary documents and the goods are presented for clearance. After clearance, VAT and customs duties are paid and the goods are released and ready for collection. 

Clearance 33a / simplified clearance

The 33a clearance consists in deferring VAT and settling it in the monthly VAT-7 or quarterly VAT-7D return. In practice, it consists in the fact that when we order goods from China and we have to pay PLN 40,000 of VAT, the tax is not collected from us at check-in, but it is settled in the VAT return. 

This is a very good form when, for example, the goods we order need some time to be liquidated, in which case we do not freeze cash because the import VAT is corrected in the declaration. In the end, we end up paying the same amount of VAT. The only thing is that we can dispose of more money at any given time. 

We make the possibility of accounting in this form by applying for it. Not all companies can benefit from the 33a clearance. A number of conditions and formalities must be met. The customs agency must accept this possibility. Most often, this form of customs clearance is used by larger companies with longer operating histories, where there has been no financial or tax turbulence in the past. It is advisable to inquire at the customs agency whether this form of clearance will be available to your company. 

EORI number when declaring goods for clearance: 

It is important for new importers to obtain an EORI number before importing goods. Any company wishing to import goods and place them on the market is obliged to obtain such a number. Without this number, you will not be able to deal with customs.

We will be able to submit an application for an EORI number on the platform: PUESC and will be accepted by the Chamber of Fiscal Administration in Poznań.

To apply we will need:

→ Established account on PUESC platform

→ Electronic signature

Upon receipt of proof of posting EORI number its form is:

EN - from country + COMPANY TIN + 5 zeros

PL123456321800000 -> This is what the finished EORI number looks like

Instructions on how to apply for and be granted an Eori number, coming soon to our blog. 

How to choose a customs agency? 

When it comes to choice of customs agency then we have a very large number of entities on the market that provide such services. On average, the cost of a customs declaration should be around USD 50-60. It is worthwhile for the customs agency with which we will cooperate to be proactive and provide assistance in case of unforeseen situations or questions on our part. There are some agencies on the market that are customer-friendly, but also some that treat customs clearance robotically and we cannot count on their help in case of problems. It is always advisable to check how customs clearance works in 2-3 customs agencies in order to choose the one that works best for you. 

The time taken by the customs agency to make the declaration is important, agencies with more work can declare goods within 2 days, however, it is good practice to have the goods declared for clearance the same day or the next day. This will always help us save some time and streamline the whole process. The agency makes the customs declaration

How to go through customs smoothly? 

In order to go through customs smoothly, the first thing is to prepare all the necessary documents in advance and check that all the information on them matches.

It is also worth finding out whether the goods we are importing require any specialised documents. It is best to verify such information by contacting our customs agency in advance. 

We will have to send a translation of the invoice to the customs agency, and it is a good idea to do this reliably and include accurate descriptions of the items so that the customs office has no doubts. 

What complications can occur during customs clearance? 

Customs may select our cargo for review. We can then expect an extension of time of approximately 1-2 weeks, depending on whether they find any irregularities. Unfortunately, an additional charge will be made for such a search. The customs office will pass on any irregularities that are found to the customs agency, in which case they must be clarified or rectified as soon as possible. 

In order to avoid the risk of a review, it is good that all documents are free from doubt.  


Each good is classified under a specific customs code, the so-called HS CODE.

The HS code contains a string of digits and is assigned a duty for the category it represents. 

It is often the case that one good may be classified under different customs codes. It is then necessary to investigate the matter and check the correctness of this tariff classification. It may turn out that our goods should be classified under a different category where the duty is lower. In order to avoid constant re-tariffing by customs agencies, SADs from previous clearances can be made available where the HS Codes under which the goods have been classified are already indicated. 

T1 - what is it?

T1 is an external transit procedure which is used for the movement of non-EU (non-Community) goods. This means that these goods are moved through countries outside the customs territories of the European Union. The T1 document is the tool used to confirm and establish the customs status of these goods . It is a Community document that contains information on the place of origin, the characteristics of the goods and value added tax (VAT).

Customs clearance in Germany ? Is it worth it? 

There is one basic purpose behind customs clearance in Germany. The offices there are less restrictive than in Poland and, for example, goods that are cleared in Poland is always selected for customs revision in Germany can pass without any additional checks. In order to clear customs in Germany, you should look for a Polish-language customs agency in Germany to help you clear customs. The cost may be slightly higher than the price of customs clearance in Poland. 

So if you often encounter problems at the Polish office, it is worth considering transporting goods from China directly to Germany and clearing customs there. However, it is worth bearing in mind that the cost of transport from Germany to Poland will cost more. 

Step-by-step process for preparing for clearance and customs clearance from China: 

  • Documents are always in English 
  • Goods are released
  • Compilation of the necessary documents such as packing list, commercial invoice, transport invoice, sometimes other documents and translation of the invoice (the documents are always in English, therefore it is necessary to make a translation into Polish - how to do this will soon be presented in another of our posts). 
  • Sending documents to a customs agency or logistics company 
  • Customs agency declares goods for customs clearance 
  • We receive customs duties from the customs agency to pay
  • Once the payment has been made, the goods are released and we can collect them 

If you would like to learn more about methods of transporting goods from China: sea, rail or air transport, please see our other posts.

If you have any other questions please contact us! 

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