by Angela Delaney

Shipping to the US: 5 facts every business should know


The UK and the US share a special relationship that has withstood challenging economic times on both sides of the Atlantic for many years. The partnership offers plenty of opportunities for businesses in the two countries to trade with one another, but this can seem daunting for those who are just starting to ship from the UK to the US. In this post, we will share our advice on where to begin and some key facts to make the transition as smooth as possible. The list is by no means exhaustive, but should provide you with a starting point on your shipping journey.

1) Every carrier is different


There are a number of carriers available to serve your shipping needs from the UK to the US, each offering different benefits. The World Options platform offers you a choice of multiple carriers that ship to the US and each of these has a different set of rules on the type of goods they will transport and how these should be handled, marked and shipped.


Once you know the contents of your shipment, you should check the information supplied by your chosen carrier about whether or not they will accept the product and how it should be sent if so. These rules change constantly, so ensure you have the latest guidance from them and contact the carrier directly if you have any queries at all. Failing to adhere to carrier rules can result in delays, fines or your parcel being returned to the sender, which can have huge implications on your business. If you’re ever unsure and want a quick answer, speak to your World Options account manager or our customer support and we will find out for you.

2) Certain items are prohibited or restricted

There are a number of items that are prohibited from entering the United States. US Customs and Border Protection has a full list of guidance and restricted items on its website and businesses should consult this page to check the specific rules around the item they are looking to ship. Prohibited items include the following:

  • Aerosols
  • Animals
  • Cash
  • Dairy
  • Fresh food
  • Furs
  • Ivory
  • Nail Varnish
  • Perfume
  • Plants
  • Seeds
  • Tobacco

3) Food shipments require Prior Notice

If your business is food-based and you are looking to ship from the UK to the US, be aware that there are stringent rules outlined by US Customs and Border Protection (CBP). The body states that “candies, condiments, spices, coffee and teas that are commercially packaged are generally ok” but bulk teas and spices are subject to inspection and may be destroyed if they are found to contain things such as insects.


Regardless of the contents, if you are a business shipping food to the US you must file a Prior Notice to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Further information about how to do so is listed on the FDA website. If you do not do this, your shipment could be delayed, held or destroyed by the authorities.


4) Exports must be declared to HMRC

HMRC requires any business shipping outside the EU to make a declaration using the National Export System. You must classify the goods you are sending to the US as part of the declaration and include a commodity code and Customs Procedure Code. Further information about how to comply with these regulations are listed on the UK government website.

5) A documentation checklist could help you to comply

The UK government states that the following documents will be required when you import your goods into the United States, so it is wise to use this as a checklist when preparing your shipment.


  • Air waybill
  • Bill of lading
  • Binding ruling
  • Cargo release/simplified entry
  • Customs bond
  • Customs import declaration
  • Entry/immediate delivery
  • Importer security filing and additional carrier requirements
  • Manifest for aircraft
  • Manifest for vessels

For further information about shipping for your business, including tips on packaging, insurance and dangerous items, consult our free guide, available here.

If you are looking to start exporting to the US, the World Options shipping portal could save you valuable time and money. Find out more here or enquire about becoming a customer here.


The information provided is a guide, if you are unsure about a particular shipment to another country please speak to World Options customer support for advice. This information is subject to change.



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