International Shipping from Singapore to USA: An eCommerce Guide

Benedict Leong

Golden Gate Bridge behind a plane

The USA has the second largest eCommerce market globally at USD 744.1 billion in 2019.1 With a high de minimis value of USD 800 and recent trends pushing eCommerce growth higher, the U.S. can quickly become one of your leading markets.

But what are the general steps to ship from Singapore to the United States, and what does informal entry in U.S. customs clearance mean? Read on to find out.

How Does Air Freight from Singapore to USA Work?

Cross-border shipping means that your inventory will be based in Singapore and products will be sent internationally to the USA. If you’re doing cross-border eCommerce, shipments only happen once an order has been placed on your website. As speed is of the essence when it comes to cross-border eCommerce, sending your products via air freight is the best way to go.

If you’re shipping to the USA from Singapore with Janio, your shipments will be flown out from Changi Airport (SIN) in Singapore to John F. Kennedy Airport, New York (JFK). Los Angeles Airport is used as Janio’s primary gateway into the USA, particularly for shipments to the US East Coast.

Janio can help you to get your products to your USA consignees via direct injection – which means parcels will be consolidated in an initial shipment into the USA before being injected into the USA’s courier network. Janio’s eCommerce B2C air freight from Singapore to the USA usually follows these steps.

  1. Collection – Your hired shipping company, such as Janio, collects the goods from the origin address or you drop off the shipment at a designated point depending on your choice of pick ups or drop-offs with your shipping partner. The origin address could be your supplier’s address or your own warehouse in Singapore.
  2. Consolidation – loose parcels will be palletized together with other shipments to prevent them from bouncing around or taking up too much space in the plane’s cargo hold. If you’re working with a shipping partner like Janio this will take place at our warehouse.
  3. Terminal Handling at the Origin Airport – The shipment is sent to your shipping partner’s air cargo agent’s warehouse. Here, weighing and inspection of the cargo, tallying up the items with the commercial invoice and packing list, and checking all the necessary shipping documents take place.
  4. Origin Customs – Your goods and documents are then inspected by Singapore Customs officers to be cleared for export.
  5. Uplift and Mid-mile – Your order is loaded onto the plane and it takes off for the USA.
  6. Destination Customs – Once the shipment reaches the airport – JFK if you’re shipping with Janio- the shipment will undergo customs clearance by the U.S. Customs and Border Protection.
  7. Domestic line-haul flight (when necessary) – If your consignee’s address cannot be reached quickly by vans or trucks after landing in JFK, an additional domestic line-haul flight may be needed to deliver your shipment closer to your consignee’s address before distribution can begin.
  8. Sorting and Distribution – The orders are moved via vans or trucks to the transport logistics hub, where they are sorted and dispatched to their relevant destinations
  9. Last-mile delivery – After sorting, the shipments will be transported to your consignee’s address

First Mile Delivery in Singapore

The first mile stage in international shipping is when the shipment is either picked up from the origin address or dropped off at your shipping partner’s designated location. The origin address can be the merchant’s storefront, office, or warehouse. Depending on your arrangement with your logistics service provider, your shipment would be picked up by your shipping partner or dropped off at your partner’s designated location.

Before your goods leave your origin address, the product has to be packaged and labelled appropriately.

Packages may sometimes go through bumpy rides like turbulence. Having sufficient padding like bubble wrap and packing peanuts, is recommended to prevent your products from bouncing around or getting deformed during shipping. To learn more about the best practices in packaging your goods, we’ve covered this topic in our packaging guide.

Shipping labels and the appropriate customs documentation must be visible to and accessible by customs officers to inspect the shipment. You can check out our guide on labelling your shipments which you can also find in our resources for B2C shipping to Southeast Asia.

After this, you can either drop your order off at your shipping partner’s drop-off point, or have it picked up from your address. Most shipping partners would have a cut-off time for submitting orders for drop-offs and pickups so that they can optimise their route.

Some warehouses in Singapore also have transportation hub capabilities and are able to sort your parcels and have it ready for customs clearance within the same location such as those within Singapore’s Free Trade Zone.

Free Trade Zone warehouses also have the benefit of deferring tax charges on non-dutiable goods until they enter a country’s official borders, which helps with both cash flow and also as a storage area for regional hubs in Southeast Asia like Singapore.

Terminal Handling and Origin Customs Clearance in Singapore

After collection and consolidation, your shipment will go through terminal handling at your shipping partners’ air cargo agent’s warehouse near Changi Airport (SIN). Here, weighing and inspection of the cargo, tallying up the items with the commercial invoice and packing list, and checking all the necessary shipping documents take place.

After that, your goods need to be cleared for export by Singapore Customs at the airport. In Singapore, exported goods are not subject to customs duties and Goods and Services Tax (GST) but all goods must be declared.2

If you’re shipping parcels directly to your online shoppers in the U.S., your shipment usually needs to have the following documents ready in order to be cleared for export:

  • Commercial invoice
  • Airway bill
  • Packing list
  • And other licenses and permits depending on the items being shipped

If the goods are dutiable or subject to control, you must obtain an export permit before they can be cleared for export. Goods that are exempted from needing an export permit can be found on Singapore’s Customs website.3 This permit can be applied for via Singapore’s Trade.net portal.4 You must declare the FOB value of your shipment in the export permit.5

Be sure to work out with your shipping partner what kind of customs documentation is needed for your different shipments to the USA before the shipment starts to minimise problems at customs.

After checking these documents and clearing your shipment for export, your shipment is ready for uplifting onto a plane.

Uplift and Mid-mile

Your shipment is then loaded onto a plane, also known as getting uplifted, and the shipment is flown to the John F. Kennedy Airport (JFK).

Customs Clearance in USA

After landing at John F. Kennedy Airport (JFK), your items will be inspected by officers from U.S. Customs and Border Protection before it can be cleared for import into the U.S.

When it comes to customs clearance in the U.S., there are informal and formal types of entry which is based on the customs value of your shipment. Currently, shipments that are valued below USD 2,500 are classified as informal shipments while those above are counted as formal shipments, which require more documentation.6 As we’ll mostly be focusing on eCommerce shipments below that amount, we’ll just be covering how informal shipments work.

Informal shipments mostly need the below paperwork to be cleared for import into the USA:

  • Commercial Invoice
  • Packing List
  • Airway Bill
  • Certificate of origin (if needed)
  • Insurance policy (if needed)
  • Other relevant permits, licenses, and certificates depending on items shipped

Larger shipments – those above USD 2,500 – may need more documentation, such as the Entry Manifest (CBP Form 7533) or Application and Special Permit for Immediate Delivery (CBP Form 3461) or other forms of merchandise release required by the port director, evidence of right to make entry or more.7

U.S.’s de minimis and customs duties

The customs value of shipments are calculated using the item’s FOB value – which means the value of the goods not including freight, insurance or other shipping related charges. In the U.S., this is known as the price actually paid or payable.8

The USA has a de minimis value of USD 800. This means that shipments into the U.S. to a single person that have customs valuations below USD 800 are duty-free. Shipments above this amount will be subject to import duties and customs taxes depending on the country of origin and the type of goods. Countries with free trade agreements with the USA get preferential rates. To see how much tariffs would be levied on your type of goods for larger shipments, you can check out the Harmonised Tariff Schedule 2020 by the US International Trade Commission.9

Imports into the USA also require the payment of a merchandise processing fee (MPF), the amount differing based on whether it’s an informal or formal entry. This is usually an ad valorem tax (percentage of the total shipment amount) with a minimum and maximum amount for formal entries, which are valued above USD 2,500 as of this writing. To see the percentage, you can check out the CBP’s official page.10

For informal entries, the MPF amount would be:

  • USD 2 for automated entries
  • USD 6 for manual entries not prepared by CBP
  • USD 9 for manual entries that are prepared by CBP

eCommerce purchases should usually be automated entries and pay an MPF of USD 2.

Shipping partners like Janio can advise you on the kinds of documents needed for your types of shipments and also the charges that you’ll need to prepare for. It’s ideal to ship via DDP (delivery duties paid) where the duty charges are paid in advance, which can help reduce the chances of your customers getting unpleasant surprises in the form of high customs charges.

After your shipment has cleared U.S. customs, it will head to a distribution centre for sorting and preparation for distribution.

Distribution and Last Mile in The U.S.

Now that your shipment has reached a distribution centre it will be sorted based on your consignee’s destination. If your order’s destination is reachable by land transport, it will immediately be shipped there. If the destination is in a further part of the country, your shipment will take an additional domestic line-haul flight to an airport closer to the destination before the above happens.

The last mile delivery leg of the journey is where your parcel will be sent from the destination warehouse or distribution centre to your consignee’s address. During the last mile delivery stage, your logistics service provider will make multiple trips ensure that your shipment is received by your consignee.

Knowing what you’ll need to ship from Singapore to the United States is one thing, but getting a great partner to help you make those deliveries is another. Look out for a flexible shipping partner who’s got your eCommerce logistics and international shipping needs covered from first mile to the last, like Janio Asia.

Contact us below to find out more about how we can help you or if you’d like an air freight quotation to ship to and throughout Southeast Asia:

Need to Ship to Southeast Asia via Sea, Air or Cross border Trucking? Get a quote here!

 

References:

  1. JP Morgan – E-commerce Payments Trends: United States
  2. Singapore Customs – Export Procedures 
  3. Singapore Customs – Permit Exemptions 
  4. Trade Net
  5. Singapore Customs – Export Procedures 
  6. Customs Border and Protection – Filing a formal entry (for goods valued at $2500 or more) 
  7. Customs Border and Protection – Importing into the United States A Guide for Commercial Importers 
  8. Customs and Border Protection – ICP – Customs Value 
  9. Harmonized Tariff Schedule Search 
  10. Customs and Border Protection – User fee – Merchandise Processing Fees 
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