Are you expecting a shipment from abroad? Then it is of great relevance whether the shipment arrives from a country inside or outside the EU.

This is because the receipt of goods within the EU is duty-free, so that no customs duties are incurred. If your shipment arrives from a country that is not an EU member state, it is liable to customs duties.

We have summarised for you what you need to pay attention to so that your shipment can pass through customs smoothly.


When importing from a non-EU country, all shipments must be declared to customs.

The type of customs clearance and the amount of customs duties depends on the content of the shipment, the value of the goods and the country of origin.

To ensure fast and smooth customs clearance, DHL Express requires a commercial or pro forma invoice and import instructions from the importer for each import shipment.

Each shipment must be accompanied by a commercial or pro forma invoice and contain the following information:

  • Detailed goods description (trade name, intended use, material composition), the number and unit of measurement of the products and the value of the goods per product; if available, the German goods tariff number (HS code)
  • Persons/companies involved: Consignor, Consignee, if applicable different importer/invoice recipient with address and, if available, contact person
  • Terms of delivery of the goods including the agreed place of delivery (preferred use of Incoterms 2010 of the International Chamber of Commerce), type of transaction (e.g. sale, sample on approval, gift shipment)
  • Additional costs incurred that are relevant for customs clearance and are not already included in the invoice price, such as packaging costs, freight costs, wage and material costs, license fees

DHL Express will be happy to handle customs clearance for you. To do this, DHL Express requires a written import instruction with one of the following options:

  • Customs clearance for free circulation; also clearance of returned goods (subject to charges)
  • Uncleared transport in transit procedure T1 or transfer of the shipment data to the recipient or a forwarding agent of your choice for final customs clearance (subject to charges). It is not possible to forward the shipment customs uncleared  to a customs office.
  • Individual notification of all import shipments (subject to charges)
    Other special customs clearances subject to extra charges (optional customs services)

Value of goods between 0 and 150 EUR: Shipments must be declared electronically. These are subject only to VAT, no import duty applies.

Furthermore, goods that meet certain criteria can be imported duty-free, among other things, on the basis of regulations in the Duty Exemption Regulation. These are, for example

  • Samples of goods for viewing, provided they are specially prepared or max. 5 pieces per type with a total value of max. 50 EUR
  • Goods for distribution free of charge at trade fairs
  • Goods for testing or analysis (test goods)
  • Goods that are reimported unchanged within 3 years (returned goods)

Additional charges may apply.

Import duties are customs duties, import VAT, but also excise duties (e.g. beer tax, coffee tax) and anti-dumping duties. The duty rate depends on the goods and is available in the electronic customs tariff.

  • Assessment basis customs = customs value:
    Transaction value plus proportional freight costs up to the EU border
  • Other additions to the customs value, if not included in the transaction value, are based on Article 71 of the Union Customs Code, e.g. packaging costs, licence fees, tooling costs
  • Assessment basis for import VAT:
    Customs value + customs duties + remaining freight costs from EU border

Preferential agreements exist between the EU and many countries, which allow duty-free or preferential import for certain goods.

  • Proof by preferential certificates of origin (e.g. EUR.1, EUR-MED) or declaration of origin on the invoice, which must accompany the shipment as original document
  • Please check your options via the portal "Origin of Goods and Preferences Online" of the German customs

Special provisions apply during the transitional period of the Registered Exporter for imports from and exports to GSP countries.

DHL Express offers you optional customs services for a fee. These include

  • Clearance for free circulation with more than 3 customs tariff lines
  • Clearance for reimportation as returned goods
  • Release for free circulation after outward processing with INF 2
  • Delivery of the consignment under the T1 transit procedure to the consignee or a carrier of his choice
  • Notification for external clearance for free circulation (REMOTE/REMCON)
  • Preview of a consignment including determination of the contents and/or sample marking
  • Veterinary or phytosanitary clearance
  • Clearance as trial goods with form 0123
  • Clearance for free circulation with CITES forms (protection of species)

Some goods are subject to special import regulations, so-called prohibitions and restrictions. Concerned Goods cannot be imported or only with permission or licenses from the particular authority.
Please find out in advance whether your product is importable and send us the necessary import documents. These are for example

  • Goods with animal components and pathogens, also laboratory reagents
  • Protected animals and plants, including goods made from them (e.g. handbags, shoes, watch straps)
  • Medicinal products, including certain vitamin and bodybuilding preparations, narcotics and drug precursor substances


All goods can move freely within the EU, irrespective of whether they were manufactured in the EU or imported from non-EU countries and released for free circulation.

Europe as a continent comprises about 50 countries, but only 27 belong to the European Union. All European countries outside the 27 EU states are considered as non-EU countries.

  • Free movement of goods only between EU countries
  • Free trade zone EFTA (Norway, Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Iceland), but no free movement of goods
  • Customs union with Turkey, San Marino and Andorra, but no free movement of goods