Cold Chain Logistics, Customs Documentation, Life Science Shipping, Medical Device, Shipping & Logistics - General

Shipping to Germany and Navigating Customs

July 10, 2023
Shipping to Germany and Clearing Customs

Navigating German Customs Clearance

Essential Tips for Successful International Shipping

Written By: Debbie Jung

Mastering the complexities of international shipping and ensuring compliance with German customs regulations can be challenging. Improper completion or mispresented documentation leads to customs holding your valuable package.

With time- and temperature-sensitive shipments, which include (but are not limited to) irreplaceable samples, reagents, medical devices, and more valuable research work, extra planning is required. Proper temperature-controlled packaging, labeling, documents, and shipping coordination are just a few.  

Fortunately, choosing a reputable global logistics company can assist in handling the import or export and customs documents on your behalf to ensure smooth customs clearance. Many major US couriers, like UPS, USPS, and FedEx, ship to Germany. However, most sensitive packages may need more individualized attention and customer support. Hiring a reputable global logistics company will ensure proper communications and the success of your time- or temperature-sensitive shipment.

Customs Documentation  

You must inform the details of your package to your preferred logistics partner when shipping internationally to Germany. Trouble-free shipping is strategically planning out sensitive customs documentation proactively.

1. Commercial Invoice (CI) 

Commercial invoice

A commercial invoice (CI) is an required document to provide to customs for all international shipments. The Cl is a document that communicates to the Federal Customs Service in Germany the contents you are shipping, including the reason for import/export, the description of goods, the quantity, the unit price, the total value, and more. 

Ensure your commercial invoice is accurate, trustworthy, and compliant with German customs requirements. Always seek advice or recommendations from shipping experts for questions or concerns. 

2. Packing List

Packing list used for international shipmentsUnlike commercial invoices, a packing list communicates the physical contents being shipped. The packing list is for the receiver of goods, like a receipt without pricing. 

Customs officials understand the contents of your shipment by reviewing an in-depth and organized packing list. This list includes item descriptions, weights, dimensions, and quantities.  

3. Proforma Invoice

Pro forma invoicesA proforma invoice is primarily for goods with no commercial value but may be necessary for some shipments. This invoice, essentially a quote, is created by the seller as an offer to provide the goods to the buyer at an estimated price. It includes the quantity of goods, their value, shipping costs, and any other charges upon delivery. 

Note that customs may not accept the proforma invoice as its legal document and does not replace CI. It would be beneficial to have both the Cl and proforma invoice for government tax purposes. Consider providing this invoice as a placeholder when your client is committed to purchasing from you. 

Customs Regulations and Restrictions in Germany

1. Restricted or Prohibited Items in Germany

These include weapons, drugs, counterfeit goods, certain agricultural products, and endangered species. Ensure that your shipment does not have any prohibited items and comply with the regulations for restricted goods, if applicable. 

2. Value-Added Tax (VAT)

Value-added tax is an import tax on all shipments going to the European Union. The standard German Value Added Tax (VAT) is 19% in 2023 and is dependent on what type of commodity you’re shipping. 

3. Harmonized System (HS) Code  

HS codes are a universal standardized coding system of names and numbers used to classify and identify goods, their content, and their intended purpose. HS Codes are at least six digits long and utilized by customs to calculate taxes and duties and apply any necessary restrictions accurately.  


International shipping to Germany requires much more attention to detail than any domestic shipment within the US. Shipping to Germany can be a headache, and partnering with a respected global vendor will ease the process. Focusing on Health and Life Science companies, Mercury specializes in shipping temperature-sensitive packages to countries like Germany. We provide 24/7 guidance and support you with coordinating, tracking, and troubleshooting your shipments with one dedicated team of shipping experts catering to you. 

Density and PCF calculator

Density and PCF Calculators

Use our calculators to determine the cubic dimensions of a non-palletized shipment, measure the shipment's height, width and length.

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