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Shipments Get Stuck in Japan Customs? Why and What Should You Do?

Shipments Get Stuck in Japan Customs? Why and What Should You Do?

We often receive inquiries from companies that have unexpectedly stuck shipments and goods in Japan customs. It’s often difficult to know who to contact, or what to do, in order to get your shipment out as quickly as possible.

When customs hold up your shipment, it can damage customers’ buying experience and reputation. This not only incurs unnecessary costs but also leaves companies vulnerable to potentially losing business as a result of bad press or other incidents that arise from the situation at hand- which means less revenue for them!

Here’s why shipments get stuck in Customs, and what should you do about it?

Customs clearance

Reasons why Shipment gets Stuck in Customs

Your shipments might get stuck if you don´t comply with customs regulations. Be sure to check the current Japanese import rules to avoid this. Changes may occur at any time.

Missing Commercial documents

The missing or incorrect commercial invoice is often the reason why customs put shipments on hold. Ensure that everything customs need to know about your shipment is included in the commercial documents to avoid customs clearance issues.

The common commercial documents are

Commercial invoice – a document that lists the products, origin, seller, buyer, and price. This document helps in the assessment of duties and taxes.

Bill of Lading – a document issued by the carrier that shows ownership of freight and transportation

Packing List – a document that shows quantity, weights, and measurements of goods.

Arrival Notice – Issued by the carrier to notify party to advise goods location and availability for Customs release

When information is missing or incorrect, customs will coordinate with the shipper or freight forwarder to gather needed documents or information. During this time, storage charges will be charged

Missing Import Documentation

This applies to products that fall under the regulated category. The regulated category requires pre-approval prior to the goods being shipped.

If import documentation is missing, customs will immediately reject the shipment and send it back to the origin or hold it until the shipper submit the documents. There will be storage charges during this period. It’s important to check the regulatory process of your products before you plan your shipment.

Restricted or forbidden items

Certain items imported into Japan may be prohibited or restricted. It is your responsibility to confirm whether the items you plan on bringing with you to Japan are allowed or not. Customs will immediately reject forbidden items. As for restricted products, customs will check and may require additional information in order to be cleared. See lists of restricted and prohibited items in Japan.

Unpaid Duties and Taxes

Once everything is settled, the shipment will be released soon. Do not avoid taxes as Japan is very strict when it comes to importing. Cheating the system might put your company at a disadvantage. View Japan Tariff Schedule here.

How long can packages sit in Customs? 

Packages being held in customs can be stuck for several days, weeks, or longer. Japan Customs will not clear your shipment if the issues are not yet resolved.

What to do if a Shipment is Stuck at Customs?

1- If you’re the receiver, contact the shipper. The shipping company often will only talk to the seller about the shipment. Find out what’s happening and ask if there are any missed out documents.

2- Contact the shipping company. Often express shippers like DHL or FedEx will be able to have customs clear your shipment. Contacting them will help you identify if there’s anything you can do to resolve the customs issue.

3- Find out if there are outstanding taxes you owe to pay. Japan imposes some taxes on shipments over a certain value, if these are payable on your shipment, it will be held until the balance is paid.  

4- Ensure that all information provided is accurate and complete. Even simple mistakes can cause delays in your shipment. Missing and incorrect paperwork can cause considerable customs headaches, so make sure your documents are in order and aren’t in the wrong language.

What happens if the Shipment is not cleared by Japan Customs?

If you fail to follow the instructions given by Japanese customs, your shipment will either be seized, sold, or disposed of depending on the product class.

How COVUE can Navigate Customs Clearance Challenges?

Having stuck shipments in Japan Customs is no fun. Especially the challenge of communication. Having a local partner in Japan is essential to avoid customs clearance issues. COVUE offers Japan Inbound Logistics. From port arrival to customs clearance to delivery to the final destination, we handle it for you!

We provide you with help with getting your shipment quickly and safely through customs. We know how to play by the unwritten rules of Japanese customs.