Shipping Art Internationally: Customs, Regulations, and Documentation

Shipping artwork internationally
Shipping Art Internationally: Customs, Regulations, and Documentation

Fine art shipping can be a confusing process. You want the best possible protection without paying unreasonable shipping costs. Shipping art internationally adds another level of complexity to the process, but knowing what to expect can make things easier. Here are a few tips about customs, regulations, and paperwork when shipping art internationally.

How to ship art internationally: customs, regulations, and documentation

There’s a lot to consider when shipping fine art internationally, including customs, various regulations for different countries, and proper documentation. Here’s what you need to know to handle each of those.

Customs requirements when shipping art overseas

Depending on where you are and where your art is going, you’ll need to deal with customs documentation and fees for each piece of art you ship internationally. However, this can change if you’re shipping within the same customs union.

A customs union is a group of countries that apply the same procedures, rules, and tariffs for the majority of their imports and exports. The largest customs union is the European Union, which is made up of 27 member states. In the case of the EU, most tariffs and trade barriers have been eliminated, allowing for easy transportation of goods between countries within the union. The EU also has a standard external tariff, which applies to goods imported from countries outside the EU. 

It’s important to note that the US is not a part of any customs union, so you’ll need to look at the specific policies, tariffs, and documentation requirements of any country you’re shipping to or receiving from. You’ll also need to make sure to fill in the correct form, as there are two different customs forms based on the value of your artwork.

Fine art shipping regulations

Regulations for international art shipping will vary depending on where you’re shipping to. You need to research the country you’ll be shipping your art to, ensuring that you understand their regulations, what fees need to be paid, and what paperwork is required. 

Regulations can also differ depending on what kind of fine art you want to ship. For example, importing original works—with or without frames—into the US is duty-free for the majority of cases under Chapter 97 of the Harmonized Tariff Schedule (HTS). However, you may need to pay duty if the frame is not valued in line with typical expectations. The regulation also does not apply to hand-painted or hand-decorated articles, such as hand-painted woven fabrics and ceramic wares.

Finally, your intention for shipping fine art can also affect which regulations you need to follow. For example, you’ll need to follow different guidelines if you plan to sell the artwork versus shipping it for exhibition.

International Fine Art Shipping: Paperwork

Getting your paperwork right is crucial for a smooth shipping process. Get it wrong, and you risk disruption to your shipment and potential fines for not complying with regulations. Here are some of the standard pieces of paperwork you’ll need to ship fine art internationally.

  • Export invoice - An export invoice is necessary when shipping any art outside of a customs union. On this document, you need to include the artwork's description, value, and recipient’s details. You will need a commercial invoice if you’re selling art or a proforma invoice if you’re shipping art internationally for exhibition. You’ll also need an import invoice if you wish for the art to be returned. 
  • Customs declaration forms - Customs declaration forms are required for all commercial shipments. This means you must prepare these forms if you ship fine art internationally after selling it. The forms you need to fill out will differ depending on the value of your artwork, with a form for high-value and a form for low-value artwork. 
  • Trade tariff commodity codes - Knowing the right codes will help you get your artwork released from customs and help you avoid paying extra fees. 
  • Export licenses - You may need an export license depending on the country you’re shipping to, as well as the age and value of the art.
  • EORI number - An Economic Operator Registration and Identification (EORI) number is required if you’re shipping to or from the EU.
  • VAT - VAT may be required when shipping to the UK.
  • Certificate of authenticity - This will prove that the artwork you are shipping is authentic.
  • Importing into the United States - If importing your artwork into the United States for your business, you must fill out CBP Form 7523. If your artwork’s value is more than $2,500, then a customs broker must file an ACE Manifest for you. If importing personally, an oral declaration at your Port of Entry is sufficient. 

Get help from an international art shipping company 

If this sounds a little complicated, it’s because it certainly can be when you go it alone! That’s why it’s always a good idea to work with an international art shipping company to manage your shipment.

With an international art shipping team, DTS makes the process of shipping fine art internationally easy. Get in touch today to learn more.

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