The Ins and Outs of Shipping Beta Units Internationally

This week a beta manager emailed us for advice on shipping hardware beta units internationally. As the head of Centercode’s Managed Betas Team, I’ve been shipping hardware beta units overseas for more than two decades and am very versed in the rules, processes and best practices for making this smooth and successful. Given the complexity of this issue, I thought I would pass along the advice I shared with him so readers like you can benefit from it.

Importation and exportation of products is a complicated process. Test products fall under the same category as sales samples and specific rules and guidelines depend on the product you’re producing. So while we cannot give exact specifics, here are some general tips:

  1. Overseas shipments are subject to duties, taxes, and customs regulations. If you place a value on your product of any kind, you have to pay fees. It’s best to give your test product a small value and pay the duties and taxes rather than set a value to $0. The reason is, if you say “No Value” then it raises a flag with customs that you may be trying to avoid paying duty. This means your product can get held up or even returned undelivered. What we typically recommend is a straight estimated BOM (Bill of Materials) cost without labor or manufacturing factored into the cost. It’s legitimate and legal.
  2. Clearly mark your product with a sticker or imprint (plus documentation) indicating that the product is a test sample and that it will be returned to the originating country. If possible, include return instructions. You cannot include a return label because you have to have specific paperwork from the originating country with specific dates on it before it can be shipped. These small things help legitimize your beta program. Remember, they are focused on the collection of duties and taxes for importing your product.
  3. When shipping, you should use what is called “DDP” which is “Delivery Duty Paid.” That means you will be billed when you ship a product to the tester. This is absolutely necessary because duties can be expensive for locals. In addition, your testers will reject your beta test product if it comes with a big bill from their customs office.
  4. Outbound shipments have to be checked against the DPL (Denied Persons List) to ensure you aren’t sending your test product to someone the US Government has banned from receiving products.
  5. You have to adhere to each country’s regulations regarding the components of your product. You will have to have preliminary or fully-compliant filed papers on things like regulatory, homologation, and safety requirements for each of the respective countries where you are sending your product. Without those, customs can and likely will, confiscate your product.
  6. All outgoing shipments require a Federal Tax ID and your Harmonized Code for tariffs. You need those prior to even beginning this process.

These are just some of the things that you need to be concerned with when shipping internationally. There are additional steps our Managed Betas team takes to help improve and even expedite this process so that it goes smoothly and you get everything back easily, but they’re specific to different kinds of hardware products. If you’d like more detailed information based on your situation, request a beta test plan.

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