The process of customs clearance of goods starts with the filing of a shipping bill and the ensuing activities around it. However, before you (as an exporter) try to get customs clearance for your goods, you must satisfy a few prerequisites. The primary prerequisites are the import export code, authorised foreign exchange dealer code, current account for the credit of duty drawback, and license for export under export promotion scheme.

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Initial steps in customs clearance process


As an exporter, you will have to self-assess the duty of the export items. Under self-assessment, you will be expected to declare the correct classification, rate of duty, the value of the goods, and claim the exemption notification correctly while filing the shipping bill. Documents generated at this stage include the commercial invoice and packing list, consular invoice, certificate of origin, insurance certificate etc.

Shipping Bill

Shipping Bill is generated through the Indian Customs EDI System (ICES) or the non-EDI mode in case of non-EDI ports. It is filed in the prescribed format and in the defined manner, and with supporting documents. We have separately explained the process of generating the shipping bill in detail.

Risk Management System

Self-assessed shipping bills are processed by the Risk Management System (RMS) of the customs department. Once done, the verification of such shipping bills will be done to ensure the correctness of classification, value, duty rate, exemption etc. by the proper officer who may also examine and test the goods. Thus, shipping bills, once filed electronically in the ICES through service centre or ICEGATE will be processed by the RMS, based on which the next step will be decided. The shipping bills will either be taken up for verification or examination, or both, or will be given the Let Export Order (LEO). The additional assessment may be done by the concerned officer even without the RMS red flag, by taking prior approval of the jurisdictional Commissioner of Customs or an officer not below the rank of Additional/Joint Commissioner of Customs.

Post Clearance Audit

Notably, a Post Clearance Audit (PCA) of the shipping bill has been introduced after the implementation of the RMS. This aims to improve compliance levels and reduce the cargo dwell time of exports in India.

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Final steps in customs clearance process upon arrival of goods at the dock


On arrival of the goods at the dock, the custodian must endorse the quantity of the goods on the reverse of the checklist. This endorsed checklist is presented by the exporter/CHA to the customs officer upon receipt of the goods at the dock area, along with original copies of the invoice, packing list, and other relevant documents.


The customs officer verifies the goods received and updates the same to the system. They also mark an electronic copy of the shipping bill and hand it over to the dock appraiser, along with the original documents submitted earlier.


The dock appraiser assigns the task of examination to a customs officer. As mentioned above, the examination norms and the RMS can be bypassed by the customs to examine any export consignment even up to 100% based on credible intelligence or information. This goes for perishable cargo as well.


Based on the orders of the proper officer, a representative sample from the shipment may be drawn and tested, or verified for visual inspection, description, valuation etc.

Let Export Order

Let Export Order (LEO) is the green signal given by the customs to the exporter once they are satisfied with the verification and examination of the shipment. We have separately explained the process around LEO in detail.


When it comes to the stuffing or loading of the container cargo, the customs preventive officer ensures preventive supervision for the same and gives a ‘Shipped on Board’ endorsement on the exporter’s copy of the shipping bill.

Export General Manifest

The shipping lines/agents have to submit a shipping bill-wise Export General Manifest (EGM) to customs before their departure. EGM is lodged electronically as well as manually.

Duty Drawback

Duty drawback is now primarily limited to the incidence of customs duties on inputs used. It is claimed by filing the prescribed format of the shipping bill. The drawback claim must be accompanied by prescribed documents as defined in the Drawback Rules 2017. The claim may be returned in case of any deficiency, but the shipment is not stopped for this reason.

Apart from the documents mentioned in the various subheads, others like inspection certification, dock receipt and warehouse receipt, destination control statement, bill of lading etc. are generated during the customs clearance process.

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