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carlylelk 19-12-2019 13:41

Shipping back to USA for repair
I will be sending part of my autopilot back to the states for repair. The nice Fedex lady told me I needed a US Customs form to do that but she didn't know which one. She said it would require my boat registration information. I looked all over and the only thing I could find was the "Commercial Invoice" form. From the Fedex site Commercial means it is worth something. But the form requires a Tax ID number etc, obviously geared toward a business, not a private citizen. We're in Martinique, and there is a big strike going on so I can't get the customs form on this end either.

Can someone advise me on the customs from the USA end? We're USA citizens by the way.


psk125 19-12-2019 14:55

Re: Shipping back to USA for repair
When filing self-employed federal income taxes we use Social Security numbers since we have no corporate tax ID number. P.S.: You may be able to get the forms you need online.

belizesailor 19-12-2019 15:14

Re: Shipping back to USA for repair
Ive never had to fill out USA Customs forms when shipping to USA for repair, but I have had to export from other countries so I didnt get dinged full duty when the item was re-imported.

Have not done any of the above from Maritnique...though the last time I was there the Frenchies were on strike too! [emoji849]

The manufacturer/repair facility might also have some experience with this process. Also contact USA Customs.

Montanan 19-12-2019 15:41

Re: Shipping back to USA for repair
Useful link:

Dsanduril 19-12-2019 15:59

Re: Shipping back to USA for repair
Technically you are required to handle this as either "Temporary Import under Bond" or use an ATA Carnet. Both are not cheap or easy, and usually not worth the effort for small items.

If the value can reasonably be claimed as less than $2500 and you can send it by post (not Fedex/UPS/DHL, etc.) then the USPS will receive the package, transfer it to CBP who will evaluate any charges, and then send the package back to USPS for delivery. All of that is free of charge, unless they decide you owe duty - in which case CBP charges $5 + duty + USPS fee (not sure how much that is). If you send the package by courier (FedEx, etc.) then you are at their mercy with regard to clearance procedures.

For the commercial invoice you can use the form you saw before. At the the top clearly mark it "No Sale" (so the header would say "Commercial Invoice - No Sale". In the invoice body put the original value of the equipment (hopefully less than $2500). Then add some data on serial # and "Returned for (warranty) repair - to be reexported (returned to sender) on completion of repairs". Make that part big and bold. For the total value at the bottom of the invoice make that $0.00 (even though you have a line item that is the original value). This indicates that the unit is being returned for repair. Here's a sample invoice (this one is for the shipment back out with the repair cost). If the value is under $2500 then formal entry is not required and this should get it through CBP. This procedure has worked for me on a number of occasions.

Not familiar with the French/Martinique side. By international rule when the unit is returned the shipper should do exactly the same, but their commercial invoice should include a second line item for the value of the repair, along with a notation about whether or not the repair was warranty work. Their final value should still be zero. If possible (navigating yet another bureaucracy) you should register the unit with French Customs before it leaves the island, in theory if you do that you should be able to get it back without cost. If for some reason you can't then duty should be charged only on the value of the repair as listed on the invoice.

Sometimes it can be easier to either ship it to family/friend in the US as a personal package (with a value declared that is less than the gift limit) or have the unit carried as baggage by someone on a plane then shipped from inside the US.

Another alternative, that I have never tried (I've done the commercial invoice route many times as part of my work) is to complete CBP form 3299 and send the unit back for "Free Entry of Unaccompanied Articles". Most of us can legally claim that our boat is our household, and if the item is boat equipment can honestly check the box for:


All instruments, implements, or tools of trade, occupation or employment, and all professional books for which free entry is sought were taken abroad by me or for my account or I am an emigrant who owned and used them abroad. (9804.00.10,9804.00.15, HTSUSA)
Welcome to the world of international shipping, isn't it fun?

skipmac 20-12-2019 10:19

Re: Shipping back to USA for repair
Can't help with the forms for shipping to the US but cannot emphasize enough to document everything about the shipping out of Martinique including copies of the shipping docs, SN of the unit, etc. Otherwise they may ding you for import duty when it ships back. Been there, done that.

George DuBose 21-12-2019 02:17

Re: Shipping back to USA for repair

This is the form you want to use and maybe use what form FedEx might have. Shower them with paperwork.

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