Shipping from China to USA: All You Need to Know

by Stanley Nieh


Import and export have been the backbone of the international supply chain. Whenever we talk of international freight, shipping from China to the USA does pop up in our minds. 

This article throws light upon everything that you need to know if you want to import products from China to the USA. You will learn about the costs and timing according to the different modes of transportation along with other tips for a successful import. 

So, sit tight and try to grab the maximum information that is crucial to your business. 

Let’s jump right in. 

How to Ship from China to the USA?

This is the question that attracts every aspiring and even the existing importers. Getting your products manufactured in China and having them delivered to your desired location efficiently is an art known to few. 

The same is the case with shipping from China to the USA.

Shipping from China to USA

Let’s answer the question according to the following three most usual ways of transportation. 

Sea Freight

This is the most preferred option to get your products shipped from China to the USA. Why is that so? The simplest answer to this is the cost. 

The sea freight offers you the best cost-efficient solution to ship products from one country to another.

The goods are loaded onto the big ships and they travel through the sea or ocean from a Chinese port to eventually land at a US port. It is also referred to as ocean freight. 

Ocean Freight

It is the cheapest solution because goods are loaded to the ships in bulk quantities and are transported within days. It can take dozens of days to reach the shipment from China to the USA. 

Air Freight

Air freight, as the name suggests, is used when the products are dispatched by air. This can mean that the goods be either transported by a passenger plane or a commercial plane, whatever is suitable and available. 

Air Freight

Express air freights are considered to be the most expensive but fastest modes of transportation at the same time. That is why air freights reach from China to the USA within 3 to 5 days depending upon the route. 

Express Freight

Express freight refers to the express service to move parcels from one place to another. These express services are offered by the freight and cargo services which include USPS, DHL, FedEx, etc. 

These transportation services are usually carried out through a mixed mode of transportation including road, rail, sea, and air whatever suits them. 

How Fast Is Shipping from China to the US

Apart from the cost of shipping, the other most important factor of shipping is the transit time to get the products delivered from one place to another. 

Most of the time, we have to select the shipping options between sea and air freight. Let’s discuss both options in the following. 

Shipping Time by Sea

Shipping time of goods from China to the USA by sea depends upon certain factors. These factors include the port of origin and destination, the speed of the ship, and the route that ships take to reach the destination. 

The shipping time by sea from China to the USA is around 30 to 60 days. The shipments can get even late if there is any kind of disturbance or delay at sea due to untoward reasons. 

The time it takes to reach shipments from China to the USA is somewhere around 25 to 45 days if we consider only from the port to port timing. The additional days are spent in the case of door-to-door delivery of the products. 

Shipping Time by Air

As mentioned earlier and due to obvious reasons, the shipping time by air from China to the USA is the shortest. The shipments can reach from an airport in China to an airport in the USA within 3 to 5 days. 

As discussed in the shipments by sea, additional time may be required to make the products delivered to the doorstep. 

So, you can expect to have your items delivered to your doorstep within 7 to 10 days after the products have been shipped by air. 

Fastest Shipping from China to the USA

If we talk about the mode of transportation, the fastest option to ship products from China to the USA is by air. It can deliver the products within 3 to 4 days. 

If express shipping uses air freight services, it can also be considered the fastest shipping method as the mode of transport is by air. 

As an example, China Air Express delivers your products from China to the USA within 5 days. 

The Cost of Shipping from China to the USA

If the time of delivery is not crucial for a business or an individual, the most important factor in choosing the shipping method from China to the USA is the cost of shipping. 

That’s why we are discussing this in detail. Read the sections below to have an idea of pricing as we walk you through the different costs of shipping according to the different shipping methods. 

Ocean Freight Cost of FCL

FCL stands for Full Container Load. This means that you are booking a full container to get your goods from China to the USA.

Full Container Load

The ocean freight or the sea freight to get your goods shipped from China to the USA would mean that you have a dedicated container that will be fully booked with your products only. 

The shipping company will be responsible for dispatching that container from China and delivering it to the USA as it was packed in China. 

Your products will not get mixed with other products as you have bought a dedicated container. But FCL is advisable in case your products are in large quantities that are enough to take the full or most of a standard container. 

The ocean freight cost to get the full container loaded with your goods from China and get it delivered in the USA is usually lower than the LCL (Less than a Container Load). 

Why is that so?

That is because if you share the container space with other importers, you would be paying more cost per product. Therefore, if your products can occupy one container, you should go for an FCL shipment. 

Just to give you an idea of costs, one FCL from China to the USA can cost you from USD 2,000 to USD 4,000 depending upon the port of origin and destination and the rates of the shipping company. 

Ocean Freight Cost of LCL

As you are sharing the container space in LCL, the ocean freight cost of LCL will depend upon the weight or size of your items. 

The cost of shipping goods via LCL is mostly calculated in CBM (cubic meters). 


If we consider a total of 33 CBMs in a 20 ft container and the shipping carrier is costing you USD 150 for 1 CBM, the total cost of the container turns out to be USD 4,950. 

So, you would be potentially paying around USD 950 more for a full container in the case of LCL as compared to the FCL

The Cost for Expedited Ocean Freight

Expedited ocean freight refers to faster shipping via sea or ocean as compared to standard shipping options. This means that the sea freight that is expedited will have a more direct route to the destination port and will have minimum stops in between. 

The shipping companies generally offer expedited ocean freight with tracking information because they have more visibility of these shipments. 

The average cost of expedited ocean freight is around $2 to $3 per kg. 

The average time to reach the shipment from China to the USA is reduced to 5 to 7 days in expedited ocean freight. That means that if a regular ocean freight reaches a port in the USA in 30 days, the expedited ocean freight will take around 23 days to arrive. 

Air Freight Costs 

As discussed, air freight is the fastest method to ship from China to the USA. The shipments by air can reach from China to the USA within 2 to 3 days even in the cases of connected flights. 

The air freight costs are calculated to be around $4 to $5 per kg. Air freight is the best option to get your products shipped if your shipment is under 500 kg. 

Small Shipments Costs 

If you do online shopping from China, you must have noticed that the total prices of the products are generally calculated after adding the shipping costs. 

Small Packages

You will notice that even if the product comes with a “free shipping” offer, the cost of the product will be higher than the one that has to add the shipping fee. 

This means that the products that offer free shipping already include an average shipping cost in their price. These tricks are also used in the dropshipping model

You will also notice that most of the products in the case of online shopping are smaller in size, weight, and dimension. You will not find heavy furniture or heavy industrial equipment in abundance on a B2C website like AliExpress. 

If the item is big in size or weight, the shipping cost from China also becomes higher. 

There is no set formula for calculating the shipping costs of small packages. The average shipping cost of small shipments is around $2 to $3 per product. 

China has developed a network of supply chains to facilitate its sellers to ship products across the world. 

The sellers just have to hand over the small packages to a collection center and the products are eventually dispatched either by sea or air, whichever is more convenient and cost-effective. 

Cheapest Shipping from China to the USA

The cheapest shipping from China to the USA is ocean freight. As we discussed in the section on ocean freight costs, it provides the cheapest possible option to ship your products from China to the USA. 

So, if the timing of the shipment is not a deciding factor at your end and you can wait for around a month to receive your products in the USA, you should go for ocean or sea freight. 

Customs Clearance in the USA

Customs clearance is the most important part of getting your shipment to the destination. 

In the case of the US, you would have to follow a full customs clearance procedure, provide proper documentation and pay for the customs duties and taxes. 

Let’s discuss these factors in detail. 

Documents Required at Customs Clearance in the USA

Following is the list of documents required for customs clearance in the USA with brief details.


Commercial Invoice

This is not just a bill of your purchase. It has all the other details regarding what exactly the product is, how much did that product cost you, who made it, where it is headed, etc. 

You must take care of it in advance that the invoice has all the relevant details before producing it at the customs clearance in the USA. 

The amount of the invoice is also crucial here. It is used in determining the amount of tariff or customs duty you need to pay according to the rules. 

Bill of Lading 

This is also a crucial piece of paper. It comes from the ship’s captain or crew to the importer to clear the goods at the customs of the destination country. 

This letter also bears the description and detail about the products being imported. 

Packing List 

The shipper or seller must present a packing list during customs clearance in the USA. 

This document also details the products in the consignment along with the amount billed to the importer. 

The customs authorities need this document to match the details of the packing list with the details of the invoice. 

Arrival Notice

The shipper or seller of the goods must also provide this document to the buyer or importer. This letter informs the importer that the goods have arrived at the destination port and the importer can collect it after doing the needful at the port. 

This letter is also crucial for the customs clearance of your goods at the port. 

Import Duties and Taxes

Import duties are generally applied in percentages. This percentage is applied to the value of the items that are being imported into the US from China. 


The average percentage of duties for importing goods from China to the USA is around 19%. The rate varies from product to product. 

For example, you will be charged 16.3% for importing t-shirts from China to the USA and around 25% for importing electronic items into the USA from China. 

The duties and trade tariffs keep on changing from time to time. This system is controlled by US Customs and Border Protection (CBP). 

In addition to the general import duties and tariffs, you would have to pay for the Merchandise Processing Fee (MPF) on all of the imported goods. 

Prohibited and Restricted Items

There are two kinds of prohibited or restricted items to be imported into the USA. One type of product is not permitted and the other type of products are only allowed after the prior approval of the relevant department. 

We have mentioned the list of plainly or strictly prohibited items and the items that require formal approval before you can import them to the USA. 

Strictly Prohibited Items

It is illegal to import the following products from China or any other country into the USA. 

  • Alcohol products 
  • Drug items 
  • Military or defense items 
  • Dog or cat fur 
  • Firearms
  • Gold 
  • Trademark and copyrighted items

Items that Require Approval

Following is the list of items that require you to obtain proper approval from either the officials or the relevant departments and government bodies before importing them into the USA. 

  • Biologicals and medication 
  • Automobile 
  • Ceramic Tableware 
  • Fish, wildlife, and products made from them
  • Specific food items 
  • Fruits and vegetables
  • Game and hunting trophies 
  • Pets 
  • Plants and seeds 
  • Soil 
  • Textile items 

The Company that Provides the Best Shipping Services From China to the USA

NicheSources is on the top of the line when it comes to providing shipping services from China to the USA. As we have our warehouses in both countries, we manage to deliver the products from China expeditiously and cost-effectively. 

Hire our services and you will come to know about every reason why to choose us for lightning fast shipping services. 

6 Tips to Ship from China to the USA Efficiently in 2022

Don’t rely on anyone who tells you to have miraculous shipping from China to the USA. Do your research and get to a point where you are satisfied that your shipment is in safe hands. 

Following are the tips to ship from China to the USA efficiently in 2022. 

Compare Quotations 

Always try to take as many quotations from the freight forwarders as you can. This is to have a clear comparison of cost and services. 

Don’t Overpack Items

Packing is important. If you pack a peanut into a big box, it will cost you extra money due to its greater dimensional weight. Try to use the smallest possible packing that adds minimum to the size, dimension, or weight of the package. 

Choose Shipping Agent in China for Proper Guidance 

This is important. If you don’t know much about China or the Chinese language, consider hiring the services of an agent in China. The agents are experts in their fields. 

They can be your eyes and ears right there in the origin country to come up with the best possible solutions for you. 

Consider Insurance 

If your goods get damaged while being shipped from China to the USA, it can be a great hassle for you to get them returned. So, it is safe to get your shipment insured. 


Your cargo insurance will incur extra bucks but will also bring peace of mind while your shipment is in transit. 

Choose Shipping Incoterms Wisely 

Incoterms are the international shipping agreements between sellers and buyers. These Incoterms put clear responsibilities on both parties to avoid unresolved disputes in the future. 

There are eleven Incoterms to choose from. Their terms and conditions vary according to the level of responsibilities and risk involved for both parties. 

If you are new to the shipping world, you can go for the DDP Incoterms where all the responsibilities are on the sellers until the shipment is delivered at the decided place and the duties are paid too. 

Avoid Peak Seasons

Shipping in peak seasons can incur extra money. Why compete with the importers who have a compulsion to import products at a specific time of the year when you don’t need to? 

If you don’t have such a compulsion, try avoiding importing items at the events near Black Friday, Christmas, New Year, etc. The shipping rates are quite high at those times. 

FAQs about Shipping from China to the USA

We have answered the frequently asked questions so that you can take further help importing products from China to the USA. Read the answers carefully to have more clarity.  

How to Manage Your Shipment from China to the USA?

First of all, you must choose a reliable shipping partner who keeps you updated until you receive the shipment. 

You would most probably be dealing with the Chinese persons who would have shipped your products. 

You can either judge their communication skills and customer services before signing a contract with them or hire the services of an expert who can do it on your behalf. 

How to Get a Shipping Quote

You can get the best shipping quote from a shipping company if you consider the following tips in your mind while making a shipping deal. 

  • Share every information regarding the whole shipping deal and your clear expectations from the seller. 
  • Compare and negotiate with 3 to 4 shipping companies over prices and services. 
  • Ask for their exact services during the shipping process. 
  • Ask for their reviews and whether they had sent the shipments to the same place before where you require the shipment. 
  • Show yourself as a regular businessman so that the shipping company takes you seriously and wants to do business with you in the future as well. 

How Do I Track My Order from China?

When you sign a shipping deal and your shipment has been dispatched from China, you can track your shipment at any point. 

The tracking of shipment requires information on the computer. You will be given a tracking number that you can use to track the transit location of your shipment until it reaches you. 

Why Is Shipping from China So Expensive in 2022?

The COVID-19 pandemic has shaken the world including the two giants of international trade – China and the USA. The lockdowns around the world have made a huge impact on the global supply chain. 

International Supply Chain

That is the core reason why shipping from China has seen a steep increase in 2022. 

Other reasons include the political instability in different regions including China, increased tariffs in the USA, and the decades-old trade war between China and the USA. 


Shipping from China to the USA is one of the highly exercised practices in world trade. The major part of this trade also happens for Amazon’s business – FBA. 

Still, there is always a hue and cry when it comes to choosing the right freight services while importing from China. You can take help from this article from time to time when you feel confused about the shipping process. 

Are you considering sourcing and importing products from China? Ask for a free quote today and we will be right there to guide you through every step. 

About the Author

stanley nieh ceo


Over 10 years of experience in foreign trade
Helped 2k+ clients improve their eCommerce businesses

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