A Guide to UPU (Universal Postal Union) route to China via Cross-border E-commerce

by Azoya

Cross-border logistics route is a very complex topic and as seen by industry players, there are multiple routes to send products across the Chinese border. There are currently 5 known ways to achieve the goal: bonded import, BC commercial clearance, UPU import and of course, the general import. This article focuses on explaining the UPU international logistics route to deliver online orders to China.


What is UPU?

The EMS services (Post NL, Spanish Post, etc.) used by global retailers to shipped orders to the end Chinese customers are based on the UPU (Universal Post Union) agreements among mainstream national posts across different countries. This agreement is recognized global wide and is an enhanced EMS services over the conventional Post.

The UPU EMS service is by nature a Person to Person services. For example, a grandpa living in UK decided to send a lovely Jelly Cat doll to his grand-daughter living in Shenzhen, China, he can purchase the Jelly Cat doll and send it through Royal Mail or Chinese EMS services. This is done under the framework of UPU EMS in between United Kingdom and China.

The UPU service has been widely used by brick-and-mortar department stores, as well as E-commerce around the world for the past 8-10 years as a value-added shipping services to their customers. The UPU service is applied mainly to improve customer experiences comparing with the traditional bulk import (under different regulation class) as a conventional approach for over a hundred years.

However, the parcel policy of UPU varies between countries, categories and service carriers, and it affect parcel weight, taxation, time and many other factors.


What are the duty levels for UPU?

Under the “personal article” declaration category (the so-called “ CN23” declaration form + customers personal ID info), each customer parcel will be declared by UPU EMS carriers (e.g. Post NL, Spanish Post, etc. to China). It should follow Chinese Customs general regulations as follows (sections):

The No.15 Announcement of China Customs in 2012 and the latest China Customs Adjustment on the 24th Mar 2016 on regular cases the personal duty charges level are as following over the declared parcel value.

  • Groceries (kitchen ware, food, nutritional supplements, groceries) – 15%
  • Personal care, electrical devices, home appliances – 30%
  • Luxuries, cosmetics, wines, alcohols – 60%
  • Free duty if the duty amount obligated to be paid is less than 50 RMB (around $9 USD)

What are the restrictions?


The categories falling into the enclosed list are NOT allowed of shipping in the UPU EMS approach to China (or if otherwise specified by China Customs).

The declared value of a personal parcel shall not be over 2,000 RMB (roughly $285 USD as per the current exchange rate) in all, including if with multiple items, otherwise China Customs can reject it.

The declared items can only be used for personal use, and shall NOT be applied for any resell purposes. Each parcel demands a customer’s personal info, including declaration ID name, shipment address, etc.

If there is only one item in the parcel, there is no cap (e.g. a CHANEL bag could worth USD $3000) as it still can be deemed as intended for personal use purpose

If there are multiple items in one customer parcel at a declaration, the total value of the parcel shall not be over 2,000 RMB (roughly USD $285) otherwise China Customs can reject the parcel

If there are multiple items in one parcel and they are the same item and the total declared value less than 2,000 RMB (roughly USD $285), the maximum quantity shall not be over 6 pieces as a rule of thumb (proposed “rule of thumb” based on EMS experiences)


What will happen if these requirements are not met?

China Customs check parcels in random based on the regulations and practices above. If a customer’s parcel is inspected but not following with one regulation above, China Customs may

  • Issue a personal duty ticket with specific amount duty to be paid by the recipient in his/her nearest Post office as per the personal duty regulations
  • Let the parcel simply be released from Customs if following with the regulations of inspection of UPU parcels above without duty to be charged (e.g. if the calculated duty amount is less than 50 RMB)
  • Reject the parcel on field in Customs

Every countries’ Customs may not check personal parcels for 100%. For example, a British or French buys a mobile phone cable from China’s marketplace), those parcels are randomly inspected, and most of the time it will be released to the last mile carriers without taxation. It will then be delivered by local EMS services, such as Royal Mail in UK.

Related Reading

A peak into China's Cross-border E-commerce beyond 2017


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