Customs clearance: know what it is and the main steps of this process

  • 02/07/2019
  • 10 minutes

Acting in foreign trade is a great opportunity for the Brazilian businesses of today to find new markets, niche audiences, and value perception in other countries. But many entrepreneurs refrain from exploring this possibility for fear of the hardships of the required processes. Is exporting that complicated?

The truth is that, understanding customs clearance, it’s quite simple to do it by yourself or to offer this service to companies interested in selling their products internationally.

Want to know how? This article, written in partnership with Leonardo Estevão Rodrigues (a customs broker at Cargo Clearance), will teach the fundamentals you need to get started. Don’t miss out!

What is and what’s the importance of customs clearance?

Customs clearance is an obligatory process required by the Brazilian Federal Tax authority in order to carry out any kind of import or export of products and goods.

Besides playing a role in inspecting and checking those items, the legal proceedings are carried out with the goal of clearing merchandise that arrives or leaves different nations, which leads to these steps being standardized in each point of transportation.

Looking at it through a simplifying lens, customs clearance concentrates all actions necessary to solve, in a single line, the requirements and demands inherent to any process of the kind.

It’s here, for example, that the agreement between products and documentation and the veracity of the declared information are checked, besides the collection of related taxes and the payment of customs expenses.

The rapid evolution of the procedure

It’s interesting to observe how customs clearance has been evolving in the past few years, as much for making it harder to carry out the commercialization of irregular international products as for facilitating the life of those responsible for these steps.

The greatest change was certainly informatization. For example: nowadays, inspection is able to block a cargo’s CE Mercante (in the maritime modality) even before it arrives in Brazilian soil. Monitoring is initiated even before the clearance formalities begin.

Projecting that kind of change to the future, it’s possible to predict that inspection will become more and more efficient and rigorous. It’s an opportunity for those entering the sector, especially because this movement should naturally reduce bureaucracy.

What are the steps of customs clearance?

The steps of customs clearance as defined nowadays aim to filter any irregularity which might appear, thus guaranteeing the efficiency of the inspection process.

That’s why we began by saying that the proceedings are very simple for those who understand them — since knowing these steps helps to avoid nonconformities and to accelerate the whole process. See what are those steps!

Declaration Registration

The Declaration Registration is the document that begins the customs clearance process, where all relevant information is declared: information on the merchandise, on the importer/exporter, transaction regime, location, people involved and responsible etc.

Nowadays, the process is digital and forwarded automatically to the Federal Revenue’s system, which will carry on with the rest of the steps.


The process itself starts with choosing the tax authority which will do the physical checking and the liberation. He or she is responsible for that specific sequence and will accompany all steps from beginning to end.


It’s the moment where there’s an initial check of the information, based on the Siscomex (Sistema Integrado de Comércio Exterior, or “integrated foreign trade software”) parameters.

Here, the products to be cleared are forwarded according to the category they are put in — green, yellow, red, and grey channels, which we’ll explain in further detail below.

Documents Redelivery

In the case of the red channel, the process goes back to the beginning, and it’s necessary to adequate and redeliver all the documents.

Customs Conference

After the pending documentational issues are solved, the authority responsible sets a data for a final check of the items, both physical and of the documents.

Customs Clearance and Delivery

If all’s in order (documentation and merchandise), the authority, through a forwarding agent or a representative of the importer, clears the items.

From then on, they are cleared to be transported and delivered to the destination country’s customs.

Green Channel

When the system characterizes the process with the color green, it means everything is alright with the merchandise and the documentation. In this channel, clearance continues automatically to the next steps.

Yellow Channel

Means something is wrong specifically with the customs documentation: nonconformity with the information provided, omission, lack of required documents etc. In this channel, it will be necessary to make the proper adjustments and resend the corrections.

Red Channel

When the process follows through the red channel, it means something’s wrong not only with the documentation, but also with the merchandise being exported. It might be a disagreement between the description and the product, for example, or quantity and characteristics different from those registered.

Besides adjusting the documents, this channel also requires a physical check of the merchandise to guarantee its suitability.

Grey Channel

The grey category is dedicated to products where there’s an already confirmed irregularity — besides a documentational and physical check, there’s also an examination of the customs value. That is, it occurs only when there’s fraud in the information declared. The cargo might be confiscated and those responsible may have to legally respond for the customs.

It’s interesting to know this process of parameterization, since it demonstrates well how simplicity is a part of a well-done process.

Those who know customs clearance well or who count on specialized help for these steps arrive at the Federal Revenue with everything that’s needed to go straight through the green channel. Thus, exporting becomes an easy and quick bet, practically entirely automated without the person responsible needing to lose much time with the comings and goings of the same process. It’s all a company needs to conquer new markets.

Did you enjoy our article? Then share it on your social media!