Exports From the UK to USA

Historically, the United Kingdom has been a significant trade partner with the United States of America.

While trading with the EU has become difficult post-Brexit, the USA and UK have a strong alliance founded on an excellent trading culture. The USA loves British products and is particularly fond of any product with the royal seal of approval.

As of 2020, the United Nations COMTRADE database on international trade valued UK trade to the US at USD 57.72 Billion. The US market has grown consistently over a long time. There has never been a better time for UK companies to sell their products to the US.

That said, planning the most efficient route for your supply chain can be taxing and complex. Deciding which port you should deliver to, what incoterms fulfil your needs, and how you should transport your cargo in the first place are all difficult questions even for experienced shippers. 

WTA can help; as international freight experts, we understand the complexities that come with exporting to the US. We cover your options when transporting, the incoterms you should consider, and the relevant transit times. Then, we will show you how to prepare for US customs requirements.


Transportation Options From the UK to the USA

Getting your cargo from the UK to the USA means using one of two basic options: sea freight or air freight. Each of these options has its advantages and complexities. We'll explore both options here.

Shipping As Sea Freight

When shipping freight by sea, you'll need to decide whether you want to use Full Container Load (FCL) or Less than Container Load (LCL) shipping. This choice determines how your goods are stored.

  • FCL Shipping means your goods will occupy the entire space of the container. FCL is usually the safest option and the cheapest for large amounts of cargo.

  • LCL Shipping means your goods occupy the same container as other merchandise. LCL is usually the most flexible option and the cheapest for small to medium amounts of cargo. Our Freight Account Manager James Micklethwaite is an expert on this route.

Our FCL Shipping Services
Our LCL Shipping Services

Shipping As Air Freight

Shipping your cargo by air has the benefit of allowing your goods to reach the US exceptionally fast. This means your cargo will get to their location as soon as possible. However, it's usually the most expensive option by far.

In general, under Carriage Paid To (CPT) incoterms, any delivery from a UK airport to the client's door will take 3-4 days. The collection will happen on day one, followed by screen and airport delivery on day two. Finally, the cargo will arrive on the third or fourth day, depending on if you're delivering to the east or west coast.

If you've used Delivered At Place (DAP) or Delivered Duty Paid (DDP) incoterms on forwarding, then delivery can take somewhat longer. Airfreight delivered in this way can take an extra 2-3 days from arrival at the US destination airport.

WTA can service all international airports in the US, but our primary lanes from the UK are:


WTA UK to USA Export Airports Infographic


Learn everything about air freight from the UK to USA

Incoterm Considerations

Incoterms are widely used to define the responsibilities of the buyer and seller during the shipping process. An Incoterm helps specify who manages and pays for documents. As well as who handles insurance, customs clearance, and other logistics. Here are some of the most common Incoterms you might encounter exporting from the UK to the USA:

    • DDP - Delivered, Duty Paid: This means that the seller has paid all charges. Including customs clearance as well as import duty & tax.

    • DDU - Delivered, Duty Unpaid:  This means the seller has paid for all charges until the cargo reaches the buyer's home country. At this point, it becomes the buyer's responsibility. 

    • FOB - Free On Board: This means that the seller is responsible only for local charges. Once the cargo reaches the freight portion of the journey, it becomes the buyer's responsibility.

    • CPT / CFR - Carriage Paid to "X": This means that the buyer is responsible up until the cargo has reached the port in the destination country. This includes local charges at origin and freight costs to the carrier. The buyer pays for all expenses from the destination point to the final location.

    • Ex-Works: This means that the buyer pays for all charges from the start of the delivery to the end. The seller bears no costs and is only responsible for the packaging.

Be careful when comparing quotes from freight forwarders, as the Incoterms can have a big impact on price.

A freight forwarder will offer a better rate on FOB incoterms than on Ex-Works. But on FOB they may burden you with the costs of getting the goods to the ship, where as Ex-Works will include the entire shipment.

See Our Full List of Incoterms Here

Our Sample of UK to USA Transit Times (Port to Port)




Transit times are based on FCL shipments and are subject to change. WTA UK ships to all US ports.

Contact James Micklethwaite

WTA Control Tower technology allows you to optimise your supply chain and that includes choosing the best routes for your products that are cost-effective yet efficient at the same time.

Discover Our WTA Global Control Tower

USA Custom Requirements

The United States Customs and Border Protection (CBP) enforces trading rules on all shipments imported to the USA. When exporting from the UK, the amount you pay for customs will depend on the value of your goods. 

Additionally, before shipping your product to the USA, you need to ensure you meet all legal requirements. Make sure to know your product's correct Harmonised System (HS) code and investigate any specific regulations. This can help to ensure a seamless customs clearance. 

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) enforces additional rules on the packaging and contents of food, drinks, drugs, medical devices, and cosmetics. These regulations can change depending on the state you're exporting to. This can have the potential to get complicated. 

There is a lot to deal with and plan for, which isn't a process most companies can make on their own. However, by partnering with an experienced shipper like WTA UK and our sister company WTA USA who can handle all of your customs clearances, all of these challenges can be overcome. 

Learn More About WTA USA