How Long Does It Take to Ship from China to the US?

Are you wanting to order an item from China but need it by a specific date? Or maybe you have a business and want to have a consistent time frame for importing from China? How long does it take to ship from China to the U.S.?

The time it takes to ship from China to the U.S. — for different types of shipping methods ⁠— are as follows:

Type of Shipping:Estimated Time it Takes:
Regular post 1 to 2 weeks
Express freight2 to 7 days
Average Air freight8 to 12 days
Sea freight25 to 40 days

The time for express freight shipping varies between couriers:

Express Freight Courier:Estimate Time it Takes:
UPS2 to 3 working days
FedEx International Priority2 to 3 working days
DHL3 to 5 working days
FedEx International Economy4 to 5 working days
SF-Express5 to 7 working days

You also need to consider other factors that may lengthen the shipping time from China to the U.S. One such factor is the observance of national holidays in China or in the U.S. Insiders in the shipping industry say that these days have “potential ripple effects” that can change the time and the cost of the shipments.

There are also a number of Fulfillment Centers (FCs) in Mainland China and in Hong Kong that you can use to ship goods from China to the U.S. Many e-commerce companies use these centers to ship their goods to their customers in the U.S.

So, instead of shipping the goods directly to the U.S., Fulfillment Centers ship the items to Hong Kong, where it is forwarded to anywhere in the world in just a couple of days. FCs offer economy and express air freight.

Keep reading to learn more about how long it takes to ship from China to the U.S. and what are the fastest and most economical methods of shipping.

How Long Does It Take to Ship from China to the US?

china to us shipping time

The time it takes to receive a package from China depends on the type of shipping or courier that you will use. Here are some of your shipping options:

1. Regular Post

Regular or standard shipping time will take from 60 to 80 days. But there is an agreement between USPS, the U.S. postal service, and the China Post that can shorten the shipping time to 9 to 12 days. (sources 1, 2)

You have to instruct your seller or shipper to use ePacket shipping. Your goods will then be delivered to your U.S. address within two weeks. Otherwise, your items will be shipped under their regular shipping schedule.

2. Express Shipping

There are courier services that offer express shipping from China to the U.S. FedEx, DHL, DPD, TNT USPS, Royal Express, and UPS are some of the couriers that serve this route. It will take them approximately 3 to 7 working days, on average, to ship your goods from China to the U.S.

While these couriers have faster shipping times, they can only deliver small packages. Their shipping charges are very expensive. If you want to ship larger cargo, you will need freight or container shippers.

It will, of course, take a longer time to ship larger cargo compared to shipping small packages. They are bulkier, heavier, and they require the processing of certain documents before they are allowed onboard a cargo plane or a freighter.

3. Air Freight

Normally, it will take from 8 to 12 days to ship goods from China to the U.S. if you will use Air Freight + UPS. The cargo will be processed when it lands in the U.S.

Your agent will have to clear the cargo from the U.S. Customs and then deliver the goods to the UPS warehouse. From there, UPS will dispatch the items to their final destination. These handling procedures will add up to the total shipping time.

If you want to ship your goods faster, you can use Air Express. It will only take Air Express from 6 to 8 working days for items to ship from China to the US; however, their shipping rates are much more expensive.

4. Sea Freight

Sea freight shipping or ocean freight shipping takes longer than air, of course. If you want a faster shipment from China to the U.S., you can choose Ocean Shipping + UPS. It is faster than ordinary container shipment because of the method or system of shipping.

First, a fast sea freighter will be used to transport the goods from China to the U.S. Second, when the goods land in the U.S., a courier will take over and deliver the goods to the customer. The courier can either be FedEx or UPS.

This method is faster than transporting the goods using inland container trucks. You can even cut down 10 days of the normal shipping time if you use this system.

The actual shipping time if you use sea freight depends on various factors. These factors include weather, customs inspections, employment delays, and transport truck.

The approximate duration of sea freights from China to different regions in the U.S. are as follows (LCL stands for “less than container load” and FCL stands for “full container load”):

  • US West LCL: 25-30 business days
  • US West FCL: 18 business days
  • US East LCL: 35-40 business days
  • US East FCL: 28-30 business days

How Long Are Shipping Lead Times?

When shipping goods, you need to consider the shipping lead times because they will also factor in the total length of shipping time. Don’t ignore lead times in shipping goods because it could mean getting your item much later than expected. If you’re a business, this could mean lost sales.

Lead Times for Sea Freight

The slowest form of shipping is by sea freight. Its advantage, however, is that it is the most economical. Following is the overview of the delivery time from port to port starting in Hong Kong to some destinations in the United States.

  • From Hong Kong to New York: 32 days
  • From Hong Kong to Los Angeles: 20 days

To determine the lead time for sea freights, you have to add a minimum of seven days. There are times when it would need more than seven days due to the time required to load and unload the cargo from the port of origin to the port of destination.

Lead Times for Air Freight

Air Freight accounts for approximately 30 percent of goods transported internationally. However, when it comes to the total volume of goods, air freight takes only a small portion of the pie.

The reason is the speed by which air freight delivers the goods. It only takes a few days for air freighters like TNT, DHL, and FedEx to deliver the goods from Hong Kong to anywhere in the world. However, faster delivery means additional costs.

You could spend ten times more to ship by air than by sea or by land. If you can wait for a few more days, you can choose to ship your goods through economy air freight. It is definitely faster than sea freight, but it is certainly cheaper than express air freight.

Express air freight takes three to four days lead times to ship from China to the U.S. Economy air freight is more than double that time, about seven to twelve days lead times when shipping from China to the U.S.

Shippers usually follow the rule of thumb for shipping lead times. This rule of thumb says:

  • 1 to 2 weeks for regular post
  • 2 to 7 days for express freight
  • 8 to 12 days for air freight
  • 25 to 40 days for sea freight

Expected Shipping Time vs Reality for Shipping from China to the US

how long to ship from china to us

I’ve been told from a few different shippers that the cheapest, standard delivery from China will take about 5 to 8 weeks ⁠— from shipping to the actual delivery of the goods. This length of time takes into account the possible delays in customs processing in the U.S. So, the actual time could be just half of the estimated time.

A real-life experience was recounted by a consumer in the United States. He ordered an item from a Chinese company on Sept. 26, 2018. The Chinese company shipped the item on the same day. It arrived at his door on Oct. 11.

So, in his case, shipping the item only took around two weeks or 14 days. He concluded that it is safe to assume that the goods will be delivered at your front door within 15 to 16 days at the most, or slightly over 2 weeks. This is an estimate and can, of course, vary.

From China to California

Shipping a package by sea freight from China to the West Coast of the United States will take around 18 to 30 days. Shipping the same item by air freight will only take about 2 to 5 days. Cargo will take a longer time to ship from China to the U.S. West Coast because of customs processing, documentation, as well as the lead times for loading and unloading.

From China to New York

The East Coast of the United States is farther away from China than the West Coast. Therefore you can expect a longer shipping time from China to the U.S., whether by sea or air. It generally will take approximately 30 to 40 days to ship goods by sea freight from China to the East Coast of the U.S. Air freight time is basically the same as that of the U.S. West Coast.

How to Choose the Fastest and Most Economical Shipping

The fastest way goods can be transported from China to the U.S. is by Air Express. However, it is also the most expensive. If you can wait for a couple more days, ask your Chinese supplier to ship your goods via air economy. This option is relatively cheaper and is not very slow either.

You can also mix your shipping modes. For some rush items, you can use air freight. With other items that can be delivered at a later time, use sea freight. That way you can enjoy both speed and cheaper costs.

You can also divide the goods according to their volume and their value. Use sea freight for bigger items and air freight for smaller items. The point is, you are able to maximize the delivery time and enjoy lower costs.

There are certain things that you need to consider when you are shipping goods from China to the United States. Some of these things are not really related to shipping but can affect shipping time and shipping costs. Consider the following:

Get to Know the Holidays of the Chinese

You need to know that there are several holidays in China – including 7 big ones. That means companies in China, big or small, stop their work whenever a holiday comes rolling in. They won’t work, they can’t ship goods, and they can’t accept payments or goods during those days. Plan your ordering and shipping schedules according to these Chinese holidays.

Mix and Match Your Shipping Needs

To get fast shipping time and to reduce your shipping costs, you need to see the best combinations of shipping modes. You may have to combine air freight with sea freight to get the best options.

Connect with an Experienced Forwarder

Find the best forwarder in China and also in the U.S. This forwarder will enable you to concentrate on selling your goods instead of spending most of your time solving shipping problems.

Conclusion – How Long Does It Take to Ship from China to the US?

How long does it take to ship from China to the US? Shipping time from China to the US varies based on the type of shipping and the shipping company being used.

The time it takes to ship from China to the U.S. for different shipping types are as follows:

  • Regular post: 1 to 2 weeks
  • Express freight: 2 to 7 days
  • Average air freight: 8 to 12 days
  • Sea freight: 25 to 40 days

The time it takes to ship using different shipping companies are as follows:

  • UPS: 2 to 3 working days
  • FedEx International Priority: 2 to 3 working days
  • DHL: 3 to 5 working days
  • FedEx International Economy: 4 to 5 working days
  • SF-Express: 5 to 7 working days

I’ve given a general overview of the time it takes to get shipments from China. Use this info along with the tips to get your item(s) shipped as fast as possible and as economical as possible.

From my research, many businesses are happy with FedEx International Economy [4] as it has the right balance of cost and time. After shipping enough times from China, you’ll begin to have your own favorite method to rely on for yourself or your business.

Related reading:

DHL Vs. FedEx Vs. UPS [What Are the Differences? Which is Better?]

What Is UPS Mail Innovations? [Expedited, Returns, and more]

In Transit by Post Office – What Does It Mean?

Pick and Pack [What Is It? What Does It Mean?]