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How long does it take to import decorative stainless steel sheets from China?

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Linda Wong

Linda Wong

As one of the co-founders of Vigorss, I have been deeply involved in the decorative stainless steel sheet industry for over ten years, gaining extensive knowledge of product craftsmanship. I enjoy approaching issues from the customer's perspective, so the blog posts can address many customer pain points. Feel free to leave a comment to suggest topics for the next posts.

As a Vigorss member with a keen eye for innovative materials, I've been impressed by the popularity of decorative stainless steel sheets. These are not your standard industrial steel panels; they offer a captivating array of finishes, from intricate etchings and water ripple textures to vibrant colors. Vigorss, a supplier based in China, boasts extensive experience in exporting these visually striking sheets to a global clientele. The demand for decorative stainless steel in various projects, from architectural cladding to interior design accents, is experiencing significant growth. However, this increased popularity raises a crucial question for international clients: what is the typical timeframe for importing decorative stainless steel sheets from China? In this blog post, we will delve into the import process, providing a comprehensive overview and a realistic timeline for incorporating these stunning elements into your design projects.

Table of Contents

Breakdown of the Import Process Timeline

Initial Discussion

Let us start from selecting the appropriate surface treatment for the project at hand.

1.Surface Treatment Selection for Specific Applications

Vigorss offers a diverse range of surface treatments, each with its own aesthetic appeal and functional properties. From classic mirror / brushed finishes to intricate etched patterns and various color options, the level of customization you choose directly impacts production timelines.

  • Simpler finishes: Standard finishes like mirror, hairline or satin finish require minimal processing, leading to faster production times. These typically fall within a 1-hour lead time for detail confirmation.
  • More intricate designs: For more complex requests, such as bespoke textures, combination finishes or custom colors, additional production steps are required. The intricacy of the design and the creation of custom color palettes will extend the lead time. Usually, we would enter the sampling stage which may result in longer lead time.

2. Material Grade, Size, and Thickness Selection

Another key topic we delve into is the recommendation of material grade, size, and thickness appropriate for the project.

  • Stainless Steel Grade

201, 304, and 316/316L are the three commonly-used stainless steel grades. 201 is like your basic, no-frills pair. Affordable, but not the best for tough situations. 304 is better at handling wet conditions and easier to fabricate like bending, and a bit more costly. 316 is the high-end option. It’s the most durable and can take on the harshest conditions, but it comes with a higher price tag. When deciding on stainless steel, think about what you need it for. For most uses, 304 is a solid choice, balancing strength and cost well.


If any of the three materials mentioned meets your requirements, we have an ample stock of 2B finish sheets available to proceed to the next step directly.

  • Standard Sizes

The standard sizes for stainless steel sheets are 1219x2438mm, 1219x3048mm, 1000x2000mm, and 1500x3000mm. Customization is possible for width and length, with a maximum width limit of 1500mm.

  • Thickness

The thickness of the stainless steel sheet should be chosen according to the structural requirements of the application. Thicker sheets are recommended for applications requiring increased strength and rigidity, while thinner sheets may be suitable for decorative purposes without structural roles. The thickness usually varies from 0.5mm for light-duty applications to 3mm for heavy-duty uses. The production time remains consistent for thicknesses ranging from 0.5mm to 3mm.

3. Documents required for Customs Clearance

Having finalized the material selection and project specifics, we move on to ensuring a smooth customs clearance process for your imported decorative stainless steel sheets. If this is your first time importing, seek guidance from an experienced local customs broker for the necessary documentation. Alternatively, you can opt for the DDP trade term, eliminating the need to handle customs clearance yourself. With DDP, we take care of all arrangements, and you simply await delivery at your specified location.

  • Commercial Invoice: It outlines the product description, quantity, unit price, and total value. It’s crucial for customs authorities to assess import duties and taxes.
  • Packing List: It provides a detailed breakdown of the contents of your shipment, including the number of packages, their weight and dimensions, and a description of the goods within each package.
  • Bill of Lading (BOL) or Air Waybill (AWB): This document acts as a contract of carriage between the shipper (Vigorss) and the carrier (shipping company) responsible for transporting your goods. It details the shipment origin, destination, and serves as a critical piece of documentation for tracking your shipment’s progress.
  • Certificate of Origin (COO): Depending on your destination country and the value of your order, a Certificate of Origin may be required. This document verifies the country where the decorative stainless steel sheets were manufactured (China in our case). Certain trade agreements can influence the need for a COO and any potential duty reductions associated with it.
  • Cargo Insurance: While not always mandatory, cargo insurance is highly recommended. This insurance policy protects your financial investment in the shipment in case of unforeseen events like loss or damage during transportation. 
  • Fumigation Certificate: Since we use wooden pallets to pack decorative stainless steel sheets for full container order, a fumigation certificate might be required by your country. This document verifies that the wooden packaging material has been treated according to international regulations to eliminate pests and prevent their spread. 
Vigorss's COO format
Certificate of Origin

In some instances, depending on the specific material grade or intended use of the sheets, additional certificates like material composition certificates or mill test reports might be required. Please Our team will advise you on any such requirements specific to your project.

4. Quotation Development and Review

Based on the details gathered during the initial discussion, we will generate a detailed quotation tailored specifically to your project. This quotation will typically include the following information:

  • Product Description: A clear breakdown of the decorative stainless steel sheets you’ve chosen, including the material grade, surface treatment, thickness, dimensions, quantity, protective film, net weight and estimated packaging volume.
  • Unit Price: The cost per unit (often per piece or per square meter)
  • Total Material Cost: The total cost of the sheets based on the quantity and unit price.
  • Trade Term: EXW (Ex-Works), FOB (Free on Board), CIF (Cost, Insurance, and Freight), CNF (Cost and Freight), DDP (Delivered Duty Paid), DDU (Delivered Duty Unpaid). Feel free to select the most appropriate term for your order. If you need clarification on any of these terms, please reach out to our team.
  • Estimated Shipping Cost: We will check the current ocean freight / air freight rates with our trusted shipping forwarders to provide you with the most accurate shipping cost quotation possible.
  • Payment Term: 30% as advance payment and the remaining 70% balance payment will be due before the delivery.
  • Packaging: Usually we use wooden pallets for LCL(Less than Container Load) and iron pallets for FCL(full container load)
  • Lead Time: Typically range from 5 to 30 days, depending on your specific order requirements.
  • Shipping Time: You can select either ocean shipping or air shipping based on the project timeline.

We are available online 24/7 and can prepare a quotation within 2 hours of receiving your detailed order requirements.


For some projects, you may want to see and touch a physical sample of our stainless steel sheets before placing a full order.

  • Sample Request: If you’d like to receive a sample, especially customized finishes, especially with customized finishes, please inform us either during the initial discussion or after reviewing the quotation.
  • Sample Cost:
    • Small Sample Sizes in Stock: We have an abundant stock of small sample sizes measuring 100mm x 100mm for various finishes and textures, and 200mm x 200mm for our popular water ripple pattern. If these small sizes are suitable for your review, there is no charge for the samples themselves. You would only be responsible for the shipping cost.
    • Larger Sample Sizes: If you require samples in larger dimensions, these will need to be cut from a full sheet of standard size. In these cases, a small fee will apply to cover the cost of the material and processing. We will clearly outline this cost before we proceed with your custom sample request.
  • Sample Lead Time: The lead time for receiving your samples will depend on the type you request:
    • Stock Samples: If you choose samples from our existing stock, we can typically ship them out within 1-2 business days.
    • Custom Samples: For samples requiring custom dimensions or finishes, the lead time will be slightly longer.
  • Sample Approval Process: After receiving the samples, thoroughly examine them to ensure they meet your expectations. If any issues arise during testing, please inform us promptly, and we will conduct a second sampling according to your specific requirements.

Order Confirmation and Proforma Invoice

When you are satisfied with the quotation and samples (if provided), please send us the PO (purchase order) or let us prepare the PI (proforma invoice). Carefully review the proforma invoice to ensure everything matches your understanding, then kindly sign or stamp the PI to confirm the order. This can be done fast with your cooperation.

Advance Payment

To start production of your order, Vigorss requires a 30% advance payment. Our bank details are clearly stated on the proforma invoice. Usually it takes about 2-5 business days to receive the payment. Once we receive it, our accounting team will promptly process it and send you a confirmation email upon receipt.

Production Begins

The specific lead time will depend on the complexity of the chosen treatments and order quantity. Here’s a general guideline for common treatments:

  • Raw Material Preparation (Estimated 1-10 days): If the stainless steel sheet size and grade you require are readily available in our stock, this stage can be completed within 1-2 days. The sheets will simply be retrieved from inventory and inspected for quality before moving on to surface treatment. For orders requiring specific sheet sizes or thicknesses that we don’t have in stock, we will need to order coils from the agent of steel mills. This process typically takes 3-10 days to receive the coils. Once the coils arrive, they will be cut to your specified dimensions.
  • Surface Treatment Lead Time (Estimated 3-7 days): The specific lead time will depend on the complexity of the chosen treatments and the order volume. Quality control inspection is conducted concurrently with production.
  • Post-Production Lead Time (Estimated 1-2 days): After completing the surface treatment, we will proceed with packaging using wooden pallets for full container orders and iron pallets for less than container load orders. Additionally, shipping labels with packaging details will be affixed to each pallet.

After our team finishes scheduling, we will send you an order follow-up sheet so that you can have a general idea of the entire process timeline.

Vigorss’s order follow-up sheet for all clients

Balance Payment

After production is complete, we will send you a commercial invoice detailing the product, advance payment, and remaining balance for your wire transfer.


  • Ocean Freight: This is a cost-effective option for either LCL or FCL orders that are not time-sensitive. While ocean freight takes longer than air freight (ranging from 5 to 40 days depending on the distance and route), it is the most economical way to transport bulky or heavy cargo like stainless steel sheets.
  • Air Freight: If speed is a critical factor for your order, air freight is the preferred option. Air freight can deliver your order within 3-7 days, but it comes at a higher cost compared to ocean freight.

If the trade term is CIF/CNF/DDP/DDU, we Vigorss team will book the vessel based on the production completion date in advance to facilitate immediate shipment after production. For EXW or FOB terms, we will promptly remind you of contacting with your shipping forwarder for the shipment.


Export documents such as the commercial invoice, packing list, and test report are usually ready within 1-2 days after loading. The Bill of Lading, however, is typically available 5-7 days after loading when the vessel departs the port of origin. We can provide the original BL or telex-released BL upon request. Once the BL is prepared, we require an additional 2 days to apply for the Certificate of Origin (COO).

If the trade term is DDP, you can ignore this and next step as we will take care of everything.

Customs Clearance at the Destination Port

It is highly recommended to appoint a licensed customs broker in your country to handle the import clearance process. A customs broker can navigate the complexities of customs regulations, saving you time and ensuring compliance. They can also advise you on any anticipated import duties or taxes associated with your order. This may take 3-10 days.

Total Lead Time Estimation

You can expect the total lead time of ordering decorative stainless steel sheets to be between several business days and several weeks, depending on your specific requirements.

  • If you need standard sizes in common grade, simple surface treatment, a moderate quantity, and no sample confirmation required, it means we can deliver within 5-7 business days after receiving the advance payment.
  • For customized orders that necessitate accurate sampling and complex production processing, ordering will take a few weeks.


Vigorss offers a streamlined and efficient production process for your decorative stainless steel sheet needs. We take pride in using high-quality materials and meticulous quality control procedures to ensure you receive exceptional products.

VIGORSS workshop
VIGORSS workshops

From initial inquiry to final delivery, Vigorss keeps you informed every step of the way. Our lead time estimates consider factors like chosen surface treatments, current workload, and shipping method (ocean or air freight). We’ll work closely with you to ensure a smooth and efficient experience.

Contact Vigorss today for a quote and to discuss your specific requirements. Please feel free to reach out to us at [email protected] or call us at 0086-13715484114. We look forward to partnering with you on your next decorative stainless steel project!


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