5 Guidelines For New US Importers


You are thinking of going global and buying your products internationally. You met with an overseas supplier and decided on a couple of products to buy. What will be the next step in bringing your merchandise into the USA? Importing without researching can be very costly.

Here are 5 guidelines that will help you if you are new to global trade.

1. Do you need a license to import?

No, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) do not require any license; however you might need a permit from local agencies. To find the links to other government agencies login on http://www.usa.gov/directory/federal/index.shtml.

2. Why you need a permit from local agencies

Sometimes the product you are buying might not be as simple to import as you think. You imported picture frames with seashell decorations, your shipment arrived into the USA and your broker made an entry for customs clearance. You found out your shipment is held by Fish and Wildlife for inspection. You are thinking there must be a mistake, what does Fish and Wildlife have to do with picture frames? All shells that are collected from the wild must be imported in accordance with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife regulations. You have been told by customs the seashells used on the picture frames are subject to Fish and Wildlife regulations. You might not only bear the extra cost of inspection but you are also in a danger of having to return back the whole shipment to the origin country or destroy the product under customs supervision if the shells used on the frames are not allowed into the USA.

Next scenario… You imported bedding sets and the sham contains a flap closure with shell buttons. Again your shipment is held by fish and wildlife for further clarification. Would you ever think about this if you are a first time importer?

3. Do you know what you ordered?

It is very important to classify correctly the goods you are buying when declaring to US customs. All imports into the United States must be classified in accordance to the “Harmonized Tariff Schedule”. Before you import anything, find out the correct HTS for the product. It is important to know the HTS number to calculate the correct duty and advise your seller how to describe the product. You can find out about HTS # login on to http://www.usitc.gov/tata/hts/.

4. Do you know where your product is manufactured?

You met with your supplier in Japan and you made your purchase through their Japan office but you found out their manufacturing facility is in another country. Know the correct country of origin before you are buying the product. All products imported into the United States must be marked clearly with the country of origin upon entry. There might be some quota restriction depending on the country of origin and the product. You might not be allowed to import the product at all if the quota is filled or if US customs has other restrictions for the subject manufacturing country. Please contact a customs expert regarding the correct country-of origin/proper marking of your merchandise.

5. The difficulty of Classification

It might be difficult to know how to classify your merchandise. You can request a binding ruling to CBP before importing or you can research the results of previous ruling requests by using the Customs Rulings Online Search System at http://rulings.cbp.gov/index.asp may have already issued rulings on products similar to yours. You can use it for guidance. CROSS also addresses other issues such as value, country of origin marking etc. The CROSS database is searchable by key word.

I hope these guidelines will help you. I wish you the best of luck with your imports. If you need more guidance or have any further questions do not hesitate to contact me at [email protected].

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Onur Akarca
Onur was born and raised in Turkey, where he got his Bachelors Degree in Business Administration. Onur worked as a Logistic Manager for a garment importing company for 10 years before joining MTS. He has been working in sales at MTS Logistics since February 2008. Having been on the other side as a logistics manager for a garment importing company helps him to understand what customers need from a logistics partner, especially for time sensitive cargoes like garment. Fun Fact: Onur loves skiing and soccer!