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Import FAQ

Why do I need to fill out a "power of attorney" form?

US Customs Regulations Section 141.46 states: "Before transacting customs business in the name of his principal, a Customhouse broker is required to obtain a valid Power of Attorney to do so." Therefore, in order to transact with US Customs on yours or your company's behalf, we must have on file your Power of Attorney which authorizes us to do so.

Download Power of Attorney Forms and Instructions:
Commercial Power Of Attorney
Personal Effects Power Of Attorney

What is a Customhouse Broker?

Customs brokers are private individuals, partnerships, associations or corporations licensed, regulated and empowered by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to assist importers and exporters in meeting Federal requirements governing imports and exports. Brokers submit necessary information and appropriate payments to CBP on behalf of their clients and charge them a fee for this service. Brokers must have expertise in the entry procedures, admissibility requirements, classification, valuation, and the rates of duty and applicable taxes and fees for imported merchandise.

Do I need a Customs broker to clear my goods through CBP?

There is no legal requirement for you to hire a Customs broker to clear your goods. However, many importers opt to do so for the convenience. Customs brokers are licensed by U.S. Customs and Border Protection to conduct CBP business on behalf of importers. They take the burden of filling out paperwork and obtaining a CBP bond off of the importer's hands. Some importations can be particularly complex - such as the importation of textile items for resale - because of quota or other special requirements governing the importation of the product. The importer is always ulitimatly responsible for knowing CBP requirements and for ensuring their importation complies with all federal rules and regulations, but using a Customs broker can save you from making costly mistakes. If you choose to file your own customs entry, please read our brochure, "U.S. Import Requirements" for a brief overview of what is involved. (It is at the bottom of the link page.) If your goods are being imported via an express courier, the courier automatically utilizes Customs brokers to clear your goods on your behalf. If you have any concerns about their charges for this service, please contact the courier company directly. Customs brokers charge for their services, so you may want to contact a few to discuss rates. A list of Customs brokers can be found on our web site under the Ports section by clicking on the port you intend to import through.

What is a consumption entry?

A consumption entry is one type of CBP entry. A consumption entry is used when goods are imported for use in the United States and are going directly into the commerce of the United States without any time or use restrictions placed on them, which covers about 95% of all entries into the U.S. When we say for use in the United States, we mean for commercial, business or personal purposes. A consumption entry may be formal or informal depending on the circumstances. However, the majority of consumption entries are formal and the goods are being imported for commercial purpose and/or "resale", which requires filing an Entry Summary (CBP 7501) and acquiring a CBP bond (CBP 301). This covers a broad range of commodities (i.e. textiles, electronics, food etc.) entering the U.S. For example, a commercial shipment of textiles being shipped from China to a distributor in the United States, would be a formal consumption entry. However, if the textiles were going to a warehouse prior to the distributor, a formal warehouse entry would have to be filed. A consumption entry for goods entering the U.S. as informal entries are not necessarily filed on a CBP 7501. Various forms are used for informal consumption entries and usually no CBP bond CBP 301 is required. Informal consumption entries generally cover shipments intended for the importers' personal use or commercial goods entering the U.S. via air, ship or mail for consumption that are valued less than $2,000. This does not include commodities subject to other Federal agency regulations, most textiles, or goods subject to quota/visa restrictions. For example, a shipment of furniture being shipped from Indonesia to a homeowner in the United States valued at $6,000 would most likely be an informal consumption entry because the goods are intended for their personal use. In addition to consumption entries, other entry types are used to clear goods entering the United States. Some entry types include warehouse, transportation, temporary importation under bond (TIB), permanent exhibition, trade fair, carnets, drawback, foreign trade zone, vessel repair, and appraisement FTZ entries.

What should I consider before importing something?

Requirements for importing specific commodities depend on a wide variety of things. Some information, such as whether an item is subject to quota restrictions, eligible for reduced rates of duty, or restricted from entry because they originate in an embargoed country, can be determined only if you know the item's Harmonized Tariff Schedule classification number. Determining an item's HTS number can be extremely complicated. Please see our information under Duty Rates in the Import section of this web site. Other requirements depend on other agencies' safety, energy efficiency, health, etc. standards. Many of the items governed by these various rules cannot be imported without a permit from the related agency. See the chapter on Special Requirements in our publication "Importing Into the U.S." for more information. Another thing to consider is marking of county of origin. Everything imported for use in the U.S. must be marked with the country of origin, but some things are very hard, or impossible, to mark, such as diamonds, flowers, or water. See our publication "Marking of Country of Origin" for more information about marking. Finally, the distribution of many trademarked and copyrighted items in this country is restricted by contractual agreements that give exclusive rights to specific companies or individuals to distribute the product in this country. If you attempt to import a product covered by such an agreement, it could be seized at the border. For more information please see our information on Intellectual Property Rights.

What are the requirements, criteria, or format of a commercial invoice, bill of sale, receipt that must be provided when clearing or filing entry documents with Customs and Border Protection?

In general, a commercial invoice should contain enough information for a CBP Officer to determine if the goods being imported are admissible, and if so, what the correct HTS classification and rate of duty should be. There is no specific format for an invoice, although CBP regulations do provide an example of what should be on an invoice in 19 CFR, Section 141.85. At a minimum, an invoice should: 1. Describe the item clearly 2. Give the quantity 3. State the value (either price paid, or estimated value based on other considerations.) Give both the value in foreign currency and U.S. dollars. 4. Country of Origin (where the item was made) 5. Where it was purchased 6. Name of the business or person selling the merchandise 7. Location of the business or person selling the merchandise 8. Name and address of business or person buying the merchandise, and if different from the importer, 9. The U.S. address of the person or business the goods are being shipped to. The U.S. importer will need to present the invoice to CBP when clearing their goods. The above information will usually suffice for goods that are donated or bought and sold in informal settings such as flea markets, over internet auction sites, in retail stores, etc. More formalized commercial transactions may need to have additional information on the invoice. For further guidance see 19 CFR, Section 141.86

Sending store bought foods (i.e. chocolates, candies, canned goods etc.) as gifts to the U.S.

If you are a private individual who wishes to send beverage and food items to the U.S., you should be aware that some items are highly restricted, particularly food items with meat products, including soup mixes, bullion, sausages, tinned meats, etc., and fresh produce. As a general rule, candies, condiments, spices, coffee and teas that are commercially packaged are ok, however bulk teas or spices, etc. are subject to inspection and if they are found to have insects, they may be seized and destroyed. Food that is sent to an individual in the U.S. for personal use (i.e. not for resale) by a business is subject to special requirements of the Food and Drug Administration. Businesses that send goods to the U.S. must file prior notice. Prior notice may be filed on-line if the goods are being sent through the postal service. (Foods sent from an individual to an individual for personal use or as a bona fide gift are not subject to the Prior Notice requirement.) When filing prior notice, you will be asked to provide the following: -The identity of the article, which includes the FDA product code (if known), common name, trade or brand name, quantity, etc. -The manufacturer, shipper, or growers' name and address, e-mail address, telephone and fax number (if known), -The country from which the article originates and is shipped or mailed. Additional information may be required if the goods are intended for commercial use in the United States. When businesses file prior notice for a mail shipment, they will be given a PN satisfied number. If the goods are going to be sent via mail, the PN number should be provided at the time of mailing. If the goods are being sent via rail or air, prior notice must be filed and satisfied 4-hours prior to the goods arrival in the U.S. If the goods are being sent via vessel, prior notice must be filed and satisfied 8-hours prior to the goods arrival in the U.S. Prior notice can be submitted via the FDA Web Portal or via fax. If the sender of the goods does not have access to the Internet or a Fax Machine, the intended recipient can file PN for you and provide you with the PN number to put on the shipping documents. For additional information on the Bio-Terrorism Preparedness and Response Act regulations and prior notice requirements, please contact the Food and Drug Administration 1-800-216-7331, if outside the U.S. call (301) 575-0156.

When is a Customs bond usually required?

If you are importing merchandise into the U.S. for commercial purposes that are either, valued over $2,000, a commodity subject to other Federal agencies requirements (i.e. firearms or food), or goods subject to quota/visa restrictions (i.e. textiles), you must post a Customs bond to ensure that all duties, taxes and fees owed to the federal government will be paid. If you use a Customs Broker to clear your goods through customs, the broker's bond may be used to secure your transaction. You have the option of obtaining a single entry or continuous bond. The type of bond you elect to obtain ultimately depends on how often you import into the U.S. For instance, if you only import on occasion, the single entry bond is recommended. If you import frequently and through various ports of entry, the continuous bond is beneficial and economically the best choice. If you are an international carrier and you transport cargo or passengers via air, vessel or vehicle from a foreign destination to the United States or a domestic carrier that merely wants to transport imported cargo "IN BOND" from one state to another, you will also have to obtain a Customs bond. If you are a warehouse or facility operator and want to become a Customs bonded facility with the ability to store or secure imported or exported goods, you must obtain a Customs bond. In addition, you must apply with the port director and determine the type of warehouse you wish to establish. Additional information on how to become a bonded warehouse is available on this web site. If you want to perform some activity in a secure customs area, i.e. cartage, or serve as a Customs Broker or as an approved gauger or laboratory, you must obtain a Customs Bond. Customs bonds can be obtained through a surety licensed by the Treasury department. A list may be found on Treasury's Financial Management Service's web site. Many Customs brokers are also agents for sureties and sell bonds. A list of brokers in your state is available on this web site. Be aware some brokers will not issue you a bond without you giving them power of attorney to file your entry or entries on your behalf. In lieu of purchasing a bond from a licensed - or corporate - surety, you may pledge cash. Please see our brochure Questions For information on how to determine the appropriate bond amount for the type of bond required for your circumstance, please reference MonetaryGuidelines for Setting Bond Amounts. To do business with customs using a continuous bond, you must apply for permission. The application package should be submitted to the Entry office at the port through which your goods are imported or where the majority of your goods are imported. The application package should include the bond (CBP 301) issued by the surety, a letter on company letterhead stating your intent (i.e. type of bond (i.e. international carrier bond, cartage bond, import bond, etc.), description of merchandise being imported (if applicable), amount of duties and taxes paid to CBP the preceding year (if you have not paid duty previously, then the amount of duties and taxes you expect to pay in the current year), and a CBP 5106 if your address or telephone number has changed from a previous application. Additional information on bonds is also available on this site.

How do I get a Customs Bond?

You can obtain a Customs bond (CBP 301) through a surety licensed by the Treasury department. A list may be found on Treasury's Financial Management Service's web site. C.C.B. International can assist in obtaining a Customs Bond. For information on how to determine the appropriate bond amount for the type of bond required for your circumstance, please reference Monetary Guidelines for Setting Bond Amounts Additional information on bonds is available on this web site What value should be on the commercial invoice submitted to U.S. Customs and Border Protection? The value on a commercial invoice should be the price the buyer in the U.S. paid for the goods, not the amount the goods will be sold for in the U.S. Duty will be assessed on the price paid for the goods (not including the cost of freight and insurance) unless the basis for duty is some other measure, such as quantity or volume (i.e. 1.3 cents per bushel). You should include in the declared value any money paid for selling commissions, assists, royalties, packing and proceeds and these items should be noted on the commercial invoice. Failure to include the above is undervaluing the goods and may result in penalties. All prices in foreign currency must be converted to U.S. dollars on invoices and other entry documents. For more information on CBP valuations regulations, please reference the Informed Compliance Publication section of the CBP web site.

What is an IRS number or importer number?

The importer number (requested on Customs and Border Protection entry paperwork) is usually the IRS business tax number assigned to businesses. If you do not have an IRS business tax number, you may use your social security number in any paperwork requiring an importer number. If you do not have either an IRS business tax number or a social security number, you may request that an importer number be assigned for you by filling out a form 5106 and giving it to the CBP entry branch where you will be filing your customs entries. The regulations governing the issuance of an importer number are in 19 CFR 24.5
  Export FAQ

What is a Certificate of Origin?

A Certificate of Origin is a document, required by foreign governments, declaring that goods in a particular international shipment are of a certain origin. Even though the commercial invoice usually includes a statement of origin, some countries require that a separate certificate be completed. Customs offices will use this document to determine whether a preferential duty rate applies on the products being imported. Certificates of origin are important because of trade agreements and regulations that might apply to goods coming from the United States. The data required for a certificate of origin is generally the same as for a commercial invoice. Basic information includes a description of the goods, gross and net weight of goods, number of packages, mode of transportation, date and origin of shipment, and an address for the seller and buyer. The certificate will also include a brief statement as to the origin of the goods. A few countries require specialized, unique certificates of origin that might include more detailed information and/or require a specific wording for its origin declaration. While some countries require certificates of origin for all products, others may only require them for certain types of products. Almost all Middle Eastern countries require that certificates of origin accompany all shipments. Most Latin American and European countries, however, only require the certificate for certain products, such as textiles. Certificates of origin are generally unnecessary in Asia unless requested by the importer. African nations run the gamut of requirements. For assistance in determining if a certificate of origin is required for a particular country, please contact the Trade Information Center by telephone at 1-800-USA-TRADE. Information about country documentation requirements can also be accessed on the TIC Internet website at http://www.export.gov/tic by first clicking on Country Information, then clicking on the region of interest on the multi-colored map of the world, and finally clicking on the country of interest. Once you have selected the country, click on All Documents and review any with Documentation or Certificate of Origin in the title.

Can I use a General Certificate of Origin for exports to countries involved in sprecial trade agreements (NAFTA,US-Israel Free Trade, etc.)?

No. Specific certificates of origin are sometimes required for countries involved in special trade agreements, such as the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) among the United States, Canada, and Mexico. The NAFTA Certificate of Origin validates that a good originated in a NAFTA country and is eligible for the preferential duty rate. The U.S.-Israel Free Trade Area also has its own certificate of origin. Products that are at least 35 percent U.S-made enter Israel duty-free if accompanied by a copy of the U.S. Certificate of Origin for Exporting to Israel. This certificate of origin can be obtained from a trade document company or the America-Israel Chamber of Commerce in New York by telephone at (212) 819-0430, or in Chicago at (312) 641-2937. The Association of America-Israel Chambers of Commerce maintains an Internet website at http://www.israeltrade.org. If the exporter is not the manufacturer, the certificate will need to be certified by either the America-Israel Chamber of Commerce or any local U.S. Chamber of Commerce. These can be located on the U.S. Chamber of Commerce website at http://www.uschamber.com. If the exporter is also the manufacturer, this certificate does not need to be notarized. Instead, the exporter should make the following declaration in box 11 of the certificate: The undersigned hereby declares that he is the producer of the goods covered by this certificate and that they comply with the origin requirements specified for those goods in the U.S.-Israel Free Trade Area Agreement for goods exported to Israel.

How can I obtain a Certificate of Origin?

A local U.S. Chamber of Commerce can certify most general certificates of origin. Chambers usually ask exporters to provide access to original invoices for all items referenced on the certificate of origin. Local Chambers are likely to certify only goods that originate in the United States. Goods from other countries typically need to be certified in their country of origin, though regulations vary from country to country. Many Middle Eastern countries require that the certificate of origin be certified by specific organizations. Bahrain, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Oman, Qatar, Sudan, Syria, Tunisia, United Arab Emirates, and Yemen all require certification by the National U.S.-Arab Chamber of Commerce. Information on certification procedures can be found on the National U.S.-Arab Chamber of Commerce website at http://www.nusacc.org or by contacting the Trade Information Center. Shipments to Egypt must be certified by the American Egyptian Cooperation Foundation. The Foundation maintains a website on the Internet at http://www.americanegyptiancoop.org and can be reached by telephone at (212) 867-2323. The U.S.-Saudi Arabian Business Council certifies goods to Saudi Arabia and can be reached by telephone at (202) 638-1212 or on the Internet at http://www.us-saudi-business.org. Goods to Morocco and Algeria must have certificates of origin certified by the embassies of those countries. Embassy of Morocco, Tel: 202-462-7979. Embassy of Algeria, Tel: 202-265-2800; website at http://www.algeria-us.org. As was mentioned previously, the American-Israel Chamber of Commerce certifies the U.S. Certificate of Origin for Exporting to Israel. NAFTA Certificates of Origin do not need to be certified. The declaration of the exporter is sufficient.

What is an HS or HTS number?

The World Customs Organization (WCO), formerly the Customs Cooperation Council, developed the Harmonized Commodity Description and Coding System, also called the Harmonized System (HS), to describe products for customs purposes. The HS is recognized by 179 countries and customs or economic unions, representing 98% of world trade.

The HS assigns six-digit codes that represent general categories of goods. Countries that use HS numbers are allowed to define commodities at a more detailed level, but must harmonize the first 6-digits to the HS framework. Each country can assign up to four additional numbers, making the entire number up to 10 digits. Using these codes ensures that customs officials are referring to the same item when classifying the product and applying the tariff rate.

The U.S. tariff schedule, or Harmonized Tariff Schedule (HTS), is based on the HS international nomenclature. The 10-digit HTS numbers are used on U.S. import documentation and to obtain U.S. tariff rates.

What is a schedule B number?

In the United States, numbers used to classify exported products are called Schedule B numbers. Similar to the HTS, the Schedule B system is also based on the international HS, but the U.S. Census Bureau administers it. The Schedule B number, not the HTS number, must be provided on the Shippers Export Declaration (SED). Using these numbers, U.S. export statistics are calculated from the SED by the Census Bureau.

Is there a difference between the HTS and Schedule B numbers?

Yes, in the United States, HTS numbers are used for import documentation, while Schedule B numbers are used for export documentation. Both Schedule B and HTS numbers have the same first six digits, however at the 10-digit level the codes can be different. For example, Schedule B and HTS codes show differences for the number 0101.10.0000 Live horses, asses, mules, and hinnies:

Schedule B:
0101 Live horses, asses, mules, and hinnies
0101.10.0000 Purebred breeding animals
0101.90 Other:
0101.90.1000 Horses
0101.90.5000 Asses, mules, and hinnies

HTS:
0101 Live horses, asses, mules and hinnies:
0101.10.00 Purebred breeding animals
0101.10.00.10 Males
0101.10.00.20 Females
0101.90 Other:
0101.90.10 Horses
0101.90.10.10 Imported for immediate slaughter
0101.90.20.00 Asses Mules and hinnies:
0101.90.30.00 Imported for immediate slaughter
0101.90.40.00 Other

The HTS number tends to be more detailed.

There are about 9,000 export codes (Schedule B) and approximately 17,000 import numbers (HTS). It is usually okay to use the more detailed HTS number on export documents, but that is not always the case. The Census Bureaus Foreign Trade Division website (http://www.census.gov/foreign-trade/www) contains a list of HTS numbers that cannot be used to report exports.

How are schedule B numbers organized?

Schedule B and HTS numbers are organized by chapters, beginning with 01 (live animals and animal products) and ending at 97 (works of art, collectors pieces and antiques). The United States and certain other countries also use chapters 98 and 99 to cover special categories of products, such as goods temporarily imported for repair or alteration (United States), donations of clothing and books for charitable purposes (Canada), and household and other goods imported by someone resuming residence in the country (New Zealand). Under each chapter is a heading and then a subheading that further describes the product. HTS numbers for various products break down in the order outlined below: Chapter = first 2 digits Heading = first 4 digits Subheading = first 6 digits Tariff item = up to 10 digits total For example, the following is a breakdown of a product mens cotton raincoat and its HTS number 6201.12.2010 Chapter: 62 Apparel articles and accessories, not knit, etc. Heading: 6201 Mens or boys overcoats, raincoats, carcoats, capes, cloaks, anoraks (including ski jackets), windbreakers and similar articles (including padded, sleeveless jackets): Overcoats, carcoats, capes, cloaks and similar articles Subheading: 6201.12 Of cotton Tariff item: 6201.12.2010 Mens raincoats

How do I classify my product?

The first step is to understand the product well, particularly its material and how it will be used. Sometimes the details may make a difference in its category. For example, hammers are classified in several different chapters, and it is important to know if the hammer is electric or pneumatic and whether it is made of metal, wood, or rubber. Next, visit the Census Bureaus Schedule B Search Engine website at http://www.census.gov/foreign-trade/schedules/b/. You may either browse through the chapters or search for a Schedule B code. To begin, click on Search and enter a key word in the search box; then click search. The results will be listed two different ways: alphabetic index and Schedule B book descriptions. Choose the description that best fits the product and use the corresponding classification number.

Can I get a Customs Ruling for my product?

Yes, you can. This is referred to as an advanced customs ruling. The request must be in writing to the customs authority of the importing country and provide sufficient information on the product. Most customs authorities will make the determination and provide a binding customs ruling. However, the customs authority's ruling must be accepted, even if there is a category or number that better describes the product. Be aware that the number assigned by customs may carry a higher tariff than a number you believe better describes the product.

What is a Shippers Export Declaration (SED)?

An SED or its electronic equivalent, called an Automated Export System (AES) record, is used by the U.S. Census Bureau to compile trade statistics and is employed by the U.S. Bureau of Customs and Border Patrol to track exports and, if necessary, prevent illegal shipments. An SED or AES record must be filed for any shipment valued over $2,500, or for any item that requires an export license.

How does AES work?

When an exporter decides to export merchandise, the exporter or his authorized agent makes shipping arrangements (a booking) with a carrier. The exporter or the authorized agent transmits the commodity (SED) information using the automated system. This information can come directly from the exporter or the authorized agent. The AES validates the data and generates either a confirmation message or error message to the filer. AES also validates the transportation data and then generates either a confirmation message or an error message. Any error messages generated by the automated system must be corrected and the correction transmitted to AES.

Who must file the Shippers Export Declaration (SED)?

The U.S. principal party in interest (USPPI) is responsible for filing the paper SED or its electronic equivalent. The USPPI is defined as the person in the United States who receives the primary benefit, monetary or otherwise, of the export transaction. Generally, that person is the U.S. seller, manufacturer, order party, or foreign entity. The foreign entity must be listed as the USPPI if in the United States when the items are purchased or obtained for export. The USPPI may authorize another party, for instance a freight forwarder, to file the SED or electronic record by granting the party the power of attorney.
 
 
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