Archive for the ‘US Customs’ Category


5 Keys to Import Successfully into the USA

Importing into the USAIf you are new to importing goods into the United States there are many requirements, restrictions, and regulations involved. From quota restrictions, other government agency permits or inspections to customs forms. Some information, such as an item being eligible for reduced rates of duty or eligible for one of the many Free Trade Agreements, or products that are not permitted to enter the commerce of the United States because they are manufactured from a facility located in an embargoed country, can only be determined if you know the products Harmonized Tariff Schedule Classification. Determining your product’s tariff number can be extremely complex. Starting out with a good understanding of customs regulations and requirements are key to importing success. Below is a brief overview of what is required when shipping goods into the United States.

Requirements for importing into the United States:

1. Determine the use of a customs broker.

Customs clearance also commonly referred to as customs release is probably the first thing to consider.  Depending on the value of your shipment you need to determine if a customs broker is required.

For shipments valued under $2500.00, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) will typically allow the goods to enter into the U.S. under an informal entry.  However, in cases where the goods are regulated by U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), or if the goods fall under Anti Dumping Duty/ Countervailing Duties, quota, or other restricted goods, these goods require a formal entry and do not qualify for this exemption.

If a formal entry is required you need to have an account set up with a customs broker and documentation prepared prior to shipping. Documentation is usually completed by the exporter or supplier prior to the goods being delivered to the carrier.  The importer of record is ultimately responsible to ensure that the documentation provided is accurate and complete.  It is critical that you have all the proper documentation and information. Once paperwork is submitted to your customs broker, they will review the information for accuracy prior to the information being submitted to U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

2. Prepare import documents prior to shipping.

Documents that are typically required with each shipment are listed below:

  • Customs or Commercial Invoice
  • Bill of lading
  • Other government agency documents
  • Commodity specific requirements or documents

3. Meet commodity specific and Other Government Agency (OGA) requirements.

Commodity specific and other government agency (OGA) requirements depend on other government agencies’ safety, energy efficiency, health, standards, etc.  Many of the items cannot be imported without a permit, license or additional documentation to satisfy the agency’s requirements.

Everything imported into the U.S. must be properly marked with the country of origin. There are some exceptions to the marking requirements which are listed in the federal code of regulations 19CFR134.33 the J List exceptions. Some products are very hard, or impossible, to mark such as:

  • bolts
  • nuts
  • washers
  • cut flowers
  • firewood

If imported in a container and the container reaches the ultimate purchaser,  then it is required to be marked with the country of origin.

4. Pay import duty fees and taxes.

Duty rates are fees that are paid to U.S. Customs and Border Protection.  Duty rates are based on the classification of the products that are entering the USA.  The Importer of Record is responsible for paying these fees.  Your customs broker has the authority to pay the duty fees on your behalf and invoice you for them or set up an automated clearing house account for you to pay the duty directly to U.S. Customs.


5. Determine correct harmonized tariff schedule.

Products that enter the U.S. are classified according to the Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States.  Goods are placed in a product category called classification, the number used to classify the product is more commonly referred to as a Harmonized Tariff Schedule or HTS number. The classification number is 10 digits and that number determines the rate of duty that will be applied to your product.  U.S. Customs has an online version of the most current HTS codes available.

Classification can be a very difficult process that generally requires a lot of research and product information.  As the Importer of Record (IOR), you are ultimately responsible for providing the correct product classification to U.S. Customs and Border Protection.  Entering goods into the United States with an incorrect classification or duty rate could result in penalties or increased duty bills. Many importers choose to hire a customs broker to assist them with the classification of their goods. Do not be surprised if your customs broker asks for ingredient lists or written literature on your product when assisting you with your product classification.

In conclusion, it is the Importer of Record’s responsibility to make sure that their goods meet all the requirements for entry into the United States.  A customs broker is there to lend a hand and assist you with the various requirements and regulations.  Always plan ahead and be sure to know before you go to ensure a hassle free importation into the U.S.


If you are importing or exporting goods into the USA, Pacific Customs Brokers can help. We work with all types of importers from a broad range of industries offering U.S. and Canadian customs brokerage, trade compliance consulting, freight forwarding, warehousing and distribution services.


Learn more about importing into the USA:

Get a comprehensive understanding of the process involved when importing into the USA at our upcoming webinar Basics of Importing into the USA. Take your learning a step further by attending the Part II. Importing into the USA webinar and delve into the details previously touched upon in part one of the series.

Our in-house seminar on U.S. Customs Compliance is another great way to understand the movement, compliance and regulations around goods imported into the USA.


Have questions or comments regarding importing to the USA? Leave them in our comments section below or email  Ask Your Broker.


Additional Reading:

Video: The Importance of Complying with U.S. Customs Regulations

Licensed Customs Broker and Certified Customs Specialist, April Collier, walks importers through the importance of complying with U.S. Customs regulations and what they can do to assure they are meeting all of the requirements governing the movement of commercial goods



As customs brokers, we make every effort to provide the trade community with the right tools and information to ensure that your company is as proactive as possible with the CBSA and CBP. As part of our ongoing efforts, we offer a number of  Trade Compliance Seminars and Webinars throughout the year on compliance and customs audit among other subjects. Our upcoming U.S. Customs Audit Seminar might be of particular interest. This seminar will focus on the differences between voluntary and enforced compliance, the expectation of “reasonable care”, the potential cost risks of non-compliance, and best practices. For more details on this seminar and registration visit – U.S. Customs Audit Seminar.

Whether you are just starting out or have an existing business, our experienced trade compliance specialists can assist you. To learn how Pacific Customs Brokers’ customs trade compliance and customs audit consulting can help your business; speak with one of our trade compliance specialists today.


Is your company trade compliant? Do you have questions about complying with U.S. Customs regulations? Drop us a comment or question below or email  Ask Your Broker.

Additional Resource:


Video: Importing U.S. Goods Returning

Goods manufactured in the United States that have been previously exported and are now returning require a formal declaration called American Goods Returned (AGR) also referred to as U.S. made goods returned (USGR).

In this video, Aimee Miller, explains when an American Good Returned is eligible for duty-free treatment and the documents that are required.



Do you have questions about U.S. Goods Returning? Drop us a comment or question below or email  Ask Your Broker.


Related Blog Articles:

New Food Safety Regulations That Will Dominate 2014

Stamp: Safe FoodThe Food and Drug Administration (FDA) proposed a number of new rules during 2013.  Some of these are in the “public comment” period at this time, with conclusions happening during the first and second quarters of 2014.  From there, the FDA will submit final language to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) for review and publication in the Federal Register, and these are expected to become final within 90 days of issuance.

While there are many proposed rules, guidance documents and reports that are part of the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), we list here a few of the primary issues that we believe importers and exporters need to ensure all parties within your supply chain are complying with, rules expected to be in place or in play during 2014.

  1. Sanitary transportation rule for both human and animal food – This will affect shippers, carriers, receivers and other parties involved in food transportation.

Learn more: Sanitation and Transportation Guidance Documents and Regulatory Information

  1. Written food safety plan, which incorporates proof that you are following the plan, to include hazards analysis, preventive controls, monitoring, corrective actions, verifications and record-keeping.

Learn more: FSMA Proposed Rule for Preventive Controls for Human Food

  1. Foreign supplier verification program – Importers will be required to have a program to verify that the food products they are importing are safe, which includes verifying that their suppliers are in compliance with reasonably appropriate risk-based preventive controls.

Learn more: FDA Food Safety Modernization Act – General Information on Imports

As food and beverage producers adapt to an array of stringent food safety requirements in the coming year, Pacific Customs Brokers is here to help. We can assist you in understanding these regulations and how they may affect your business, all while cutting through the red tape of importing to the United States. Take advantage of our upcoming webinar on Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Regulated Goods on May 8, 2014 and refresh your knowledge in the importation of FDA regulated goods.

Do you have questions about these FSMA regulations? Use the comments section below to leave us your thoughts or email Ask Your Broker.


Additional Resources:

The Importance of an Ironclad Record Keeping System

In today’s compliance driven world, where U.S. Customs is enforcing rules more than ever and issuing penalties, importers are left wondering how to best utilize their resources to remain compliant. One of the most effective ways to ensure doing business in a compliant fashion is to create a solid “ironclad” record keeping system.

Frequently Asked Questions

There are a lot of requirements for record keeping and as a result importers are often left with many questions:

  • Who is responsible for keeping records?
  • Isn’t my customs broker responsible for keeping my records?
  • How long do the records have to be maintained?
  • Do the records have to be kept on my premises?
  • What are the liabilities for improper record keeping?


The term “records” in the language of U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) is defined in the Customs regulations under Part 163.

Part 163 defines the term “records” to mean any information made or normally kept in the ordinary course of business which pertains to the following activities:

  • any importation, declaration or entry;
  • the transportation or storage of merchandise carried or held under bond into or from the Customs territory of the United States;
  • the filing of a drawback claim;
  • the completion and signature of a NAFTA export Certificate of Origin pursuant to Part 181;
  • the collection and payment of fees and taxes to CPB; and
  • any other activity required to be undertaken pursuant to laws or regulations administered by CBP.

“Records” include any information required for the entry; this includes but is not limited to:

  • statements, declarations, documents;
  • electronically generated or machine readable data;
  • electronically stored or transmitted information or data;
  • books, papers, correspondence;
  • accounts, financial accounting data;
  • technical data; and
  • computer programs necessary to retrieve information in a usable form.

Who exactly is responsible for record keeping?

Any owner, importer of record, consignee, customs broker or any other party that:

  • imports merchandise into the United States;
  • files a drawback claim;
  • transports or stores product that is transported or held under bond;
  • an agent or customs broker of any person referenced above; or
  • a person whose activities require the filing of a declaration or entry, or both.

Additional record keeping requirements exist for:

  • any party who completes and signs a Certificate of Origin for goods exported to Canada or Mexico pursuant to NAFTA
  • customs brokers
  • Importer Security Filings

Are there any exceptions to the rules?

Exceptions to record keeping requirements can include:

  • Any traveler that makes a baggage or oral declaration upon arrival into the United States is not required to keep records regarding non-commercial merchandise acquired abroad;
  • A person that orders merchandise from an importer which knowingly causes the products to be imported , but does not:
    • furnish technical data, molds, equipment; other production assistance, material, components, or parts with knowledge that the goods will be used for further manufacturing of the imported merchandise or;
    • controls the terms and condition of importation.

How long is the responsible party obligated to keep the records?

Records that importers are required to keep under Part 163 must be kept for 5 years from the date of entry. There are of course exceptions to that rule. Below is a list of documents that have a different time limit requirement:

  • drawback claim records – 3 years
  • packing lists – 60 calendar days
  • a consignee who is not the owner and who appoints a U.S. customs broker must keep all records that pertain to the merchandise covered by an informal entry – 2 years
  • NAFTA certificate and all supporting documents pertaining to that certificate – 5 years (from the date of signature on the certificate)
  • ISF records – 6 years (from the date of export)

Do original documents need to be maintained?  

Yes. Original records must be kept unless the record keeper has adopted an alternative storage method.  The record keeper must maintain the original records whether on paper or electronically. Visit 163.5 Methods for storage of records for more information.

Certain records must be kept in their original format for a limited time or may not be alternatively stored at all even if proper alternative storage methods have been approved:

  • with the exception of packing lists, entry records must be maintained in their original format for a period of 120 calendar days from the end of the release or conditional release period.   If re-delivery has been requested for a period of 120 calendar days from the date the goods are re-delivered or from the date specified in the demand as the latest re-delivery date;
  • records required by other federal agencies are subject to the same record keeping requirements

Customs records that are kept in original format or under an approved alternative method of storage must be capable of being retrieved upon request by Customs.

What are the liabilities?

Consequences can be severe if the proper records are not retained.

  • willful failure to maintain, store or retrieve a demanded record, U.S. Customs can issue an administrative penalty for each release of merchandise, not to exceed $100,000 or an amount equal to 75% of the appraised value of the merchandise, whichever is less; or
  • negligent failure to maintain, store or retrieve a demanded record, U.S. Customs may issue an administrative penalty for each release of merchandise, not to exceed $10,000 or an amount equal to 40% of the appraised value of the merchandise, whichever is less.

Record keeping is a shared responsibility between all parties involved in Customs transactions. Just because you hire a third party to process your clearances does not absolve you from record keeping requirements. Reviewing your current record keeping procedures today and making sure you have a strong record retention program in place will save you from potential sanctions and penalties against your organization.

Remember, importing is a privilege you cannot afford to lose.