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This information was obtained from the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Website at

In order to avoid potential problems in the clearance of your merchandise, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) strongly recommends that you familiarize yourself with CBP policies and procedures prior to actually importing/exporting your goods. You should also be aware of any entry requirements specific to the particular commodity you are importing/exporting, including those of other federal agencies. To assist you, we offer the following tips for new importers and exporters.


CBP does not require an importer to have a license or permit, but other agencies may require a permit, license, or other certification, depending on the commodity that is being imported

CBP acts in an administrative capacity for these other agencies, and you may wish to contact them directly for more information. You can find links to other government agencies and departments at

A‐Z Index of U.S. Government Departments and Agencies

There is a listing of other government agencies in the appendix section of the publication “Importing Into the United States.”


This publication contains more in‐depth information and is valuable reading for anyone seriously venturing into the importing business.

We also urge you to read the informed compliance material on the CBP Web site. CBP has prepared  a  number  of  Informed  Compliance  Publications  (ICPs)  in  the  “What  Every Member of the Trade Community Should Know About…” series on a variety of issues.

You may also need a license from local or state authorities to do business. CBP entry forms do ask for your importer number: this is either your IRS business registration number, or if your business is not registered with the IRS or you do not have a business, your social security number will be sufficient. As an alternative, you may request a CBP assigned number by completing a Customs Form 5106 and presenting it to the Entry Branch at a CBP port of entry.


The U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Web site contains valuable information for the new or experienced importer.

CBP INFO Center maintains a data base of questions and answers that can be searched by topic.

Frequently Asked Questions

We recommend that importers review the topics on the CBP Trade page. In particular, we suggest viewing the information contained in the section titled Basic Importing and Exporting.


There are many topic‐specific links to explore. This will lead you to information on CBP import requirements, arrival of goods, formal entry vs. informal entry, classification, protest, mail shipments, restricted merchandise and more. For other agency requirements you may need to meet, and if you become a frequent importer with higher valued shipments, we recommend you read Importing into the United States.


If your business will cause you to travel in and out of the country, we recommend that you review the traveler information in the Know Before You Go!


Cargo arriving via ocean needs a security declaration known as the Importer Security Filing filed prior to sailing.


Prior to importing, you may contact the CBP office at the port of entry where your merchandise will enter the United States.

A complete directory of the various ports of entry can be found on the CBP Web site.


If you are unsure of or haven’t decided the port where your shipment will arrive, or you are looking at importing through multiple ports, you may contact a service port of entry near you.

Ask to speak with a CBP import specialist assigned to the commodity you are importing. Import specialists are a valuable resource for commodity specific knowledge and can provide classification advice, commodity specific requirements, advisory duty rates, and respond to questions you may have about filing an entry. At many ports, entry specialists handle questions regarding entry filing. Entry specialists work closely with import specialists and provide the technical processing expertise required to file the necessary paperwork.

When calling the port, the importer should be able to provide as much detail regarding the transaction as possible. In order for the import specialist to best assist you, it is important you be able to exactly describe the merchandise you are planning to import. In order for the import specialist to best assist you, you should provide a full and complete description of the article and answer specific questions such as: 1) the country of origin of the merchandise and manufacturer; 2) the composition of the merchandise; 3) the intended use of the item; and 4) pricing/payment information (in order to properly determine the value of the shipment).

For more information on the classification of merchandise, consult the Harmonized Tariff Schedule (HTS) which contains the actual HTS number and tariff classification guidelines that explain how to properly classify merchandise.



Importers can request a written ruling from CBP for the proper HTSUS classification and rate of duty for their merchandise.

For information on CBP ruling letters, review What are Ruling Letters.


When requesting a binding ruling, importers should follow the procedures outlined in Part 177 of the Customs Regulations (19 C.F.R. 177). Research the results of previous ruling requests by using the Customs Rulings Online Search System (CROSS).


CBP may have already issued rulings on products similar to yours that you can use for guidance. CROSS also addresses other issues such as value, country of origin marking, and applicability of trade preference programs. The CROSS database is searchable by key word.


Although CBP enforces many export regulations for various other government agencies, specific questions pertaining to licensing requirements for a particular commodity should be directed to that lead agency. Other agency contact information as well as commodities that may require export licenses can be obtained by visiting the U.S. Department of Commerce, Bureau of Industry and Security Web sites


Questions regarding export licenses may also be directed to CBP officers at the port where the merchandise will exit the country.


Another resource is the Department of Commerce’s Trade Information Center which you can call at 1‐800‐USA-Trade or visit their website at


Although certain resident importers and exporters may file entries on their own behalf, many first time importers and exporters consult a licensed Customs broker.

Those importing merchandise for their own use often hire a customs broker, particularly if they find the importing procedures complicated; however, they may make entry on their own. Importers wishing to consult the professional services of a Customs broker may do so.

Remember, even when using a broker, you, the importer of record, are ultimately legally responsible for the correctness of the entry documentation presented to CBP and all applicable duties, taxes and fees.


You  should  research  general  quota  information and  quota  requirements  for  certain commodities prior to importing into the United States.

Import quotas control the amount or volume of various commodities that can be imported into the United States during a specified period of time. United States import quotas may be divided into two main types: absolute and tariff‐rate. Absolute quotas usually apply to textiles and strictly limit the quantity of goods that may enter the commerce of the United States during a specific period. Currently there are no commodities subject to absolute quota restrictions. Tariff‐rate quotas permit a specified quantity of imported merchandise to be entered at a reduced rate of duty during the quota period. Once a quota has been reached, goods may still be entered, but at a higher rate of duty.

Quota information is available on the CBP Web site.


This section  contains  links  to  information  on  subjects  such  as  determining  whether imported goods are subject to quota restraints.



Fill levels for agricultural quotas and textiles eligible for trade preference programs are tracked on the Commodity Status Report for Tariff Rate Quotas.


General quota information and instructions for specific quotas are available to CBP field offices and the trade as Quota Book Transmittals.



You may receive a bill if your shipment is examined by CBP.

Under Title 19, section 1467, of the United States Code (19 U.S.C. 1467), CBP has a right to examine any shipment imported into the United States and it is important to know that you, the importer, must bear the cost of such cargo exams. Per the CBP regulations, it is the responsibility of the importer to make the goods available for examination‐‐ “The importer shall bear any expense involved in preparing the merchandise for CBP examination and in the closing of packages” (19 C.F.R. 151.6). Household effects are not exempt. No distinction is made between commercial and personal shipments.

In the course of normal operations, CBP does not charge for cargo examinations. However, there may still be costs involved for the importer. For example, if your shipment is selected for examination, it will generally be moved to a Centralized Examination Station (CES) for the CBP exam to take place. A CES is a privately operated facility where merchandise is made available to CBP officers for physical examination. The CES facility will unload (devan) your shipment from its shipping container and will reload it after the exam. The CES will bill you for their services. There are also costs associated with moving the cargo to and from the exam site and with storage. Rates will vary across the country and a complete devanning may cost several hundred dollars. The CES facility fulfills the needs of both CBP and the importer by providing an efficient means to conduct exams in a timely manner. CES facilities are discussed in part 118 of the Customs Regulations.



One of the most significant effects of the Customs Modernization Act is the establishment of the clear requirement that parties exercise reasonable care in importing into the United States. Section 484 of the Tariff Act, as amended, requires an importer of record using reasonable care to make entry by filing such information as is necessary to enable U.S. Customs and Border Protection to determine whether the merchandise may be released from Customs custody.  Using reasonable care, complete the entry by filing with U.S. Customs and Border Protection the declared value, classification and rate of duty and such other documentation or information as is necessary to enable U.S. Customs and Border Protection to properly assess duties, collect accurate statistics, and determine whether any other applicable requirement of law is met. Despite the seemingly simple connotation of the term reasonable care, this explicit responsibility defies easy explanation. The facts and circumstances surrounding every import transaction differ from the experience of the importer to the nature of the imported articles. Consequently, neither U.S. Customs and Border Protection nor the importing community can develop a foolproof reasonable care checklist which would cover every import transaction. On the other hand, in keeping with the Modernization Act’s theme of informed compliance, U.S. Customs and Border Protection would like to take this opportunity to recommend that the importing community examine the list of questions below. In U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s view, the list of questions may prompt or suggest a program, framework or methodology which importers may find useful in avoiding compliance problems and meeting reasonable care responsibilities.

Obviously, the questions below cannot be exhaustive or encyclopedic – ordinarily, every import transaction is different. For the same reason, it cannot be overemphasized that although the following information is provided to promote enhanced compliance with the Customs laws and regulations, it has no legal, binding or precedential effect on U.S. Customs and Border Protection or the importing community. In this regard, U.S. Customs and Border Protection notes that the checklist is not an attempt to create a presumption of negligence, but rather, an attempt to educate, inform and provide guidance to the importing community. Consequently, U.S. Customs and Border Protection believes that the following information may be helpful to the importing community and hopes that this document will facilitate and encourage importers to develop their own unique compliance measurement plans, reliable procedures and reasonable care programs.

As a convenience to the public, the checklist also includes the text of a checklist previously published in the Federal Register for use in certain textile and apparel importations. The full document was published in 62 FR 48340 (September 15, 1997).

As a final reminder, it should be noted that to further assist the importing community, U.S. Customs and Border Protection issues rulings and informed compliance publications on a variety of technical subjects and processes. It is strongly recommended that importers always make sure that they are using the latest versions of these publications.


  1. If you have not retained an expert to assist you in complying with Customs requirements, do you have access to the Customs Regulations (Title 19 of the Code of Federal Regulations), the Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States, and the GPO publication Customs Bulletin and Decisions? Do you have access to the Customs Internet Website, Customs Bulletin Board or other research service to permit you to establish reliable procedures and facilitate compliance with Customs laws and regulations?

  2. Has a responsible and knowledgeable individual within your organization reviewed the Customs documentation prepared by you or your expert to ensure that it is full, complete and accurate? If that documentation was prepared outside your own organization, do you have a reliable system in place to insure that you receive copies of the information as submitted to U.S. Customs and Border Protection; that it is reviewed for accuracy; and that U.S. Customs and Border Protection is timely apprised of any needed corrections?

  3. If you use an expert to assist you in complying with Customs requirements, have you discussed your importations in advance with that person and have you provided that person with full, complete and accurate information about the import transactions?

  4. Are identical transactions or merchandise handled differently at different ports or U.S. Customs and Border Protection offices within the same port? If so, have you brought this to the attention of the appropriate U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials?



Basic Question: Do you know or have you established a reliable procedure or program to ensure that you know what you ordered, where it was made and what it is made of?

  1. Have you provided or established reliable procedures to ensure you provide a complete and accurate description of your merchandise to U.S. Customs and Border Protection in accordance with 19 U.S.C. 1481? (Also, see 19 CFR 141.87 and 19 CFR 141.89 for special merchandise description requirements.)

  2. Have you provided or established reliable procedures to ensure you provide a correct tariff classification of your merchandise to U.S. Customs and Border Protection in accordance with 19 U.S.C. 1484?

  3. Have you obtained a Customs “ruling” regarding the description of the merchandise or its tariff classification (See 19 CFR Part 177), and if so, have you established reliable procedures to ensure that you have followed the ruling and brought it to U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s attention?

  4. Where merchandise description or tariff classification information is not immediately available, have you established a reliable procedure for providing that information, and is the procedure being followed?

  5. Have you participated in a Customs pre-classification of your merchandise relating to proper merchandise description and classification?

  6. Have you consulted the tariff schedules, Customs informed compliance publications, court cases and/or Customs rulings to assist you in describing and classifying the merchandise?

  7. Have you consulted with a Customs “expert” (e.g., lawyer, Customs broker, accountant, or Customs consultant) to assist in the description and/or classification of the merchandise?

  8. If you are claiming a conditionally free or special tariff classification/provision for your merchandise (e.g., GSP, HTS Item 9802, NAFTA, etc.), how have you verified that the merchandise qualifies for such status? Have you obtained or developed reliable procedures to obtain any required or necessary documentation to support the claim? If making a NAFTA preference claim, do you already have a NAFTA certificate of origin in your possession?

  9. Is the nature of your merchandise such that a laboratory analysis or other specialized procedure is suggested to assist in proper description and classification?

  10. Have you developed a reliable program or procedure to maintain and produce any required Customs entry documentation and supporting information?


Basic Questions: Do you know or have you established reliable procedures to know the price actually paid or payable for your merchandise? Do you know the terms of sale; whether there will be rebates, tie-ins, indirect costs, additional payments; whether assists were provided, commissions or royalties paid? Are amounts actual or estimated? Are you and the supplier related parties?

  1. Have you provided or established reliable procedures to provide U.S. Customs and Border Protection with a proper declared value for your merchandise in accordance with 19 U.S.C. 1484 and 19 U.S.C. 1401a?

  2. Have you obtained a Customs “ruling” regarding the valuation of the merchandise (See 19 CFR Part 177), and if so, have you established reliable procedures to ensure that you have followed the ruling and brought it to U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s attention?

  3. Have you consulted the Customs valuation laws and regulations, Customs Valuation Encyclopedia, Customs informed compliance publications, court cases and Customs rulings to assist you in valuing merchandise?

  4. Have you consulted with a Customs “expert” (e.g., lawyer, accountant, Customs broker, Customs consultant) to assist in the valuation of the merchandise?

  5. If you purchased the merchandise from a “related” seller, have you established procedures to ensure that you have reported that fact upon entry and taken measures or established reliable procedures to ensure that value reported to U.S. Customs and Border Protection meets one of the “related party” tests?

  6. Have you taken measures or established reliable procedures to ensure that all of the legally required costs or payments associated with the imported merchandise have been reported to U.S. Customs and Border Protection (e.g., assists, all commissions, indirect payments or rebates, royalties, etc.)?

  7. If you are declaring a value based on a transaction in which you were/are not the buyer, have you substantiated that the transaction is a bona fide sale at arm’s length and that the merchandise was clearly destined to the United States at the time of sale?

  8. If you are claiming a conditionally free or special tariff classification/provision for your merchandise (e.g., GSP, HTS Item 9802, NAFTA, etc.), have you established a reliable system or program to ensure that you reported the required value information and obtained any required or necessary documentation to support the claim?

  9. Have you established a reliable program or procedure to produce any required entry documentation and supporting information?


Basic Question: Have you taken reliable measures to ascertain the correct country of origin for the imported merchandise?

  1. Have you established reliable procedures to ensure that you report the correct country of origin on Customs entry documents?

  2. Have you established reliable procedures to verify or ensure that the merchandise is properly marked upon entry with the correct country of origin (if required) in accordance with 19 U.S.C. 1304 and any other applicable special marking requirement (watches, gold, textile labeling, etc)?

  3. Have you obtained a Customs “ruling” regarding the proper marking and country of origin of the merchandise (See 19 CFR Part 177), and if so, have you established reliable procedures to ensure that you followed the ruling and brought it to U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s attention?

  4. Have you consulted with a Customs “expert” (e.g., lawyer, accountant, Customs broker, Customs consultant) regarding the correct country of origin/proper marking of your merchandise?

  5. Have you taken reliable and adequate measures to communicate Customs country of origin marking requirements to your foreign supplier prior to importation of your merchandise?

  6. If you are claiming a change in the origin of the merchandise or claiming that the goods are of U.S. origin, have you taken required measures to substantiate your claim (e.g. Do you have U.S. milling certificates or manufacturer’s affidavits attesting to the production in the U.S.)?

  7. If you are importing textiles or apparel, have you developed reliable procedures to ensure that you have ascertained the correct country of origin in accordance with 19 U.S.C. 3592 (Section 334, Pub. Law 103-465) and assured yourself that no illegal transshipment or false or fraudulent practices were involved?

  8. Do you know how your goods are made from raw materials to finished goods, by whom and where?

  9. Have you checked with U.S. Customs and Border Protection and developed a reliable procedure or system to ensure that the quota category is correct?

  10. Have you checked or developed reliable procedures to check the Status Report on Current Import Quotas (Restraint Levels) issued by U.S. Customs and Border Protection to determine if your goods are subject to a quota category which has part categories?

  11. Have you taken reliable measures to ensure that you have obtained the correct visas for your goods if they are subject to visa categories?

  12. In the case of textile articles, have you prepared or developed a reliable program to prepare the proper country declaration for each entry, i.e., a single country declaration (if wholly obtained/produced) or a multi-country declaration (if raw materials from one country were produced into goods in a second)?

  13. Have you established a reliable maintenance program or procedure to ensure you can produce any required entry documentation and supporting information, including any required certificates of origin?


Basic Question: Have you determined or established a reliable procedure to permit you to determine whether your merchandise or its packaging bear or use any trademarks or copyrighted matter or are patented and, if so, that you have a legal right to import those items into, and/or use those items in, the U.S.?

  1. If you are importing goods or packaging bearing a trademark registered in the U.S., have you checked or established a reliable procedure to ensure that it is genuine and not restricted from importation under the gray-market or parallel import requirements of U.S. law (see 19 CFR 133.21), or that you have permission from the trademark holder to import such merchandise?

  2. If you are importing goods or packaging which consist of, or contain registered copyrighted material, have you checked or established a reliable procedure to ensure that it is authorized and genuine? If you are importing sound recordings of live performances, were the recordings authorized?

  3. Have you checked or developed a reliable procedure to see if your merchandise is subject to an International Trade Commission or court ordered exclusion order?

  4. Have you established a reliable procedure to ensure that you maintain and can produce any required entry documentation and supporting information?


  1. Have you taken measures or developed reliable procedures to ensure that your merchandise complies with other agency requirements (e.g., FDA, EPA/DOT, CPSC, FTC, Agriculture, etc.) prior to or upon entry, including the procurement of any necessary licenses or permits?

  2. Have you taken measures or developed reliable procedures to check to see if your goods are subject to a Commerce Department dumping or countervailing duty investigation or determination, and if so, have you complied or developed reliable procedures to ensure compliance with Customs reporting requirements upon entry (e.g., 19 CFR 141.61)?

  3. Is your merchandise subject to quota/visa requirements, and if so, have you provided or developed a reliable procedure to provide a correct visa for the goods upon entry?

  4. Have you taken reliable measures to ensure and verify that you are filing the correct type of Customs entry (e.g., TIB, T&E, consumption entry, mail entry, etc.), as well as ensure that you have the right to make entry under the Customs Regulations?



Note: Section 333 of the Uruguay Round Implementation Act (19 U.S.C. 1592a) authorizes the Secretary of the Treasury to publish a list of foreign producers, manufacturers, suppliers, sellers, exporters, or other foreign persons who have been found to have violated 19 U.S.C. 1592 by using certain false, fraudulent or counterfeit documentation, labeling, or prohibited transshipment practices in connection with textiles and apparel products. Section 1592a also requires any importer of record entering, introducing, or attempting to introduce into the commerce of the United States textile or apparel products that were either directly or indirectly produced, manufactured, supplied, sold, exported, or transported by such named person to show, to the satisfaction of the Secretary, that such importer has exercised reasonable care to ensure that the textile or apparel products are accompanied by documentation, packaging, and labeling that are accurate as to its origin. Under section 1592a, reliance solely upon information regarding the imported product from a person named on the list does not constitute the exercise of reasonable care. Textile and apparel importers who have some commercial relationship with one or more of the listed parties must exercise a degree of reasonable care in ensuring that the documentation covering the imported merchandise, as well as its packaging and labeling, is accurate as to the country of origin of the merchandise. This degree of reasonable care must rely on more than information supplied by the named party.

In meeting the reasonable care standard when importing textile or apparel products and when dealing with a party named on the list published pursuant to section 592A an importer should consider the following questions in attempting to ensure that the documentation, packaging, and labeling is accurate as to the country of origin of the imported merchandise. The list of questions is not exhaustive but is illustrative.

  1. Has the importer had a prior relationship with the named party?

  2. Has the importer had any detentions and/or seizures of textile or apparel products that were directly or indirectly produced, supplied, or transported by the named party?

  3. Has the importer visited the company’s premises and ascertained that the company has the capacity to produce the merchandise?

  4. Where a claim of an origin conferring process is made in accordance with 19 CFR 102.21, has the importer ascertained that the named party actually performed the required process?

  5. Is the named party operating from the same country as is represented by that party on the documentation, packaging or labeling?

  6. Have quotas for the imported merchandise closed or are they nearing closing from the main producer countries for this commodity?

  7. What is the history of this country regarding this commodity?

  8. Have you asked questions of your supplier regarding the origin of the product?

  9. Where the importation is accompanied by a visa, permit, or license, has the importer verified with the supplier or manufacturer that the visa, permit, and/or license is both valid and accurate as to its origin? Has the importer scrutinized the visa, permit or license as to any irregularities that would call its authenticity into question?

Source, Customs and Border Protection (CBP)


Before diving into imports, here are a few suggestions for the exporter (Vendor) in order to expedite the clearance of your merchandise by a Customs Broker:


  1. Place all required information on your customs invoice – This includes a detailed item description, number of units/pieces (including units of measure), value, country of manufacture, HTS classification code

  2. Be sure the information on the commercial invoice is legible, clear, and keep the data within each column

  3. An accompanying packing list is recommended

  4. Place marks and numbers on each package with corresponding marks and numbers on your invoice. This will help customs officials identify particular items in your shipment if needed

  5. Be sure that the product and documents are compliant with any partner government agency requests

  6. Work with CBP to develop packing standards for the imported product

  7. Be sure security procedures are in place. Do not give smugglers the opportunity to introduce unknown items into your shipment


As your merchandise reaches the United States, it is up to you, the consignee, or your appointed customs broker, to file an entry with the port director at the port of entry. A Customs entry is not final until the shipment has arrived at the port of entry, has been authorized by the CBP and any duties / fees have been paid in full. If an examination is required prior to release, it is the responsibility of the importer of record or their appointed customs broker to arrange it.

**Please note: In addition to a CBP entry, importer should contact other government agencies for particular commodities. If your shipment contains alcohol, tobacco, wildlife products (ex: furs) Importers should contact the appropriate agency prior to import.


Goods/Products may only be imported by their rightful owner or their appointed Licensed Customs Broker. The importer of record must be stated on the bill of sale as well as the bill of lading or AirWay bill in the case of an air shipment.


What documents are required to customs clear a shipment? The only required documents for an entry are as follows:

  • Commercial invoice (bill of sale) or proforma invoice if commercial invoice cannot be produced

  • PGA form, if required (ex: FDA, EPA, etc.)

All other documentation will be received directly from your freight forwarder or trucking company.

Commercial invoice A commercial invoice should include the following:

  • US port of entry

  • Contact information of Purchaser, Vendor, & Shipper

  • Detailed description of merchandise (including country of manufacture)

  • Piece count of each product (quantities & measures)

  • Cost per item and currency

  • All charges relating to the shipment including packaging, shipping charges

  • Date of purchase

  • The invoice must be in English or accompanied by an accurate English translation


All imports must be accompanied by a bond in order to ensure the payment of any duties, taxes, or fees relating to import. A bond can be purchased through a US based surety company or your selected Customs Broker There are 2 types of customs bond:

  1. Annual Bond – This is the most common and cost effective bond as it covers all imports for 1 year. A bond covering an amount of $50,000.00 USD will cost between $400.00 – $450.00 USD. Larger bonds can be purchased as well extensions of a smaller bond.

  2. Single-Entry Bond – Single entry bonds are most often used when importers do not expect to receive more than 5-10 per year and cost about 5% of the value of the shipment


After the submission of a customs entry, U.S. Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) has the right to examination. These Examinations are done completely at random, but the chances of being examined are much higher if it is your first time importing into the country. IF no legal or regulatory violations have been found, your shipment will be released. Any charges relating the inspection are billed to the importer of record directly or through your appointed Customs Broker.


If the importer of record would like to differ applicable duties, a shipment may be placed in a CBP bonded warehouse. The goods can remain in the bonded warehouse for up to 5 years from the day of import and goods can be withdrawn at any time with the payment of applicable duty. Should the importer wish to manipulate the cargo in any way short of manufacture, they may do so under CBP supervision. Perishable items, explosives, or prohibited goods may not be stored in a CBP bonded warehouse.


If no customs entry has been presented at the port of entry by yourself or your appointed Customs Broker within 15 days of arrival, the shipment may be placed in a general warehouse at the importer’s expense. If not entry is made within 6 months from the date of import, they may be sold at public auction or destroyed.


As a commercial importer, you may find some advantages using the United States Postal Service (USPS) rather than a courier to import merchandise into the United States. Some benefits are below:

  • Ease of Clearance: All duties on shipments valued under $2,000 USD are collected by the letter carrier

  • Reduced Shipping Costs: Smaller, low value shipments can often be shipped much cheaper through the mail

  • No Formal Entry: No formal entry is required on duty-free products valued at less than $2,000.00 USD

  • No Declaration on Personal Shipments: No requirements to customs clear a shipment destined to a private individual if under $2,000.00 USD Value

When shipping Items through the USPS, please be sure to complete the following:

  • CBP declaration and commercial invoice securely attached to the outer packaging.

  • If declaration or invoice cannot be securely attached to the outside of the package, it must be enclosed in the package and “invoice enclosed” clearly written on the outside.

Exceptions for $2,000.00 value informal entries:

  • Billfolds

  • Products made of feather

  • Footwear

  • Articles of fur

  • Articles of leather

  • Toys / games

  • Others


A Formal entry is necessary for imports with a total value above $2,500.00 USD. An entry bond is mandatory for a formal entry as it ensures payment of applicable duties. Established importers who use an annual bond as opposed to a single-entry bond may retrieve their goods before the payment of their duties, taxes, and other fees (closing of entry). Under usual circumstances, an informal customs entry is made possible when the total value of goods imported is less than $2,500.00 USD and are usually for personal consumption / use. As Just like formal entries, there are exceptions to the rule. For example, when importing textiles, an informal entry may only be used for values less than $250.00 USD. Ask your Customs Broker about how you can use this to your advantage.


Section 321 is a type of informal entry which allows for the release of goods valued at $800.00 USD or less without filing a customs entry by you or your Customs Broker. Shipments released under “Section 321” are both duty & tax free. To Qualify for for Section 321, a shipment may not exceed a total value of $800.00 USD and must not be one of several lots covered by a single order or invoice to which the value would exceed $800.00 USD or the equivalent. The shipment must be intended for one private individual. For information on section 321, click here


Not all imported cargo into the US is entered at the port in which it arrives. The importer or transporter may choose a different location where the goods must travel past the border and further into the United States. In order to do so, these goods must be transported in a “Bonded Status” from the port of arrival to the port of entry. This can only be accomplished by a bonded carrier under CBP form 7512.


Goods arriving in the U.S.A. must be accounted for by the owner, purchaser, vendor, his/her authorized employee, or by a licensed customs broker. CBP Officers or employees are not legally authorized to act as import agents of imported goods but may give reasonable advice and assistance. Licensed US Customs Brokers are the only persons other than the importer of record authorized to act on their behalf. Customs Brokers are private companies licensed by CBP to prepare & file entries as well as  account for, collect, and remit any applicable duties/taxes. If a when a customs brokers makes an entry, it must be supported by a CBP Power of Attorney.


At any given time prior to release, the CBP has the legal right to examine and verify all goods destined for the USA as well as their supporting documents. Examination is necessary in order to validate the following:

  • The value of goods in order to determine dutiable status

  • Whether or not goods follow proper labeling protocol

  • Whether the shipment contains prohibited items

  • Whether goods are properly invoiced

  • Whether quantities match those declared or if a shortage exists

  • Whether shipment contains narcotics

Any costs associated with the coordination of and examination of goods is the responsibility of the importer of record and goods can be held for release by the coordinating warehouse without payment in full.


When determining dutiable amounts based on net weight, a deduction is made from the gross weight, referred to as Tare. Tare is the allowance for deficiency in weight caused by packaging, transport box, bag, etc.


Orderly packing and proper invoicing are paramount when it comes to importing into the U.S.A. If during an inspection items subject to different rates of duty are so packed together that a CBP officer cannot determine the quantity without separating them, the combined items will be subject to the highest rate of applicable duty.


Reasonable care is the responsibility of the importer. CBP publishes a wealth of information to assist the import community on reasonable care and the use of a licensed Customs Broker can all but guarantee compliance.


All goods imported into the United States are subject to duty or duty-free entry depending on the HTS classification. Duty can be applied based on the value of an item, weight, or size, or count. Duty Can be eliminated through trade agreements such as NAFTA.


CBP makes a decision on the dutiable status of an item once the entry is liquidated (after entry documents are filed). An Importer / Exporter or any interested party may receive advanced information by submitting a request for ruling. This can be done by directing the appropriate information to:

U.S. Customs and Border Protection Attention: Office of Regulations and Rulings Washington, DC 20229


Director, National Commodity Specialist Division U.S. Customs and Border protection One Penn Plaza, 11th Floor New York, New York 10119

Importers may obtain a binding ruling which will be binding at all ports of entry unless revoked, by submitting to the national commodity specialist division. The following is required for a ruling:

  • Name, Address, and other identifying information of vendor, purchaser, and manufacturer as well as the manufacturer ID code

  • Names of ports at which the products may be entered

  • A description of the transaction and its country of origin

  • A statement from the importer that according to their knowledge, there are no known issues regarding the product before the CBP or any court system

  • Statement as to whether or not classification advise has ever been given by a CBP officer and from whom

  • Complete description of goods (can include samples, sketches, etc.)

  • Cost breakdown of each component and their respective quantities

  • Description of the primary use of the product


Goods being imported into the United States for non-resale may be admitted into the country under bond without the payment of duties for exportation within one year of the date of import. A TIB may be extended for one year at a time with a maximum of 3 years. Products / Merchandise entered under a temporary importation bond must be exported, destroyed, or extended before the expiration of the bond period. All goods entered under Temporary Free Importation are still subject to quotas.


An ATA carnet is an international customs document used for the temporary duty-free import of a product or shipment. The carnet serves serves as a guarantee against payment of duties should the goods not be exported and is valid for one year. During this period, the Carnet holder can make as many trips with their accompanying goods as they like. A Carnet is generally used in the United States for the temporary admission of:

  • Professional equipment

  • Advertising material

  • Commercial samples


The North American Free Trade Agreement effectively removed any duties from products originating in Canada, Mexico, and the USA. NAFTA defines the term “Originate” in 4 ways.

  1. “Goods wholly obtained or produced entirely in the NAFTA region (these contain no foreign inputs); “

  2. “Goods produced entirely in the NAFTA region exclusively from originating materials (these contain foreign materials that have been previously manufactured into originating materials); “

  3. “Goods meeting an Annex 401 specific rule of origin such as a prescribed change in tariff classification, regional value content requirement; and in extremely limited instances,”

  4. “Unassembled goods and goods classified with their parts, which do not meet the tariff-shift rule but contain 60 percent regional value content using the transaction-value method, or 50 percent using the net-cost method.”

Noncommercial NAFTA Imports For personal imports into the US, NAFTA may be applied without a certificate of statement or Origin Commercial imports, Low Value In order to receive duty free status on a commercial shipment valued at $2,500.00 USD or less, a statement of origin must be provided (19 CFR 181.22(d)) Commercial Imports, High Value In order to receive duty free status on a high value commercial shipment (valued above $2,500.00), the importer must have a valid NAFTA certificate Post Import Claims Importers who do not have a NAFTa or are unsure, have up to one (1) year from the date of importation to file a claim.



A Customs Bond is required by U.S. Customs and Border Protection for entry of imported merchandise into the United States. A Customs Bond acts as a security for compliance with U.S. law and payment of duties, taxes, and fees. Default under a Customs Bond results in the assessment of liquidated damages or other lawful charges assessed by Customs.

The writing of a Customs Bond is a very important part of the import transaction. If the Customs Bond is not properly prepared and does not meet certain requirements, you, as the importer of record, may be faced with serious problems. Without a properly executed bond, your shipment will not clear U.S. Customs.


  • The first is a Single Transaction Bond (also known as a Single Entry Bond or SEB) which covers a single Customs entry. Single Transaction Bonds are generally calculated on the entered value of the merchandise plus duties, taxes, and fees. If the goods are subject to certain other government agency requirements or quota/visa, then the bond is for three times the total entered value of the merchandise.

  • The second type of bond is a Continuous Bond, which covers all entries made by an importer at all U.S. ports of entry. The validity of the continuous bond is for one year. The minimum liability amount for a Continuous Bond is $50,000.00. Continuous Bonds are generally calculated at 10% of the duties, taxes and fees paid in a twelve (12) month period.


10+2 is an entirely new business process expanding the importer’s sphere of accountability back to the point of stuffing. 10+2 is meant to enhance cargo targeting by requiring additional data elements prior to loading at the foreign port. Improved targeting of high risk shipments will result in fewer exams for low risk shipments. 10+2 further identifies the parties in the supply chain and dovetails with the 24 Hour Rule to provide more concise descriptions of commodities being shipped to the U.S.

10+2 is for security and targeting purposes only. It is not intended for commercial or trade enforcement purposes or for determining entry. However, Customs will be comparing the ISF to the entry data to analyze and assess risk and to validate the ISF data.

10+2 information is exempt from disclosure under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).

The official name of the program is “Importer Security Filing and Additional Carrier Requirements.” The Importer Security Filing (ISF) covers the “10” and the Additional Carrier Requirements cover the “+2.”

Customs had been contemplating a program like 10+2 for many years as part of their efforts to push supply chain security beyond our borders all the way back to the point of stuffing. The Security and Accountability for Every (SAFE) Port Act was passed in October 2006 and put into law the requirement to report advance cargo information prior to loading on vessels at foreign ports. A Notice of Proposed Rulemaking for 10+2 was published in January 2008. A Final Rule was published in November 2008. The effective date of 10+2 was January 26, 2009.


Customs & Border Protection (CBP) at U.S. ports is no longer required to send requests for liquidated damages (LD) to its Headquarters for approval. Non-compliant Importer Security Filings can result in cargo holds at the port instead of, or in addition to, liquidated damage claims. Additionally, liquidated damage claims against importer bonds will no longer follow a “three-strike” leniency.

The new ISF enforcement will be applicable for all cargoes on the water on or after June 30, 2016.


  1. Seller – Name and address of the last known entity by whom the goods are sold or agreed to be sold. If the goods are to be imported otherwise than in pursuance of a purchase, the name and address of the owner of the goods must be provided. The seller information is generally available on the commercial invoice.

  2. Buyer – Name and address of the last known entity to whom the goods are sold or agreed to be sold. If the goods are to be imported otherwise than in pursuance of a purchase, the name and address of the owner of the goods must be provided. The buyer information is generally available on the commercial invoice. If the goods are sold in transit and the buyer information changes, the ISF must be amended.

  3. Importer of Record number/FTZ Applicant ID number – The IRS number, EIN, Social Security number, or Customs assigned importer number of the entity liable for payment of all duties and responsible for meeting all statutory and regulatory requirements incurred as a result of importation. For Foreign Trade Zone shipments, the IRS number of the party who files the documentation must be reported. If the importer of record on the entry is not the same as the importer that files the ISF, any ISF penalty would be against the party whose bond is posted for the ISF.

  4. Consignee number – The IRS number, EIN, Social Security number, or Customs assigned imported number of the individual or firm in the U.S. on whose account the merchandise is shipped.

  5. Manufacturer (or supplier) – Name and address of the entity that last manufacturers, assembles, produces, or grows the commodity. OR the name and address of the party supplying the finished goods in the country from which the goods are leaving. Remember that for textiles, the broker must have the actual manufacturer for entry purposes.

  6. Ship to party – Name and address of the first deliver-to party scheduled to physically receive the goods after the goods have been released from Customs custody. Customs believes this information will give predictability to targeting. If the ship to party is unknown, the facility where the goods will be unladen (e.g., pier) can be reported. If there are multiple delivery stop offs, only the first one is reported.

  7. Country of origin – Country of manufacture, production, or growth of the article, based upon the import laws, rules and regulations of the U.S. This is the same information declared on the Customs entry.

  8. Harmonized Tariff Schedule number – Tariff number under which the article is classified in the HTSUS. The final rule requires 6 digits, but Customs will accept 8 digits or the full 10 digit HTS number. This means all goods will need to be pre-classified.

  9. Container stuffing location – Name and address(es) of the physical location(s) where the goods were stuffed into the container. For break bulk shipments, the name and address(es) of the physical locations(s) where the goods were made “ship ready” must be provided. A “scheduled” stuffing location will be acceptable, but once the actual stuffing location is known, the ISF must be amended prior to arrival. The broker does not need to report which container was stuffed where (the container number is not required to be reported with the ISF).

  10. Consolidator (stuffer) – Name and address of the party who stuffed the container or arranged for stuffing of the container. For break bulk shipments, the name and address of the party who made the goods “ship ready” or the party who arranged for the goods to be made “ship ready” must be provided.

These are the “+2” data elements which are entirely the responsibility of the steamship line:

  1. Vessel stow plan

  2. Container status messages

The manufacturer, country of origin, and HTS number must be linked to one another at the ISF line item level. Customs will allow the entry/entry summary to be filed at the same time as the ISF.


In addition to the 10 ISF data elements, the broker must report the bill of lading number to tie the ISF to the manifest data and to the entry.


The ISF Importer is responsible for the timely, accurate, and complete submission of the 10 data elements in the ISF. The steamship line is responsible for the +2 container tracking reports. For FTZ shipments, I.E.s and T&Es, the party that files the documentation will be responsible for the ISF.


10+2 is for ocean cargo only. An ISF must be filed for containerized cargo, break bulk shipments, and for Ro-Ro shipments. Bulk cargo (e.g., grain, coal, oil) is exempt. Goods arriving via vessel into Canada or Mexico and subsequently trucked or railed into the U.S. are exempt from 10+2.


The following data elements must be filed no later than 24 hours before cargo is laden aboard the vessel at the foreign port:

  • Seller

  • Buyer

  • Importer of record number/FTZ applicant ID number

  • Consignee number

  • Manufacturer/supplier

  • Ship to party

  • Country of origin

  • HTS number

The following data elements must be filed as early as possible, but no later than 24 hours prior to arrival at the port of discharge:

  • Container stuffing location

  • Consolidator (stuffer)

ISF for break bulk cargo must be filed no later than 24 hours prior to arrival at the port of discharge.


Only 5 data elements are required for FROB (foreign cargo remaining on board), I.E. and T&E cargo. This type filing is known as ISF-5.

The data elements are:

  1. Booking party – Name and address of the party who initiates the reservation of the cargo space for the shipment.

  2. Foreign port of unlading – Schedule K port code is allowed.

  3. Place of delivery – the foreign location where the carrier’s responsibility for the transport of the goods terminates.

  4. Ship to party – Name and address of first deliver to party scheduled to physically receive the goods after the goods have been released from Customs custody.

  5. HTS number – It is not necessary to file the in bond paperwork before filing the ISF.


If the ISF needs to be amended, it must be updated before the shipment enters the limits of the port of discharge. Only the party who originally filed the ISF is permitted to update the ISF. If you are converting a consumption entry to an I.E./T&E, then the 5 data elements (ISF-5) must be reported. The ISF may be deleted if the goods are no longer intended to be imported into the U.S. Only the party who originally filed the ISF is permitted to delete it.


The ISF Importer is required to post a bond to secure the timely, accurate, and complete ISF. Customs has amended the entry bond conditions to include ISF provisions where the importer agrees to comply with ISF requirements. An importer’s existing continuous bond will cover the Importer Security Filing. Importers without a continuous bond will need to post an ISF bond for each filing. Customs enforces ISF through the assessment of liquidated damages, in addition to penalties applicable under other provisions of law. Customs can assess liquidated damages up to $10,000.00 for violations such as failure to submit the ISF timely, accurately, or completely. Liquidated damages will be assessed against the holder of the bond posted for the ISF. C-TPAT status will be taken into account with mitigation.

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The Automated Commercial Environment (ACE) is a U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) system designed to facilitate legitimate trade while enhancing border security. ACE will improve collection, sharing, and processing of information submitted to CBP and government agencies.



ACE provides a single, centralized access window for the trade community to connect with CBP and its Partner Government Agencies (PGA) called the ACE Secure Data Portal. This “single window” concept will eliminate redundancy, dramatically reduce paper usage and operational costs, and facilitate faster, more efficient processing of imports and exports.


The Automated Commercial Environment (ACE) is the primary system or “single window” for the international trade community to submit import and export data to communicate with U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and other participating government agencies.

CBP and the partner government agencies will use ACE to collect, track, and process required trade information.


Electronic manifests allow the government to more quickly determine if incoming cargo poses a risk or can proceed into the country.

  • Designate a list of authorized partners who can use carrier custodial bonds.

  • Reduced wait time for processing at Ports of Entry.

  • Receive enhanced visibility of cargo status through new status messages.


Working with representatives of trade associations, CBP has undertaken steps to simplify the entry process; resulting in a reduced data set, consisting of fewer elements to be filed for electronic submissions.

  • Streamlined submission of data elements.

  • Ability for PGA and CBP personnel to provide enhanced security, safety and compliance through faster processing.

  • No longer file CBP paper form 3461.


Filers are also able to submit post summary corrections such as reconciliation, drawback, liquidation, and statements.

  • Reduction of electronic invoice transmissions through electronic Census overrides.

  • Decreased Courier and Administrative costs through elimination of paper.

  • ACE Periodic Monthly Statements also allow participants to pay duties and fees on a monthly basis rather than transaction by transaction.


ACE is working closely with Partner Government Agencies (PGAs) to implement the single window.

  • Document Image System (DIS) – electronically submit documentation needed by the Government during the import and export process.

  • PGA Interoperability.

  • PGA Message Set.


The Secure Data Portal is a web-based entry point for ACE. It provides a centralized online access point to connect CBP, trade representatives and government agencies involved in importing goods into the United States.

The portal provides account holders the ability to identify and evaluate compliance issues, monitor daily operations, set up payment options, review and respond to filings, access a reports tool, compile data, and perform national trend analysis.

  • Receive, respond to, and monitor CBP Forms 28, 29, and 4647.

  • Enroll in Periodic Monthly Statements and customize payment schedules.

  • Create blanket declarations for entry summary processing and nationwide view.

  • Access AD/CVD case management and message Information database.

  • Access Importer Security Filing (ISF) and progress reports.

  • Access reports tool for real-time transactional data to identify and evaluate compliance issues.


To set up an ACE portal account, fill out the ACE Secure Data Portal Application.
Be ready to provide the following on the application:

  1. Name of the Company officer, title, and date of birth.

  2. Organizational structure; Corporation, Partnership, Individual, LLC, etc.

  3. Fiscal year end month and day.

  4. Importer number.

  5. Trade Account Owner (TAO) full legal name, date of birth, and email address.
    a. Note: The TAO should be the person that will actually utilize the ACE portal, assign roles, add additional users, run reports and monitor items. This may not necessarily be the President of the company, if that person would not regularly use the portal or access the portal at all.

  6. Point of contact for the account with full legal name, date of birth, and email.

  • The Trade Account Owner must complete a “signed” ACE Application as proof of designation of the Account Owner and submit it to Customs and Border Protection (CBP). Please note that the “signature” can be digital as noted on the ACE Application. This document must be signed by both the Principal and the Account Owner.

  • Once the application has been submitted, you will receive an immediate email confirmation; be sure to use check you SPAM filter and provide the correct email address.

  • A response email from the ACE application team advising your account has been created along with your temporary password and further instruction should be received in no longer than two weeks and will be in two separate emails.


ACE Portal users have access to reports. By running targeted reports to conduct in-house audits, identify systemic errors and provide insight into entries under review by CBP, all in support of improved compliance with trade laws.

  • Cargo Release and Entry Summary Data refreshed nightly.

  • Identify unauthorized filers.

  • Proactively monitor trade compliance and identify discrepancies.

  • Monitor periodic monthly statements as they are being built.

  • Account Revenue data updated hourly.

  • Any element transmitted in ACE, will become available in ACE reporting.


ACE report types include:

  • General – Cargo Release and Entry Summary Transaction Details

  • Financial – Periodic Monthly Statement Transaction Details

  • Exports – Export Commodity Transaction Details

  • Manifest – In-Bond Transaction Details

  • Reference – UN Location and Firms Codes


Section 321 allows for goods valued at $800.00 USD or less, to enter the United States duty-free and without a formal entry – A great option for importers looking to save money, but it can cost you some time.




  • Merchandise subject to anti-dumping / countervailing duty (ADD/CVD)

  • Merchandise requiring inspection as a condition of release

  • No alcoholic beverages, perfume containing alcohol, cigars, or cigarettes

  • Merchandise regulated by FDA, FSIS, NHTSA, CPSA, and USDA

  • Exemptions have been made to FDA products such as: Cosmetics, Dinnerware, Food, and biological samples

  • Regardless of the value, USCBP reserves the right to deny section 321 and demand a formal customs entry



  • The carrier must file the ACE manifest as intangible goods/section 321

  • ISF (10+2) is still required for a section 321 and Pace Global Logisitcs is happy to file it on your behalf

  • You will need to present an arrival notice and invoice to U.S. Customs in person

  • A stamped copy of documents must be presented to CFS warehouse to guarantee the releases of your cargo

  • Pace Global Logisitcs Recommends you advise your airline prior to shipping your cargo that the merchandise should be manifested as intangible goods/section 321

  • If this is not complete, you must go to U.S. Customs at the airport of arrival with the Airway Bill and invoice and ask the Customs Officer to release under section 321

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