Guide to Importing

Basic Importing to the United States

If you are new to importing goods into the United States, there are many requirements, restrictions, and regulations involved. CBP encourages importers to familiarize with applicable laws and regulations to ensure the goods that enter the U.S. are genuine, safe, and lawfully sourced. Starting out with a good understanding of customs regulations and requirements are key to importing success. 

Some items may be subject to quota restrictions, other government agencies permits or inspections; others may be eligible for reduced rates of duties or under one of the Free Trade Agreements and others may not be permitted to enter the U.S. commerce. These regulations may only be determined by knowing the Harmonized Tariff Schedule Classification (HTS) for each product. Determining your product’s tariff number can be extremely complex. Below is a brief overview of what is required when shipping goods into the U.S.

Keys to Successful Importing to the U.S.

Do I Need 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. If a formal entry is required, as an Importer of Record you need to have an account set up with a customs broker and documentation prepared prior to shipping. The Importer of Record (IOR) is ultimately responsible to ensure that the documentation that has been provided is complete and accurate. It is important that you have all the proper information and documentation. Once all documentation is submitted to your customs broker, they will review the information for accuracy prior to the information being submitted to CBP.

Are you the Importer of Record?

An importer of record is the individual or entity responsible for all entry documents required by CBP (Customs Border Protection). It is also responsible for the classification of products imported, payment of duties, as well as any other import obligations. If you are importing to the U.S. as a foreign importer of record, additional documentation is required.

Familiarize with U.S. Customs Border Protection Policies & Procedures

It is important that you fully understand if the products or goods you are importing will require a special license or permit. Even though U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) does not generally require importers to have a license or permit, there are other agencies that may require special permits or certificates. These may include the FDA, USDA and the ATF. Additionally, there are certain goods or merchandise that may be subject to specific requirements with regards to their testing, certification, labeling, packaging, marketing, and documentation. To learn more about these requirements, please visit

Introduction to the CBP Import Process

Disclaimer: The information on this page promotes the understanding of these responsibilities as there may be specific requirements related to a particular commodity such as those set by Partner Government Agencies (PGA). The video is intended to provide an understanding of the process of importing goods and merchandise from foreign countries into the U.S., promoting the necessary steps to ensure compliance with U.S. laws and regulations.

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