Basic importing proceduresExplore the steps involved in exporting goods to the U.S.
Exporting goods to the United States (U.S.) can be a lucrative opportunity for foreign sellers, but it requires careful planning and adherence to regulations. This guide will outline what exporters/importers need to keep in mind before importing into the U.S.
1. Product regulation
Before exporting to the U.S., it is crucial to determine whether your product is subject to regulation. Product regulation refers to the process of establishing rules, standards, and requirements that products must meet to ensure their safety, quality, and effectiveness. Product regulation aims to protect consumers, workers, and the environment from potential harm caused by unsafe or hazardous products.
The US government agencies that regulate products include the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), and many others. These agencies are responsible for protecting the U.S.' public health, safety, and environment.
To determine if your product is subject to regulation, you should first identify the appropriate regulatory agency based on the type of product you plan to export. For example, if you plan to export food products, the FDA regulates these products and has specific requirements for labeling, packaging, and safety.
Once you have identified the appropriate regulatory agency, you should research the specific regulations that apply to your product. This research can be done on the agency's website, which typically provides detailed information on the regulations and requirements for different products.
In addition to complying with regulations, some products may require specific certifications or approvals. For example, certain food products require a Prior Notice of Imported Food (PON) submission to the FDA before they can be imported into the US. Other products, such as medical devices, may require approval from the FDA before they can be sold in the US.
It is important to note that failure to comply with regulations and obtain the necessary certifications and approvals can result in fines, product seizures, and other legal consequences. Therefore, it is essential to research and comply with all relevant regulations and requirements.
According to the US Department of Commerce, the top five product categories imported into the US in 2020 were: electrical machinery, machinery, vehicles, pharmaceuticals, and plastics. Researching your product's specific regulations and requirements is essential to ensure successful importation into the US.
2. Import/export requirements
Foreign sellers must determine their products' import/export requirements before exporting to the US. Various US government agencies establish these requirements, and failure to comply with them can result in fines, product seizures, and other legal consequences.
To determine your product's import/export requirements, you can consult the US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) website or contact a customs broker. The CBP website provides information on the general import/export requirements for different products and specific requirements for different countries and regions.
In addition to the general import/export requirements, your product may require additional licenses, permits, or certifications. Some of the possible import/export requirements include:
Import/export licenses: Certain products require an import/export license issued by the US government. For example, the Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS) regulates the export of goods and technology that have military or strategic importance.
Tariffs and Duties: Tariffs and duties are taxes on imported goods that are collected by the US government. The amount of tariffs and duties varies depending on the product, its country of origin, and the specific trade agreement in place.
FDA Approval: The FDA regulates products such as food, drugs, medical devices, and cosmetics. Many of these products require FDA approval before they can be imported into the US.
EPA Approval: The EPA regulates products such as pesticides, chemicals, and environmental pollutants. Some of these products require EPA approval before they can be imported into the US.
CPSC Approval: The CPSC regulates products such as toys, electronics, and appliances. Some of these products require CPSC approval before they can be imported into the US.
To determine if your product requires any of these import/export requirements, you can check the specific regulations and requirements for your product on the relevant agency's website. You can also consult a customs broker or attorney specializing in import/export regulations.
According to the US International Trade Commission, the top five imported products to the US in 2020 were: motor vehicles, crude oil, goods vehicles, cell phones, and computers. It is essential to research your product's specific import/export requirements to ensure successful importation into the US.
3. Duty, tax, and fee collection
Foreign sellers should determine the landed cost of their product, which includes the cost of the product, shipping, and any duties and taxes that may be applicable. Landed cost is the total cost of a product when it arrives at the buyer's doorstep, and it is essential to calculate this cost accurately to avoid any unexpected fees or delays at customs.
In some cases, foreign sellers may be required to pay duties and taxes when importing goods into the US. Duties are taxes levied by the US government on certain imported goods, and they vary depending on the product's country of origin and the specific trade agreement in place. Taxes, on the other hand, are sales taxes that are typically levied by state or local governments and are based on the product's value.
If the seller chooses to pre-collect duties and taxes at checkout, they can work with software solutions like Zonos to accurately calculate and collect these costs. Zonos is a software platform that helps businesses calculate landed cost, comply with import regulations, and provide a seamless checkout experience for their customers. By using Zonos, sellers can ensure that they are collecting the correct amount of duties and taxes, and avoid any customs issues or delivery delays.
It is essential to note that not all products are subject to duties and taxes, and it is crucial to determine if they are applicable to your product. For example, if the product's value is below the de minimis threshold of $800, no duties or taxes are typically required. However, if the product's value exceeds this threshold, duties and taxes may apply.
It is essential to research the specific duties and taxes that may apply to your product to ensure accurate landed cost calculation and avoid any customs issues.
By accurately calculating and collecting duties and taxes, foreign sellers can provide a seamless checkout experience for their customers, avoid any unexpected fees or delays at customs, and ensure compliance with US import regulations.
4. Applicable documentation
Foreign sellers must prepare all necessary documents when importing goods into the US to ensure compliance with US import regulations. The documentation required may vary depending on the product's nature and the importer's country of origin. Below is a list of some of the documents required for importing into the US:
Commercial invoice: This document provides information about the transaction between the seller and the buyer, including the product's value, quantity, and description. The commercial invoice should be accurate and provide all the necessary details, including the product's country of origin, the seller's and buyer's contact information, and any applicable terms of sale.
Packing List: This document details the contents of the shipment and should match the information on the commercial invoice. It should include the weight and dimensions of each package, the quantity and description of each item, and any additional packaging or labeling information.
Bill of Lading: This document serves as proof of shipment and provides information about the carrier, the route of the shipment, and the delivery destination.
Certificate of Origin: This document certifies the product's country of origin and may be required to claim preferential treatment under certain trade agreements.
Importer Security Filing (ISF): This document is required for ocean freight shipments and must be filed with US Customs and Border Protection at least 24 hours before the shipment's departure.
Failure to provide accurate or complete documentation can result in delays, fines, or even seizure of the shipment. Therefore, ensuring that all necessary documents are prepared and submitted on time is crucial. Foreign sellers can work with customs brokers or freight forwarders to ensure compliance with all required documentation and regulations.
In 2020, US Customs and Border Protection processed over 33 million import entries, which highlights the importance of proper documentation and compliance with import regulations. By preparing and submitting all necessary documentation accurately and on time, foreign sellers can ensure a smooth and efficient import process, minimize the risk of delays or fines, and build a positive reputation with US customers.
5. Shipping to the U.S.
Once the necessary documents and requirements have been prepared, the product can be shipped to the US. Here are some tips and best practices for shipping:
Choose a reliable carrier: Choose a reputable carrier that can provide tracking and insurance for the shipment. This will ensure that the product arrives safely and on time.
Label the package correctly: Make sure the package is labeled correctly with the recipient's name, address, and any special instructions for delivery.
Declare the contents: Declare the contents of the package accurately on the shipping label and customs documents. This will help ensure that the package is not held up at customs or delayed in delivery.
Obtain shipping insurance: Consider obtaining shipping insurance to protect against any loss or damage during transit.
Keep track of the shipment: Monitor the shipment closely to ensure that it arrives at the correct destination and is delivered on time. This will help prevent any potential issues with delivery or customs clearance.
Be prepared for potential delays: Be aware that there may be delays due to customs processing or other factors. Stay in communication with the carrier and recipient to ensure any issues are resolved quickly.
Remember that shipping to the US may involve additional regulations and requirements, so staying informed and up to date on any changes is important.
6. Customs clearance
Customs clearance is an essential step in the importing process, and it's important to be prepared to ensure a smooth clearance process. Once the shipment arrives in the US, it will be inspected by the US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to ensure compliance with all regulations.
During the customs clearance process, the CBP will review all documentation related to the shipment, including the commercial invoice, packing list, and any required permits or licenses. It's essential to ensure that all documentation is accurate and complete to avoid any delays in clearance. Incomplete or inaccurate documentation can result in costly fines and additional delays.
If the shipment is valued above the de minimis threshold of 800 USD, the CBP will assess duties and taxes. The amount of duty and tax will depend on the product and its country of origin. If the seller has pre-collected duties and taxes at checkout, they will need to provide proof of payment to CBP.
To avoid delays in clearance, it's important to ensure that all products comply with all relevant regulations and that all required documentation is accurate and complete. If there are any issues during the customs clearance process, the CBP may require additional documentation or inspections, which can result in costly delays.
Foreign sellers can avoid customs clearance delays by partnering with a customs broker or utilizing software solutions like Zonos to ensure compliance with all regulations and proper documentation. A customs broker can help navigate the complex customs clearance process, ensuring a smooth and efficient clearance process. Zonos can help foreign sellers accurately calculate and collect duties and taxes at checkout, reducing the risk of delays in clearance.
It's important to note that customs clearance can be time consuming, and planning for potential delays is essential. By ensuring compliance with all regulations and proper documentation, foreign sellers can minimize the risk of delays and ensure a smooth import process.
7. Duty/tax payment at delivery
The shipment will be delivered to the customer's door depending on the shipping method and delivery service selected. If the shipment is subject to duties and taxes, the process of payment will vary depending on whether or not the foreign seller pre-collected these fees at checkout.
If the foreign seller pre-collected duties and taxes at checkout, the customer will not have to pay any additional fees upon delivery. The seller should ensure that they have accurately calculated the landed cost, including duties and taxes, to avoid any issues at customs. The customer should receive their product with no additional payments required.