Tips for new importers and exporters (2023)

To avoid potential problems clearing your goods, US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) strongly recommends that you familiarize yourself with CBP policies and procedures before importing/exporting your goods. You should also be aware of any entry requirements specific to the particular product you are importing/exporting, including those of other federal agencies. To help you, we offer the following tips for new importers and exporters.

What type of license is required to import goods into the United States?

CBP does not require a license or permit from an importer, but other agencies may require a permit, license, or other certification depending on the product being imported. CBP acts in an administrative capacity for these other agencies and you may wish to contact them directly for more information. For links to other government agencies and departments, see A list of other government agencies can be found in the appendix to the publication.Import to the United States. You may also need a license from state or local authorities to conduct business. CBP entry forms ask for your importer number – this is your IRS business registration number, or if your business is not registered with the IRS or you don't have a business, your social security number will do. Alternatively, you can request a CBP assigned number by completing aCBP-Formular 5106and presentation to the immigration office at a CBP port of entry.

The CBP website contains valuable information for the new or experienced importer.

We recommend importers to check the issues on the CBP trading site. In particular, we recommend that you read the information contained in the section titledBasic import and export. There are many topic-specific links to explore. This will take you to information on CBP import regulations, arrival of goods, formal vs. informal entry, classification, protest, mailings, restricted goods and more. For other agency requirements you need to meet and becoming a frequent importer with higher value shipments, we recommend readingImport to the United States. This publication contains further information and is worth reading for anyone who is serious about entering the import business.

We also ask you to read themInformed Compliance Disclosures. CBP has prepared a series of Informed Compliance Publications (ICPs) in the What Every Member of the Business Community Should Know About... series on a variety of topics. When your business makes youTravelinside and outside the country we advise you to read the travel information in theKnow before you go.

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Before importing, you can contact the CBP office at the port of entry where your goods will enter the United States.

A complete directory of the variousports of entrycan be found on this website. If you are unsure or have not decided which port your shipment will arrive at, or if you are considering importing via multiple ports, you can contact a service port of entry near you. Ask to speak to a CBP import specialist responsible for the product you are importing. Import Specialists are a valuable resource for commodity-specific knowledge and can provide advice on classification, commodity-specific requirements, tax rates, and answer any questions you may have about filing an entry. In many ports, immigration specialists deal with issues related to the filing of immigration. Inbound Specialists work closely with Import Specialists and provide the technical processing knowledge needed to submit the required paperwork.

When calling the port, the importer should be able to provide as much detail about the transaction as possible. In order for the import specialist to be able to provide you with the best possible support, it is important that you can describe the goods you wish to import accurately. In order for the import specialist to provide you with the best possible support, you must provide a full description of the item and answer specific questions such as: B.: 1) country of origin and manufacturer of the goods; 2) the composition of the goods; 3) the intended use of the item; and 4) pricing/payment information (to correctly determine the value of the shipment). For more information on the classification of goods, see theHarmonisierter Tarifplan (HTS)with the actual HTS number and tariff classification guidelines that explain how the goods are to be classified correctly.

Importers can request a written decision from CBP on the correct HTSUS classification and duty rate for their goods.

For information on CBP decision letters, seeWhat are the ruling letters?. When applying for a binding decision, importers must follow the procedures outlined in Part 177 of the Customs Regulations (19 C.F.R. 177). Research the results of previous references for a preliminary ruling using theOnline search system for customs clearance(CROSS). The CBP may already have rulings on products similar to yours that you can use as guidance. CROSS also addresses other issues such as value, country of origin labeling and the applicability of trade preference programs. The CROSS database can be searched for keywords.

The CBP website also contains valuable export information.

If your future plans involve exporting goods from the United States, you should read the information inExport section of this website.

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Although CBP enforces many export regulations for various other government agencies, specific questions about licensing requirements for a particular product should be directed to that primary agency. For additional agency contact information and products that may require export licenses, visitUS Department of Commerce, Bureau of Industry and SecurityWeb pages. Questions about export licenses can also be directed to CBP officials at the port where the goods leave 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

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 who import goods for their own use often employ a customs broker, especially if they find the import procedures complicated. However, you can enter yourself. Importers who want to use the professional services of a customs broker can do so. Customs brokers are licensed by CBP, but not CBP employees. To view a list of customs brokers authorized to conduct CBP business in a specific port, select the port you plan to use. Many service port sites have a list of customs brokers. Please note that these lists may not be exhaustive and the brokers listed are not endorsed by CBP. There is also an informed compliance release oncustoms agents. Remember that even if you use a broker, you are ultimately responsible for the accuracy of the immigration documents submitted to CBP and for any applicable duties, taxes and fees.

Importer Security Record (ISF/"10+2") required for ocean shipments.

On January 26, 2009, the new rule titled Security File Importer and Carrier Additional Requirements (commonly known as “10+2”) went into effect. This new rule applies to import cargo that arrives in the United States by ship. Failure to comply with the new rule could ultimately result in fines, increased inspections and loading delays.

What is an importer security filing? Under the new rule, the Importer Security File (ISF) importer or their agent (e.g., a licensed customs broker) must electronically submit certain advance cargo information to CBP before inbound goods can be imported into the United States by ship in the form of a security file of the importer. This requirement only applies to cargo arriving in the United States by sea vessel: it does not apply to cargo arriving by other means of transportation. Remember that even when using a broker, the importer of record is ultimately responsible for the accuracy of the immigration documents submitted to CBP and for any applicable duties, taxes and fees.

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Where can I find more information? More detailed information on importer security requirements can be found on the CBP website atPresentation security importer. You will find a link to frequently asked questions and recordings of recent ISF webinars for small and medium businesses. You may be able to obtain additional assistance from your licensed customs broker, freight forwarder, trade association and local shopping mall.

You should research general information about quotas and quota requirements for specific products before importing them into the United States.

Import quotas control the amount or volume of various products that can be imported into the United States during a given period of time. US import quotas can be divided into two main types: absolute and tariff. Absolute quotas generally apply to textiles and strictly limit the amount of goods that can enter US commerce during any given period. There are currently no products with an absolute quota. Tariff quotas allow a certain quantity of imported goods to be brought in at a reduced duty rate during the quota period. Once a quota has been reached, goods can still be imported, but at a higher duty rate.

Fee information can be found on theSplitPage. This section provides links to information on topics such as determining whether imported goods are subject to quota restrictions.A guide to import quotascontains additional information about quotas. Compliance levels for agricultural and textile quotas eligible for trade preference programs are tracked ingoods status reportfor tariff quotas. General quota information and instructions for specific quotas are available to CBP offices and tradersCharge Book Transfers.

You may receive an invoice when CBP examines your shipment.

Pursuant to Title 19, Section 1467, United States Code (19 U.S.C. 1467), CBP has the right to inspect any shipment entering the United States and it is important to understand that you, the importer, must bear the cost of that freight. Inspections Under CBP regulations, it is the importer's responsibility to prepare the goods for inspection: "The importer shall bear the costs associated with preparing the goods for CBP inspection and sealing the packages" (19 C.F.R. 151.6). Household items are not exempt. No distinction is made between commercial and private shipments. As part of normal operations, CBP does not charge for cargo inspections. Nevertheless, costs may arise for the importer. For example, if your submission is selected for review, it will typically be moved to a Central Review Station (CES) for CBP review. A CES is a privately operated facility where physical examination merchandise is provided to CBP officers. The CES facility unloads (devan) your shipment from its shipping container and reloads it after verification. CES will bill you for its services. There are also costs for transporting freight to and from the exam site and for storage. Prices vary across the country and a full renovation can cost several hundred dollars. The CES facility meets the needs of both the CBP and the importer by providing an efficient means of conducting examinations in a timely manner. CES facilities are discussed in Part 118 of the Customs Regulations.

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Some of the information requested by CBP can only be provided through Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) procedures.

When members of the business community or members of the public request information from CBP, there are circumstances in which the requested information can only be provided if the request is made in accordance with the provisions of the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). The CBP website contains a full statement from the agency.FOIA Program, including background information and general information about the FOIA law, FOIA regulations, and specific instructions for making a FOIA request.

For general CBP inquiries, call the CBP INFO Center between 8:30 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. Monday through Friday. m. and 5 p.m. m. Easter time.

General Enquiries: (1-877) CBP-5511

International calls:(202) 325-8000

(Video) Basics to importing and exporting

TDD: (1-866) 880-6582

We recommend that you first try to find the information you are looking for by using theCBP Information CenterFAQ tool. It has over 500 answers on CBP policies and procedures.


What are the most common mistakes among importers? ›

The 5 Most Common Mistakes of New Importers
  • Mistake #1: Undercapitalization. ...
  • Mistake #1.5: Poor Business Plan/Poor Product Choice. ...
  • Mistake #2: Failure to Properly Preclassify Your Goods and Failure to Research Possible Import Barriers. ...
  • Mistake #3: Failure to Figure In All of the Costs of Importing.

How can I improve my import export business? ›

How to improve export sales
  1. 1) Make exporting a part of your overall business strategy. ...
  2. 2) Carefully assess each of the markets you are considering entering into. ...
  3. 2) Start with easier markets. ...
  4. 3) Do your research. ...
  5. 4) Once you've done your desk research, visit the country. ...
  6. 5) Seek help. ...
  7. 6) Check your prices. ...
  8. 7) Timing.

What are some keys to successful exporting? ›

Ten key steps to successful exporting
  • Research your market. ...
  • Implement an export strategy and review your capabilities. ...
  • Construct an export plan. ...
  • Choose your sales presence. ...
  • Promote your product. ...
  • Get the Customs side right. ...
  • Get paid on time. ...
  • Choose your distribution methods.

What are the risks faced by importers? ›

If you are an importer, you may need to take into account:
  • possible loss of or damage to goods in transit.
  • supplier problems, including failure to supply.
  • transport delays and potential hold-ups at ports.
  • the risk of performance or health and safety problems.
  • import duties.
  • storage of goods in bonded warehouses.

Which is the riskiest payment method for the importer? ›

Cash in Advance

This is the least desirable method for importers because they have the risk of goods not being shipped, and it is also not favorable for business cash flow.

How do I get buyers for export? ›

  1. How to find buyers online.
  2. Trade fairs and exhibitions.
  3. Government bodies like Export Promotion Councils.
  4. Embassies.
  5. Third-Party Agencies.
  6. Market Research Companies.
Nov 17, 2021

How do I get clients for my import business? ›

6 Ways to Find Buyers:
  1. Test The Market With Retailers Such as Ebay, Amazon and Etsy.
  2. Google Search for “Wholesalers of {My Product} UK”
  3. Kompass Wholesale Business Directory.
  4. Contact National Embassy's.
  5. Contact Chambers of Commerce.
  6. Find and Research Facebook Groups.

Can I import without a broker? ›

There is no legal requirement for you to hire a Customs Broker to clear your goods. However, many importers opt to do so for the convenience. Customs Brokers are licensed by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to conduct CBP business on behalf of importers.

What are four main steps in establishing a successful export strategy? ›

Four Steps to Exporting Your Business
  1. Knowledge of your company and industry. ...
  2. Determine how your business model will translate. ...
  3. Identify target markets. ...
  4. Develop a business plan.
May 15, 2020

How do you develop an export strategy? ›

Steps to develop your export plan
  1. Identify the product or service to be exported and check its export potential,
  2. Conduct market research on the countries of interest,
  3. Decide on a pricing strategy for the product or service, and.
  4. Define a strategy to find buyers.

What are the three basic stages of exporting? ›

Four Primary Stages in The Export Process (Using L/C)
  • Sales Contract Process.
  • L/C Opening Process.
  • Cargo Shipment Process.
  • Shipping Document Negotiation Process.

What is KPI in export? ›

Successful companies use metrics or key performance indicators (KPIs) to measure aspects of their performance. Often times, these metrics or KPIs apply to sales, marketing or manufacturing. But they can—and should—be used in import and export compliance functions, too.

What are common mistakes made by new exporters? ›

A common mistake many novice exporters make is to include different products under one brand and think it all comes under the same customs category. But different countries have different systems, and although they may all look alike on the surface, as you get into the detail each one is quite different.

What is the highest risk for the exporter? ›

Below are common challenges faced by companies who choose to export their products and their respective solutions.
  1. Unclear Logistical Business Planning. ...
  2. Inexperience With Border Control And Distribution Laws. ...
  3. Understanding Legalities For Each Market. ...
  4. Financial Risk In Currency Exchange Rates.
Jun 29, 2020

What are the 3 most common barriers to international trade? ›

The major obstacles to international trade are natural barriers, tariff barriers, and nontariff barriers.

What is LC in shipping? ›

This is where a letter of credit or LC comes in handy. It is a guarantee issued by a bank for payment to the buyer while ensuring that the goods are shipped in good order. A letter of credit is a banking instrument that guarantees payment from the buyer to the seller.

What is DP and DA? ›

Both DA and DP are the terms of payment related to acceptance of shipping documents pertaining to each consignment from buyer's bank. Under a DA term of payment, importer accepts documents on the basis of an assurance to effect payment by accepting necessary bill of exchange.

What is the safest transaction? ›

1. Credit cards. The most familiar form of online payment is also one of the most secure payment methods. Credit card transactions are encrypted, which means the details are jumbled up and encoded.

How do I price my product for exports? ›

Export Pricing Strategy for your export business
  1. The manufacturing cost of the product.
  2. The demand for the product in the target market.
  3. The amount the buyers are willing to pay in their domestic currency.
  4. Your competitors' pricing.
  5. The importing country's tariffs.
  6. The supply chain involved in the trade.
Oct 27, 2021

Which product is in demand for export? ›

Petroleum Products

Petrol, diesel, gasoline, jet fuel, and LPG markets are very demanding in countries like the US, China, and the Netherlands. Because of the increasing demand, India's export of these products is also significantly increasing. India has a very lucrative exporting business with other countries.

How do I become a mini importer? ›

A Step-by-Step Guide To Starting A Mini Importation Business
  1. Step 1: Business Registration. ...
  2. Step 2: Find A Cheap And Reliable Ecommerce Website. ...
  3. Step 3: Select Your Products. ...
  4. Step 4: Payment. ...
  5. Step 5: Order Fulfillment. ...
  6. Step 6: Advertise Your Products.
Dec 15, 2021

Who pays import fees buyer or seller? ›

Either the seller or the buyer of a shipment must pay customs duties, fees or taxes. Generally, the party responsible for payment is prearranged in the shipper and receiver's terms of sale. (Check your terms of sale to learn whether you're responsible.) Terms will typically require the buyer to pay.

How do I get import orders? ›

Ways to get International export orders
  1. Use the Digital world– ...
  2. Improve communication skills – ...
  3. Take government embassy's help – ...
  4. Visit exhibitions and trade fairs – ...
  5. Arrange personal meetings – ...
  6. Use export promotion agency – ...
  7. Do marketing research and export marketing.
Nov 29, 2019

Can I import without license? ›

In most cases, you will not need a license to import goods into the United States. But, for certain goods being imported, some agencies may require a license, permit, or other certification.

Who is the largest customs broker in the US? ›

Deringer is the largest privately-held US Customs broker and one of the top five entry filers in the US—filing over a million entries annually.

How do I import goods without paying customs? ›

The true answer is that there is no way to avoid customs duties for any imported product from a foreign country.

What are the most made mistakes in international shipping? ›

Be sure to keep these common shipping mistakes in mind - you'll want to avoid them to protect your business.
  1. Mistiming Imports and Exports. ...
  2. Failure to Insure Goods. ...
  3. Opting for the Cheapest Freight Rates. ...
  4. Not Understanding Regulations. ...
  5. Incorrectly Packaged Goods. ...
  6. Not Using the Right Labels.
Nov 27, 2019

What are 5 ways that things could go wrong when exporting? ›

6 Risks Of Exporting Manufactured Goods — And How To Avoid Them
  • Unclear Logistical Business Planning. ...
  • Inexperience With Border Control And Distribution Laws. ...
  • Understanding Legalities For Each Market. ...
  • Financial Risk In Currency Exchange Rates. ...
  • Not Determining If Your Product Will Sell. ...
  • Not Having A Diverse Workforce.
Jun 29, 2020

What causes import error? ›

In Python, ImportError occurs when the Python program tries to import module which does not exist in the private table. This exception can be avoided using exception handling using try and except blocks.

What mistakes are first time exporters most likely to make? ›

10 common mistakes made by exporters
  • #1 Inadequate internal structure to export: the internal structure should be adapted to the process (people in charge, commitment, language skills, etc.)
  • #2 Lack of strategy: export requires defining a prior strategy before making decisions that may go against the company.
Aug 26, 2014

What is the greatest threat in shipping industry? ›

New environmental regulations and financing headwinds are some of the greatest challenges the industry will face in the coming years.

What are the most common mistakes made by new exporters? ›

A common mistake made by many first-time exporters is to find a distributor and think the job ends there. It can be tempting as a direct relationship with a distributor can get the sale process moving quickly but it could limit future market development.

What is the greatest barrier to exporting? ›

The most direct barrier to trade is an embargo– a blockade or political agreement that limits a foreign country's ability to export or import. Embargoes still exist, but they are difficult to enforce and are not common except in situations of war. The most common barrier to trade is a tariff–a tax on imports.

Which items are banned from exporting? ›

Prohibited Goods
  • Human skeleton.
  • Specified sea-shells.
  • Beef, tallow, fat/oil of animal origin.
  • Exotic birds except for a few specified ones.
  • Wild animals, their parts and products.
  • Specified Live birds and animals.

What are the common issues in exporting and importing? ›

Common Pitfalls With Importing and Exporting
  • Lack of Knowledge on Exchange Rates. ...
  • Lousy Relationship With Customs Officials. ...
  • Making a Bribe. ...
  • Being Clueless About Import Restrictions or Control on a Product. ...
  • Failure to Conform to Packaging, Marking, and Language (Localization) Laws.
Mar 11, 2019

What is import bias? ›

Import-biased growth is growth that expands a country's production possibilities dispro- portionately in that country's import sector. – Biased growth in cloth production in the foreign country is import-biased growth for the foreign country.

What is import validation? ›

Import Validation is an important feature, because it facilitates and speeds up importing data into PLM data bases by ensuring the import data is in compliance with Agile PLM server rules and can be imported. Invoking Validation does not import any data; it only checks it for compliance with server rules.

What are two 2 disadvantages of international trade? ›

Due to foreign competition and unrestricted imports, the upcoming industries in the country may collapse. (ii) Economic Dependence: ADVERTISEMENTS: The underdeveloped countries have to depend upon the developed ones for their economic development.

What are the top 10 trends in international trade? ›

Trade Data Monitor's Top 10 Trade Trends Going Into 2023
  • The Post-Covid Trade Bump is Over. ...
  • U.S. is Exporting More Gas to Europe. ...
  • Russia is Selling its Oil and Gas to China and India. ...
  • China is Losing Export Markets to Other Asian Countries. ...
  • China is Importing Fewer Commodities. ...
  • Nearshoring is Changing Trade Flows.
Jan 3, 2023

What are the 7 influential factors affecting foreign trade? ›

A country's balance of trade is defined by its net exports (exports minus imports) and is thus influenced by all the factors that affect international trade. These include factor endowments and productivity, trade policy, exchange rates, foreign currency reserves, inflation, and demand.


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