Importing goods into the United States is not difficult, but it really helps to know a little bit about what you are doing. After all, mistakes can be time consuming and costly to any business. Here are a few things every Importer must know before they start this type of venture:
1. KNOW YOUR PRODUCT, but not in the way you think. It is not about your market share or expected revenue. For import procedures, the details of your product dictate the amount of duty you will be paying when your goods are entered into the country. Ask your manufacturer to provide you with material information for items such as garments or shoes. If you are importing tea or coffee, you need to know the type, such as green or black tea. The easiest way to get this information is to ask your manufacturer for a detailed packing list and commercial invoice at the time of purchase. It is not wise to wait for the goods to be ready to ship before getting this information.
2. FIND A CUSTOMS BROKER, sooner rather than later. Before your shipment leaves the origin port, an Importer Security Filing (ISF) must be filed with Customs, or a fine as much as $5,000 can be assessed to your shipment up to a year after import is complete. You will need to sign some paperwork for the broker before the ISF can be filed, and this can take up to 48 hours, depending on the season. You also need to confirm that you are able to be the importer and all bonds are in place. Further, a Customs Broker can give you some advice regarding your product, such as if other government agencies (OGA) need clearing, as well. They can also tell you the expected duty percentage of the products you intend to import.
3. SHOP AROUND, but the cheapest is not always the best deal. There are hundreds of customs brokers, and thousands of freight forwarders. All strive to compete fiercely with one another. This gives the importer the best options when it comes to clearing their products and getting them delivered. You may know very little when it comes to the process of importing, but you know what your company requires, and you can ask pointed questions based on the information you have about your company and your product.
4. ASK QUESTIONS, as many as it takes. Just like you wouldn't order something in a restaurant you are not willing to eat, you should not accept whatever the broker tells you as gospel. Ask about your product, ask if they have ever had issues clearing, ask how many of their clients have had examinations due to the shipment not being filed timely. Most brokers will jump on a new import as soon as they have all of the information they need, but they may not ask you to provide this information. You will need to make sure that the information is provided timely, and your broker should be willing to be a partner with you to make sure this is done quickly.
5. C-TPAT PROGRAM. As the Importer, you may be able to apply for the C-TPAT program through Customs and Border Protection. This is akin to having GOES for international travel. Here is the link to find out about the program: C-TPAT
6. NEVER ASSUME, as there are many ways we can help. You do not have to be a US Based company to import into the US. We can set you up as a foreign importer. You do not have to be a large company to import into the US. You do not need to purchase an entire container's worth of goods to import into the US. We can help with any size/type of shipment you have, just let us know what we are dealing with so we can provide the best service possible.
7. TAKE RESPONSIBILITY, because it ultimately falls with you. As the Importer of Record, it is your responsibility that duties are paid timely, that your continuous bond is kept up to date, and that you know exactly how much product is being shipped. Customs and Border Protection will hold you responsible if anything goes amiss, so make sure you know everything you can about your shipment. A good relationship with your Customs Broker can help to make sure that you never have any issues with your shipments. We strive to make sure our clients are taken care of and work to make sure that any issues that do arise are resolved quickly and amicably.
Keep these things in mind as you move forward in your endeavor to be an importer. Customs Brokers are here to help you with anything you need for your shipment, and we are typically the sort that love to give unsolicited advice. Should you have an upcoming shipment, feel free to contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We are happy to help!
Originally published on July 22, 2017 by Kim Daniels