Do I need a license to import into the United States?
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 USA.gov.
There is a listing of other government agencies in the appendix section of the publication Importing Into the United States. 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.
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. ) This publication contains more in-depth information and is valuable reading for anyone seriously venturing into the importing business. You may also contact American Customs Association www.AmericanCustoms.org
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 certain resident importers and exporters may file entries on their own behalf, many first time importers and exporters consult a licensed customs broker.
Importer Security Filing (ISF/”10+2”) mandatory
What is an Importer Security Filing? Under the new rule, before merchandise arriving by vessel can be imported into the United States, the “Importer Security Filing (ISF) Importer,” or their agent (e.g., licensed customs broker), must electronically submit certain advance cargo information to CBP in the form of an Importer Security Filing. This requirement is now mandadory. Remember, even when using a broker, , the importer of record, is ultimately responsible for the correctness of the entry documentation presented to CBP and all applicable duties, taxes and fees.
Where can I Find More Information? For more detailed information about the Importer Security Filing requirements, please see CBP’s webpage on Importer Security Filing . You will find a link to Frequently Asked Questions and recordings of recently conducted ISF webinars for small to mediums entities (ISF Outreach). ( FAQs: Importer Security Filing "10+2" Program (doc - 657 KB.) ) ( CBP ISF/"10+2" 2010 Outreach Schedule ) Additional assistance may be available from your licensed customs broker, freight forwarders, trade associations and local trade centers.
You should research general quota information and quota requirements for certain commodities prior to importing into the United States.
You may receive a bill if your shipment is examined by CBP.