If you’re seeking to import goods into the United States, you might be asking yourself if you need an import license.
The U.S. is one of the few countries in the world that does not require an import license. Other countries are not so import friendly. You will likely find that other countries have stricter import licensing procedures. Even though there are no import license rules in the U.S., you’ll find a few regulations to be aware of when importing goods.
In most cases, companies or individuals do not need a license to import goods. However, there are some specific situations where a license is required. Many government agencies have specific commodity restrictions. Also, there are a myriad of compliance requirements for importers to follow. Your Licensed Customs Broker can help guide you through the process and make sure you are in compliance.
Things you need to be aware of when importing and exporting goods include:
- U.S. import laws and regulations.
- “Informed compliance” requirements of the U.S.
- Specific goods that need permits, licenses, or other certification.
- Other business factors for importers.
The World Trade Organization’s Committee on Import Licensing says that import rules should be easy to follow, clear and predictable. Import rules are in place to make trade easy. WTO members are required to follow trade rules and guidelines. These rules protect the global market and keep importers safe.
Who Handles Import Regulations?
In the U.S., you will find that U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) regulates most import rules and laws. CBP was created in 2003 to keep borders safe. CBP protects the U.S. from potential threats such as:
- High risk cargo.
- Unsafe imports.
CBP handles things like customs, immigration, border security, and agricultural protection. CBP also works with other government agencies in an administrative berth. CBP is often involved with the import process from start to finish.
What is Informed Compliance?
You’ll need to follow the rules of informed compliance when bringing goods into the U.S. Simply put, informed compliance is the shared duty between importers and CBP. It is the duty of CBP to express its rules to importers. On the other hand, it is the importer's duty to “exercise reasonable care” to meet the CBP rules and regulations.
What Commodities Need Licenses?
CBP, as well as Other Government Agencies (OGA), may regulate the entry of some goods into the U.S. In these cases, you might need an import permit or a kind of import license. Some of the types of goods that require permits and OGAs that regulate them are as follows:
- Agencies: The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).
- Examples: Cheese generally requires an import license and are subject to quotas. Fruits and vegetables must be inspected and certified. Imported plants and plant products require a phytosanitary permit.
Arms & Ammunition
- Agency: Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (TTB).
- Examples: Imported firearms must have a license issued and are subject to an excise tax. Imported alcohol also requires a license and is subject to excise tax.
- Agencies: The Department of Energy (DOE) and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).
- Examples: Air conditioners and furnaces must have energy efficiency labels.
- Agency: The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC).
- Examples: Toys for children under age 3 cannot have choking hazards. Additionally, the CPSC limits the use of some materials in children’s toys, including phthalates and other prohibited materials.
- Agencies: CBP and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).
- Examples: Gold articles with a gold content ½ carat below indicated fineness are prohibited.
You’ll also find that there are a few government agency restrictions that are not commodity specific. For example:
- The Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) administers regulations that impose sanctions.
- The International Trade Commission (ITC) restricts imports where unfair methods of competition took place.
What Other Factors Should Importers Consider?
Importers have a few other things to think about when bringing goods into the U.S. Some of these items are:
- Tax and Duty. Some imported goods and services are subject to taxes. The primary forms of taxes on imports are:
- Duties based on the type, value, and country of origin of the goods you are importing.
- Fees for merchandise processing and harbor maintenance.
- Excise taxes for certain levied goods.
- Entry Documents. Specific documents are required when importing into the U.S. Documents required for entry include:
- Entry Manifest (CBP Form 7533).
- Proof of right to make entry.
- Commercial invoice.
- Packing lists.
- Other needed documents to determine if the goods can be admitted to the U.S., like a Certificate of Origin.
- Importer Security Filing (ISF) for shipments arriving by ocean vessel.
Who Can Assist with Import Licensing and Other Requirements?
Your Licensed Customs Broker can help you navigate the laws and regulations of importing foods into the U.S. Your Licensed Customs Broker can provide you with a suite of helpful services. Things Your Licensed Customs Broker can do for you include:
- Prepare and reviewing import documents.
- Ease communication between the importer and the U.S. government.
- Provide you with expertise in entry procedures and government agency requirements.
- Get your imports ready for release.
- Work with CBP agents to make sure that all government fees, duties and taxes are paid on time and as needed.
- Help you obtain any needed permits and import licenses.
- Aid you in figuring out if you’re eligible for tax or duty deferment.
- Advise you through the entire import process, from start to finish.
Your Licensed Customs Broker will put their expertise and know-how on your side to make the import process easy and headache-free. We have the importing tools for beginners you need. You can learn more about working with a Licensed Customs Broker from AFC International.
You may also contact the local U.S. port of entry to get import process information.
Ready to start importing? Get the help you need by clicking the chat window in the bottom right corner. A customs specialist can help you start the import process today!