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Do You Need an Import License to Import Into the United States?

April 14, 2020
USA Customs Clearance
While an import license isn't required in the U.S., a customs bond is needed when importing commercial goods. Buy your customs bond from USA Customs Clearance today.
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If you’re seeking to import goods into the United States, you might be asking yourself if you need an import license.

Go ahead and buy a customs bond today and get your freight on the way around the globe.

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.

With that being said, having a customs bond when importing commercial goods is required. A customs bond is required by CBP and acts as a guarantee to ensure that customs duties and fees are paid. We offer continuous customs bonds, for just $245. This will allow you to safely import your products into the U.S. for 12 months.

For more information on import licensing in the U.S., explore our complete guide below.

How Much Does an Import License Cost?

As noted above, in many cases, you won’t be required to hold any type of license to import goods into the U.S. Many people mistakenly think of a customs bond as an import license. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as a customs bond is usually needed when importing goods. If the value of a commercial import exceeds $2,500, a customs bond is required. A customs bond ensures that all associated duties, taxes, and fees associated with your shipment are paid for. 

In addition to the cost of a custom bond, if the commodities you’re importing are regulated by partner government agencies (PGA), you may need a special license. In most cases, these licenses/permits are free. You simply need to complete the associated agency form and follow the necessary instructions. For example, if you’re importing alcohol that’s regulated by the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB), you need to complete form TTB F 5100.24

Each PGA will have their own required forms and instructions. If you’re unsure if your goods require a permit or license from a PGA, it’s best to speak with a licensed customs broker. USA Customs Clearance has licensed customs brokers available to answer all of your questions and help you successfully import your goods. 

Work with a specialist to make importing  and exporting to the USA a hassle-free process. Get the details you need with our import consulting services.

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.
  • Contraband.
  • 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. Whether you're importing face masks or any other type of product, you'll need to comply with all relevant regulations.

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:

Go ahead and buy a customs bond today and get your freight on the way around the globe.

Buy My Customs Bond

Agricultural Commodities

  • 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.

Commercial Equipment

  • Agencies: The Department of Energy  (DOE) and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).
  • Examples: Air conditioners and furnaces must have energy efficiency labels.

Consumer Products

  • 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.

During either a 30-minute or 1-hour consultation session you can cover a lot of ground with one of our customs experts. Which one works for you?

Schedule a Consulting Session

Precious Metals

Precious metals are regulated by the CBP
  • 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.

Go ahead and buy a customs bond today and get your freight on the way around the globe.

Buy My Customs Bond

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? Give us a call at (855)912-0406. Our team of customs experts and Licensed Customs Brokers are ready to help you.

91 comments on “Do You Need an Import License to Import Into the United States?”

  1. Hi,

    I am starting a small business and I am buying fresh herbs, fruits, and natural products ( such as black seed oil to name a few). What licenses are required? At the moment the total value is less than $2500, but may increase in the future.


    1. Hi Ben,

      Your products will be regulated by the FDA at the very minimum. You'll need a customs bond and will need to show that your products are FDA approved. Our Licensed Customs Brokers can properly classify your products to give you the specific HTS code that should be used. This will provide you with additinal regulations, duties, and more.

      To schedule a consulting sessions with one of our Licensed Customs Brokers, visit We look forward to helping you.

    1. Hi Gio,

      We responded privately with the information that you requested. We look forward to assisting you further.

  2. Hi,
    I am Indian Resident who has a company registered in Delaware and we plan to import Apparel into USA Most of the times the shipments are shipped directly to the end users but at times they also get shipped to our Warehouse for subsequent distribution to customers domestically in the USA. Do I need a Import Licence ?
    Your help will be greatly appreciated.
    Suresh R

  3. Hi, I would like to import tractors and farm equipment from the European Union to the US. Do I need a customs bond or a license?

    1. Hi Christian,

      If the value of the equipment you're importing is over $2,500 and is for commercial purposes, you'll need a customs bond. Additionally, if your equipment is regulated by a government agency like the EPA, you'll need a customs bond and an import license.

      Our Licensed Customs Brokers can assist you all of this. You can schedule a consulting session with them at We look forward to assisting you.

  4. HELLO

    1. Hi Ash,

      If your bikes are being imported for commercial purposes, you'll need a customs bond to cover the shipment. You can purchase a continuous customs bond from us at Additionally, there are other required documents and processes included in the importing process. We've sent you a private message with additional information. We look forward to helping you!

  5. Hello I want to import Artisian Cigars from central america. I know I need Tabacco permit import but And how much does it cost? And can you help me with that and what state do you offer services?. Thank you

    1. Hello Ada,

      We would be more than happy to help you gather everything you need and assist you with the import process. A tobacco import license from the TTB is actually free. We have Customs Brokers that are licensed in all 50 states that can help you complete the application, import your cigars, and arrange for transportation services as well.

      You can connect with one of our Licensed Brokers by giving us a call at (855)912-0406 or scheduling a consulting session at We look forward to working with you!

  6. Good day,Iam a Tanzanian with a US PR,i would like to import some smoked small fish and medium fish for business ,is there any needed of any permit or any import licence to import them into U.S. from interested to import this food, please email me

  7. Hi there, what do I need if I want to import wheat and corn in major quantities from Mexico. Who should I get in touch with? Do I need a license?

  8. Hi there,
    I would like to import the wallet and belt by leather for business purpose. Could you please help us on clarify the required documents/ certificate or any license to import?
    And how about the custom procedures to import?
    Hope to receive your response soonest. Many thanks.

  9. What are the requirements/regulations to import beauty cosmetics from India to the U.S? What about importing beauty accessories or clothing from china to US ? Please advise.

  10. Hello there!

    I just got an idea of doing an import business. I'm thinking of importing house-hold furnitures from India to USA (California). Any advice would be of great help. Look forward to hearing from you! Thank you!

    1. Hello, we would be happy to help and guide you with these requirements. Please email us your contact information at and provide us with the types of infant wear and whether it is woven or knit and the fiber content by percentage.

  11. I intend to import fish reptiles birds amphibians mammals aquariums aquatic plants invertebrates and dry goods from multiple different countries.Would I need a lisence to import any of these items to USA

  12. Hi. I wanted to Import wigs from Indonesia. Can you offer any tips? Do I need any import license? I’m pretty sure I don’t but I’m not sure.

  13. Other than a customs bond, do I require any sought of license or permit to import flour and grain from Canada, Mexico and East Africa.

  14. Hi, I’m planning on ordering rolls fabric from China and South Korea. They are shipping straight to my address (I’m not picking up from any ports) and I am paying the fee directly to the company. Do I need to do anything at all? Or do I still need to fill out customs forms?

  15. I am starting an ewaste recycling facility. I will be importing PCB (printed circuit boards) boards, cpu processors and various other computer components as well as catalytic converters and copper wire scrap by the ton. What licenses, if any are needed? Thanks, chris

    1. Hi Chris, an import license is not required but you will need to formally import these items through US Customs. This formal import is typically handled by a US customs broker but depending on the value of the items being shipped, you might have the option to personally clear the shipment yourself. If you would like more information, please email us at

  16. Hello,

    I am planning to import ecofriendly disposable trays for restaurant use and tortilla / chapati press commercial grade machine from India. Do I need import license?


  17. Hi, I am purchasing a single fur (fox fur) headband from Canada for $250 CAD. Will there be any import taxes or fees required when it arrives? This is for personal use only. I am having such difficultly finding straight information about this and am hesitant to even consider other purchases.

  18. Hello
    I am interested in knowing what are the laws for Importing clothes from India to sell locally in US. It's going to be very small home base business with license to sell. Please advise.

  19. I would like to import from Canada. Probably a one time order of Custom hunting bullets that I plan on reloading here at my home in the USA, for my own personal use. How can I pull this off?

  20. Hello I'm awaiting my importation license to import cigars. Is it a conflict of interest to have both a importation license and a brokers license? It has been 5 mos.and I'm being asked who is the broker to conclude my application process along with a back ground investigation.

    1. Hi Vondre, thanks for reaching out with your question! One of our import experts will follow up with you at the email address you provided. Thanks for stopping by!

  21. Hello
    Im planning on importing Coconut Palm sugar from Indonesia. I dont have any commerical license. Can you advise what regs and rules I need to consider and do i need a business or commercial entity license. Additionally how can you guys help.

    1. Hello, OK please note all imports in the US are regulated by US Customs. Sugar will also be regulated by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Have you imported items in the US before? The first step is purchasing a Customs Bond-an insurance bond required by the government for imports.

  22. Hello, can you give me an example of how much tax/custom duty I need to pay for a painting worth $1K? It’s for business, and are you a license custom broker?

    1. Hi! Thanks for reaching out! We are customs brokers, so you're in the right place. One of our customs experts is going to email you to get you the answers to your questions.

  23. I am looking at the possibility of importing olive wood cutting boards and utensils from Argentina. Are there any type of special permits or paper work that i need to know about?

  24. I'm trying to get my order out of custom the shipping company said I need to have a importation licence

  25. Hi , I am trying to import electronics into the Us through Mexico. They are telling me that I need an import permit. I was under the impression that this was not needed in the us but the customs official say this is needed. Do you know how I can get one?

    Thanks. Rk

  26. Hi. I need to get an import license to import electronics wholesale value $2000. How do I get one. I was under the assumption that I did not need one because less than 2500. Can you assist. Thanks

  27. Hi dear,
    I want import kitchen wares or home goods from China to California,do I need the license?what is your recommendation? Thank you

    1. We offer consulting services where we are able to help with all the info you’ll need including the paperwork and document requirements, clearance customs and any duties and fees you may be responsible for. We can also help you understand the new tariffs and duties that you may be responsible for and can file your paperwork with Customs and Border Protection. We will email you the details so we can get started.

    1. Thank you for reaching out with your question. If you are importing these handicrafts for business purposes, you will need a customs bond. In addition, the Animal Health and Plant Health Inspection Service requires a permit for wooden handicrafts coming out of China into the US. The USDA is a good source of information about Lacey Act compliance.

  28. hey, i want to import some custom PC cable parts for making some custom cables for a pc build. is there any taxes i need to pay? How to do it?

    1. Importing PC parts for personal use won't require a Customs Bond but if it's for business purposes or resale you will need to file paperwork with Customs and Boder Prtoection as well as securing a Customs Bond. We can help you file your bond, just click on the "chat now" box in the bottom right corner of the page and one of our import specialists will help you.

  29. Hi there!
    I’m importing makeup products ( lipstick only ) to US from Singapore. What are the requirements we need to comply to be registered/eligible to sell online in US?
    Can you please send me an email and let me know what documents we need to prepare?

  30. Hi there!
    I'm importing makeup products to US from Singapore. What are the requirements we need to comply to be registered/eligible to sell online in US?
    Can you please send me an email and let me know what documents we need to prepare?

  31. Im importing diapers in Nevada for Hospital use. what are the requirements we need to comply to be registered/ eligible and certified to import Adult use diapers?

  32. Hello, my interest in importing precious metal (gold, silver, diamonds) from non sanctioned countries do I need license, permit, certificate to import to USA. I’m a citizen of USA and any import will be stamped or certified from country of origin. If any what is need to enter the country.

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Work with a specialist to make importing  and exporting to the USA a hassle-free process. Get the details you need with our import consulting services.
Go ahead and buy a customs bond today and get your freight on the way around the globe.