Foreign Importer of Record: What You Need to Know

A digital image collage of a tablet screen, semi truck, a customs broker operating a laptop, a cargo vessel, and a certificate with a gold seal titled "Foreign Importer of Record".
Becoming a foreign importer of record may simplify your business practices, but the application process can be confusing. We explain this process and outline what steps you need to take.
September 2, 2020
Last Modified: July 1, 2024
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Bringing shipments into the U.S. as a foreign importer of record (IOR) is necessary for some companies. In many cases, this method is used to make it easier for buyers in the U.S. to purchase your products. But how exactly does a business register and act as a foreign importer of record?

Key Takeaways

  • To act as a foreign importer of record in the U.S., businesses need a Customs Assigned Importer Number (CAIN) and a customs bond. 
  • Entities that can serve as the Importer of Record (IOR) include companies based in the U.S., licensed customs brokers, and foreign companies with a CAIN.
  • To become a non-resident importer, foreign companies must complete CBP Form 5106 and provide copies of their articles of incorporation, along with ID from two company officers responsible for importing goods.

To learn more about becoming a foreign importer of record in the U.S., read through our detailed guide below.

Who Can Act As Importer Of Record?

To fulfill the role of IOR, individuals or businesses must fulfill at least one of the following criteria. 

  • Be a U.S.-based company with a tax ID Number
  • Have U.S. citizenship and a social security number (SSN)
  • Possess a U.S. customs broker license 
  • Be a foreign company with a CAIN

The duties and responsibilities for an importer of record are the same regardless of individual, company, or origin. 

The IOR must ensure their imports are compliant with CBP and other government agency regulations. Additionally, the IOR is responsible for paying all import duties and fees. Consignees typically reimburse third-party IORs toward the end of an import transaction for these costs.  

Becoming a Non-Resident Importer of Record in the U.S.

To become a non-resident importer/foreign importer of record in the USA, you’ll need to do the following. 

  1. Provide copy of your company’s Articles of Incorporation
  2. Submit identification from two company officers authorized to oversee importing goods 
  3. Complete CBP Form 5106

These documents will need to be submitted to CBP for approval.

If you’re working with a customs broker to complete the application and submission process, you’ll also need the following:

  1. A completed customs power of attorney (POA)
  2. A document confirming the authority of the authorized representatives of your company.

CBP usually processes and approves new importer of record submissions in two business days. 

It’s important to note that just because you have the option to be an importer of record doesn’t mean you always will be. The specific Incoterms® of the shipment will determine which party will fulfill this role. To learn more, check out our article What Are Incoterms?

Become a Foreign Importer of Record
Official Importer of Record Registration with CBP
Available 1-on-1 support from our Customs Experts in completing required paperwork
Completed documents are filed directly to CBP by our Licensed Customs Brokers
*Registration is complete within 24 hours after all necessary forms are complete.
Importer of Record Registration

Working With A Customs Broker

A customs broker can help you get established as a foreign importer of record. 

For instance, they can work with you to secure a customs bond, which is a requirement to begin the process of being able to start importing goods. A broker can also help you apply for your CAIN, simplifying the process and helping you avoid mistakes that can delay approval from CBP. 

Lastly, brokers can assist you with the customs clearance process itself. From ISF filings to duty calculations and submission of required documents, customs brokers are experts at making sure shipments pass muster with CBP.

Related: How to Get a Customs Bond: A Guide for New Importers

Import Goods Into the U.S. With USA Customs Clearance

Foreign entities who can act as their own IOR have an advantage in international business, but partnering with a licensed U.S. customs broker is still a good idea in order to ensure shipments are compliant with any applicable regulations. That’s where we come in. 

USA Customs Clearance can provide you with all the tools and resources you need to elevate your global business. 

Trust us for all your customs clearance needs, including:

Ready to learn more? Call our customs experts today at (855) 912-0406 or contact us online and find out how we can help you.

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