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How to Import Furniture from China

April 19, 2018
Laura Isaacs
It is wise to ship the furniture you import on pallets for easy unloading. Furniture is usually wrapped in plastic and then packed in cartons for shipping. Furniture you buy in China or abroad is usually shipped via sea freight.  Cargo shipped overseas is held in 20 by 40 feet containers. 
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Billions of dollars in furniture is imported into the United States each year. Many of today’s furniture imports come from China. Furniture imported from China is in growing demand for furniture dealers. Consumers appreciate the good quality and affordable price points of Chinese-made furniture. Learn how to import furniture to grow your business.

Furniture is heavy. It is wise to ship the furniture you import on pallets for easy unloading. Furniture is usually wrapped in plastic and then packed in cartons for shipping. Furniture you buy in China or abroad is usually shipped via sea freight.  Cargo shipped overseas is held in 20 by 40 feet containers. 

Why Import Furniture from China?

China is the world’s largest furniture exporter. Furniture from China is often handcrafted without nails or glue. This means Chinese furniture can last a lifetime and beyond. Many furniture sellers visit China to buy furniture at wholesale prices. China has an entire city dedicated to furniture manufacturers and wholesale. The city of Shunde located in the Guangdong Province is home to a furniture mall for wholesalers. Shunde is known as “Furniture City.”  Shunde is well connected to Hong Kong and this makes importing furniture from China easy. Other places to buy furniture in China include:

  • Canton Fair, held in April and October.
  • China International Furniture Fair, held every March and every other September.

If you cannot personally visit Shunde or another market, you can use a sourcing agent to buy furniture for you. A sourcing agent will reach out to a variety of suppliers and/or manufacturers. Then he or she will find the furniture you need, buy it, and make a commission on the sale.

What Types of Furniture Can I Import?

You can import furniture for every room in the home from Chinese and international sources. Common furniture imports can include:

  • Sofas and couches
  • Bedroom furniture
  • Dining room furniture
  • Wood furniture
  • Metal furniture
  • Upholstered furniture
  • Wicker furniture
  • Office furniture

Regardless of the kind of furniture you buy, you might need to consider the wholesaler’s minimum order quantity (MOQ). Some furniture manufacturers have a high MOQ; others have a low MOQ.

Can I Import Wood Furniture?

Some wood requires a permit for importYou need to follow a few special rules when importing wood furniture. These rules help deter illegal logging and protect the U.S. from invasive species of insects.

The USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) oversees the import of timber and wood products. The USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) requires all wood entering the country to be inspected. Imported wood must also undergo sanitization procedures. Wood sanitizing processes can prevent non-native pests from entering the country.

APHIS suggests heat or chemical treatment to sanitize wood. Heat treatment involves treating the wood in a kiln or energy dryer. Chemical treatment involves treating wood with a surface pesticide.

Is your furniture made from an endangered species of wood? If so, you’ll need to follow rules related to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). CITES rules require that:

  • You have a permit issued by the USDA.
  • You have a certificate that indicates the country where the wood was harvested and that no laws were broken during harvest.
  • The certificate was issued by a CITES representative.
  • The shipment of imported furniture must arrive at a U.S. port approved to handle CITES-listed species.

Wood furniture imported from China is also subject to anti-dumping duties. According to rules set in place by the Tariff Act of 1930, the U.S. government can place tariffs on goods sold at less than market value and “dumped” on U.S. markets. Furniture imported from China is often less expensive than U.S. manufactured furniture and that makes anti-dumping rules apply. Wood furniture imported from China is often subject to these extra duties. There are some exceptions, however. For example, wooden headboards and nightstands are subject to extra duties. Tables and mattresses are not.

How Do I Pay My Supplier?

Importing furniture from Chinese and international sources isn’t like buying from a domestic supplier. There are three basic payment options to consider:

  • Letter of credit: The buyer’s bank provides a document stating how much credit is available. This works like a conditional bank guarantee. Your bank will pay the supplier on your behalf when the obligations of the letter are met.
  • Open account: This is when the seller extends a line of credit until the goods are received.
  • Documentary collection: This works like a cash on delivery option where the seller’s bank work with the buyer’s bank to collect payment. Goods can be available before or after payment, depending on the method of documentary collection used.

The most common method of payment for furniture imported from China is the letter of credit. It’s also important to be aware of fluctuating currency exchanges when paying your supplier. Even if the price quote you are given is in U.S. dollars, the cost is likely based on the supplier’s currency.

After paying for your furniture, you will need to arrange shipping.

How is Furniture Shipped?

Furniture bought in China is usually shipped via sea freight

You will likely fit an entire home’s worth of furniture and then some in a 40-foot container. A full container load holds approximately 800 square feet or 2400 cubic feet. A 40-foot container payload capacity is 61,200 lbs.

If your furniture cargo is at least five pallets, a good option is to ship them through full cargo load (FCL). If your cargo is of a lesser volume, the most ideal option is through loose cargo load (LCL). This means your cargo will share container space will other cargoes. You can share cargo space with other dry wares.

Many international ocean carriers have a limited liability for cargo damage. This is usually $500 per container. Because your imported furniture is likely valued at more, you will likely want to have cargo insurance. Your insurance company can help you with this.

After your imported furniture arrives at a seaport, it might be shipped by rail to a location closer to you. From there it might be shipped on a truck.

Do I Need a Permit to Import Furniture?

Some wood furniture requires a permit for import. Other furniture does not require a permit. However, you will need to complete customs paperwork. You will be responsible for paying customs duties.  A Licensed Customs Broker can help you with the paperwork.

How Much Does it Cost to Import Furniture?

If you are importing furniture, you will need to pay customs duties. Customs duty varies by item, but are generally between zero and five percent for those importing furniture to the U.S. You Licensed Customs Broker can help you determine customs duty fees.

There are two other fees that might apply to furniture shipped by sea. You might need to pay the Harbor Maintenance Fee and the Merchandise Processing Fee. Your Licensed Customs Broker can help you navigate these waters.

What are Transit Times?

When you import furniture from China, you should think about the time it takes for the manufacturer or wholesaler to prepare your order and the transit time. Generally speaking, transit time between the U.S. and China takes 14 to 50 days, including customs clearance. This does not include delays due to weather and other unforeseen circumstances. With this in mind, you should estimate that your shipment of imported furniture will arrive in 2-3 months.

If you are shipping small amounts of furniture from China, you might use air freight. Air freight is more expensive but much faster. Working with Your Licensed Customs Broker can help you decide which option is best for you.

Ready to Get Started?

Are you still confused about how to import furniture? Make it easy on yourself and contact USA Customs Clearance today. Our Licensed Customs Brokers handle your furniture shipping needs.

Our value-added customs brokerage services work seamlessly to provide you with a stress-free customs bond importing process. Have questions? Click the chat box in the bottom right corner of your screen and we can answer your questions right now!

15 comments on “How to Import Furniture from China”

  1. Respected Sir,
    I want to export the Motel Furniture to USA from China. Most of Furniture is made of MDF with painting or Venier and also fabric Sofa , So please help me to let me know the new laws or certification and duty structure in USA for Chinese furniture
    We are China Base trading company
    Waiting for your reply

    Shreeram Barge

  2. Hello I want to import furniture from China to USA for our hotels.
    What is the price for the broker for the per containers?
    we based on Boston, MA.
    And we need a trailer service also for shipment from port to hotel location which is usually 1-1.5 hour drive from Boston harbor.
    Thank you.

  3. Hi,
    I like to import furniture from Bangladesh to US. For business or for retail sales purposes.
    Can you help me to figure out tax % rate ?

    Please refer me a custom broker agent or C & F agent ?

    1. Thanks for reaching out! We can help you figure out the duties and fees you'll be responsible for and we can even help you get the customs bond you'll need. One of our customs team will be in touch via email.

  4. I want to import office chairs and stool chairs from China and Jordan

    How much the custom and the tax for that?

    Is there any standards and metrology for the items ?

    1. Hi! Thanks for reaching out! There's a little more info we'll need to collect to be able to help you, so one of our customs experts is going to email you to get you all the answers to your questions.

  5. Hi,
    I want to buy a set of living room furniture from China, they are ready to ship it to my nearest port. I will be responsible for the clearing and custom duties. What do I required to get the items cleared and transported to my place here in MN?
    Thanks,
    Kenny

    1. Hi Kehinde, thank you for your inquiry. It sounds like you are buying the furniture for your personal use. We are a licensed customs broker, however; we are not set up to handle the customs clearance for personal goods. We can help you with understanding what is needed for US Customs, the clearance process and the duties to be paid. There may also be special import permits needed for the type of wood the furniture is made of. Our fee to help you with understanding these requirements is $99. Its an easy process to sign up. Back on this same page, click on the consulting service feature, complete the form and payment option and we'll start the service right away. Please let me know if you have any questions. Thank you

    2. Hi Kehinde, thank you for your inquiry. It sounds like you are buying the furniture for your personal use. We are a licensed customs broker, however; we are not set up to handle the customs clearance for personal goods. We can help you with understanding what is needed for US Customs, the clearance process and the duties to be paid. There may also be special import permits needed for the type of wood the furniture is made of. Our fee to help you with understanding these requirements is $99. Its an easy process to sign up. Back on this same page, click on the consulting service feature, complete the form and payment option and we'll start the service right away. Hoping we can help you. Please let us know if you have any questions. Thank you Linda

  6. Hello, we are starting a project to import furniture from Brazil. Mostly sofas, tables, chairs etc. We are looking for a trustworthy customs agent to help us understand the requirements and permits.

    1. Hello Dan, thank you for contacting us with your email inquiry about importing furniture from Brazil. We are a licensed US customs broker and can help you to understand what is required for importing the furniture, we can clear your shipment with US Customs and we can arranging for your shipping from Brazil also. Please email us at customsbrokerage@rlglobal.com with your contact information so we can coordinate further discussion with you. Thank you. Linda Dick

  7. Hello, we are starting a project to import furniture from Turkey. Mostly sofas, tables, chairs etc.
    We are one of the largest and oldest firms manufacturing furniture in Turkey. We have carried on export business for many years. Our products are to be found in most parts of the world and have always found a ready sale.
    Our Factory has just been re-equipped and so we are able to fulfill even quite substantial orders promptly in spite of existing heavy demands.
    As a company, we need to reach importers in USA.

    Best Regards

    Cevdet Unalan

    1. Hello, we can provide you guidance for imports to the USA but unfortunately we are not savy with imports into Russia. You might want to conduct an internet search to help.

  8. I ordered bed furniture from China for personal use. They said it is at the port of Chicago and that I need a customs broker to receive my package. I'm a little confused on what to do next.

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