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How to Import Shoes to the U.S.

How to Import Shoes to the U.S.
Shoes are an essential item for U.S. consumers. Beyond the essential need, they're also in high demand for luxury and athletic purposes as well. A lot of money can be made importing shoes to the U.S. but there are important details you first need to know.
USA Customs Clearance
July 30, 2021
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Last Modified: November 7, 2022

Importing shoes can be a reliable and lucrative way to make money. Fast fashion is a booming industry and the demand for shoes will never go away. However, getting started with your own importing business is far from straightforward. There’s a lot of paperwork and regulations that you’ll need to know about. If you want to learn how to import shoes to the U.S., a Licensed Customs Broker can help lead you down the right path and make sure you don’t make any mistakes along the way. 

To import shoes to the U.S., you will need to abide by the regulations set by Customs and Border Protection. That includes filing the necessary import paperwork, submitting a complete Interim Footwear Notice (IFI), and getting a customs bond to secure your shipment. Depending on where you’re importing from, you may face additional challenges and regulations.

Our comprehensive guide below provides you with everything you need to know to import shoes into the U.S. 

Rules and Requirements

When you’re importing anything into the U.S., you need to follow the rules and regulations set in place by the Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Agency. The CBP dictates that all foreign imports coming to the U.S. must be accompanied by several documents to help identify the product, the shipper, and other important information in regard to the shipment. These documents are:

  • A commercial invoice: This document contains transaction details for your import, including the price you paid, a description of the product, the country of origin, and more.
  • A packing list: This document lists the products in the shipment, including size, quantity, and other details. 
  • A Bill of Lading (BOL): This document lists the goods in the shipment like a receipt. 
  • An Arrival Notice: This document is sent out from the carrier to the consignee, and it contains information about when and where the shipment will be arriving at the U.S. border. 
  • A Customs Bond: This is a binding contract between the importer, the CBP, and a third-party surety company that ensures all duties and fees will be paid in full and in a timely manner. It is required for all commercial imports valued at $2500 or more.

Shoe imports require a customs bond

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If you’re importing shoes specifically, then you are also going to need to abide by some additional regulations. There is a huge variety of shoes on the market today, so when you’re importing a specific kind of shoe, additional information has to be provided to CBP to ensure they have all the relevant details regarding your shipment. These requirements include:

  • A fabric detail sheet: This document clearly states the percentage of different fibers in the fabric of the shoe, such as cotton and polyester, as well as how the fibers are weaved together. 
  • A Country of Origin Statement: This is not a document, but rather a statement that must be permanently attached to the product being imported that clearly details where the product originated. This must be clear, and easy to read and understand. Simply printing something like “made in China” or “manufactured in Taiwan” on the bottom of the shoe will suffice. 
  • An Original CITES Permit, if Applicable: If the product you are importing is constructed, either in whole or in part, of materials from protected plant and animal species, then you will need to apply for a CITES permit. You can only import that product after your permit has been approved and certified by the CITES Management Authority. 
  • An Interim Footwear Invoice (IFI): This document (also known as a Footwear Declaration) provides very specific information about the type of shoe you intend to import, such as what it is made of, the demographic it is intended for, the way it’s constructed, and more. The specifics of filling out this document will be detailed in the section below. 

CBP Footwear Declaration

CBP Footwear Declaration

If you’ve never imported shoes to the U.S. before, then you might be a little confused by the IFI.

The IFI is a Footwear Declaration Form that details the specifics of the shoes being imported. CBP requires that this document be provided to ensure your shipment meets all customs requirements for importing shoes. Although the form can feel overly specific and complicated to fill out, it contains all the information that CBP uses to classify your shipment in one place. 

In order to fill in the IFI properly, you will need to know:

  • The style name
  • The style number
  • The materials the shoe is composed of
  • The shoe’s intended purpose, whether that be hiking, skating, sports, or anything else
  • Whether the shoe is meant for men, women, adults, or children
  • Whether the shoe has a metal toe cap or not
  • The height of the upper (how high up the leg the shoe covers)
  • Details about the construction of the shoe, including all materials, treatments, and accessories
  • Details about the techniques used to construct the shoe
  • The factory that constructed the shoe
  • And many more specific details

Once you have filled in all the information, you will need to sign and date the bottom of the form before sending it to CBP. Each different type of shoe being imported must be accompanied by its own separate IFI. 

The form itself can be a bit confusing and extremely particular. If there is a question that you are unsure of, be sure to reach out to the manufacturer to get the correct information. It is never a good idea to simply guess when it comes to filling out customs paperwork. 

Imported shoes are heavily monitored by CBP

Get expert help to avoid potential issues
Copyright and Trademark Considerations

When you’re sourcing a product to import, you need to be very cautious about how you select your product. If your import violates U.S. Copyright or Trademark laws, then Customs could seize the shipment—leaving you financially liable for the destruction or re-exportation of the infringing products.

6% of all counterfeit commodities seized fall into the category of footwear. Unfortunately, there are many suppliers in China and around the world who are perfectly willing to sell you shoes that infringe on another person or company’s intellectual property rights. Even if a foreign supplier has no ill intent, they might not be entirely familiar with U.S. Copyright and Trademark infringement laws. Either way, you, the importer, are the one who would be legally responsible for the violation. 

If you find a product listed for sale much cheaper than the market price, then you should be skeptical of it. Likewise, if a product is marketed as being a “genuine” name-brand item, but the seller is not a verified supplier for that company, then you can guarantee they’re selling counterfeit or grey market goods.

Always do your research on a supplier before committing to a big order. The last thing you want is to get tied up with intellectual property violations.

Import Duties

When a product is imported into the U.S., it must be classified using the Harmonized Tariff Schedule (HTS). Every product can be classified using a 10-digit code that can be found on the HTS search directory. This code is what is used to calculate the amount of import duty that is owed for a given shipment. 

Shoes and other footwear are incredibly diverse. They can be made of canvas, leather, plastic, and many other materials, and they have a wide range of styles of purposes. Because of this, it’s not always easy to determine which HTS code applies to your specific import. 

Footwear is in chapter 64 of the HTS, but the rest of the code is going to depend on several different factors. For example, waterproof ski boots would be classified as 6401.92.30.00, whereas tennis shoes valued at more than $12 a pair would be 6402.91.90.05. House slippers are classified as 6404.19.39.15.

Just like when you were filling out the IFI, the details matter. Make sure that you pick the most specific choice when classifying your import, since the code can be different if the shoes are for men or women, if they are cheap or expensive, or even if they are intended for work or personal use. If you need help with this, it is important to reach out to an import-export professional like a Customs Broker to ensure you don’t make a mistake. 

Imported shoes are heavily monitored by CBP

Get expert help to avoid potential issues

If you are importing shoes from a country with which the U.S. has a free trade agreement, then your shipment likely qualifies for duty-free import. However, you will still need to make sure you use the correct HTS code to classify your shipment regardless. 

Importing Shoes From China

Importing Shoes From China

In general, the process for importing shoes from any country is going to be fairly similar to importing shoes from any other country. Whether you import from China or Guatemala, you will still need to abide by the same U.S. rules and regulations. With that said, some countries are treated with more scrutiny than others, and that is, unfortunately, the case with China. 

China is a huge trading hub for retailers around the world and one of the main suppliers of many different products for the U.S. For many years, businesses wouldn’t even think about sourcing their products from anywhere else—but the relationship between China and the U.S. has been changing. Now, due to a series of unfair trade practices that China was revealed to be involved in, importers looking to import footwear from China have to deal with a new obstacle: Section 301 tariffs

Section 301 tariffs are additional tariffs on imported goods coming from China, and some are as high as 25%. Previously, these higher tariffs applied to all products, including shoes. However, as negotiations between the two nations unfolded, many items were excluded from the list of taxed goods. A customs broker can help you understand which products have been excluded and which ones are still subject to higher taxes. 

Importing from China can still be an incredibly lucrative endeavor, and this extra hurdle should not necessarily scare you away from importing from China altogether. Working with a Customs Broker can ensure that you understand all of the new regulations, so you can still take advantage of all the great benefits of importing from China

Imported shoes are heavily monitored by CBP

Get expert help to avoid potential issues

Importing Shoes From Mexico to the U.S.

Importing Shoes From Mexico to the U.S.

Imports from Mexico to the U.S. have been on the rise since the signing of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), which was later revised into the United States Mexico Canada Agreement (USMCA).

The USMCA allows importers to import goods from Mexico with free or reduced duty rates, as long as the import qualifies. If the shoes you are importing from Mexico were produced, manufactured, or otherwise sourced from Mexico or Canada, then your shipment could qualify for free or reduced duty under the USMCA. Even if only part of the shoe meets that requirement, you could still be eligible for some of the benefits of the trade agreement. 

In addition to the USMCA, there is another benefit to importing from Mexico instead of anywhere else. The U.S. and Mexico share an almost 2000-mile-long land border, which makes trade between the two countries much easier than from countries overseas. This not only allows for faster shipping times but also awards you more choices when selecting shipping options for your import. 

Freight trucks and cargo trains are fantastic middle-of-the-road options for moving your freight over long distances across land. They’re faster than cargo ships and more affordable than freight aircraft, which can save you a lot of time and money in the long run!

Importing Shoes from Vietnam

Importing Shoes from Vietnam

Importing shoes from Vietnam can also be a great option for importers looking to diversify their supply chain and keep manufacturing costs low. 

Because of the Section 301 tariffs complicating shipping to and from China, many importers are turning their attention to other Asian countries for manufacturing. Vietnam is a top choice for importers for many reasons, including the country’s economic resilience, its low-cost manufacturing strategies, and its reputation for producing high-quality products.

Although Vietnam exports many different kinds of products, textiles and footwear are among its top manufactured exports. In 2018, the value of Vietnam's shoe exports to the U.S. totaled $16.24 billion, and that number continues to grow year over year. 

Vietnam has a much smaller pool of labor when compared to China, but they aren’t at their production capacity just yet. In fact, the country’s small size can actually end up being a good thing. Many people importing from China source their products from the same major retailers, and ultimately, the same manufacturers. Not only will you deal with less competition when importing from Vietnam, but you will also end up with a more unique product to sell in the end. 

Working With a Customs Broker

The process of importing shoes to the U.S. can feel very overwhelming. Even if you feel like you have a handle on the process, one little mistake can result in serious delays and fines. Regardless of if this is your first or your fiftieth time importing into the U.S., mistakes can still happen. That’s where customs brokers come in to help.

A licensed customs broker is an importing professional who can step in to help with every step of the importing process. A customs broker can help you with all the paperwork required by CBP, determine the correct tariff classification for your specific import, and help you navigate section 301 tariffs. They can even take up the responsibility of submitting documents to, and communicating with, customs officials on your behalf. 

In addition to that, many customs brokers, including the ones here at USA Customs Clearance, offer personalized customs consulting to answer any and all of your customs-related questions and to give you a clear understanding of the process of importing into the U.S.

Imported shoes are heavily monitored by CBP

Get expert help to avoid potential issues

Import Shoes to the U.S. With USA Customs Clearance

Whether you’re importing sports footwear or luxury high heels, USA Customs Clearance, powered by AFC International, can help you get your import safely through the U.S. border. Our customs brokers are some of the most friendly and knowledgeable in the industry, and we can offer you a stress-free solution to customs clearance. Still aren’t sure how to import shoes to the U.S.? That’s okay, you can still source your product from anywhere in the world with the help of our Licensed Customs Brokers.

In addition to top-of-the-line customs brokerage services, we also offer Customs Bonds, so you have one less thing to worry about when importing shoes to the U.S. 

If you’re ready to get started, or you’d like to hear more about any of our services, give us a call at (855) 912-0406. One of our friendly representatives will be happy to talk to you about our services and how we can help you. However, if you need more specific help with your import, consider signing up for a customs consulting session instead.

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