With its many uses, light weight and impressive durability, it’s no wonder that aluminum is big business in the United States. And if you’re in that business, it’s very likely you’ll be importing aluminum from China. But with the shifting politics between Washington, D.C. and Beijing, it’s hard to keep up with the latest news on tariffs, let alone the actual act of shipping the metal and clearing it through U.S. customs.
Luckily, you’ve come to the right place to sort through all of the minutiae of importing aluminum from China. While you’ll have to fill out a lot of paperwork, be up to date on the latest U.S. laws and figure out how to clear your metal goods through U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), it’s not as difficult as originally thought.
The process is even easier if you partner with a licensed customs broker like USA Customs Clearance. In partnering with USA Customs Clearance, you’ll have someone to help you through the entire process. You can consult with our Licensed Customs Brokers to get the answers to all of your importing questions.
In 2019, the United States was a big-time importer of aluminum products to the tune of $22.3 billion. The country that sent the most of the versatile metal to America was Canada, its neighbor to the north. However, comfortably in second place, with a value of $2.5 billion, was China.
The Asian country is responsible for more than half of the world’s primary aluminum production and exports the metal all over the world. The Chinese offer the combination of quality products at some of the most competitive prices in the world, which is why many countries other than the United States take advantage of China’s aluminum articles.
Aluminum is considered to be a soft, malleable metal and has a variety of common uses in America. It can be crafted into transportation parts, window frames, kitchen utensils and appliances, foil, cans, beer kegs, wiring, siding for construction products and more. The reason aluminum is prized for its various roles is it is very durable, light and highly resistant to corrosion.
This is a fluid situation, as tariffs have been repealed, increased or even expanded to cover additional aluminum products over an extended period of time. As of this writing, though, there is a 10 percent tariff assessed on all aluminum products that come when importing aluminum.
Section 232 of the U.S. Trade Expansion Act of 1962 was used as justification for the 2018 implementation of these tariffs. This states that Section 232 tariffs can be enacted in the interest of national security. While this may be considered unfortunate for businesses in the market to import steel into the U.S., you shouldn’t be entirely discouraged. U.S.-produced aluminum is much more expensive than the metal that is available for import from China, even with the increase in cost due to the tariffs.
It's wise to consult with a Licensed Customs Broker before initiating an import of aluminum from China. The last thing you want to do is be stuck with a double-digit percentage increase in your overall costs without planning for it.
When you’re importing aluminum into the U.S. from China, there is really only one option: by boat. More specifically via an ocean freighter from the country of over 1.4 billion people. Technically, you could consider shipping your aluminum using an airplane but the cost disparity between the two modes of transportation would make air shipping unfeasible in this case.
The aluminum, whether it’s imported as sheets to be processed into products in the U.S. or as finished products ready to be sold as soon as it reaches U.S. shores, will be placed in cargo containers aboard a large ship. The journey is slow going, taking up to weeks, so it stands to be patient or begin the importation process in advance to when you’ll actually need the aluminum.
Once the aluminum is at a U.S. port of entry and ready to be imported — which we’ll talk more about in the next section — it will then make the rest of its journey via truck, train or a combination of both known as intermodal transportation. Intermodal means that two or more types of transport are used to complete a single shipment.
For longer routes in the U.S., rail is comparatively priced with truck shipping and uses less fuel. Unfortunately for rail, very often it can’t reach a factory, warehouse or retailers directly and still needs to be shipped at least some of the route via truck.
Meanwhile, trucks are easily the superior option for shorter journeys and is the only mode of transportation that can offer true door-to-door delivery. It is usually easy to find a freight shipment in short order with a truck.
Another somewhat tricky item to ship is paint. Check out our guide on shipping and importing paint to the U.S. to learn how to import this challenging item.
Now that you understand how your aluminum will be transported, it’s now important to know exactly how to get it through U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP).
Before you even set up the actual transportation, you’ll have a series of forms to complete. These forms are required and if they’re not filled out to completion with wholly accurate information, the CBP will delay your goods from entering the country or might even reject them outright.
Some of the most important documents required — and short descriptions — include the following:
While this list of forms is not 100 percent, these are some of the most prevalent that the CBP expects. Through the use of a customs broker, if you go that route, you can get a comprehensive list of the paperwork needed and also receive help filling all this information in.
There is a voluntary program sponsored by the CBP known as C-TPAT, which stands for Customs-Trade Partnership Against Terrorism. Your customs broker should be an active member of this program since it is absolutely free and also comes with a host of benefits related to the clearance of customs.
The CBP devised the program as a way to help keep supply chains safer and more secure. From an importer perspective though, there are some other very helpful aspects.
With these added benefits that are of no additional cost to you, you should consider joining yourself or partnering with a customs broker who is already a member.
Since your goods are coming from China, it’s almost a 100 percent certainty that you will be required to also fill out an Importer Security Filing (ISF). This special filing is needed in the event of an ocean shipment.
The Importer Security Filing (ISF) is also known as a 10+2, which denotes the 10 requirements for importers and the 2 additional carrier requirements.
The things that need to be recorded in the ISF are:
The additional carrier requirements are:
This has to be filed by you, and it also needs to be submitted to the CBP within 24 hours before the time of your shipment. If it isn’t filed in a timely manner, your shipment will be delayed and a $5,000 fine is levied by the CBP for each violation.
We could easily end this section simply by saying yes, you need a customs bond to import aluminum. But knowing what a customs bond is and why it is needed is good knowledge to have so you understand its importance to your shipment and to the CBP.
The most simple way to understand what a customs bond does is to think of it as an insurance policy. But instead of covering your aluminum against damage, loss or theft, it’s a different kind of coverage. This is a “policy” that an importer must purchase in most cases to ensure that their tariffs or duties are paid to the CBP. The bond would pay the CBP in the event that you are unable to cover the incurred costs of importation that are owed.
There are few instances where you wouldn’t be required to have a customs bond. Those would be if the total value of the import is less than $2,500 and if the specific commodity doesn’t require it. A commodity would automatically require a customs bond if it is regulated by a federal agency such as the EPA or FDA.
If you have to have a customs bond, which most imports do, then the final thing to consider is whether you want a single-use or continuous bond. If you are a regular importer of aluminum, it would make the most sense to purchase a continuous bond. These are available for a relatively modest price considering it provides $50,000 worth of coverage for every shipment for a year’s time. If you plan on regularly importing goods, this is easily the best value as well, since buying a single-use bond just a few times can be as expensive as one that is continuous use.
A single-use bond is the preferred option if you plan on importing a very small number of times over the course of a year. One single-use bond will be cheaper than a continuous bond, unless you have to buy several or more of them.
With all of this talk about the ins and outs of clearing your aluminum through U.S. customs, it’s hard to imagine having an ace sitting in your back pocket in this endeavor. But if you use the services of an excellent, experienced U.S. customs broker, that’s exactly what you’ll have. Yes, utilizing a customs broker will cost money but the added value gained can easily surpass the initial financial outlay.
First off, you will have hired someone well-versed in filling out all the forms needed to successfully import your aluminum from China. In a previous section, just a portion of the forms you’d be expected to completely and accurately fill out were outlined — and that list alone is not unsubstantial. A licensed customs broker can take your information, fill out the forms and even submit them on your behalf, taking a tedious yet important piece of the import process off your plate and making sure it’s done right.
Another area that a licensed customs broker can be of huge value is when you (inevitably) need a customs bond. The customs broker can sell you the bond and, if it is a continuous bond, also renew it every year so it doesn’t run out and pause your ability to import products.
The last major thing a customs broker can very likely do for you is actually pick up your aluminum once it passes the CBP’s muster and ship it directly to your operations or where the item will be sold. A third option would be for the customs broker to also utilize warehouse space it or one of its partners owns and store your aluminum until it is needed.
If you hire a customs broker, you’ll also get advice and guidance that can prove invaluable. The faster you learn how to import goods, the more proficient you’ll be during each shipment in knowing exactly what to do. So in short, employing a customs broker has a bunch of benefits to your business. It’s definitely a recommended step to take, especially while learning more about importing aluminum.
Now that you know the ins and outs of importing aluminum from China, round out your knowledge and operations by getting assistance from USA Customs Clearance. We can help give you the edge you need to be successful in importing whatever goods your business requires.
A great place to start your importation journey is by scheduling a 30-minute, 1-on-1 session via phone or video conference with one of our import consultation specialists. For a flat rate, you get personalized guidance from a top customs expert in the industry where you can ask them anything about the process or even more specialized things like getting help with filling out forms or talking to your consultant about any specific regulations or tariffs associated with the particular commodity.
Moving on, it’s extremely likely that your shipment will require a customs bond in order to be imported into the U.S. USA Customs Clearance can not only sell you a customs bond but can also renew it for you so that it doesn’t expire and you can continuously import without having to worry about any snags.
So when you’re ready to begin importing aluminum from China, make the prudent choice to partner with USA Customs Clearance. You can give us a call today at 855.912.0406 to set up your import consulting session and get a leg up over the competition.