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Importing Ceramics: Solid Tips For Delicate Items

Ceramic cups and plates laying on a table
Importing ceramics will require you to jump through a lot of federal hoops. Find out what your responsibilities are and import with ease.
By
Jacob Lee
September 19, 2022
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Last Modified: September 19, 2022

Importing ceramics is a task that importers perform in a variety of industries. Ceramics come in many forms and can be used for many different purposes. While it's excellent that ceramic goods come in a variety of shapes and sizes, importing them is difficult for these exact reasons. 

Ceramics can be regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and a number of other federal agencies depending on what it’s used for. Proper documentation and ensuring correct packaging for fragile goods are essential when importing ceramics to the U.S. 

Our guide will make importing ceramics easy by explaining the different types of ceramic goods and their regulations.  

Multiple ceramic items stacked in baskets

Where To Import Ceramics From?

The countries you can import ceramics from are about as diverse as ceramics are. For ceramic artwork, you can import from just about any country in the world as long as it's not a country where the U.S. has imposed trade sanctions. That said, the following countries are well-known for their ceramic artwork:

  • China
  • Greece
  • Japan
  • Mexico 

There are also plenty of other countries where you can import different types of ceramic goods. For example, the top five countries the U.S. imported ceramic tiles from are reflected in the table below. 

Top 5 Countries the U.S. Imported Tile From In Square Feet

CountrySquare Feet Of Tile
Spain495,564,193
Italy 388,225,617
Mexico359,595,768
Turkey300,873,685
Brazil238,513,562

Provided by Floor Trends

These are just ceramic tiles, but the data shows that ceramic goods in all varieties are available for import around the world.

Ceramic vases and bowls sitting on shelves

What Are the Types Of Ceramics?

Ceramics are any solid objects made up of non-metallic compounds that are shaped and then heated to maintain their form. As we've established, there are a variety of different types of goods that are made from ceramics. 

That said, the ceramic used to create these various goods can vary. Some of the most well-known ceramics are:

  • Porcelain
  • Stoneware
  • Earthenware
  • Glass-ceramics
  • Bone China
  • Silicon 

Each type of ceramic has characteristics that make them useful for certain types of goods. We’ll discuss the purposes ceramic goods can be used for below.

Ceramics being made at an art facility

What Are the Regulations For Importing Ceramics?

The first importing regulations you need to take care of are ensuring that you have the correct import documents prepared. These basic documents need to accompany any import, regardless of the type or quantity:

  • Pro forma invoice
  • Commercial invoice
  • Bill of entry
  • Certificate of Insurance
  • Letter of credit
  • Import license (if applicable)
  • Customs bonded (if applicable)

The details of these documents can be found in our documents needed for export and import. After retrieving them, fill out the information they ask for. Next, you must determine which specific ceramic goods each government agency regulates. 

Ceramic goods can be divided into the three unique purposes that they’ll be used for:

  • Artwork
  • Tableware
  • Building materials

Numerous federal agencies have jurisdiction over importing specific products into the country. Based upon what your ceramic products are used for will determine which federal agency regulations you will have to follow.

Regulations For Ceramic Artwork

The CBP is a federal organization that enforces general regulations for all types of imports that come into the country. If the ceramic goods that you're importing into the U.S are works of art, then their regulations will be the ones you will need to follow. 

For imported works of ceramic art, you will first need to determine if your art import is for commercial or personal use. Commercial-use ceramic artwork will need to be accompanied by a completed 7523 CBP Form. An ACE Manifest will also be required if your ceramic painting is necessary. Personal use imports of ceramic artwork will only need an oral declaration that should be submitted to the port of entry. 

These basic requirements are the only ones that CBP will require you to follow when importing ceramic art. However, our article on importing art can help you with other facets of importing ceramics that you might not know about. 

Regulations For Ceramic Foodware

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) will be the agency whose regulations you must abide by if you want to import ceramic foodware. FDA regulations are outlined in Title 29 of the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR). Since your ceramic import will be making contact with food, it's essential to the FDA that none of the materials within the ceramic foodware is dangerous.

One thing you will need to look out for when importing ceramic tableware into the U.S. is lead. Unfortunately, ceramic goods have been known to have lead in them. Lead from the ceramic plate or cup can contaminate the food or liquid it comes into contact with. Another substance that can be found in ceramic tableware that poses a threat to the safety of food is cadmium.

With these regulations in mind, ensure that your ceramic tableware does not contain the allotted amounts of lead and cadmium. 

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Regulations For Ceramic Building Materials

Ceramics goods can also include building materials. These can include goods like bricks, blocks and tiles. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) enforces regulations for building materials in the United States. 

When it comes to ceramic building products, the EPA doesn't have too many regulations that they enforce. The agency does regulate air emissions caused by the manufacture of ceramic goods. Still, these regulations won't apply to ceramic goods that have already been made and are imported from another country. 

The only regulations the EPA enforces that you will need to worry about are from the Toxic Substances Control Act or TSCA. This Act regulates chemical substances within objects, among other things. Fortunately, ceramic building materials usually don't contain toxic substances regulated by the TSCA. Nonetheless, you should familiarize yourself with TSCA regulations and make sure your ceramic doesn't have substances that could cause the EPA to prohibit your import. 

A ship being used for importing ceramics

What Are the Import Duties For Ceramic Goods?

Once you've followed the applicable government regulations for your ceramic import, you'll need to take care of customs duties for them. Like with matching the proper federal agency regulations to your ceramic import, you will need to apply the correct Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the U.S (HTSUS) code to your ceramic goods as well. Our articles on HTS codes with FDA flags will be able to provide you with helpful information about these codes if you have no experience using them. 

HTS Codes For Ceramic Artwork

Chapter 97 of the HTSUS is where you will find all HTS codes for artwork. All artwork covered by chapter 97 is duty-free. However, the U.S. government is picky about what they view as ceramic artwork. Under the HTS codes for chapter 97, particular ceramic objects are not considered artwork, such as:

  • Plates
  • Dishes
  • Vases
  • Cups
  • Bowls 

Even if goods like these have artistic characteristics, they won't be given the duty-free clearance afforded by chapter 97. That said, heading 9703 does state that sculptures made of any material will be duty-free. That means if you have a sculpture made from ceramic, you will be able to take advantage of the duty-free treatment. 

HTS Codes For All Other Ceramic Goods

Chapter 69 of the HTSUS is where you will find the HTS Codes for all other types of ceramic products. Some of the ceramic goods that are covered in chapter 69 include the following:

  • Bricks
  • Blocks
  • Tiles
  • Pipes
  • Conduits
  • Gutters
  • Laboratory wares
  • Tableware
  • Statuettes
  • Ornamental 

Most ceramic goods listed in chapter 69 also have duty-free status. Even ceramic goods that have a duty rate might be free if you import them from a country where the U.S. has a free trade agreement. Therefore, always check the “special” column when examining the HTS code of your ceramic product for this indicator. 

Some of the countries that the U.S. has free trade agreements with that will allow you to import a variety of ceramic goods include:

  • Australia
  • Bahrain
  • Chile
  • Colombia
  • Countries part of the Africa Growth and Opportunity Act
  • Countries part of the Caribbean Basin Initiative
  • Israel
  • Jordan
  • South Korea
  • Morocco
  • Oman
  • Dominican Republic-Central American Rate
  • Panama
  • Peru
  • Mexico
  • Singapore

Whether your ceramic import is duty-free by default or thanks to a free trade agreement, there's a good chance you won’t to have to pay import duty. However, just because ceramic goods are duty-free under numerous circumstances doesn't mean you should be careless during this part of the importing process.

You will still need to list the HTS code for your import and claim preferential treatment for it. If not, the standard duty rate will be applied and you will have to pay the rate. Not listing the HTS code or listing the wrong one can cause you to incur some other severe penalties.

Import Your Ceramic Goods With USA Customs Clearance

Why face the challenges of importing ceramics alone when you can meet them with the help of a Licensed Customs Broker instead? At USA Customs Clearance, our team of licensed brokers can give you all the advice and help you need during a consulting session. In a consulting session, you can ask any question you want and our brokers will have an answer for you. 

If your shipment of ceramic imports has a value of $2,500 or more, you will need a customs bond. We have you covered in that department with our affordable $275 customs bond. This bond is continuous, which means you will be covered for any number of imports for an entire year. Contact USA Customs Clearance so we can help you with all of your ceramic importing needs. 

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There are a variety of documents that you're going to have to fill out if you want to import ceramics from another country. During a consulting session, one of our Licensed Customs Brokers can show you how to fill out all essential documentation correctly. 
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