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How to Import Generators From China: The Complete Guide

How to Import Generators From China
Importing generators from China is a worthwhile business venture. However, challenges during the importing process must be accounted for and addressed. Learn what these challenges are and how to overcome them.
February 16, 2021
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Last Modified: January 18, 2024

Consumer and business demand for generators has risen in recent years and is projected to continue steady growth. During certain times of the year like Hurricane Season and Winter, demand skyrockets. Many generators are imported from the U.S.’ largest trading partner, China. Businesses looking to capitalize on this opportunity need to be mindful of some important details.

To import generators from China, importers will need to comply with numerous import requirements. The most strict regulations come from the EPA which requires imported generators comply with U.S. emission regulations. Importers are required to provide this proof at the time of import. If this documentation is unavailable, the generators will be refused at the port of entry. 

While the process of importing generators from China can be scary, it can be made much simpler with the help of a Licensed Customs Broker. Below, we explain the requirements and processes involved for importing generators from China. We also outline how a Licensed Customs Broker can manage some or all of the process for you, ensuring a smooth import.

Ensure Compliance With U.S. Emission Regulations

Ensure compliance with U.S. emission regulations

As noted above, imported generators are required to comply with U.S. emission regulations. The entity responsible for enforcing these regulations is the Environmental Protection Agency, or EPA. Along with the EPA, Customs and Border Protection (CBP) serves as the first line of defense at the border for imports arriving in the U.S. CBP agents are tasked with reviewing import details and flagging shipments that aren’t in line with U.S. import guidelines. 

In order to provide proof that your imported generators comply with emission standards, two important pieces of evidence are typically used: An EPA Certificate of Conformity and an EPA Emissions Control Label.

EPA Certificate of Conformity

This document is a requirement for generators that are to be sold in the U.S. The Certificate of Conformity states that the engine used in the generator is compliant according to EPA emission standards. Manufacturers must obtain this certification prior to offering a generator for sale in the U.S. While CBP and EPA guidelines don’t dictate that the certificate be presented at the time of import, it’s highly advisable that it’s readily available. If there’s any question as to the validity of the generator being imported, CBP and EPA agents will look to the Certificate of Conformity for further clarification

EPA Emissions Control Label

The other important aspect that proves imported generators are compliant with U.S. emission standards is the EPA Emissions Control Label

This label is located on or near the engine and indicates a few important details:

  • The manufacturer of the engine
  • Trademark for the manufacturer
  • Model year of the engine
  • Statement from the EPA indicating that the engine is compliant
  • Type of fuel and tank capacity
  • Which EPA and California (if applicable) emission standards the engine complies with

If this label is visible on all of the generators being imported, you should face little resistance for this portion of the customs clearance journey. 

EPA Form 3520-21

The last piece of documentation that importers need to have is EPA Form 3520-21. This form is used when importing heavy duty, nonroad, or stationary engines. Since

The information required on this form includes: 

  • Identification of the type of engine being imported
  • Manufacturer name
  • Model and Serial number of the engines being imported
  • Manufacture date of the engines being imported

All of this information is reviewed by CBP agents at the time of entry to determine admissibility. 

It’s important to note that this form isn’t required to be submitted as long as 4 conditions apply:

  1. The engines being imported are new
  2. The engines are covered by an EPA Certificate of Conformity
  3. The engines bear an EPA Emission Control Label
  4. The original manufacturer of the engine is the importer

If ALL 4 of the above conditions are present for the imported generators, EPA Form 3520-21 is not required to be submitted. 

Importing Generators For Sale in California

Making generators available for sale in California will require some additional work on your part. This is due to the fact that California emission standards go beyond what’s required in the EPA’s federal guidelines. 

For generators to be eligible to be sold in California, they’ll need to be certified as CARB compliant by the California Air Resources Board (CARB). 

Engine manufacturers will need to follow a set process to certify their generators with CARB:

  1. Engine must be tested according to CARB specifications. 
  2. After the testing is complete, manufacturers need to send the results to CARB to be reviewed. 
  3. If the engine passes the CARB inspection, it receives an official certification and can be noted as such on the EPA Emission Control Label.

Once the above process is complete, the imported generators will be eligible to be sold in the state of California. 

The specific rules for importing a generator can be confusing and challenging. Our Licensed Customs Brokers are here to help you every step of the way. We’ve helped numerous importers bring in generators and other restricted commodities without issues.

Work with a specialist to make importing and exporting to the USA a hassle-free process.

Get the details you need with our import consulting services.

Classify Your Generator With the Correct HTS Code

In order to truly understand the specific requirements in play when importing generators from China, properly classifying your generators is a critical step in the process. All imported goods into the U.S. must be classified with an accurate Harmonized Tariff Schedule (HTS) Code. Applying the correct code to your imported products is of the utmost importance as it determines a number of key details.

Classifying your product with an incorrect HTS code can lead to:

  • Additional inspections by CBP agents
  • Delays in the import process
  • Change in import duty
  • Additional work required through post-summary corrections

The best way to handle classifying imported goods with the correct HTS code is to work with a Licensed Customs Broker. Our team of licensed professionals has a deep understanding of the HTS and can identify the correct code for your imported generators. In turn, this will reduce further issues and problems at the border when importing.

Confirm the Import Duty Prior to Importing

Confirm the import duty prior to importing

Speaking of HTS codes, one of the biggest effects associated with the HTS code is determining the import duty. Each 8 digit subheading code has a specific import duty amount applied to it. Ensuring that you have the correct HTS code in place enables you to know the exact amount of import duty you’ll be required to pay with your import. Since your generators are coming from China, there’s even more reason to ensure that you confirm the HTS code and import duty. 

Section 301 Tariffs

In 2018, additional import duties were placed on imported goods from China through the introduction of Section 301 tariffs. The additional tariffs were rolled out in 4 separate products lists and range from an additional 7 to 25% on top of normal duty rates. While some products received section 301 tariff exclusions, many did not or the exclusions have since expired.

Antidumping & Countervailing Duties

In addition to section 301 consideration, antidumping and countervailing duties can also come into play. Antidumping and countervailing duties are applied when an imported product is sold in the U.S. for well-below market value. The intent of the duty is to offset this low valuation and level the playing field for domestic manufacturers. Specific additional amounts are handled on a case-by-case basis depending on the specific factors of each situation.

Before initiating your import of generators from China, it’s highly recommended to consult with a Licensed Customs Broker. Our brokers will review your products to determine whether Section 301 or antidumping and countervailing duties are in place. This will ensure you’re not caught off-guard by unexpected fees when you import your generators.

Are any of the goods you import from China manufactured in or sourced from the Xinjiang region? Any goods or materials produced in the region are prohibited from entry into the U.S. Read our article on the Xinjiang import ban to find out more and avoid having your shipment fined and detained.

Verify the Incoterms of your Generator Import

Verify the Incoterms for your generator import

Along with confirming your HTS code and import duties prior to importing your generators, another important detail to verify is the Incoterms of your shipment. Incoterms, short for International Commerce Terms, are set by the International Chamber of Commerce and outline responsibilities and costs associated with international transactions. These are agreed upon by the buyer and seller of the goods before an import occurs. In total, there are 11 Incoterms arrangements. 

Not having a deep understanding of the Incoterms for your shipment can lead to some troubling issues. In some Incoterms arrangements, the buyer bears the bulk of responsibility and costs, while in others the seller does so. Other arrangements distribute the load evenly between the buyer and seller. Misunderstanding your responsibilities and costs related to an import can lead to unforeseen costs and delays in the overall process.

Our Licensed Brokers have a deep understanding of the Incoterms. We can review your import details to let you know exactly what your responsibilities are so that you’re not caught off-guard. To learn even more, check out our article What Are Incoterms?

Obtain a Customs Bond

The last important aspect of importing generators from China that you’ll need to take care of is obtaining a customs bond. In most cases, a customs bond is required when importing commercial goods into the U.S. A customs bond is an official document that acts as insurance policy for CBP to ensure import duties and fees are paid. Because generators are regulated by the EPA, a customs bond will always be required when importing.  

The choice regarding what type of customs bond you should acquire ultimately comes down to how often you’re going to import into the U.S.

For importers only planning one import shipment of goods, a single entry bond is recommended. As its’ name states, a single entry bond provides coverage for a single entry of imported products.

Importers with numerous shipments scheduled to come to the U.S. in upcoming months should opt for a continuous customs bond. This type of import bond covers all import shipments for 12 months after the effective date of the bond. 

We offer continuous customs bonds for just $235*. Through our simple-to-use, online purchase and application process, your customs bond can be active and available to use in just 2 days.

Go ahead and buy a customs bond today

and get your freight on the way around the globe.

Get Help Importing Generators From China

As you can see, importing generators from China is a complex task with many hurdles and challenges to overcome. Luckily, you don’t have to embark on this journey alone. Our team of experienced and licensed professionals at USA Customs Clearance is here to help you. 

We can manage the entire process of importing your generators from China to the U.S. Once we have the necessary details of your import, we handle the rest. You won’t need to worry about running into unexpected issues during the process.

In addition to managing customs clearance for you, we’re also able to offer a full suite of transportation and logistics services. This is made possible through our partnership with our sister company R+L Global Logistics.

We can provide you with:

  • Order fulfillment
  • International and Domestic Transportation
  • Warehousing
  • Temperature-controlled Storage and Shipping
  • Supply Chain Management 
  • Reverse Logistics
  • And more

When you’re ready, schedule a 1-on-1 consultation with one of our Licensed Customs Brokers. They’ll review your import needs and objectives to create a successful import plan. 

Work with a specialist to make importing and exporting to the USA a hassle-free process.

Get the details you need with our import consulting services.
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