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Importing Sunglasses and Glasses Into the U.S: Everything You Need to Know

Importing Sunglasses and glasses into the U.S.
Importing sunglasses and glasses into the U.S. comes with a surprising amount of rules and regulations. Learn what all of these are and what you need to do in order to be compliant when importing these into the U.S.
USA Customs Clearance
January 26, 2021
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Last Modified: September 9, 2022

Many importers are surprised when they learn about all of the rules and regulations that come with importing sunglasses and glasses into the U.S. These requirements result from the intended use of sunglasses and glasses. Before embarking on this challenging process, it’s important to have a full understanding of what will be required. 

In addition to standard CBP requirements, importers also need to comply with FDA regulations when importing sunglasses and glasses into the U.S. These regulations include filing prior notice, registering with the FDA, and testing the impact resistance of the lenses. Because of these challenges, importers should consider working with a Licensed Customs Broker when importing sunglasses and glasses into the U.S. 

In the article below, we provide a detailed breakdown of the specific requirements for importing sunglasses and glasses into the U.S. If you’re in a hurry or need immediate assistance, you can schedule a 1-on-1 consulting session with our Licensed Customs Brokers today to get the help you need.

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.

Are Reading Glasses Considered a Medical Device?

Are reading glasses considered a medical device

Reading glasses are just one type of glasses that buyers will be looking for, so you need to know what it takes to import them. Now, one of the things you have to think about here is whether reading glasses are considered a medical device. Surprising to some, reading glasses are indeed classified as a Class 1 medical device by the FDA (Food and Drug Administration). This means they have federal regulations that they need to comply with. You need to understand how this affects you and your quest to import these glasses. 

It’s worth noting that it is typically not necessary to file a pre-market notification application for Class 1 devices, nor is it necessary to get FDA clearance. But you will need to register your business annually with the FDA in order to be able to import sunglasses into the United States. 

There are a few parameters that reading glasses will need to fulfil in order to be categorized as Class 1 medical devices. For instance, they need to have impact resistant lenses, as well as being made of materials that are non-flammable and non-toxic. Reading glasses that are Class 1 medical devices should adhere to these specifications, and this is something you need to make sure you keep in mind when it comes time to import your reading glasses into the United States.

Do Sunglasses Need FDA Approval?

The FDA has jurisdiction over non-prescription sunglasses, and this means they are categorized as a Class 1 medical device. So, the big question is, do sunglasses require FDA approval? Well, you will be happy to hear that, in the case of non-prescription sunglasses, much like reading glasses, there is no need for FDA approval. However, you must register your company with the FDA. 

Companies manufacturing and/or distributing these medical devices will also need to file for medical device listing. This process is generally done online using FURLS, the FDA’s Electronic Registration and Listing System. This requirement applies to all parties involved in the manufacturing, distribution, or importation of sunglasses. The FDA uses this information in the event of a product defect or issue. 

Hearing that a product doesn’t require FDA approval provides a false sense of ease and simplicity in regards to the import process. Even without needing to get prior approval for a product, there are still many FDA rules to comply with. 

The process for importing products that are regulated by the FDA certainly comes with many challenges. To learn more, check out our article on FDA Customs Clearance.

Required Import Documents for Sunglasses and Reading Glasses

Required import documents for sunglasses and reading glasses

When looking to import sunglasses, it is important that you make sure you do as much as you can to secure the proper documentation and paperwork. Failing to include all required documentation or not filing everything in a timely manner is likely to cause major issues during importing. Significant fines, seizure of goods, and a ban on future imports can occur when requirements aren’t met.

Below we’re going to look at some of the documents required to clear customs, as well as ISF filing requirements involved in the shipping process.

Commercial Invoice

A commercial invoice is essential for foreign trade, and contains information about the products you want to ship internationally. The main purpose of this invoice is that it helps when trying to determine the duty rate. Commercial invoices identify buyer and seller, as well as a description of the goods and shipping information, among other things. 

Packing List

The packing list is provided by the shipper, and will be checked at customs, so it is vitally important that the information included is as accurate as possible. The invoice and packing list should work in tandem, to give customs officials as much knowledge as possible about what you are shipping. 

Bill of Lading (BOL)

The Bill of Lading is issued to the shipper by the carrier, and is used to help exporters get paid as they should, and importers receive their products. Also, importantly, the BOL will be used to help you claim compensation for any loss or damage of products if it occurs during the shipping process.

Arrival Notice

You’ll need to know the items you’re shipping have arrived without problem, and the arrival notice helps with this. But, you should keep in mind that this is not the same as a release document. Hiring a customs broker makes the entire process easier to deal with, and will help once the arrival note is received. 

ISF Filing

The ISF filing requirements are extremely important when shipping products across the ocean. The Importer Security Filing (ISF) was introduced in 2009, and intended to reduce the risk of smuggling. The deadline for filing ISF is 24-hours before the cargo is loaded onto the departing ship bound for the U.S. Failure to meet this deadline carries a standard fine of $5,000 for each violation. If you’re working with a Customs Broker, they’ll file the ISF on your behalf, ensuring that it’s done on time and in accordance with all of the guidelines. 

FDA Requirements

You may also find that you’re going to need paperwork and documentation that will show your products adhere to FDA requirements. For example, the FDA’s quality system,QS requirements set forth in 21 cfr 820, as well as 21 cfr 801.410 state that there must be impact resistant lenses in eye glasses and sunglasses. Impact resistance is a big part of product safety when it comes to sunglasses and glasses, as well as quality system regulation.

Drop Ball Test

Each time you choose to ship sunglasses and glasses into the U.S. you will need to make sure you get certification that shows your glasses adhere to FDA impact resistance regulations on lenses. The drop ball test is part of these regulations, and the certification needs to state that the glasses were tested for, and passed, impact resistance. Every shipment will need to have a drop ball test accompanying it, otherwise the FDA can detain the shipment.

You would have to appeal for the shipment to be released in this scenario. Assuming you’re able to successfully get the shipment cleared, you’ll still be responsible for CBP exam and storage fees. 

There are many things to consider when trying to ship your glasses or sunglasses to the U.S., and they will need to undergo things like lab testing, as well as fulfilling labeling requirements and FDA regulations. The drop ball test is one of the most important things to keep in mind when you’re looking to ensure you ship and import your glasses and sunglasses into the US with no difficulties. 

In addition to the above documentation and requirements, if you’re importing for the first time, you’ll need to complete another form. CBP Form 5106 is known as the Import Identity Form and must be completed by first-time importers in order to register with CBP.

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.

Intellectual Property Considerations

We all know how important branding is in the business world, and, believe it or not, it is hugely important when it comes to importing your glasses and sunglasses. You have to make sure you have the right branding on your glasses, and that it matches with what it is supposed to be. Using already trademarked branding, or misbranding the products can lead to problems with the release of the product, as well as potential fines that you may have to pay. U.S. customs has the right to detain or even destroy merchandise imported into the country that contains copyright infringement, as registered with the USPTO.

As an intellectual property owner you need to be making sure you focus on enforcing copyright and trademark of your products as much as possible. The US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) have an online e-Recordation Program you can use that will help you with this. As an IPR owner, there are 5 steps you can take that will help you ensure your copyrights and trademarks are enforced at all times. 

  1. Read and review CBP regulations and requirements
  2. Record your trademarks and copyrights with the CBP
  3. Aid CBP in identifying your copyrighted products and ensuring they’re distinguishable from others
  4. Ensure you update your information when needed
  5. Report any violations or suspect shipments 

Additionally, if you’re importing sunglasses or glasses that contain trademarked or patented material, be sure you have permission to do so. In 2019, CBP seized over $1.5 billion worth of merchandise in violation of Intellectual Property Rights. Needless to say, this is a serious issue that needs to be taken seriously.

If you have questions about importing trademarked merchandise, our Licensed Customs Brokers are available to assist you.

Importing Sunglasses into the US from China

Importing Sunglasses From China

The success of shipping and importing products as a business depends largely on where you might be shipping from. For instance, there are strained trade relations between the United States and China, and this has been the case even more so since 2018 with the introduction of the Section 301 tariffs. These apply additional duty directly to products being imported from China into the United States.This means that if you are planning on shipping sunglasses and glasses from China, you’ll end up paying more in duty. Additionally, your shipment will likely face increased scrutiny because it’s coming from China. 

Because importing China brings some additional unknowns, it’s highly recommended that you work with a Licensed Customs Broker. Our Customs Brokers can handle the entire customs clearance process and ensure that your shipment arrives safely and is done so in compliance with all of the requirements. 

Shipping Options

Choosing the right shipping option is also important when it comes to finding the optimum choice for your business. You have to make sure you do as much as possible to work on coming up with the best possible shipment option, and this means you have to think about the different available options for importing sunglasses into the U.S. Primarily you’re going to be looking at 4 different shipment options.


Shipping content by road is going to work out cheaper, and there is less of a chance of the goods being lost or damaged. Of course, you’ll need to be importing from Canada or Mexico in order for the entire shipment to be handled by a freight truck. Ultimately, your products will more than likely be transported on a truck through at least one portion of the shipment. 


Air is the fastest and most convenient option when it comes to importing, however, there is also the fact that it is typically the most expensive option as well. You are most likely going to need to spend a fair amount of money if you’re going to be shipping your products by air. If your products need to be delivered on a tight deadline though, air is the way to go. 


Shipping by train is a fast and effective route when you are looking to ship your products over long distances. Of course, you’ll need to combine this mode of shipping with truck and also either ocean or air if your shipment is coming from overseas. If you’re unsure if shipping by rail is an option, our team can connect you with our sister company, R+L Global Logistics. Through R+L Global Logistics, we can arrange the entire transportation journey for your products, relieving a significant task off of your plate. 


Shipping by sea is something that ticks a few boxes - for instance, it is much more eco-friendly than air freight, and it is the most cost-effective form of long-distance shipping. However, the issues are that this is a time-consuming method, and if you’re working within a short window of time, it will be more advantageous to utilize air freight options.

Our team can help you determine the best route for importing your sunglasses and glasses to the U.S. Whether it’s one shipping channel, or a combination of multiple, we’ll find the option that best suits your needs. 

Import Duty for Glasses and Sunglasses

Import Duty for Glasses and Sunglasses

It’s important to understand the import duty you might be looking at paying when looking at importing glasses and sunglasses to the United States. Typically, the duty for imported sunglasses or glasses to the USA will either be free, 2%, or 2.5%. The exact amount that you could be looking to pay will depend on the product classification codes applied to the glasses when they’re imported. As noted earlier, sunglasses or glasses from China may be subject to additional import duties under the Section 301 tariffs. 

The best way to get an accurate estimate of the duties you’ll be expected to pay upon importing is to have a Licensed Customs Broker classify your glasses. Customs Brokers have extensive knowledge related to the classification of imported products and can help you find the right code for your goods. Import duty is something that many people often forget about when trying to cover the costs of importing sunglasses into the U.S., and you need to get this right. Make sure you look at the best ways of being able to cover these costs, and try to account for them when you are looking to ship your sunglasses to the United States.

Get Help Importing Sunglasses and Glasses into the U.S.

Importing sunglasses and glasses into the U.S. is something that will typically involve a lot of work and meticulous planning. There are a lot of boxes to tick, as well as things that you have to get right in order for this process to go as smoothly as possible. You don’t want any problems or issues that are going to hold up your imports, and it’s vitally important to make sure you work closely with an experienced U.S. Customs Broker.

This is where our team at USA Customs Clearance can help you. We’re here to handle all of your import and supply chain needs. When you partner with us, we handle the heavy lifting and numerous challenges that come with importing. And thanks to our partnership with our sister company, R+L Global Logistics, you can get everything done in one place. From customs clearance to warehousing to transportation, we’ve got you covered.

When you’re ready to take the next steps, schedule a consulting session with our Licensed Customs Brokers. You’ll get direct, 1-on-1 support from our experts and a clear path to importing success.

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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