February 10, 2021
Importing tea into the U.S. is a process which requires strict attention to detail and a full awareness of the rules surrounding customs clearance. This deep understanding is necessary because tea is regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and must abide by its strict importing rules.
In order to import tea into the U.S. for resale, importers need to comply with several FDA and CBP requirements. These include filing prior notice with the FDA, ensuring the tea being imported is sourced from FDA registered facilities, and submitting all required CBP documentation. Because of the strict regulations and amount of work involved, it’s highly recommended to partner with a Licensed Customs Broker when importing tea into the U.S.
In our guide below, we cover all of the requirements you’ll need to know when importing tea. We also cover how a Licensed Customs Broker can save you time, money, and ensure your tea is safely imported into the U.S.
If you already have a shipment of tea scheduled to arrive in the U.S. and need customs clearance services, go to our customs brokerage services page and request a quote. One of our import experts will quickly respond and provide you with a quote to clear your shipment.
First and foremost, if you want to import tea into the United States, you will need to ensure that you are in full compliance with the regulations laid out by the Food and Drug Administration, or FDA. This is because the FDA has oversight of the legal importation of food and food products into the country.
Failure to comply with any FDA requirements that you are obliged to observe can result not only in fines, but also in the seizure of your goods, and the suspension of your import privileges altogether.
Of course, the last thing you would want would be for your goods to be seized at the port of entry and for your ability to engage in effective international trade to be severely impaired, purely as a result of a technical or procedural oversight.
Here are some things you have to do to comply with FDA requirements.
According to FDA regulations, all Food Facilities need to register with the department and must agree to give advance notice of shipments of imported food due to be brought into the country.
This is due to the Public Health Security and Bioterrorism Preparedness and Response Act of 2002 (the Bioterrorism Act), which is focused on preventing attacks on the U.S. food supply, as well as protecting the food supply against other problems.
The FDA Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), which came into effect on January 4, 2011, brings in some additional standards. According to this amendment, facilities that manufacture, process, pack, or hold food intended for consumption in the U.S., also need to submit further details.
This additional information includes an assurance that the FDA will be allowed to inspect the facilities as and when required by the legislation, and can suspend the registration of a facility on suspicion of potential adverse health consequences associated with its goods. Facilities will need to renew their FDA registration every other year.
Upon importation into the U.S., FDA and CBP agents will verify that the regulated goods being imported have been manufactured, processed, and packed in FDA registered facilities.
You will need to provide prior notice for all foods intended for human or animal consumption, which you intend to import into the country. This is in line with Title 21 Code of Federal Regulations (21 CFR), Part 1, Subpart I.
There are two ways to give prior notice:
Both of these systems require users to create and register an account and learn how to submit the necessary information. Most Licensed Customs Brokers, including ours at USA Customs Clearance, already have access to these system and can submit the Prior Notice on your behalf.
In order to be legally resold in the U.S., import food and food products must also be appropriately labeled in order to appease FDA regulations.
The Nutrition Labeling and Education Act (NLEA), which amended the FD&C Act, dictates specific labelling requirements. However, regulations are frequently changed, and it’s the responsibility of the members of the food industry to keep themselves informed of the latest developments.
All new regulations are published in the Federal Register (FR) before coming into effect. These new regulations are compiled yearly in Title 21 of the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR).
Answers to common labelling questions can be found at https://www.fda.gov/media/81606/download
Needless to say, importing FDA regulated goods is complicated. For more on this topic, check out our article on FDA Customs Clearance.
Incoterms ® (short for “International Commerce Terms”) are mutually agreed conditions for the international shipping of commercial goods, and are published and managed by The International Chamber of Commerce (ICC).
Each rule within the Incoterms outlines specific obligations and responsibilities for international buyers and sellers.
The main purpose of Incoterms is to create a coherent and consistent framework of responsibilities and obligations for international trade, with an emphasis on:
Since Incoterms are agreed to by both the buyer and seller prior to an international shipment taking place, the terms help to guarantee a concrete understanding of the agreement, and result in a vastly smoother overall process. A process that is ideally free from dispute, bottlenecks, or legal complications.
If goods are damaged in transit, for example, the Incoterms come into play and clearly delineate who is responsible for covering the cost, with coverage either coming from direct reimbursement from either party, or from cargo insurance provided by one party.
There are 11 unique rules in total contained in the 2010 Incoterms, which cover various trade terms. Of the 11 rules, 7 can be applied to any form of transportation, while 4 specifically apply to transportation by ship.
Here is a quick summary of the 7 types of Incoterms that can be applied to any transportation method:
*In Incoterms ® 2020, the label of DPU (Delivered At Place Unloaded) has replaced DAT.
Here is a summary of the remaining 4 types of Incoterms which apply specifically to shipping:
It is important to be aware of the specific details of the various terms, so that you can choose the terms that are best suited to your particular situation.
Incoterms are not legally required for the international transport of goods, however it is highly advisable that you do choose and utilise Incoterms for your shipment. Incoterms significantly reduce the potential for complications, legal disputes, and grey areas which result in undesirable outcomes.
To learn more about Incoterms, take a look at our What Are Incoterms article.
There are a variety of different HTS codes associated with different types of tea, such as green, black, organic, flavoured, and so on. It’s very important to have all the tea you are planning to transport classified by a Licensed Customs Broker, in order to ensure that the right HTS codes are assigned.
This is necessary to avoid additional inspections by CBP agents, which will come at an additional cost to the importer, in addition to introducing delays to the shipping process. Additionally, different HTS codes come with varying percentages of import duties. Simply put, you need to have your tea properly classified if you want to have a streamlined, timely, and cost-effective experience while importing your goods.
If you plan to import tea to the U.S. for resale, you might fall into the trap of focusing all of your attention on the process of sourcing your tea and getting it passed through customs successfully. But that isn’t where the journey ends.
Once your tea has arrived in the country and has successfully cleared through U.S. Customs, it will still need to be properly transported, warehoused, and conveyed to the outlets that will be responsible for selling it on.
Through our sister company R+L Global Logistics, we can handle all of these needs along with the customs clearance portion. This ensures a smooth transition through each phase of the logistics and supply chain journey.
Successfully importing tea, or any other good to the U.S. inevitably requires filling in a good deal of paperwork.
Listed below are the essential documents that you will be required to fill in and provide, in order to clear customs:
The commercial invoice includes vital and detailed information about the products you are shipping, including:
The main role of the commercial invoice is to calculate tariffs.
When importing to the U.S., you must be careful to to include all the relevant information on your form in order to clear customs at the U.S. Port of Entry.
Your packing list serves to confirm the cargo you are transporting, and to also give information about the type of packaging being used, such as a box, crate, drum, or carton.
For the most part, however, the information on your packing list should be the same as the information on your invoice, and should correspond directly to it. It’s important to keep in mind, however, that while the documents complement each other, the packing list is not a substitute for a commercial invoice.
A Bill of Lading (BOL) is the specific document that is presented by the carrier to the party responsible for shipping the goods, and provides a tracking number for your freight, in addition to international shipping details.
The BOL is vitally important for exporters to receive payment, and for importers to receive their goods. If anything were to happen to your cargo resulting in damage, loss of goods, or shipping delays, the BOL would be required for compensation.
The arrival notice is provided by the carrier once successful entry to the U.S. has been achieved. Upon receipt of the arrival notice, a manifest query is carried out in order to review the Automated Manifest Status (AMS) and the facility location of the cargo, so that the detailed transmission that is sent to customs can be validated.
The arrival notice should not be considered to be the same thing as a release document. It just confirms that the consignee now has the required details to make customs clearance and to arrange for pickup of the goods. The fastest way to get through this part of the process is to hire a customs broker.
In addition to the documents outlined above, the Importer Security Filing (ISF) Is also required for the import of products shipped via ocean, to reduce the risk of smuggling.
The deadline for ISF Filing is 24 hours before goods are packed onto a ship heading for the U.S. This deadline is enforced by the CBP, and missing it can result in financial penalties, delayed cargo, and further inspections.
The ISF Filing information must be submitted electronically to the CBP prior to the deadline, and consists of the following 10 bits of information:
If you need help submitting the ISF Filing, our team is here to help you. Even if your goods have already left the foreign port of departure, we can work with you to get the filing submitted in order to avoid any fines or delays.
If you’re new to the world of importing, eventually you’re going to hear about a customs bond. Along with the required import documents discussed above, a customs bond is one of the most crucial elements when it comes to importing. A customs bond is a document that acts as a guarantee to CBP that duties and fees associated with an import will be paid. CBP requires a customs bond for all commercial imports at $2,500 or more, as well as shipments containing goods subject to requirements of Partner Government Agencies.
In the case of tea, because it’s subject to FDA regulations, a customs bond is always required. Tea imports that aren’t covered by a customs bond will be detained until a bond is acquired and attached to the shipment.
There are two types of standard customs import bonds- single entry and continuous. Single entry bonds are used to cover one-time import shipments. As you might expect, continuous bonds, also known as annual bonds, cover all import shipments for one year from the effective date. The decision of which type of customs import bond to obtain comes down to how often you’re going to import goods into the U.S. If you’re going to have multiple imports into the U.S. within a year, a continuous bond is the best choice. One-time import should opt for a single entry bond.
At USA Customs Clearance, we specialize in offering continuous customs bonds for just $245. This affordable rate allows you to import goods without breaking the bank. Additionally, our hassle-free application and purchase process ensures you’ll get your bond quickly and without frustrating challenges along the way.
Clearly, there are a lot of important details to keep track of when you are importing tea to the U.S. Any mistake or oversight can result in a wide range of frustrating issues including fines, shipping delays and missed deadlines. To avoid these pitfalls and more, USA Customs Clearance is here to help you.
Our team of experienced Licensed Customs Brokers have the answers you need to all of your importing questions. Regardless of whether you’re brand new to importing or come with some experience, our service is tailored to your level. Even better, thanks to our sister company R+L Global Logistics, we can handle all of your logistics needs.
Our supply chain services include:
When you’re ready to begin importing tea into the U.S. consulting with our Licensed Customs Brokers to get the guidance and support you need.