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Is a Power of Attorney Required for International Shipping?

Is a Power of Attorney Required for International Shipping?
Not sure if a power of attorney is required for international shipping? Find out if it's required, how it fits into the overall importing process, and more.
USA Customs Clearance
August 18, 2021
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Last Modified: March 17, 2023

Having freight shipped internationally can be a stressful experience.One of the easiest ways to reduce this stress is to work with a Licensed Customs Broker. However, you might be caught off guard when a broker asks you to sign a Power of Attorney. If you’re wondering if a Power of Attorney is required for international shipping, we’ll provide you with a clear answer.

A Power of Attorney (POA) is required for international shipping when you’re having a Licensed Customs Broker clear your import. This requirement is in place through the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) 19.141.146. Once you have a signed POA in place with a Customs Broker, they can perform customs business on your behalf. 

With this requirement in mind, you might still have some questions regarding the power of attorney for international shipping. Our guide below answers some of the most common questions and provides you with a complete understanding of a customs POA. 

If you’re looking for a customs broker to clear your imports, we can help you. You can schedule a 1-on-1 consultation session with one of our Licensed Customs Brokers. They’ll review your situation and provide you with definitive answers to your questions to help you safely import your products. 

Are you looking to partner with a Customs Broker?

Speak with our Licensed Customs Brokers today

What Is A Power Of Attorney?

In general terms, a power of attorney is a written document which gives someone the authority to act on the behalf of you or your business. In the more specific terms of international shipping, this is the documentation that allows a customs broker to go to the U.S. border or a port of entry and clear your products through customs.

When importing any goods, customs clearance is a necessity. So giving power of attorney can be helpful in the achievement of those goals. 

Is A Power Of Attorney Absolutely Necessary?

Is A Power Of Attorney Absolutely Necessary?

Unless you plan to be at every border or port of entry to accept and clear your goods, then the answer is an emphatic yes — awarding power of attorney is absolutely necessary. This gives the power to the customs broker to receive goods for their client and act as if they are an extension of you from a decision-making standpoint.

As noted above, CFR 19.141.146 outlines the requirement for importers to sign a POA in order to have a Customs Broker work on their behalf. The code specifically states “Before transacting Customs business... a customhouse broker is required to obtain a valid power of attorney to do so.” Therefore, without a POA in place, a Customs Broker can’t process imports for an importer. 

While the powers granted via power of attorney are not absolute, anything considered customs business related to customs should be covered. It’s not mandated by law that you must grant anyone power of attorney, but unless you plan on being your own customs broker for every import you ever plan to undergo, then it’s necessary to appoint your customs broker with the power of attorney they’d need to act on your behalf.

Are you looking to partner with a Customs Broker?

Speak with our Licensed Customs Brokers today

Who Is Able To Grant Power of Attorney?

For a business, not just anyone can authorize power of attorney to the customs broker. In fact, it should be a person that is appointed to legally act for your business. These are usually employees with titles like owner, CEO, CFO or a president/vice president.

Again, not every import operation might be large enough to even have these specific roles. However, entry-level employees who might be able to sign to receive a package at your office aren’t going to be allowed to grant power of attorney to anyone.

So it’s up to you to prepare for this ahead of time. Make sure an officer of the company is available to provide documentation — signed by an officer — to grant the power of attorney.

What Information Does A Power of Attorney Need?

Handing over power of attorney isn’t as simple as just signing the bottom of a form. In fact, you will be responsible for providing the party given power of attorney information they can use to act as your proxy.

The information includes:

  • The name of your business
  • Your full name
  • The address of your business. If multiple addresses, use the address of your headquarters.
  • A signature, which can be either wet or supplied electronically
  • Your company’s unique importer ID number (a social security or IRS number can be used as well)

Besides needing that information to act as your power of attorney, the customs broker also needs the basic information about your imports in order to know when to be there and also what they’re actually helping clear through customs.

What Does Power of Attorney Do For Your Business?

What Does Power of Attorney Do For Your Business?

The Importer Security Filing (ISF) is needed for any party importing products via ocean freight — which is a lot of the goods imported into America internationally. Giving power of attorney to your customs broker allows them to fill the ISF for you. However, it is required that your business gives that authorization in writing for the broker to do this. Merely granting power of attorney alone will not suffice in this regard.

Are There Limitations To Granting Power of Attorney?

Granting a customs broker power of attorney does not mean they have the unchecked ability to do whatever they’d like. There are still checks and balances in place to protect the party that is having its goods imported.

Contracts or other documentation are a matter of course in commerce. However, turning over power of attorney to someone is not considered a binding agreement. Power of attorney does also fall short of granting complete authority to the customs broker in relation to their ability to sign every document needed by the CBP. There will still be instances where the importer of record will still need to legally sign.

In fact, there is usually wording in the agreement surrounding power of attorney like “until revoked” that provides either side to end the arrangement immediately. So while the importer should still pick a customs broker carefully since it’s crucial to the success of his or her business, you don’t have to worry about handing over total authority in the form of power of attorney. 

Are you looking to partner with a Customs Broker?

Speak with our Licensed Customs Brokers today

Clearing Customs with USA Customs Clearance

Once you’ve decided to have someone assist you by giving them power of attorney, strongly consider having USA Customs Clearance undertake this extremely important task for you. We have the experience, competency and drive to expertly navigate the importation of your goods during its international shipping.

USA Customs Clearance offers 30-minute, 1-on-1 import consulting sessions with our licensed customs brokers. During these sessions, our brokers discuss the best practices to begin your import business, answer your specific questions, and provide you with a roadmap for importing success.

In tandem with the rest of our import services, USA Customs Clearance can help you in securing a customs bond. We offer continuous customs bonds for only $275. You can purchase your bond and complete the quick and hassle-free application directly on our site. 

Don't forget the customs bond for your import

Get your bond quickly and easily

So once you’re ready to grant power of attorney for international shipping, look to the experts at USA Customs Clearance for all your importing needs. Call us at (866) 912-0406 for a free quote about all of our customs brokerage services.

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