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Importing Starts With Compliance: How Businesses Benefit From An Import Compliance Manual

Import Compliance Manual: What It Is, Why You Should Have One, And More
An import compliance manual is a document outlining the processes an organization must follow to adhere to CBP import regulations. Find out how your business can benefit.
USA Customs Clearance
December 3, 2021
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Last Modified: September 26, 2022

When it comes to importing into the U.S., being fully compliant with import regulations is something that can’t be overlooked. Even minor mistakes in following import requirements can lead to severe consequences and penalties. 

An import compliance manual is a document that outlines the processes an organization must follow in order to adhere to CBP import regulations every step of the way. It lays out the responsibilities for all employees involved so that a clear plan is established no matter which member of your business handles the process.

One of the most effective ways that importers can ensure they remain compliant is to create and maintain an import compliance manual. It’s important to understand what exactly an import compliance manual is along with other key details.

What Is An Import Compliance Manual?

An import compliance manual is a document that provides specific instruction for what a company should do during every step of the international trade process. The manual should be written to be comprehensive and abide by the laws and regulations enforced by CBP.

Why Is an Import Compliance Manual Needed?

For the most part, importing goods follows a very specific set of steps. The import compliance manual is needed so that importing is done the same way every time, regardless of which member of your business handles the process. 

If you have members of your organization who don’t have a clear understanding of exactly what the CBP requires, you’ll be setting your business up to explain to a customer why they’re being fined, or why their shipment is being delayed or outright rejected.

In short, a complete import trade compliance manual should fully lay out both your company’s overall responsibilities and even that of your employees.

Who Is Responsible For Import Compliance?

Who Is Responsible For Import Compliance?

This is somewhat of a complicated question to answer. As far as the law goes, the importer of record is responsible for everything that happens during an import. However, a customs broker also bears responsibility for whatever occurs since they’re a hired representative. 

Even if the customs broker might not bear legal obligation to the U.S. government for everything that goes into import compliance, there is generally a contractual agreement that promises full compliance. 

Need Help Obtaining an Import Compliance Manual?

Our team of licensed professionals can create a customized import compliance manual for you

What Areas Are Covered In An Import Compliance Manual?

The areas covered in an important compliance manual will include some or all of the following:

  1. Introduction (this should lay out your team, their contact information and what the purpose of the manual is)
  2. Classification Review
  3. Country of Origin and Marking
  4. Product Valuation and Appraisement
  5. Special Trade Programs
  6. Anti-Dumping and Countervailing Duty
  7. Commercial Invoice Requirements
  8. PGA Reporting
  9. Quantity Discrepancies
  10. Recordkeeping
  11. Reference Materials
  12. Conclusion (this should state your company’s intention to comply with all U.S. import requirements)

The introduction and conclusion can be custom-tailored to fit your company, but No. 2 through 11’s chapters, if used, should have much more focus on laying out, in no uncertain terms, what the company’s overall responsibilities are in each area and also which employees will be in charge of making sure compliance occurs every step of the way. 

Do I Need An Import Compliance Manual Before Importing?

No, you do not have to have this manual in place before importing. However, we can’t recommend it highly enough. Just like you wouldn’t put together a piece of complicated furniture without the instructions, a company would be remiss in taking on the CBP’s complex rules without a definitive document laying out not only how to do it, but what each member of the team’s responsibilities is. 

This also helps show prospective customers that you have a well-thought-out plan for how to accomplish exactly what they require.

What Should Be In An Import Compliance Manual?

Any area that has to do with how import compliance will affect your company’s overall operations. Responsibilities of all employees involved should be included.

In a general sense, there will be multiple chapters, with specific, complete answers within each chapter on the exact steps that should be dealt with.

Who Benefits From an Import Compliance Manual?

The company that has written or commissioned the import compliance manual benefits because they have a documented plan on how they intend to deal with every minute detail of importing products into the U.S.

The company’s customers, who may be businesses themselves, also reap the rewards in terms of pairing with an enterprise that makes compliance a priority and employs a clearly defined plan.

What is the CBP’s Role In An Import Compliance Manual?

The CBP might not issue companies a direct order to craft an import compliance manual but any policies presented by one should be created with this U.S. regulatory body at the forefront of its mind.

This manual should clearly demonstrate to others that you not only know exactly what to do, but that you’ll be following any and all CBP guidelines surrounding imports before, during, and after the physical process of the importation.

So in conclusion, the CBP does play a role in terms of how the manual is constructed but the CBP doesn’t mandate that every company has to have one. 

YearAmount CollectedYoY Difference
2017$27.2 million-
2018$15.5 million-54.8%
2019$30.1 million+64%
2020$20 million-40.3%


Is There A Template For Import Compliance Manual?

Is There A Template For Import Compliance Manual?

There are indeed templates available for import compliance manuals. Some companies will sell them to businesses, making them highly customizable. This is so, with a bit of light editing, you can have your very own import compliance manual without having multiple employees spend many man-hours researching, writing, editing and revising the document.

Taking it even further, some of the companies providing these import compliance manual templates are already experts in clearing U.S. Customs and will be speaking your language. If you purchase one, it shouldn’t need much more editing than putting in the correct name or job title of the person responsible for certain tasks or aspects of the import chain.  

Getting An Import Compliance Manual Through USA Customs Clearance

Now that you know exactly why an import compliance manual is so crucial to an importer, let USA Customs Clearance provide you with a nearly completed document that is already written proficiently and will require very little of your own time to customize it to your organization — just as if your company had written it itself. 

The entire manual is already complete, only requiring you to fill in your company’s information. But even if you want to make further alterations for your business’s personalization, you can! In fact, this manual is just one of the many services that USA Customs Clearance can provide to importers.

We also offer:

  • Customs clearance
  • ISF filing
  • Customs bonds, both continuous and single use
  • Importer of Record registration
  • Import consulting

So whether you’re here solely for an import compliance manual, or are also on the lookout for additional help to make customs clearance even more of a breeze, reach out to USA Customs Clearance at (855) 912-0406.

Need Help Obtaining an Import Compliance Manual?

Our team of licensed professionals can create a customized import compliance manual for you

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