Importing Goods to the U.S.? Four Things You Need to Know


wholesale distribution east coast

For anyone looking to import their products to the United States, understanding the customs and import process is essential to smooth, hassle-free movement of goods.

However, this process is full of boxes that must be checked and regulations that must be followed.

If you’re new to the U.S. customs and import process, here are four things you need to know:

Know Your Timelines

There are very specific deadlines for when paperwork must be filed and agencies such as the Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) must be notified.

Prior to your goods arriving on U.S. soil, you must notify the CBP Port of Entry that you plan to import goods. There are ports of entry for goods arriving by land, by sea, and by air, so it’s important that you know where your goods will be arriving and which Port of Entry will handle arrival.

Once your goods have arrived at the Port of Entry, you must declare how your goods are to be imported – for consumption, for warehousing, or transported to another Port of Entry. This needs to be done as quickly after arrival as possible, as your goods cannot be released from the Port of Entry until after this is done.

You have up to 15 days to file a Cargo Release for the goods, which releases them from CBP custody and gets them moving to their final destination within the United States. 

While you have up to 15 days to file this Cargo Release, additional fees begin to accrue after two to five days after arrival.

Within 10 days of the goods’ release from CBP custody, the importer must do two things: file an entry summary and pay any related estimated duties. The entry summary tells CBP the classification, origin, and estimated value of the imported goods.

The estimated duties paid at this time may be different than the final duties owed, which are determined based on liquidation. Liquidation is calculated using current duty rates and the value of the imported goods.

If the amount of estimated duties paid is higher than the actual amount owed, the importer is issued a refund. If the amount of estimated duties is lower than the actual amount, then the importer pays the difference upon liquidation.

Get the Right Documents

A number of documents are required to legally import goods. These all must be present for your shipment to fully comply with import regulations.

When importing goods to the United States, you must have:

  • Entry Manifest or Entry/Immediate Delivery forms
  • Commercial invoice from the seller that shows the value and description of the goods
  • Packing lists, if appropriate, or other documentation that may be necessary to determine the admissibility of the merchandise
  • Evidence of the right to make entry
  • Evidence of a Customs Bond, either single-use or continuous
  • Entry Summary
  • Payment of estimated duties, taxes, or other charges

Know Your Declarations

When goods are imported, they must be declared for entry for one of three reasons: consumption, warehousing, or transportation to another Port of Entry.

Declaration for Consumption

This type of declaration is used when goods are going directly into circulation, either for commercial, business, or personal use. Approximately 95% of goods imported to the U.S. are declared for consumption.

Declaration for Warehousing

Some importers want to import their goods but postpone their release. In these cases, the goods are transferred to a CBP bonded warehouse, where they can be stored for up to five years. Duties on warehoused goods are not payable until their release.

Declaration for Transportation

In some cases, importers want to enter their goods at a different Port of Entry than the one where they arrive. When this happens, the goods must be transported to that Port of Entry in a bonded status by a carrier that accepts the goods under its bond.

Do You Need a Customs Broker?

Many importers, especially those who are importing goods to the United States for the first time or who find the importing process complicated, choose to hire a customs broker to help them navigate the process.

However, individual importers can import their goods without the help of a customs broker.

Customs brokers are licensed by CBP, but they are not CBP employees, and they help importers complete, collect, and file all the necessary documentation, as well as helping them navigate the regulations that govern the import process.

If you choose to hire a customs broker, you authorize the broker to act on your behalf. That means, if the customs broker doesn’t complete part of the process, commits fraud, or otherwise does not properly import your goods, you can be held liable. However, this is not an issue if the right broker is chosen.

Experienced East Coast Warehousing & Logistics

For more than 30 years, Cannon Hill Logistics has helped businesses all across the world grow to the next level. We believe that a good customs broker can be very helpful, if not essential, to a smooth importing experience. Our warehousing and logistics team can provide referrals to freight forwarders and customs brokers, no matter where in the world you are located. Once released, we can provide full warehousing and fulfillment services to bring your goods to the marketplace. Call us on 800-822-4747, or email to obtain your custom solution today!