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Clearance Process

There are over 200 approved ports of entry throughout the United States. A list of entry ports is available in the Code of Federal Regulations, Title 19 Part 101.3.

Information on U.S import and export regulations is available in the Code of Federal Regulations with more recent updates appearing in the Federal Register (available on the internet at Although Title 15 (Foreign Trade) and Title 19 (Customs Duties) contain regulations that apply to most or all exports, many other Titles contain import and export requirements that are associated with specific regulatory agencies such as the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

The U.S. government has several internet sites that provide general information on import and export requirements. For information on export licensing, you should visit the Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS) website at For information on trade agreements, import requirements, or trade contacts you should visit the U.S. Customs & Border Protection website (, the U.S. Department of Commerce International Trade Administration website ( or the U.S. International Trade Commission website (

Document Requirements
Air Waybill - An air waybill serves as evidence to make entry for importations by a common carrier. Commercial Invoice - Required for most shipments. It must be in English or accompanied by a translation furnished by a party who is knowledgeable of the transaction. Required details include: a detailed description of the goods; quantity; currency and purchase price or fair market value; name and amount of other charges and rebates such as freight, insurance, commission, packing, assists. Specific invoice details are required for importation of a number of commodities including the following:

For audio/video cassettes and tapes, the length and width of the tape, a brief synopsis of content and the reason for exportation.

For textiles (unless provided on the textile declaration), the fabric breakdown, whether knit or woven and for clothing articles, the gender.

For watches, the value and origin of each of the components (i.e., movement, strap, case and battery).

For marked/mutilated samples, the words "mutilated samples: 9811.00.60: or "marked samples, not for resale" as applicable.

For FDA shipments, the Product manufacturer name and address (the name and address of originating shipper, the country where the goods were last processed, the method used to make or process the product, the kind of packing material in contact with the product and the FDA product code.

Commercial Invoice Statements - A number of commodities require that a particular statement be provided on the invoice or on a separate form. Some commodities are eligible for preferential treatment (reduced duty) when the appropriate statement or declaration is provided. Among the most common statements are:

Film and Video Certificate - The Certificate In Connection With the Importation of Films and Videos or Antipornographic Statement is required for imports of films and videos. The statement can be written on the invoice provided the specific wording of the standard form (CF 3291) is used.

TSCA Statement - The Toxic Substance Control Act statement is required for the importation of any chemical shipments and any materials in primary form such as paint, dye, stain, raw rubber and raw metal. It must be provided by the importer.

Quota Charge Statement (QCS) - A QCS is required for the importation of shipments that contain textiles or clothing from a country that is subject to textile quotas imposed by the U.S. Department of Commerce. (When a quota allocation is sold in the origin country, the cost is considered a quota charge.) Several versions of the statement are used depending on whether a quota charge was paid, and if so, whether the amount is included in the unit price or is not known. The statement can be provided on the invoice by either the exporter or the importer.

Artwork Statement - The artwork statement is required for duty-free entry of original works of art such as sculptures, etchings, engravings, and lithographs.

Antique Statement - A Certificate of Antiquity, or a similar statement on the invoice, is required to claim duty-free entry of goods over 100 years old. The statement must include the words "circa date" followed by the year of manufacture whether known or estimated.

Destination Control Statement - The exporter must include this statement on all copies of the invoice, waybill and export control documents unless the ECCN of the goods is EAR99 or the shipments is eligible for and exported under particular license exceptions.

Carnet - The ATA carnet is a document that may be used instead of the usual Customs documentation for the temporary duty-free entry of professional equipment, commercial samples and advertising material. The carnet is issued by the country of origin and is valid for one year. It must be validated by Customs upon import and re-export.

Certificate of Origin or Age - Certain goods (textiles, wine, distilled spirits) require a certificate as a condition of import. A Certificate of Origin may also be required to substantiate claims for preferential treatment of eligible goods. Some trade agreement or regulations require that the exporter complete the Certificate (others allow it to be completed by the importer or another knowledgeable party) and require that the Certificate be notarized and be validated by a government agency or chamber of commerce.

Several certificate of origin versions exist. Among the most commonly used for US shipments are:

NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement) Certificate of Origin

CBTPA (Caribbean Basin Trade Preference Act) Certificate of Origin

  • AGOA (African Growth Opportunity Act) Textile Certificate of Origin

  • U.S./Israel Free Trade Agreement Certificate of Origin*

  • Certificate of Origin (for general use)*

  • *Both the general use Certificate and the US-Israel Certificate must be notarized and require a signature and seal from a Chamber of Commerce. The FedEx Regulatory Consulting Group (phone# 800-851-3336) can provide both to U.S. exporters for a reasonable fee.


All textile and apparel products imported into the U.S. are required to include the full name and address of the manufacturer for each item. Please note if items in a shipment were produced by multiple manufacturers, the full name and address must be provided for each manufacturer, with details of items and quantities produced by each. In addtion, the commercial invoice must include fabric composition and percentage (ex. 50% cotton, 50% polyester), gender, knit or woven details.

Declaration Textile Visa - A textile visa is an endorsement in the form of a stamp on an invoice or an export control license. It is issued to the shipper in the foreign country and is used to control exports of textiles and textile products to the U.S. An original copy of the visa must be submitted to Customs. The visa may be linked to quota restrictions. When under quota, the quantity imported must be verified and charged to the quota before release is granted. Properly marked or mutilated textile samples valued up to $800 may be exempted from visa and quota requirements.

  • Permits/Declarations - Permits or Declarations are required for importation and/or exportation of particular commodities that are subject to regulatory by certain agencies including the DEA (Drug Enforcement Agency) and FWS (Fish and Wildlife Service.) Import Licenses or permits are required for the following:

  • FDA Prior Notice of Imported Food Shipments and Registration of Food Facility

  • FDA must receive Prior Notice of food imported into the U.S. for human and animal consumption. The Prior Notice requires additional data elements and must be submitted electronically to FDA no more than five days before arrival and no fewer than four hours before arrival by air and two hours by land. For exceptions and more information, please visit Food and Drug Administration available at

  • All domestic and foreign facilities that manufacture, process, pack, and hold food for human or animal consumption in the U.S. must be registered with FDA prior to shipping. Foreign facilities are also required to designate a U.S. agent for registration purposes to act as liaison between FDA and the facility for both routine and emergency communications. For exceptions and more information, please visit Food and Drug Administration available at

  • Cheese and cheese products (import license from USDA)

  • Milk and cream (import permit from FDA and USDA)

  • Plants and plant products (import permit from USDA; also FDA for fruits, vegetables and nuts)

  • Livestock and animals and parts of (permit from APHIS) imports are restricted to "quarantine" ports

  • Poultry and related products (import permits from FDA and USDA) exemption applies to imports from Canada

  • Firearms, ammunitions and explosives (import license from BATF)

  • Radioactive materials and nuclear reactors (import license from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission or from FDA if intended for Medical use)

  • Biological drugs (import license from FDA, from USDA, if for animal use)

  • Biological materials such as virus, serum, toxins (permit from U.S. Public Health Service)

  • Liquor and other alcoholic beverages (BATF import permit and certificate of label approval granted to licensed dealers only).

  • FCC 740 Statement Regarding the Importation of Radio Frequency Devices Capable of Causing Harmful Interference - Under the Federal Communication Commission rules, an FCC 740 form is required for any device or subassembly that sends, receives or is capable of interfering with radio frequencies. Examples include radio transmitters and receivers, tape recorders, stereos, TV's, cordless telephones, microwave, radio controlled security devices such as garage door openers, etc. (Shipments of cordless phones intended for the U.S. commerce require digital security encoding and this should be indicated on the invoice or on the individual packaging.)

  • Invoice Details for Footwear - All footwear shipments (excluding parts) require The Footwear Invoice Form (CF5523) or the footwear data elements in any format. This information may be provided by the exporter, shipper or manufacturer.

  • Declaration for Products Subject to Radiation Control Standards FDA 2877 - The Food and Drug Administration Form 2877 must be provided by the U.S. importer for shipments which contain radiation producing products (including sonic radiation) such as TV receivers, microwave ovens, X-ray equipment, laser products, ultrasound equipment and other radiation producing electronic devices.

  • Civil Aircraft Certificate - This certificate is required to obtain special duty or duty-free treatment of eligible parts of civil aircraft. (Not all aircraft or their parts are eligible. The U.S. Tariff details which goods are eligible.) It must be filed with U.S. Customs at the district port (for entry at any port within the district) or at the U.S. port of entry.

  • Blanket Certificates - Blanket certificates are certificates that are issued to authorize multiple imports of the same commodity. Blanket certificates may be submitted for FDA2877, for FCC740 as well as for certain preferential forms, the civil aircraft certificate, the textile declaration and footwear statement.

  • Lacey Act Amendent Plant Declaration - Wild plants and plant products imported to the U.S. require a new declaration effective December 15, 2008. APHIS is working to implement an electronic process for this new declaration, currently estimated to be available not before April 1, 2009. Therefore, from 12/15/08 until at least 4/1/09 submission of the declaration will be voluntary. Enforcement will occur in six month phases, with additional commodities added for each phase.


Customs Valuation

The value to declare for Customs purposes is the price paid or payable for the goods. Any selling commissions, assists, royalties, packing and proceeds must also be factored in and is a part of the value. Failure to include the above is undervaluing the goods and may result in penalties.

Duty is assessed on the price paid and does not include freight and insurance charges.

All prices in foreign currency must be converted to U.S. dollars to assess duty on the amount.

Import Duties

All goods coming into the United States must clear customs and are subject to a customs duty unless specifically exempted from this duty by law. Rates are determined by the classification of goods within the Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States (HTSUS). Several rates of duty are possible for each item: "general" rates for most nations; "special" rates (which are lower than the general rates) for goods eligible under special trade programs; and "column 2" rates for imports not eligible for either general or special rates.

Customs duties are usually an "ad valorem" rate (a percentage) that is applied to the value of the imported goods. However, some goods are dutiable at a specific rate of duty (so many cents per piece, kilo, liter, etc.) or are dutiable at a compound rate of duty (a combination of both "ad valorem" and specific rates).

Customs duty is based on the transaction value of the merchandise. Transaction value is the price the buyer actually pays the seller for the goods being imported plus other costs including, but not limited to, packing costs and royalty fees incurred by the buyer.


In some circumstances, Customs will assess antidumping duties or countervailing duties in addition to the normal import duties. Antidumping duties are assessed on imported merchandise sold in the U.S. at less than the normal price of the good in the manufacturer's home market (also called fair market value). Countervailing duties are assessed to counter the effects of subsidies provided by the foreign government for merchandise exported to the U.S. resulting in artificially low prices that are detrimental to U.S. industries.

Excise Duties

Alcohol and tobacco are subject to excise duties.

Additional Duties

Duty/Tax Exemptions

The U.S. exempts certain persons and certain goods from payment of import duties and taxes providing regulatory requirements are met. Some common exemptions include:

  • Original works of art, articles for exhibition

  • Sculptures and regalia imported by a public or nonprofit institution for educations, scientific, etc. purposes.

  • Certain goods imported by a religious institution

  • U.S. government importations

  • Gifts providing that the customs value less than $100 per person and they are marked as gifts

  • U.S.-origin goods previously exported and returned in an unaltered condition

  • Goods previously exported for exhibition, trade show use, scientific purposes, etc. that and returned in an unaltered condition to the party who exported them

  • Personal effects (clothing, toilet articles, etc.) owned by the importer and imported for personal use

  • Equipment of groups arriving in the U.S. of goodwill visits (at the request of the Department of State) providing that the equipment will be re-exported or destroyed at the conclusion of the visit.

  • Goods entered temporarily under a carnet or a temporary importation bond (TIB). (Shipments traveling under a Carnet are prohibited via FedEx International Express Services. (Shipments moving under this provision may move via FedEx Airport to Airport Service on an 023 air waybill.)

  • Shipments intended for entry under a TIB must be sent under the Broker Selection Option (BSO) with the name, address and phone number of the importer's customs broker indicated.

A refund or remission of customs duty by means of drawback provisions is permitted under U.S. law. However, due to the regulatory requirements associated with drawback, importation and exportation of goods intended for drawback claims are prohibited via FedEx International Express Services. (Shipments moving under this provision may move via FedEx Airport to Airport Service on an 023 air waybill.)

Warehouse goods
Duty/Tax are not payable on goods that are imported (under bond). However, duty/tax becomes payable when the goods are removed from the warehouse. Goods being entered as warehoused goods into the United States or exported from a warehouse are prohibited via FedEx Express Services. (Shipments moving under this provision may move via FedEx Airport to Airport Service on an 023 air waybill.)

Import Taxes

Although the U.S. does not impose a standard federal tax on imported goods, the importer's state government may assess taxes (such as a sales tax). Some goods (such as alcoholic beverages, cigarettes, etc.) are subject to federal excise or stamp taxes.

Customs Fees

A Merchandise Processing Fee (MPF) is assessed on all formal entries, with a few exceptions. Exceptions include goods that qualify for preferential treatment under certain trade agreements (including but not limited to NAFTA and CBERA) and those entered under special provisions (including but not limited to unaltered U.S.-origin goods and goods of distinguished foreign visitors). The rate of assessment is 0.21%, (.0021) of the "entered" value on the Customs entry. The minimum assessment is $25.00 and the maximum assessment is $485.00. Fees may be charged by government agencies to cover costs associated with inspections and/or permit and license applications. Please check with the appropriate agency for details.

For imports to the U.S. the following rule(s) may apply:

If the value is $2,000 or LESS MPF fee is $2 (Automated Entry)

If the value is MORE than $2,000 MPF fee is 0.21% with a minimum of $25 and a max of $485.


Exchange Controls

There are no exchange controls.


Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT's)

Technical barriers or non-tariff barriers to trade as they are sometimes known, can cause many problems for exporters looking for new markets for their products. These barriers can be in the form of regulations, standards, testing and certification procedures. The World Trade Organization (WTO) Agreement on Technical Barriers to Trade tries to ensure that these barriers do not create unnecessary obstacles. To obtain further information on Technical Barriers to Trade as well as Notifications on technical regulations and conformity assessment procedures, go to the WTO website at


Consular Fees

There are no consular fees.


Import Clearance Process
(For exporters shipping goods to the United States and for United States residents and businesses importing goods from other countries.)

The United States requires customs entry for all merchandise that is brought into U.S. customs territory except for goods identified in 19CFR141.4 (which includes articles that were undeliverable in a foreign country and records, diagrams and other data with regard to any business, engineering or exploration operation). Except for goods entering the U.S. in possession of a traveler, customs clearance is usually done electronically through the Automated Broker Interface (ABI) program of the Automated Commercial Systems (ACS) by either the importer or by a licensed customs broker on behalf of the importer, purchaser or consignee of a shipment.A

Most shipments are admitted for consumption and are assessed duty and tax upon arrival. (For information on admission for other purposes, see below.) The common types of customs entry are:

  • Non-Entry: Permitted for goods listed in General Note 18 of the U.S. Tariff.

  • Informal: Permitted for most goods providing shipment value is less than $2,000.

  • Formal: Required for shipments valued at $2,000 or more and, at a lower value, for shipments containing certain goods. (Some formal entries are called "live" entries because all applicable entry documents and all duties must be presented before Customs will release the goods for delivery. In the case of goods subject to quota, this means that quota processing must be completed also.)

Customs entry is focused on 2 issues; first, admissibility (whether the goods meet conditions for entry) and second, on duty assessment and collection. Many shipments are released for delivery after Customs has determined that the goods are admissible and is assured that duty will be paid. (Customs entry is not legally completed until after the shipment has physically arrived, duties have been paid, and delivery of the goods has been authorized by Customs.

U.S. importers are generally required to provide the following documents for entry purposes in addition to Customs Forms that are specific to entry filing. Exceptions exist for express consignments (i.e. FedEx International Express Services), for certain goods, and when Customs determines that information submitted electronically via ABI is satisfactory.

  • a bill of lading (or an air waybill or carrier's certificate)

  • a commercial or pro-forma invoice

  • any other documents necessary to determine merchandise admissibility

  • When applicable, packing lists and other documents such as Certificate of Origin (for special treatment)

Agency Requirements

In addition to the basic entry requirements noted above, certain goods are subject to regulatory control by other U.S. federal, state and local authorities. In order to ensure that goods are admissible, shipment information is made available to these agencies prior to customs release. Goods subject these controls must be released by the regulating agencies before Customs will authorize delivery or customs clearance. (For specific information, please contact the appropriate agency.) Shipment information is generally submitted to:

  • Department of Agriculture (USDA): Animals, plants and products derived for them or intended for use on animals

  • Food & Drug Administration (FDA): Products intended for human use

  • Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA): Narcotics, chemical precursors, and pill-making and capsule-filling machines.

  • Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF)

  • Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS): Non-domesticated animals and plants (furs, skins, shells, ginseng, etc.) FedEx will now able to clear shipments of wildlife products at five of our six clearance gateway locations: Anchorage, Alaska, Newark, New Jersey, Memphis, Tennessee, Miami, Florida, and Oakland, California. Note: Wildlife shipments arriving at the port of Indianapolis, Indiana (a non-designated port) will move in-bond to one of our designated clearance locations for proper clearance. Additional transit time may be required.

  • Department of Transportation (DOT): Motor vehicles and equipment

  • Federal Communications Commission (FCC): Devices capable of affecting radio frequencies

Other Import Requirements

U.S. Customs and other regulatory agencies have the right to examine and take samples of goods entering the U.S. to ensure compliance with U.S. law and accurate assessment of duties. Shipments selected for inspection prior to release for delivery may experience customs delays. When Customs has released goods for immediate delivery prior to customs clearance, the importer is required to comply with post-delivery requests to submit the packages and or sample quantities to Customs.

An owner, importer, consignee or anyone who files a customs entry is required by law to keep records related to imported goods. Generally records should be kept for 5 years from the date of the entry or an activity involving the entry (such as closure of a Temporary Importation Bond). Specific requirements are available in Title 19 of the Code of Federal Regulation (available at Monetary penalties (for each customs release) and other disciplinary actions may be imposed for failures to produce required records (when requested by Customs).

FDA Prior Notice of Imported Food Shipments and Registration of Food Facility

FDA must receive Prior Notice of food imported into the U.S. for human and animal consumption. The Prior Notice requires additional data elements and must be submitted electronically to FDA no more than five days before arrival and no fewer than four hours before arrival by air and two hours by land. For exceptions and more information, please visit Food and Drug Administration available at

All domestic and foreign facilities that manufacture, process, pack, and hold food for human or animal consumption in the U.S. must be registered with FDA prior to shipping. Foreign facilities are also required to designate a U.S. agent for registration purposes to act as liaison between FDA and the facility for both routine and emergency communications. For exceptions and more information, please visit Food and Drug Administration available at



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