The U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) has defined requirements that must be met as a condition of entry into the U.S., while best practices are recommended activities that will help expedite the import process but aren’t mandatory.
- You will need an Importer Number, which you can get through the IRS if your imported goods are valued at USD 2,500 or more. This number will be required on all your import paperwork.
- You will not need an import license in general, but some imported items may require special permits from other government agencies (plants, animals, dairy products, medications, etc.)
The majority of goods do not require approval or certification by the U.S. government to be imported into the United States. However, there are some exceptions:
- Restricted goods. Goods restricted and controlled by multiple federal agencies (such as food, animal products, medical devices, and firearms) may require an import license or permit from the agency that regulates that product
- Government licenses and permits. Imported goods may also require an import license or permit from a specific government agency to enter the United States (for example, imports of agricultural products may require a USDA permit)
- Compliant imports. Certain goods imported into the United States must meet compliance standards enforced by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and other federal agencies such as FDA for food, drugs, and cosmetics; DOT for motor vehicles; EPA for pesticides; and CPSC for consumer products. Compliance has nothing to do with collecting duties; it’s about ensuring that the imported items into the country are safe and legal while meeting various trade laws and agreements.
Expect to face two types of requirements: administrative and operational. Administrative requirements include how and where to file entry documents, how to pay duties, taxes, and fees, how to obtain duty refunds, who can act as your agent, etc. Operational requirements involve the actual goods themselves — their value, classification, country of origin, etc.
While CBP has clearly defined administrative requirements for importers, there is no comprehensive list for operational requirements. Rather than create one yourself (which would be nearly impossible), consult with CBP or your customs broker.