Section 321 for Low-Value Shipments

Section 321 for Low-Value Shipments

Trade Talk Blog


s a small business or low-value importer, keeping track of value and quantities is critical to understanding your duties, taxes, and other expenses. Many importers are not aware that there is a threshold for what can be imported into the United States, per shipment, without being subject to formal customs entry procedures or paying duties and taxes. This is called the “de minimis” threshold, and it helps facilitate low-value shipments, thereby increasing trade between countries.

Imports valued under $800 USD per shipment may be eligible for the Section 321 De Minimis Program, which is one of the most popular programs offered by the CBP and allows for low-value shipments to cross borders with ease and less costs.

So, if you’re importing a low-value shipment, you might as well be exempt from formal entries and from paying duties and taxes. Keep reading to learn more about what qualifies as a Section 321 shipment, identify whether you’re eligible for this program, and understand how it can benefit your business.

What is the Section 321 Program?

The Section 321 de minimis program is a part of the Tariff Act of 1930 that allows importing certain goods into the United States without a formal Customs entry (a.k.a. consumption entry) or payment of duties or taxes. It was originally established to encourage international trade by allowing small shipments to be imported without expensive formalities. Still, it has since grown to be one of the most popular methods for importers to bring goods into the United States.

There are five things to know about the Section 321 entry process:

  1. Section 321 entries are available for both commercial shipments and personal shipments.
  2. No duties or taxes are collected on goods valued at less than $800 USD, so it can be a great way for your business to import goods without incurring any additional costs.
  3. Goods imported through a Section 321 entry can’t be subject to antidumping or countervailing duty laws. If the merchandise falls under either of those categories, you will need to go through the formal entry process.
  4. The De Minimis Threshold is per shipment. So, if you import several packages in a single day, each valued under $800 USD, they don’t count as one consolidated shipment. They are each subject to the de minimis threshold separately.
  5. The $800 USD value applies to the total value of all the items in the package or shipment – not to each piece individually or their combined production cost.

What are the benefits of Section 321 for your business?

  • Streamlined import process and greater convenience
  • Simplified entry and clearance process, with less paperwork
  • Reduced import costs through the elimination of duties and taxes
  • Faster delivery times resulting in enhanced customer experiences

Are there goods that don’t qualify for Section 321 De Minimis?

While Section 321 De Minimis is generally an excellent option for anyone importing low-value goods into the United States, it’s important to note that there are certain products that don’t qualify, regardless of their value. These include:

  • Goods that require inspection before their release
  • Goods that are subject to Anti-Dumping Duty (ADD) or Countervailing Duty (CVD)
  • Quota-class merchandise
  • Agricultural products
  • Firearms and ammunition
  • Drugs (including medicinal samples)
  • Plants, seeds, soil, bulbs, etc.
  • Alcoholic beverages
  • Other goods that are regulated by the following Participating Government Agencies (PGAs):

Please note that U.S. Customs & Border Protection (CBP) reserves the right to inspect any shipment regardless of its declared value. So, even if a shipment does qualify for Section 321 De Minimis status, it may still be subject to random searches by border control agents at ports of entry; this is standard procedure regardless of classification. To ensure that your shipment sails through customs seamlessly, it’s best to double check if your goods are properly documented and comply with all US regulations with a customs broker.

What is the entry process for imports under the Section 321 program?

Shipments valued below the de minimis threshold can be imported under Section 321 Entry Type 86, which offers a less complex and more efficient entry process for low-value shipments. Instead of going through the full formal entry process, you or your customs broker can file a single simplified form with minimal documentation.

Section 321 and ACE eManifest

ACE eManifest is a CBP program that requires advance shipment information of cargo transported by sea and air carriers on commercial vessels bound for the United States. This information must be submitted in a standardized electronic format to CBP as early as 24 hours before a ship leaves port and at least 60 minutes before it arrives in the United States.

Because a Section 321 entry is informal, all paperwork required to clear the goods through CBP is transmitted electronically, and no hard-copy documents are needed. However, when shipping goods across the border, you must provide your customs broker or carrier with advance shipment information. You can do this by filing an e-Manifest, an electronic filing of your cargo information before arriving at the border. The information is sent via the Automated Commercial Environment (ACE).

Are you importing low-value shipments into the United States? Contact one of our Trade Experts and book a meeting with us below, to validate your eligibility for the Section 321 program.


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