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Shipping 101: Basic Importing and Exporting - Tips for New Importers and Exporters

Before importing or exporting goods to and from the United States, it’s vital that you know the policies and procedures set out by the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP). Different requirements apply to different commodities that you are importing or exporting. Make sure you thoroughly research the rules around the particular goods you are shipping in order to avoid potential problems and/or delays.

Import procedures can be confusing and difficult. This is why many people hire customs clearance specialists such as ClearFreight. Most service port pages list customs brokers that are licensed to conduct business at their specific port. If you do use a customs broker, remember that you are still ultimately responsible for documentation, applicable duties, taxes, and fees.

Here’s what you need to know.

#1 Do your research

Be sure to do your research ahead of time. Read up on the rules and regulations surrounding your commodity and the ports from which you intend to enter or exit.

Also, familiarize yourself with the following:

#2 Determine your port of entry

Ports of entry can be found on the CBP website. Whether you are looking to import through one or multiple ports, knowing the intended port will help you understand which local or state authority you will need to work with in step three.

#3 Get the right type of license

Depending on the commodity you are importing, you may be required to have a permit, license, or another type of certification. This is not a requirement of the CBP but rather a requirement of the other agencies the CBP works alongside. When importing into the U.S., it is wise to contact the other agencies you will be dealing with directly. The appendix section of Importing Into the United States lists the applicable government agencies and their contact information.

Questions around export licenses can be answered by your local CBP officer at the port you are exiting, or you can call 1-800-USA-Trade, visit, or simply give us a call.

#3 Speak directly to a CBP import specialist assigned to your commodity

Import specialists are there to help you understand the specifics around the commodity you are importing. They can help provide specific requirements, classification advice, advisory duty rates, and answer any questions you may have about entry filing. They can also direct you to other specialists who will help with the technical processing and necessary paperwork.

#4 Search the CROSS database

Search the Customs Rulings Online Search System (CROSS) for issued rulings on commodities that are similar to yours. A ruling may be requested by an importer or exporter or an authorized agent of that person. For more information, go to What are Ruling Letters? Keep in mind that right now there are significant delays due to COVID-19. If you are experiencing a delay, go back to step three and ask your import specialist the best way to proceed.

#5 You might get a bill

The CBP has the right to examine any shipment imported in the U.S. You, the importer, will shoulder the expense of preparing the commodity for the examination and the closing of the packages. This is explained fully under Title 19, section 1467, of the United States Code (19 U.S.C. 1467).

For any additional questions or support, contact us at any time! One of our logistics experts will be glad to guide you on the right path, so you can focus on your business, and let us worry about the rest.

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