How do I export goods from the US?
- If you are planning to export products, you should consult with US Customs on licensing and inspection regulations. You should also check to make sure you comply with foreign government safety and performance standards. There are currently just three countries to which exporting is illegal: North Korea, Iran and Cuba. We strongly urge you to retain the services of a competent freight forwarder to manage your shipments and the associated documentation. Many freight forwarders are listed in the phonebook.
How can I import goods to the US?
- You can import goods into the US by land, sea or air, depending on the type of product and its value. To import commercial goods into the US, you must clear US Customs and pay any import duties on the products. For shipments larger than a small sample box, you probably need to employ the services of a customs house broker to receive the shipment and take care of the associated paperwork. Dozens of customs house brokers are listed in the phonebook. You will be subject to special regulations if you are importing items like alcohol, firearms, explosives, cosmetics, pesticides, drugs or motor vehicles. Agricultural products are also subject to special health and insect control regulations. Products coming into the US must also meets American safety and performance standards. (e.g., UL certification for electrical devices).
Do I need an import/export license?
- Generally, you don’t need a special import or export license unless you are trading in regulated items like alcohol, firearms, explosives or drugs. You may also need a special permit if you are shipping to restricted countries.
Are there restrictions on the product I want to import/export?
- Yes, there are restrictions on the movement of some types of goods including firearms, military equipment, drugs, cosmetics and food/agricultural products. For example, Europe does not allow the importation of any genetically-modified food products, which include most foods sweetened with corn syrup. There are also other countries, like Cuba, where the US Government strictly limits the types of goods you may ship (e.g., only food and medicine.) The SBDC and your customs house brokers or freight forwarders can help you determine if such restrictions apply to you.
What taxes and duties apply to international shipments?
- Most countries levy some customs duties or taxes on incoming goods. These may range from a few percent to very high rates in protected markets, like Brazil. The US Customs Bureau assesses duties on products coming into the US, and foreign governments assess duties on US exports. In addition to duties, special taxes may also be applied to protected industries, like textiles and steel. Some countries also levy a value added tax (VAT) which can range up to 20% or more. The best way to estimate your total tax and duty liability is to work with your freight forwarder or customs house broker. The SBDC can also help you perform some relevant online research. Finally, the US has special free trade agreements with Canada, Mexico and numerous other countries under which you may pay very low duty rates or no duty at all.
What is the best way to ship my product?
- The preferred shipping method for your goods depends on their size, weight, value and perishability, and on the required speed of delivery. Surface freight (truck, rail, and ship) is generally the cheapest option for heavy or bulky goods, but transit time can be up to 8 weeks depending on the route. The cheapest surface rates are for full container loads (20 foot or 40 foot containers.) Air freight is expensive, but may be a reasonable option for time-critical small, light, high-value items and for perishables. To determine the best shipping method for your situation, we recommend consulting with a professional freight forwarder or customs house broker.