BLOG. Importing into the USA

May 27, 2020




Hi Again!  I want to talk to you today about importing goods into the United States. The first thing I suggest is contacting a Customs Broker in the USA so that you can make sure that the commodity you want to import is not restricted and the country you are shipping from has open trade with USA. You can also get the duty and tax rate from the broker. I recommend Acts Custom Brokers ( not only are they my parent company but are import clearance specialists!  Located in Houston, TX they have a nationwide permit and can clear cargo – land, air or ocean in any port in the USA. 281-328-4061

Standard required documents for importing

1)      ISF details – this is supplied by the forwarder (shipping company) you hired to ship your goods to USA. This is applicable for Ocean freight only.  ISF stand for Interim Security Filing and is essentially a pre-clearance. This must be filed 72 hrs prior to the vessel leaving the foreign port or you will incur a minimum $5000 fine by US customs.  This is SUPER important!  If you have an agent (like Dove Shipping) or a customs broker (like Acts Custom Brokers) they will press you for this information or contact your shipping company direct because it is step one in declaring your cargo.

2)      Commercial Invoice – this is an invoice with a value, description of cargo, full shippers details and full consignee details.

3)      Packing List – this has the information listed above but instead of value it has the weight of the cargo and the packing details. (i.e. dimensions, outer pack information, number of pieces, etc..)

4)      Bill of lading – issued by your shipping company. Make sure you list your nominated U.S. broker or agent as the notify party so they can communicate with the shipping company on your behalf. The bill of lading will be a part of your Customs entry packet. If you have an original bill of lading issued the shipping company in the foreign company will give to you or send to you via courier once the vessel has sailed. You must endorse this bill of lading and surrender to the shipping line. If you lose it you will have to wait for a replacement from overseas or sign a letter of indemnity (if accepted). Today most shipments are sent under a seaway bill or express release so you do not have to surrender to anyone.

5)      Any certificates related to fumigation, analysis, CITES, EPA, FDA, USDA, FCC or any other governing agencies. Your broker or agent will advise what is required for your commodity.

Acts Custom Brokers clears goods 5 days prior to arrival to the U.S. port so that once the cargo is arrived it is available unless Customs wants further information or exam. Make sure your broker pre-clears your goods because the last thing you want is port storage – it is Expensive! Ports give 4 free business days normally for full containers and Bonded warehouses give 5 free business days for consolidated cargo. 

Pick up or arrange delivery of your cargo upon arrival. The port is not a storage yard – it is prime real estate for the cargo that is constantly turning over at the port and overcharging for storage is one way to encourage that the freight is moved quickly.

Beware of the hidden costs.  You may see a clause in your quote that says destination fees are not included.  Find out what these fees are for and how much.  Bonded warehouses charge per cubic meter or per 1000 lbs plus fees and surcharges associated. Full containers have Terminal Handling Charge (THC) plus Wharfage – these rates vary so find out before you ship.

If you have any questions about importing cargo in the USA please do not hesitate to contact me, EMAIL.

Thanks for reading,

Sue Fitzgerald, GM, Dove Shipping






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