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US Customs Clearance

Jun 28, 2022Introduction to Trade

As an established business, you likely have a dedicated department or professional to handle your complex customs clearance process. However, if you’re a small business or startup, you may find it difficult to manage on your own.

The customs clearance process is important to successfully execute any cross-border trade transaction. Although the process for procuring import and export customs clearance is similar, importing includes an assessment of the merchandise, as well as, the payment of duties and import taxes.

This simply involves preparing and submitting a specific set of documents in order to get permission from the relevant authorities to import your goods. You’ll also need to pay any applicable duty or tariffs.

In the US, this process is facilitated by the Customs and Border Protection (CBP) authority. So if you’re looking to ship goods into America, it’s worth being aware of what’s required in terms of customs clearance.

As a first time importer, there are a few things you should keep in mind to make the customs clearance process as smooth as possible.

One of the most important things is to work with a trusted and reputed supplier. This can make all the difference when it comes to dealing with paperwork, shipments and more.

It’s also a good idea to hire a licensed customs agency. They will be able to handle all of the documentation and requirements needed for your shipment. This takes a lot of stress off of your plate so that you can focus on other aspects of your business.

Be sure to also brush up on US import regulations. There are different rules and regulations depending on what type of goods you’re importing. If you’re not in compliance, you could face hefty fines or lose your entire shipment.

Working with a customs broker who has expertise in your specific type of goods is the best way to ensure everything goes smoothly. They will be up-to-date on all the latest regulations and requirements and can help you avoid any costly mistakes.

Customs Clearance Process

The customs clearance process is an important step in importing goods into the United States. Here are some things to keep in mind to make sure your shipment arrives safely and legally:

  • Make arrangements at the CBP port of entry where your shipment will be arriving. This is where all laws and regulations related to importing goods into the US will be imposed.
  • Declare the entry of your goods to the CBP. Goods can either be transported in-bond to another port of entry, or they can be stored at a warehouse at the port of arrival. If you choose to transport the goods in-bond, arrangements and transportation will be made by the importer.
  • File for cargo release within 15 days of the goods arriving at the CBP port of entry. Goods are stored at a terminal until cargo release is filed. There is usually a window of 2-5 days where storage services are free, after that there will be charges. If you need the goods delivered immediately, you will need to file for cargo release, pay estimated duties, and fill out an entry summary form as well as a goods entry declaration form.
  • The CBP has a document called an Entry Summary, which includes the importer’s declaration with regard to the classification, origin, and value of the imported merchandise. This form must be filed within 10 days of the cargo being released from CBP custody.
  • You will also need to pay estimated duties on imported goods. Keep in mind that the final amount due may change upon liquidation (19 CFR 159). If you end up paying more than what is owed, a refund will be issued.
  • Make sure your entry documentation is legally filed and complete. This includes ensuring that all required forms are filled out correctly and completely.

Here’s a quick checklist of things you need to do to ensure a smooth customs clearance process:

1. Make sure your shipment has arrived at the port of entry.

2. Check that the CBP has authorized the delivery of your merchandise.

3. Pay any estimated duties that are owed.

It’s also important to be aware of the de minimis level, which is the value below which imports are not subject to customs clearance procedures. In the US, this value is currently set at $800. So if your shipment is valued at less than this amount, you won’t need to go through the full customs clearance process.

Finally, every product has a 10-digit Harmonized Tariff Schedule (HTS) code. This code is used to classify the product for customs purposes. So when you’re preparing your shipment, be sure to look up the HTS code for each item you’re sending. There are various tools available to help you locate the correct HTS code for your products.

Documents for Customs Clearance

There are a few key documents you’ll need in order to clear customs. These include a commercial invoice from your supplier, a packing list, a certificate of origin, and a Letter of Credit (LC) or Bill of Lading (BOL).

  • The commercial invoice provides itemized detail of each product being imported and the associated costs. The packing list includes all the details about the contents of the shipment, including information about the seller, buyer, and supplier. It will also have invoice numbers, shipment date, mode of transport, carrier information, type of packaging, quantity, net/gross weight of goods, and seal/container numbers.
  • The certificate of origin is a document that mentions the country of origin of the product. This is used by customs officials to determine if the goods are eligible for import, if any special duties need to be levied, or if the products qualify for preferential treatment.
  • The LC is a letter from the bank stating that the seller will receive the amount due to them on time. This is because if the buyer cannot pay, the bank is obliged to make the payment and protect the seller.
  • The BOL is a legal document from the freight carrier to the shipper containing details about the type and quality of goods being shipped and their destination. It works as a contract between the shipper and freight carrier and is generally used when goods are shipped by sea. When goods are shipped by air, this document is called an airway bill.

The official customs form that needs to be completed is called CBP form 7501 ‘Entry Summary’. This can look daunting at first glance, but it’s simply basic information that customs officials need when the goods enter the United States.

In addition to the above documents, you may also need to provide copies of permits, certificates, memorandums, etc. Cargo control documents may also be required for goods that need special permits. This is a unique ID provided by the freight forwarder and is affixed to the container to help customs officials track the shipment quickly and easily.

Who is responsible for the Customs Clearance?

A customs agent acts as a liaison between the company and customs authority, keeping clients updated about the latest information and notifications regarding their consignment. The agent is also responsible for paying any applicable taxes and duties on behalf of the client. By following these guidelines, you can help ensure a successful customs clearance process.

A customs clearing agent can help ensure that your shipment passes through customs smoothly. These agents are experts in filling out the necessary paperwork and can help resolve any issues that may arise. Using a clearing agent can save you time and hassle, and is often worth the investment.

Customs Clearance Process while Importing from China

When importing goods from China into the United States, it is often necessary to obtain a customs bond. A customs bond is an insurance policy that covers duties and taxes, and ensures payment in all circumstances. If your imports are valued at more than US$ 2500, the CBP (Customs and Border Protection) mandates the use of a customs bond.

A licensed customs broker can make the import process much easier. They will ensure that the goods cross the border smoothly, arrive on time, and work with you at every step of the customs clearance process. Using a customs broker can save you a lot of time and hassle, and they can help you avoid potential problems down


How long does the customs clearance process take?

Assuming all the documents are in order and complete, the release of your imported goods through customs clearance may occur in as little as 24 hours. However, if there are incomplete documents or unanswered queries, the process can get delayed significantly. In any case, it is impossible to provide a fixed time frame for customs clearance due to the many layers of probabilities and uncertainties involved. By being aware of these potential delays and taking steps to ensure all required documentation is in order, you can help make the customs clearance process as smooth and efficient as possible.

How to check the status of goods in the customs clearance process?

Your customs agent or freight forwarder can provide regular updates so that you are always aware of the latest information.

Are there fees to be paid for customs clearance?

You will have to pay a customs clearance fee to your chosen customs agency – this is simply a cost towards preparing and submitting the necessary paperwork. In addition to this fee, you will also be responsible for paying duties and taxes, which are calculated as a percentage of the value of your goods plus the cost of transportation. The amount you’ll owe will depend on the type of goods being imported.

Who pays for customs clearance in Delivery at Place (DAP)?

The buyer is responsible for paying customs charges and all other costs associated with clearing the shipment through customs. This can include duties, taxes, and fees.

What Happens if the Import Shipment Fails to Get Customs Clearance?

If you’re importing goods into the United States, it’s important to be aware of the customs clearance process and what can happen if your shipment fails to clear customs.

When your goods arrive at the port of entry, the carrier will inform you so that you can begin the customs clearance process. If you don’t clear your goods through customs, the shipment may be moved to a warehouse at your expense. And if no entry documentation is presented within six months, the goods will be destroyed.

If your import shipment is being held up for reasons of fraud or negligence, US customs officials can levy heavy fines. The criminal penalty can be twice the value of the goods. That’s why it’s essential to make sure that all the paperwork is in order. The importer will be held responsible and accountable for the import, not the shipping company.

So if you’re importing goods into the US, be sure to stay on top of the customs clearance process to avoid any costly penalties or delays.


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1324 E 2nd St, Muscatine, IA 52761

(563) 277-8002

Looking for an export or import solution?

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