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Ask an expert: what licenses do I need to import?

This week, our expert explains whether you need a license to import. 

Q: What licenses do I need to import?

A: Luckily importing isn’t like getting your driver’s license – you don’t need to sit a test and get a license just to be able to do it!

Most imports these days are pretty straight forward. Consumer products such as electronics, clothing, footwear and homewares generally don’t have any restrictions; therefore you won’t need a license. Your main worry will be Customs duties. These can be expensive if you don’t know what you’re doing, so it’s a good idea to seek the advice of a Customs broker, or talk to Customs directly to find out what duty rate will apply.

Related: What is Delivered Duty Paid (DDP)?

Generally speaking, you’ll only need to get an import license if you want to import wholesale items that could potentially pose a health risk - for example, alcohol, tobacco, firearms, fertilizers, animals, drugs and food. Each of these items has a corresponding governing body, who will ask you all sorts of questions before they decide whether you can be trusted with a license to import said item. For example, if you wished to import food containing animal products into the United States, you would need to apply for an import license to The Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service.

Want to check which items require an import license in your country? Then Google “[your country] + customs” and read the information on prohibited or restricted items. If you’re still unsure or confused, give the Customs department in your country a call and talk to the support staff. They will happily provide guidance and tell you exactly what steps you need to follow to carry out your import.


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Comments (2)

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Jen on 3:15 1 Feb
Thank you for the tips, I have a question regarding import duties. If I found a suppliers in Asia, and wanna sell the products in the US. I am getting the products directly from Asia, do i have to pay import duties? Thanks Jen
Irene Vallejo on 0:18 2 Feb
@ Jen: Yes, all the products being imported into the United States will be subject to duty or duty-free entry. The rate will depend on the products' classification in the Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States. You can easily see how much will be charged to you by searching for the tariffs online at http://dataweb.usitc.gov/. It is free to use and you just need to register initially. And for more information about importing to the USA, read this article from our Education resource - http://www.salehoo.com/education/importing-shipping/importing-into-the-us-papers-procedures-duties


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