3 Questions I've Been Asked 100 Times About How to Import to the USA

Importing items from overseas suppliers means two good things for sellers:

-  Cheap prices on wholesale items which leave a lot of room for deliciously high profits (especially when you source from manufacturing giants such as India or China who make top-quality, non-branded items for pennies on the dollar).

-  Access to unique items that most other sellers can’t source (meaning you get significant market share!)

However, anyone who has imported items for re-selling into America will tell you that there is a bit of red-tape and a few bureaucratic layers you need to penetrate before you can reap the benefits I listed above.

If you’re a US-based seller who wants to import, read on for the answers to the most frequently asked questions about importing to the USA.

1. Am I liable for import duty?

All goods imported into the USA are subject to duty or duty-free entry depending on their classification in the Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States so you need to look up how the items you are planning on importing are classified in order to determine what and if you will pay.

You can purchase an official copy of USHTS from Informed Trade International for $US44.95 or just view it online here: http://hts.usitc.gov/  

2. How do I know how much duty I will have to pay for my imports? 

Although I’ve heard this question a lot, I never grow tired of it, because when sellers ask me this question, it means they want to know the exact cost price per item before they decide if they will sell it. This means they are doing some market research, and I get really excited when sellers do that!

Really, I already answered this question above, but what you should know is that, generally speaking, import duties are pretty reasonable (as long as you are not importing restricted items). Therefore, unless you are operating on very low margins, the cost of importing is unlikely to affect whether you will or will not go ahead with the import.  

3. Will my shipment be checked and opened by Customs?

It depends on how much you are importing. Customs generally takes less interest in smaller packages with a declared value of less than US$1,000 and lets them in easier than larger shipments (as long as the sniffer dogs don’t bark at them, that is!).

If your package is checked out, they will be looking at:

-  The value of the goods and whether it matches what your documentation says about the value of the item. Customs look at this because some suppliers will write “gift” on the package or state the value as being a lot lower than it really is so that you don’t have to pay duty. However, this is illegal and if you get caught, you could find yourself in deep trouble with Customs!

-  Whether the items are authentic, not replicas of branded items that Customs guards (also see grey market goods).

-   Whether the shipment contains any other prohibited goods.

For more information on how to import to the US, check out: http://www.cbp.gov/

Have you imported from overseas suppliers into the US? What was your experience? I’d love to hear your stories, please post them below.                                                                                 


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Comments (23)

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jane on 21:14 9 May
What about importing to Australia?
Irene Vallejo on 6:54 10 May
@Jane: We've got a blog for that as well! Please read http://www.salehoo.com/blog/importing-goods-to-australia-and-new-zealand All the best! :)
Jerry Fouts on 19:30 10 May
We had a small experience with a Chinese importer located here in the United States. I think with a limited experience that there would be no serious comment on my part. There was highlights in his inventory. Our main inventory was caps of all kinds.
Miguel Cebrian on 22:02 10 May
Hi.... I'm from México and I have heard that customs are so strict about importing merchandise from China. Anyway, I don't want to import just from china, I also would like to source from USA, UK, ITALY, and so forth... so what are the right steps to give when importing, electronics, clothing, perfumes, etc.. please help me...
Irene Vallejo on 2:31 11 May
@Miguel: Import policy varies per country, and it also depends on the product you plan to bring in. For a general view on Mexico's import requirements and documentation, please see http://www.globaltrade.net/international-trade-import-exports/f/business/text/Mexico/Trade-Policy-Import-Requirements-and-Documentation-in-Mexico.html Hope this helps. :)
janita kenele on 17:30 12 May
Hi all. I'm new at Salehoo. I'm from Indonesia and live at Denpasar, Bali. Please recommend for me what me can be exported from my city. Thanks.
Irene Vallejo on 22:25 12 May
Hi gwegitu, welcome to SaleHoo! :) I've read that Indonesia is a good source of handicrafts, one of the top products you can consider exporting from your country. If you need more help, kindly email us at http://www.salehoo.com/support :)
Piet van Niekerk on 9:31 16 May
Hi! I am interested in starting to import to South Africa. I understand the shipping costs and duties is substantially high?
JungleJim on 20:59 16 May
I'm having a difficult time finding exporters (suppliers) from smaller countries like Tunisia. Any ideas?
Irene Vallejo on 7:59 17 May
@piet1984: Shipping costs and duties depend on several factors - the nature of the product and the source country/location. :) You can find several free shipping/duty calculators online, but to be sure, just get in touch with the supplier as they may have more experience with this and can provide accurate info. @JungleJim: You may try posting your question at the forum. SaleHoo members may be able to share advice and tips related to your need. :)
Mohd Azlan Sakarudin on 23:43 19 May
Why there is nobody answering my questions when I opened tickets via http://www.salehoo.com/support?
Irene Vallejo on 3:49 20 May
Hi azlan12: We reply promptly to emailed questions. To ensure that you receive all our emails kindly add @salehoo.com to your whitelist or safe contacts list, otherwise our emails may be diverted to your Spam inbox. Take care. :)
Mohd Azlan Sakarudin on 4:50 20 May
How do I find dropship suppliers for all these brands; mac, philosophy, mary kay, clinique, chanel, victoria secret and wen?
jhon lenon on 13:46 22 May
olá irene eu sou brasileiro e eu sou novo nesse ramo e gostaria den saber como o salehoo funsiona de verdade se vocês so esportão ou fornese tambem vc poderia espricar melhor como isso funsiona de verdade irene desculpe alguma coisa que não foi encomado pode responder via e-mail para mim... obrigado Irene que Deus abençõe
Irene Vallejo on 6:51 23 May
Hi azlan12! As a member you have access to our suppliers directory. Just click on the Directory tab above, and type in the keywords for the products that you need suppliers for. You can filter the supplier type to dropshippers by clicking on 'More Options', then select supplier type. You may also post your request at our Forum by starting a new thread. You are also free to send us messages anytime at http://www.salehoo.com/support Cheers!
Irene Vallejo on 6:56 23 May
Hi jhon lenon! :) SaleHoo is available worldwide and we have thousands of members based outside the US. Approximately 75% of our suppliers ship worldwide and the best deals are often found outside the US in countries such as China, Hong Kong and the UK. All in all, SaleHoo is an excellent resource for international members!
JM on 16:03 24 May
Hi Irene, I'm going to try to export chocolate to the USA. I'm from Portugal. What am I liable for, and what is the Co I ship to, liable for? Thank you.
Irene Vallejo on 3:57 25 May
Hi JM! For details on USA duties and tariffs, you may read http://www.usaexportimport.com/duty_tax.php http://www.usaexportimport.com/regional_tariffs.php http://www.usaexportimport.com/usa-tariffs-duty-rates.php Hope this helps. :)
Anthony Battle on 23:11 25 May
In importing goods from China, is it illegal to sell it for profit? Don't you have to have some kind of license to sell goods from other countries to make a profit? I went to the web site www.cbp.gov and I didn't really understand what they were getting at about importing goods to sell to make profit. Help me out here. Thanks.
Irene Vallejo on 2:14 26 May
@luvcdb: China is one of the best sources for generic, non branded goods businesses use to resell and gain profits! Learn all about importing from China at this blog http://www.salehoo.com/education/importing-shipping/all-about-importing-from-china Cheers!
Michael Blackwell on 11:04 25 Jul
Hi I've recently joined Salehoo and want to start my own retail website to promote my goods. Can you point me in the right direction, I don't want to get ripped off over price and ongoing running costs. Thanks
Irene Vallejo on 7:04 26 Jul
Hi Wogga123, The main thing you need to get started is some time to spend doing supplier and product research. This is really important, as the decisions on what to sell and the best suppliers to use take a bit of research and comparison. It's helpful if you have at least $100 to spend on your wholesale lot. If you don't, I recommend selling stuff from around the house to raise the money. You may also download the New User Manual http://www.salehoo.com/guides (it is located at the bottom of the page). It covers everything you need to get started. :) This 19-page guide lays out how to find and order from a supplier step-by-step. It is an essential reading for newbies and seasoned retailers alike. For further questions, send them to us at http://www.salehoo.com/support Cheers!
Nathalie on 20:54 20 Jun
I want to import clothes from France. Where can i find some info
Justin Golschneider on 11:14 21 Jun
Hi Nathalie! These two articles should help:

Customs and Importing – The Legal Matters: https://www.salehoo.com/education/importing-shipping/customs-and-importing-goods-legal-matters

A Guide to Importing Wholesale: Tips and Secrets: https://www.salehoo.com/education/importing-shipping/a-guide-to-importing-wholesale-tips-and-secrets


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