Home / Importing Goods and Wholesale Products into United States
Home eCommerce Blog Importing Goods to USA

Importing Goods and Wholesale Products into United States

Most people would agree that the most difficult part of importing merchandise is the bureaucratic nightmare that goes with it. We’ve all heard the horror stories of outrageous duties being charged, goods being confiscated and so on. So, in this post, we’re going to try and clear up some of the mystery by de-jargonizing the requirements.

Remember that if you don’t want to handle customs yourself, you can use a Customs broker who will clear goods through customs on your behalf and take care of all the technicalities.

Do I need to meet any requirements before I can import goods into the US?

You don’t need a license to act as an importer but you will need a business tax number, which you’ll have to get through the IRS. This is the number you put on all customs paperwork that requires an ‘importer number’.

Note that there are some items that require a license or permit from various government agencies in order to be imported, e.g. plant, animal or dairy products, medications, trademarked and copyrighted material and so on. See the customs website for more information.

What does the US Customs procedure involve?

Customs is a two-part process: (1) filing the documents necessary to have your products deemed able to be released and (2) filing the documents that contain information for duty assessment. Both of these processes can be completed electronically via the Automated Broker Interface program of the Automated Commercial Systems.

When your documentation is presented, customs officials decide whether or not it is necessary to examine the shipment. If your goods are examined, officials will check that no legal or regulatory violations have occurred and then release your goods.

What are Customs officials looking for when they examine my shipment?

  • The value of the goods for customs purposes and to check whether duties apply.
  • Whether the goods need to be marked with country of origin or require special marking. If this is lacking, they are then marked to meet regulations.
  • Whether the shipment contains prohibited articles.
  • Whether the goods are correctly invoiced.
  • Whether the goods are in excess of the invoiced quantities or a shortage exists.
  • Whether the shipment contains illegal narcotics.

Goods are cleared much faster if:

  1. Invoices are clear and contain the information that would be shown on a well-prepared packing slip.
  2. Each package is marked and numbered so it can easily be identified against the invoice.
  3. A detailed description of the merchandise in each package is on the invoice.
  4. The country of origin is clearly marked.
  5. Any special laws that apply are complied with. Merchandise such as food, drugs, cosmetics, alcohol and so on will usually fall into this category.
  6. Your supplier maintains good security, reducing the risk that narcotics smugglers are able to introduce narcotics into your shipment.

Duties, Tariffs and all the rest….

All goods imported into the United States are subject to duty or duty-free entry depending on their classification in the Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States. The full tariff schedule is quite a hefty document about the size of a dictionary! You can purchase an annotated loose-leaf edition of the tariff schedule from the U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, DC 20402.

The easiest way to find out what you may be charged is by searching for tariffs online at http://dataweb.usitc.gov/. You’ll need to create an account before you can search, but it’s totally free to do so.

There are three types of duties that may be charged: ad valorem, specific, or compound rates. An ad valorem rate is a percentage of the value of the merchandise, such as 5% ad valorem. This is the rate most commonly applied. A specific rate is a specified amount per unit of weight or other quantity, such as 5.9 cents per dozen. A compound rate is a combination of both an ad valorem rate and a specific rate, such as 0.7 cents per kilo plus 10% ad valorem.

Rates of duty for imported merchandise can also depend on the country of origin. When referring to the Harmonized Tariff Schedule, you’ll notice two different columns: General and Statutory. Most goods are covered by the General column (column 1) if they are from what is known as ‘most favored nations’, that is, countries with a trade agreement with the US. Goods from countries to which these rates have not been extended are dutiable at the full or ‘statutory’ rates (column 2).

So am I likely to have to dig deep?

Generally, importing costs from China to US are very reasonable. While the figures always look frightening in documents such as the HTS, you’ll usually find that the tax is very low unless your item is unusual or restricted in some way. Another tip is to stay away from designer replicas as these are subject to more scrutiny and may cause Trade marking and Copyright issues.

If you are particularly worried about getting started, I suggest only importing small lots until you feel more confident with the process. Customs are primarily interested in very large orders and small parcels valued under $1,000 are usually waved on through.

Do you want more free expert tips on how to import successfully and resell your items for a profit? Become a free member of SaleHoo today. 

Wait! Want Some FREE Supplier Details?

Discover four of the most profitable niches on eBay and get details for the best suppliers for these niches. Enter your details below and we will send them instantly.

Thanks! Please check your email inbox.

Your list of profitable markets and supplier details are on their way to your email inbox.
Be sure to add support@salehoo.com to your safelist to ensure we can deliver the free suppliers details to you.

If you haven't received an email from us in 5 minutes, please check your spam folder or email us at support@salehoo.com.

47 Comments Add your comment
More a question than a comment. Do you have any tips about importing to the Caribbean and more specifically, into Trinidad? Reply
Not currently but thanks for the suggestion :) We'll consider adding some info about this to our resource area. Reply
Good article! What do you think the average cost would be for importing from Thailand to the US? Thanks, Lisa Reply
what are the costs involved and procedures to follow to ship from southwest china to usa? Reply
Thanks for sharing such info with us! USA tariff plan has changed, do you think it will affect the import export or not? www.wholesalepages.co.uk Reply
Site Admin
@Lisa: It would difficult to say. Usually shipping charges will depend on the packages size and weight. Plus rates will vary from one shipper to the next. Try searching Google for a shipping calculator just so you can do a sample costing @John: Again the size and weight will play a factor in the shipping cost. I think you'll find this guide fairly useful, http://www.salehoo.com/education/importing-shipping/importing-into-the-us-papers-procedures-duties @Wholesale: a change would generally affect the entire trading scheme may it be import or export. What specific changes are you referring to? Cheers Guys! :) Reply
Thanks for sharing this link, but unfortunately it seems to be offline... Does anybody have a mirror or another source? Please answer to my post if you do! I would appreciate if a staff member here at www.salehoo.com could post it. Thanks, Jules Reply
Site Admin
Hi Jules, Which link are you referring to? Kindly specify so we can assist you accordingly. Cheers :) Reply
Hey Richelle, Thanks for your advice. I have four small quick questions? 1. How much weight in pound can we import as individual, not as business entity. 2. Is there any list of products with amount of duty posed on it or any duty calculator available? Reply
Site Admin
Hi Sam, I can only see two questions :) But I'll try to address them to the best I can. Its hard to say or give you the weight in pounds since it varies on the type of product as well as the type of duty being imposed. The easiest way to find out what you may be charged is by searching for tariffs online at http://dataweb.usitc.gov/. Also, please visit this link for more tips and useful links: http://www.salehoo.com/education/importing-shipping/importing-into-the-us-papers-procedures-duties Hope this helps. Reply
I have a trucking business, how do I get access to the ports? I'm interested in moving containers in and out. Reply
Site Admin
@Blanca: See the list here :) http://www.cbp.gov/xp/cgov/toolbox/contacts/ports/ Reply
I need to import some goods from China. How do I get a list of custom brokers that can help me with it? The port of entry will be Houston, TX. Reply
Site Admin
@crg: There's a custom brokers' list at http://apps.cbp.gov/brokers/index.asp?portCode=5301 Cheers! Reply
Hi, I want to export clothing, and imitation jewelry from India. What and how much can be hand carried by air into the US? Reply
Hi, any advise on how to import bath and beauty products from Thailand, made form 100% organic herbs. Any help would be much appreciated. Thanks! Reply
Site Admin
Hi Tak! I think these links will help. http://www.fda.gov/ICECI/Inspections/InspectionGuides/ucm074952.htm http://www.fda.gov/Cosmetics/ProductandIngredientSafety/ProductInformation/ucm203078.htm Cheers! Reply
Hi, I have some goods from China and I want to try to use freight by sea. How long does it take and what do I need to do? What are the lists of customs broker in my area since I don't live near the port, i am from Arizona , the closest port would be in California, what are my options ? Thanks. Reply
Site Admin
@bahoombie: Kindly refer to this post http://www.salehoo.com/education/importing-shipping/china-importing-logistics-and-storage The best way to find out how much you have to pay is by visiting your country’s customs website, and for USA - http://www.customs.gov Hope this helps. :) Reply
I am looking to import from China 500-5,000 mobile phone screen cleaners at a time, a few times a month. They are very lightweight. Is there anything on my end that I need to know about? I.e., do I need to contact customs, worry about tariffs, etc.? Thanks, this is a great site! Reply
Hi, I have some goods like textile, fabrics, steel items from India. how can i import them to USA. what is the process to be followed ? What is my first step , whom should I reach out for ? please give me more details... Thanks.. Reply
Site Admin
@Ron: Yes, I believe you need to get as much information as you can before actually importing such bulk orders. :) As mentioned, the easiest way to find out what you may be charged is by searching for tariffs online at http://dataweb.usitc.gov/ and getting in touch with Customs http://www.customs.gov/ Reply
Site Admin
@Param: Same advice as above, check for the tariffs online at http://dataweb.usitc.gov/ and get in touch with Customs at http://www.customs.gov/ Reply
I like because it is useful to understand the tariffs online and the customs procedures. Reply
Thanks for giving useful information about export and import and also reminding us with the shipping charges...Keep sharing.. Reply
I am trying to remember and find out the name of a certain "Act" when importing goods into the US. Is there a place where I can look into the different "Acts" that are involved with importing. Reply
Site Admin
Hello KrazyKonga,

This might help http://www.cbp.gov/sites/default/files/documents/Importing%20into%20the%20U.S.pdf Cheers! Reply
Hello, I have very little knowledge, if any, about importing food products from international market. The idea is to bring dairy products like ice cream made of dry milk & also ice cream made of sugar & flavored water. Other products would be condensed milk & a substance that is similar to condensed milk. The products are coming from Chile, South America. My question is, where do I begin to investigate how to bring this products into the United States. Should I contact a food distributor to penetrate & find exposure into the market?
I have been given this opportunity by a family member to distribute through the United States but I honestly have no clue what or where to begin. Any feedback would be appreciated. Reply
Site Admin
Hello Rod,

To import any dairy products you need to get a permit from the FDA. I think you will find the information here https://help.cbp.gov/app/answers/detail/a_id/206/~/regulations-for-importing-dairy-products-for-commercial-use helpful!

Hope this helps :) Reply
Free Member
hi,ive met a fashion sales agent in the usa who wants to import my fashion line for girls,womens garments and leather sandles from indonesia. what do i need to do ? do i need an import brocker in dallas as thats the destination. what import duties must i pay. any info to progress my situation would be appreciated. Reply
Free Member
Hi ,Do I need work permit/ passport /visa "as I am overstaying my visa and I don't have work permit! " to start sending cloths to customers as an online cloths shop? & are the cost of shipping worth to send t-shirts ,suit ext. to euro or other countries from Bangkok? thank you Reply
Site Admin
Hello Sam,

I don't think a working permit or visa is required for you to send clothes out of Bangkok. The risk there is a possible run in with the authorities, so as an overstaying foreigner that might get you in trouble.

Good luck! Reply
Free Member
I am planning on importing handicraft made of wood and MDF(mirror frames , wall panels, photo frames etc) from india l. What would be the duty on these items and can I pick my lot in Chicago? Reply
Site Admin
Hi, Ritu --

I can't actually tell you what the duty will be. It depends on what exactly you import, I think. I'm not sure what you mean by picking your lot in Chicago. Can you elaborate? Reply
Free Member
I am plannig to import some packaged food items non-dairy, non-meat. It is kind of snacks. Is there any specific label requirements for any good products to bring this to USA? If yes, where I can find more details?

Also, if I need to bring some samples not like 20-30 pounds, do I need to go thru customs? Reply
Site Admin
its a great and useful site on importing into U.S..One more question..I know you answered it but i am confused with other comments that i read in other sites..Thing is, I am planning to start online portal and planning to import(sell) from India to USA..I know you said i need to open the business tax number but i am not a citizen of USA and i will be going back to India after few months..Could you please tell us(me) do i need to stay here to start my online business and sell the products fro m india...also could you please tell more on tax related info end of each year and every product i sell.. Reply
Site Admin
Hi, Mike --

Honestly, I am not sure. Businesses are registered at the state level so I think part of it depends on what state you're in when you start the business. If you have a base of operations in the States, it's considered a nexus and you have to deal with sales tax.

I would speak to an accountant or attorney. They can help you best, especially since I don't know the specifics of your circumstances. Reply
Hi mike,

I am also looking to import clothes from India and sell them on Amazon. Can you please let me know what difficulties or formalities you went through.

Do I need to register for business.

Dear SaleHoo Representative;

I would like some advise in importing an herbal balm / ointment product from Thailand. This product I would say
is similiar to Tiger Balm, used for pain relief and inflamation. Any suggestions concerning FDA, etc? Reply
Site Admin
Hi, Raymond!

Here are a couple of links that might help. I don't know all the details so it makes it hard to find exact information.

If nothing else, you might try googling "import [product] to US" and see what the results are and see what others have to say on the subject. Or talk to an imports expert. Reply
Free Member
I want to import plastic thermoware/hotpots casseroles from India. Is there a restriction on this. Reply
I am looking to import items from Vietnam and I was wanting to do it buy bulk and by sea, How will I find out what it will cost me to do this I am around 2 hour away from the port. I also would used a import broker to do all the paper work I hope. I would like to see it hit land be off loaded and moved inland ASAP do you think this could happen. Reply
Site Admin
Hi, Harold!

Your best bet is to talk to a customs broker or a freight company directly. Without knowing what products you're bringing in and how much, where you're storing goods, etc., I simply can't give you a good idea of what to expect. Your supplier may also be able to help -- though this certainly isn't true of every supplier.

Good luck! Reply
Free Member

Have a question on exporting products from Indonesia example, unions, oranges, green pepper ext.. does the port of Brownsville do the import of products? Reply
Site Admin
Hi, Joe -- Yes, you can import items through Brownsville. However, I am not able to locate specifics of what is or is not allowed. You'd be best talking to either the port or your shipping company, or a customs broker, about it! Reply
I appreciate the information received. Thanks much looking forward to continued relationship. Reply

I want to Import product form China. How to know that product is not patented. Also If no patent on product can I bring in any available packaging or I have to have my own brand? Reply
Site Admin
Hi there!

I honestly don't know how patents work outside of the US. IP law tends to be complicated. It sounds like you might be interested in white label products?

A good place to ask is our forum, where a lot of other sellers hang out: https://www.salehoo.com/forum/ Our staff are on the forum as well! Reply
Free Member
Thanks I am looking for which type of good I import from India to for sell in USA Reply
I have a question regarding the declaration of price of item. Price of item varies by country. If I am shipping from India what price of item I will declare at the time of shipment. Indian price or USA price.
Site Admin
Hi there! The value is the total price paid by the buyer in the U.S., so you would declare the amount that you paid to the seller in India. It's a pretty complicated process, though, and it's often best to have a professional do it. If you want to do it yourself, I recommend downloading and reading the PDF that U.S. Customs and Border Protection offers on this page: https://www.cbp.gov/document/publications/importing-united-states Reply
Hi, very useful article, thank you. Can you point me towards any information or resources for importing to the US from West Africa? Reply
Site Admin
Hi Sam! If you're based in the U.S., then the most important thing to think about is U.S. regulations. I recommend downloading and reading the PDF that U.S. Customs and Border Protection offers on this page: https://www.cbp.gov/document/publications/importing-united-states

You may also find some useful materials on the Economic Community of West African States website: http://www.ecowas.int/

I hope that helps! Reply
Free Member
Great info! I'm actually trying to bring some house slippers from Spain to sell online. I want to test the waters fist though and I would first buy small quantities. Probably less than $1,000 wholesale price. So would I still have to pay duties, taxes etc?
Thank you Reply
Site Admin
Hi Sarima! I recommend creating an account at https://dataweb.usitc.gov/ and running a search to see if and what you will likely be charged. You should be able to get the info you need pretty quickly. Reply
Hi, I want to import leather shoes from India to US. what are the legal procedures and paperwork that i will have to go through. Also will I have to register a trademark name , if i want to sell the shoes under my company name? I Reside in FL, so are there any special rules and regulations for labeling and registration. I want to buy shoes in wholesale and sell them under my company name, what is the procedure for that?

Thanks. Reply
Site Admin
Hi Ronsie! If you're based in the U.S., then I recommend downloading and reading the PDF that U.S. Customs and Border Protection offers on this page: https://www.cbp.gov/document/publications/importing-united-states

That provides the details on importing.

Trademark names are used to protect product names, phrases, slogans, etc. If you want to create your own shoe brand like Ronsie Oxfords, then registering a trademark would be important for protecting your unique shoes.

However, if you're just reselling Nikes at Ronsie's Shoe Store or something like that, then you shouldn't need to register any trademarks. As long as you have a taxpayer identification number for your business, you'll be all set.

For instructions on registering your business in Florida, see this state of Florida website: http://dos.myflorida.com/sunbiz/start-business/ Reply
Site Admin
I should also add that you will need to register a DBA (Doing Business As) if you sell under a name different from your business's legally registered name. For example, if your business is legally named Ronsie's, LLC, and you want to sell shoes under the name Ronsie's Shoe Store, then you would need to register Ronsie's Shoe Store as a DBA. Reply
Free Member
Hello, I am planning a trip to Thailand and would like to go sourcing to bring some products back into USA. I recently went to China and ordered some products that are on the way, but I went there with a group of people that were just purchasing...not on vacation. This time, I will be on vacation but want to check out a market or two if possible. Any recommendations? I will be going sometime between Jun 15 - July 31, 2017. Thanks! Reply
Free Member
We want Export variety of Home used Items of pure Aluminium like Lemon Squeezer, Chakali Making etc. These are made on PDC Machine & Power Coated. These are already sold in Indian Market in large Quantities regularly. Reply
Free Member
I want to import clothing from France. Could you give me some pointers? Thanks
Site Admin
Hi Nathalie! Importing from France should be no different from importing from anywhere else in the EU. :-) You shouldn't have any trouble if you follow the steps laid out in this article. Reply
Already a member? Login to comment
Go Back