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United States

Import customs procedures in United States

Customs threshold (De Minimis Value):

USD 800

Average Customs Duty (Excluding Agricultural Products):

Until recently, the U.S. applied a customs tariff that is among the lowest in the world (on average, 3.5%). Yet following an increase in tariffs on Chinese goods, as of May 2019, the United States has one of the highest tariff rate of all developed countries, with a trade-weighted tariff rate of 4.2%. 

Products Having a Higher Customs Tariff:

Dairy products, sugars and confectionery, beverages & tobacco, clothing. 

Method of Calculation of Duties:

Customs duties are calculated on the FOB value.

Method of Payment of Customs Duties:

Recipient can pay duty and tax  by credit card, check or cash to the appointed carrier. Please follow the instruction provided by the Carrier.

For shipment with Delivery Duty Prepaid (DDP) term, Spaceship will charge back the duty, tax and tax handling fee from the appointed carrier. 

Specific Import Procedures:

The import process begins with the importer or customs broker submitting the necessary Customs entry details electronically. Customs forwards the data to FDA for its review. When FDA requires additional documentation, it makes the request to the customs broker. It is not uncommon for FDA to ask for information or documents from the foreign shipper or foreign manufacturer to verify compliance with FDA requirements.

FDA is the federal agency responsible for ensuring that foods are safe, wholesome and sanitary; human and veterinary drugs, biological products, and medical devices are safe and effective; cosmetics are safe; and electronic products that emit radiation are safe. FDA license is required for these regulated goods.

Commodity Specific Procedures:


Lacey Act Amendments (effective on December 15, 2008) 

  • Required for plants and plant products.
  • Declaration must contain:
    • Scientific name of the plant (including genus & species)
    • Value of importation
    • Quantity of the plant
    • Name of the country or territory in which the plant was harvested
  • For paper and paperboard products with recycled content, state the average % recycled content without regard for species or country or territory of harvest.

Declaration requirement does not apply to packaging material used to support, protect or carry another item (unless the packaging itself is the item being imported).

Note: USDA has the right to inspect any transit shipment and additional permits or certifications may be required.


Animals and Animal Products

Cows, goats, sheep, pigs and all other animals are restricted to import into USA. CITES permit and additional restrictions may apply.

Spaceship does not accept animal and animal products including those for edible use, such as meat, gelatin, milk, and milk products, from animals such as cows, deer, goats, sheep, and other cloven-hoofed animals.

Some prohibited product examples would be jewelry made from seashells, knife handles made of bone, or any article made of ivory.


Baby Formula

Baby formula is a commodity regulated by FDA and requires submission at all values.

  • MFG needs to have food facility registration number with US FDA (should be indicated on invoice if possible)
  • Lot number is required (usually can be found on labelling but should be indicated on invoice if possible)
  • Manufacturer MUST be provided

If above conditions are not met, shipment is likely to be detained if not refused by FDA upon submission of entry.


Fish and Wildlife

Fish and Wildlife clearance encompasses all wildlife, whether animal or animal byproduct.

In order to clear through this government agency, the customer must state the exact item description (including the genus and species of the animal) on the invoice. The country or territory of origin must be properly marked and have listed a fair market cost of the goods.

A Fish and Wildlife Declaration (Form 3177) must be completed either by the customer or broker. The customer will also need to apply for a CITES or BFAR Permit (if applicable).

The package must be marked with the names and address of the consignee and shipper. It must also contain a list of the wildlife with its scientific name. Packages MUST be marked as containing Fish and Wildlife regulated commodities. If the packages are not properly marked, The Fish and Wildlife Service could assess a fine of up to US$350.00.



The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) made some changes to its regulations on the submission of prior notice for imported food. Changes to the prior notice regulations:

  • Removes the requirement that the identity of the anticipated border crossing within the port of arrival be provided in the prior notice
  • Removes the requirement to provide the 6 digit Harmonized Tariff Schedule number in the prior notice
  • Requires the registration number of the manufacturer (or the full address of the manufacturer and a reason) in all circumstances
  • The final rule will require the PN (prior notice) to include the name and full address of the shipper, if the shipper is different from the manufacturer (in order to eliminate duplicative requirements)

Identity of the manufacturer, for food no longer in its natural state (for commercial shipments):

  • The final rule will revise the PN information requirements in 21 CFR 1.281(a)(6) for an article of food that is no longer in its natural state, to require the name of the manufacturer and either:
    • The registration number, city and country or territory of the manufacturer or
    • Both the full address of the manufacturer and the reason the registration number is not provided

Identity of manufacturer if such food sent as a personal gift:

  • The final rule will revise the PN information requirements for an article of food that is no longer in its natural state to remove the current option that allows the name and address that appears on the label to be submitted instead of the name, address, and registration number of the manufacturer for food sent by an individual as a personal gift (i.e., for non-business reasons) to an individual in the U.S. Prior Notice is not required for home-made non-commercial food shipments shipped by an individual, to an individual, as gifts for personal use. Furthermore, current FDA policy is not to require Prior Notice when food purchased at a commercial establishment is exported or offered for export by a non-commercial shipper for a non-commercial purpose (i.e., from an individual, to an individual, as a gift or as a household good for personal use). Additional exclusion criteria can be found at the FDA web site.

Requirements to Submit Prior Notice of Imported Food:

  • Submitter and transmitter
  • Deadlines for Prior Notice Submitting
  • Prior Notice General Information Requirements
  • Registration Numbers
  • Grower Identity
  • Product Identity
  • Changes to Prior Notice Submissions
  • Changes to Shipments
  • PNSI and ACS/ABI Features Confirmation

Spaceship completes Prior Notice on behalf of shipper for $80.00 HKD as per request. Shipper  may find additional information at Filing Prior Notice of Imported Foods


Nutritional Supplements

Shipments of nutritional supplements or vitamins must contain the following information on the invoice:

  • Clearly write the type of supplement or vitamin.
  • Describe the purpose of the supplement or vitamin.
  • State the recommended dosage.

    The following may also be required:

  • A copy of the prescription if the product is prescribed
  • A copy of the individual's passport if the consignee is not a U.S. citizen

    Nutritional supplements that contain animal products or animal by-products may require a Veterinary Services Import Permit. Contact the USDA Veterinary Services at www.aphis.usda.gov or 1-301-304-3277.

Veterinary Products

All veterinary products, such as surgical and hospital instruments, medicine or vitamins, dental instruments, and other products for animals, require FDA clearance.

Drugs or  Medicine

It is illegal to import medicine without FDA approval. Shipments of medicine without FDA approval will be refused entry and will be returned to the export location or destroyed.

Allow one extra day for inspection by the FDA.

Note: The FDA can decide not to take action against the illegal importation.



The Toxic Substance Control Act (TSCA) regulates the manufacturing, processing, distribution in commerce, use, or disposal of any chemical substance or mixture that may present an unreasonable risk of injury to health and the environment as required by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Importation of chemical substance in bulk or as part of a mixture or article containing a chemical substance or mixture will not be released by Customs and Border Protection (CBP) unless proper certification of compliance or exemption form requirements is present.

A TSCA Declaration is required at the time of entry on all articles in Chapter 28 and 29 of the Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States (HTSUS). Some examples include:

  • chemical elements such as fluorine, chlorine, iodine, sulfur
  • inorganic acids,
  • halogen and sulfur compounds of nonmetals
  • hydrocarbons
  • ethers

Also included under TSCA regulations are ammonia, ball point pens, cartridges, and zinc.

Types of Declarations

    • Negative Declaration - certification that the shipment is not subject or is exempt from TSCA regulations
    • Positive Declaration - certification that the shipment complies with TSCA regulations.

A signed declaration must be received from the importer prior to releasing the shipment. Importers with questions should contact that TSCA Hotline at 1-202-554-1404.



For shipments of books, carriers always require a commercial invoice. The importer is responsible for supplying a commercial invoice upon request from the U.S. Customs and Border Protection. Book shipments cannot be shipped in an envelope. They must be shipped in a shipping container.

Please note that from origin country or territory must be provided with the description of "Books". 


The following items are required on a commercial invoice for importing clothing into the US:

  • Fabric content
  • Manufacturer of each article
  • Complete address of each Manufacturer
  • Knit or Woven
  • Gender
  • Weight and Dimensions of Fabric


Notebook and Laptop Computers containing CD/DVD drives as components require clearance from the Food and Drug Administration.


Contact Lenses

All contact lenses regardless of value must clear through FDA.



Cosmetics, including bath (essential) oils, require FDA clearance.


CD Roms

A CD Rom and other portable storage media shipped commercially containing software, music, video or pictures are subject to duty and require a commercial invoice.


Dental Instruments

Dental devices, including toothbrushes, require FDA clearance.


    Electrical Items

    Compact-disc players and microwave ovens require FDA clearance.


    Eye Wear

    Eyeglass lenses and frames must comply with FDA requirements.

    Eyeglass frames with demonstration lenses must be registered with the FDA.

    Prescription lenses require a separate medical device listing number.

    Integrated Circuits

    On October 1, 2008, the Department of Commerce published in the Federal Register notice of revocation of the countervailing duty order (C-580-851) on DRAMS from Korea.

    The order covered DRAMS from Korea, whether assembled or unassembled, and memory modules containing DRAMS made in Korea. Only those modules that contained additional items that altered the function of the module to something other than memory (e.g. video graphics adapter boards), or were returned in products for repair and destruction were excluded from the scope.

    The effective date of revocation is August 11, 2008. Imports of DRAM products entered on or after this date will no longer be required to be accompanied by the following DRAM Certifications:

    • DRAM Integrated Circuit/Module Certification
    • DRAM/Memory Module Reimportation Certification
    • KR DRAM Memory Module Destruction Certification
    • DRAM Countervailing Duty Certification for Republic of Korea (ROK)-South Korea Integrated Circuits (19 CFR 353.26).


    Laser Products

    These items require FDA clearance.


    Medical Items

    Surgical and hospital instruments for humans or animals require FDA clearance.

    Allow one extra day for inspection by the FDA.

    Note: The FDA can decide not to take action against the illegal importation.

    Paper Clips

    Anti-dumping duties apply to paper clips manufactured in China.



    Anti-dumping duties apply to pencils manufactured in China.



    Pharmaceuticals, including reagents, peptides, and serums, require FDA clearance.



    Living plant material requirements depend on the product, country or territory of origin, and may require a permit, license or Phytosanitary Certificate. For more information, please visit www.usda.gov or www.aphis.usda.gov

    Phytosanitary Certificate:

    • APHIS (Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service) requires a phytosanitary certificate in order to import certain plant products
    • A phytosanitary (plant health) certificate is an official document issued by an exporting country or territory, which certifies that the phytosanitary status of a shipment meets the phytosanitary regulations of the importing country or territory
    • The intended purpose of a phytosanitary certificate is to expedite the entry of plants or plant products into the United States while protecting American agriculture. In addition, the phytosanitary certificate indicates that the shipment is free of pests and diseases that do not exist in the United States
    • A phytosanitary certificate may be obtained at the national plant protection organization of the exporting country or territory.



    Radio Frequency Devices

    Anything that is electronic, battery-operated, or capable of sending, receiving, or interfering with radio signals may be considered a radio-frequency device. Examples of such devices include radio and TV receivers, converters, transmitters, transmitting devices, radio frequency amplifiers, microwave ovens, industrial heaters, ultrasonic transceivers, and computers.

    Importation of radio frequency equipment requires that the product:
    (1) Has the required FCC equipment authorization;
    (2) Is only being imported for evaluation;
    (3) Is only being imported for demonstration at a trade show; or
    (4) Meets one of the conditions as permitted in Section 2.1204 (see Question 3 of the Equipment Authorization  Importation website).

    For more information, see the Equipment Authorization - Importation website.



    Import Shipments Containing Rosewood:

    U.S. imports of rosewood - only manufactured items (e.g., furniture, musical instruments, car interiors) are allowed if the shipper provides a validated (signed) Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) permit for export from the shippers origin country or territory.



    Shipments of footwear must include a completed footwear declaration and submitted to U.S. Customs and Border Protection.


    Soil Samples

    Soil samples must be shipped to an approved lab and the consignee must have a USDA permit.

    If the consignee does not have the permit, the shipment may be disposed by the customs.


    Spherical Plain Bearings

    Anti-dumping duties apply to spherical plain bearings manufactured in France.


    Storage Media Devices

    Portable storage media devices shipped commercially containing software, music, video or pictures are subject to duty and require a commercial invoice.



    Tableware items require FDA clearance.


    Tapered Roller Bearings

    Anti-dumping duties apply to tapered roller bearings manufactured in China.



    Televisions with cathode ray tubes require FDA clearance.


    Textile Samples

    Per administrative message TBT-09-007 issued by Customs and Border Protection on June 10, 2009, with the elimination of the visa arrangements, the provision that allows for properly marked commercial samples no longer applies. Samples entering the United States must now meet the mutilated guidelines as described below.

    Mutilated Samples

    HTS subheading 9811.00.60, provides for duty/quota free entry of articles used in the U.S. as samples to solicit orders for goods from foreign countries or territories provided that they are 1) valued at not more than $1 each or 2) marked, torn, perforated or otherwise treated in a manner that renders them unsuitable for resale.

    Mutilation must occur before importation into the U.S. and the invoice must state "Mutilated Samples - 9811.00.60" before importation into the U.S.

    In order for the mutilation requirement to be satisfied through marking, the word "Sample" must be in a contrasting color to the garment and must appear on a prominent area of the garment which will be visible when worn. The word "Sample" must be at least one inch in height and two inches in length and written in indelible ink or paint.

    Mutilation may also be achieved by making a cut or tear in the garment. The cut must be at least two inches in length and must be made to the outside of the garment.

    If importing fabric swatches, the maximum size of eight inches by eight inches is allowed to be entered under 9811.00.60 without mutilation.

    Formal entry is required for mutilated samples valued at greater than US$2000.00.



    Customs and Border Protection has recently issued an administrative message TBT-09-007 "Amendment to Formal Entry Requirements for Textiles".

    As a result, current procedures for textile entries will change according to the following guidelines:

    • Textiles valued at $200.49 or less should be processed as a Section 321.
    • Textiles valued between $200.50 and $250.49 should be processed as Informal.
    • Textiles valued over $250.49 should be submitted as Formal.

    All private entities acting as importer of record must have a bond. The bond is the financial guarantee payable to U.S. Customs as sole beneficiary that import entry will be made, completed, lawful duties, and fees paid, and compliance with all applicable U.S. laws.


    Manufacturer's ID

    Customs and Border Protection (CBP)  has amended the reporting requirements for importers to identify the manufacturer of textile and apparel products through a manufacturer identification code (MID). The MID is a critical element of an importer's obligation to report information to CBP on customs entries.  For textile and apparel products subject to the updated Declaration regulations, the importer will now be required to furnish sufficient information to meet the new MID requirements. These requirements are to provide the following:

    • Full name and address of the manufacturer performing the country or territory of origin conferring operations of each textile and apparel product.
    • When textile and apparel products from multiple manufacturers are contained in a shipment, the full name and address of each manufacturer performing the country or territory of origin conferring operations must be identified separately.

    A detailed description and information is imperative to ensure compliance since the regulations clearly state that the importer must be able to demonstrate their use of reasonable care in determining who the manufacturer is that performs the country or territory of origin conferring operations.

    If a MID does not meet the new requirements, CBP can deny entry of the shipment and, possibly, impose penalties for failure to exercise reasonable care. As a consequence, together with their suppliers, importers should have procedures in place to ensure proper identification of the entity that performs the country or territory of origin conferring operations.



    Each watch component is subject to duty at a separate rate based upon its composition.

    Shipments of watches and watch movements must contain the following information on the invoice:

    • List specific values for these watch components: battery (if applicable), case, movement, and strap or bracelet
    • Describe the type of movement, such as quartz analog, digital, or opto-electronic, or mechanical (non-battery operated). Indicate how many jewels are included, if applicable.
    • Describe the composition of the case, such as precious metal, base metal clad or plated with precious metal, or entirely of base metal.
    • Describe the composition of the strap or bracelet, such as leather, textile, base metal, base metal plated or clad with precious metal, or entirely of precious metal.


      Rolex Watches

      To protect their trademark, Rolex has registered their trademark with the Intellectual Property Rights Branch of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

      Customs tightly controls the importation of Rolex watches. To import a Rolex watch into the U.S., the importer must provide proof to Rolex's attorney that the watch was purchased abroad from an authorised dealer. Customs holds all shipments until proper authorisation has been obtained.

      Allow at least 2 weeks for Customs clearance.

      If the watch was not purchased from an authorised dealer, it will either be seized by U.S. Customs and Border Protection or be returned to the shipper at the discretion of Rolex.


    Commercial wine and beer shipments are accepted to all US states (including District of Columbia.)

    For a commercial shipment destined for the U.S., the shipper must validate with the US importer (licensed business ...i.e. Liquor Store, Wine Distributer) the following prior to shipping:

    1. Certificate of Label Approval (COLA) or COLA Waiver has been obtained and is available upon the request of US Customs and or the TTB at the time of import
    2. The US importer has a valid Basic Importer s Permit issued by the TTB

    Please refer to the above link for States that allow personal wine shipments with quantity limitations.

    Pre-approval is required before you ship. Please contact Spaceship team for more information.


    Wood and Products made of Wood

    For more information regarding the Lacey Act, please refer to the "Agriculture" section of Commodity Specific Stipulations.

    U.S. Regulation

    (2) Marking. The wood packaging material must be marked in a visible location on each article, preferably on at least two opposite sides of the article, with a legible and permanent mark that indicates that the article meets the requirements of this paragraph. The mark must be approved by the International Plant Protection Convention in its International Standards for Phytosanitary Measures to certify that wood packaging material has been subjected to an approved measure, and must include a unique graphic symbol, the ISO two-letter country or territory code for the country or territory that produced the wood packaging material, a unique number assigned by the national plant protection agency of that country or territory to the producer of the wood packaging material, and an abbreviation disclosing the type of treatment (for example , HT for heat treatment or MB for methyl bromide fumigation). The currently approved format for the mark is as follows, where XX would be replaced by the country or territory code, 000 by the producer number, and YY by the treatment type (HT or MB):

    (3) Immediate re-export of regulated wood packaging material without required mark. An inspector at the port of first arrival may order the immediate re-export of regulated wood packaging material that is imported without the mark required by paragraph (b)(2) of this section, in addition to or in lieu of any port of first arrival procedures required by § 319.40-9 of this part.

    For more information click here to go to the IPPC site



    Last Updated On : 10, Aug 2022

    Disclaimer: Information provided by Spaceship is provided as is, may not be current, and does not constitute legal advice. In no event shall Spaceship be liable for any errors in the information, forms or features made available by Spaceship, or by any third party site linked to from Spaceship. Selection and completion of proper declaration for any given shipment is the sole responsibility of the shipper. All shipments are subject to the Spaceship Terms.