USA Customs is officially known as Customs and Border Protection. It is one of the
Department of Homeland Security's largest and most complex components. Its mission
is to keep terrorists and their weapons out of the U.S. At the same time, it is
also attempting to secure and facilitate trade and travel. Its role is to enforce
the hundreds of U.S. regulations including immigration and drug laws.
Photo Credit: The Power of the Niagara - Alex Stroshane
This is a very complex assignment for the USA Customs when the United States has
almost 7,000 miles of land border that is shared with Canada and Mexico. There are
also 2,000 miles of coastal waters surrounding the Florida peninsula and off the
coast of Southern California which the USA Customs needs to manage and control. With
the assistance of the United States Coast Guard, USA Customs also protects 95,000
miles of maritime border surrounding the country.
Given the USA Customs or Customs and Border Protection’s challenging position, it
may seem to be difficult to work with for the small business importer importing from
11 Tips on Collaborating with USA Customs
Given the Customs and Border Protection’s busy role, here are some tips to get the
most out of them.
Learn before you call Do your homework and learn as much as you can about your product
before you call US Customs. Call only for detailed questions. The agency is not
responsible for your entire education on imports.
Call the right agency Don't call and ask questions that can only be answered by other
regulatory agencies. The US government agencies are usually distinct and separate.
For instance, if you have questions about the exotic tropic fruits that you want
to import from China, then call the Department of Agriculture.
Get acquainted with paperwork Learn about all the documents that you will need to
fill out and any special requirements before you actually start importing. Trial
and Error is not a good way to teach yourself the trade of importing.
Know what you are doing The USA Customs agency has the responsibility to enforce
the regulations of a number of US government agencies. They take their responsibilities
very seriously. So know exactly what you are doing every step of the way. Do not
ask them to look the other way or give you a break because you are new and inexperienced.
Use an Import Broker If handling paperwork or other details is not your forte, then
hire an import broker to do the work for you. It can be quite worthwhile not to have
to worry about this aspect of importing.
Expect to be searched Customs inspection of imported goods is a standard practice.
So don't panic when you see them opening your packaging as if they believe that
you have hidden drugs.
7. Be friends with the commodity specialists If you are planning to import a commodity
over a period of time, make contact with the National Commodity Specialist Division
within the Customs and Border Protection Branch. Find the name and contact information
for the specialist within your commodity area. The specialists have a wealth of
information that can really make it easier for you.
8. Get help with packing standards Work with the Customs to develop packing standards
for your commodity especially if you will be importing the same items over a long
period of time. This will make it easier for you to get the goods across the border.
9. Be very detailed Prepare your invoices very carefully. Be very thorough. Have
a detail description of every item in every package. Do not leave anything out or
you could be perceived as trying to hide information.
10. Be security smart Ensure that the shipment is secured and that your goods do not
get tempered with by narcotic drug dealers. There are dishonest traders out there
trying to use you for their benefit.
11. Use technology to make importing easier Have your entry documents electronically
sent to US customs. Consider shippers that utilize Automated Manifest System or send
documents through the National Customs Automation Program.
Getting goods through the US Customers can seem like a daunting task for the first
time importer from China. Follow these tips to make your tasks a little easier.