When a shipment reaches the United States, the importer of record (i.e., the owner, purchaser, or licensed customs broker designated by the owner, purchaser, or consignee) will file entry documents for the goods with the district or port director at the port of entry, delivery of the merchandise has been authorized by Customs and estimated duties have been paid. It is the responsibility of the importer of record to arrange for examination and release of the goods.



Prior to importing and entering merchandise into the commerce of the United States, it is necessary to make an appointment with a Customs official. In general, the most important information from U.S. Customs regarding the importation of the product can be obtained by asking the following questions:

  • What is the tariff number of the product?
  • What is the rate of duty?
  • How should the product be marked?
  • Are there any other Federal Agency requirement? (FDA, DOT, EPA, ATF, etc...)
  • Any other useful information?
The term "entry" is defined as the documentation required to secure the release of imported merchandise from Customs. This documentation may be filed with Customs in the form of paper or electronically through the Automated Broker Interface (ABI) . Please see also the Automated Commercial System (ACS) , the system used by the U.S. Customs Service to track, control, and process all commercial goods imported into the United States.

Entry is required regardless of value and falls under two categories:

  1. Formal entries.
this type of entry is supported by a bond and cover goods imported for resale or goods that will be used in business or profession. All formal entries require a valid importer identification number. Standard importer identifications include the Internal Revenue Service number, the importers Social Security number, or a Customs assigned number.
  1. Informal entries
these entries are NOT supported by a bond and are generally used to enter personal shipments or commercial shipments of less than $2000.00 with some exceptions.

Once the goods arrive in the United States, it is the responsibility of the importer to make entry. However, the importer may designate an authorized Customhouse broker to act as his agent by giving the Customs broker a power of attorney.

Note: In addition to the U.S. Customs Service, Importers should contact other agencies when questions regarding particular commodities arise. For example, questions about products regulated by the Food and Drug Administration should be forwarded to the nearest FDA district office or to the Import Division, FDA Headquarters, (301) 443-6553. The same is true for alcohol, tobacco, firearms, wildlife products (furs, skins, shells), motor vehicles, and other products and merchandise regulated by the 60 federal agencies for which Customs enforces entry laws.

Goods may be entered for consumption, entered for warehouse at the port of arrival, or they may be transported in-bond to another port of entry and entered there under the same conditions as at the port of arrival. Arrangements for transporting the merchandise to an interior port in-bond may be made by the consignee, by a customs broker, or by any other person having a sufficient interest in the goods for that purpose. Unless your merchandise arrives directly at the port where you wish to enter it, you may be charged additional fees by the carriers for transportation to that port if other arrangements have not been made. Under some circumstances, your goods may be released through your local Customs port even though they arrive at another port from a foreign country. Arrangements must be made prior to arrival at the Customs port where you intend to file your duties and documentation.

Goods to be placed in a foreign trade zone are not entered at the customhouse.


Goods may be entered only by the owner, purchaser, or by a licensed customs broker. When the goods are consigned "to order," the bill of lading, properly endorsed by the consignee, may serve as evidence of the right to make entry. An air waybill may be used for merchandise arriving arriving by air.

In most instances, entry is made by a person or firm certified by the carrier bringing the goods to the port of entry and is considered the "owner" of the goods for customs purposes. the document issued by the carrier is known as a "Carrier's Certificate." In certain circumstances, entry may be made by means or a duplicate bill of lading or a shipping receipt.


The entry of merchandise is a two part process consisting of (1) filing the documents necessary to determine whether merchandise may be released from Customs custody and (2) filing the documents which contain information for duty assessment and statistical purposes. Both of these processes can by accomplished electronically via the Automated Broker Interface program of the Automated Commercial Systems.


Within five working days of the date of arrival of a shipment at a U.S. port of entry, entry documents must be filed at a location specified by the district/area director, unless an extension is granted. These documents consist of:

  • Entry Manifest, Customs Form 7533; or Application and Special Permit for Immediate Delivery, Customs Form 3461, or other form of merchandise release required by the district director.
  • Evidence of right to make entry.
  • Commercial invoice or a pro forma invoice when the commercial invoice cannot be produced.
  • Packing lists if appropriate.
  • Other documents necessary to determine merchandise admissibility.
If the goods are to be released from Customs custody on entry documents, an entry summary for consumption must be fielded and estimated duties deposited at the port of entry within 10 working days of the time the goods are entered and released.


The entry must be accompanied by evidence that bond is posted with Customs to cover any potential duties, taxes, and penalties which may accrue. Bonds may be secured through a resident U.S. surety company but may be posted in the form of United States money or certain United States government obligations. In the event that a customs broker is employed for the purpose of making entry, the broker may permit the use of his bond to provide the required coverage.


Following presentation of the entry, the shipment may be waived. The shipment is then released, provided no legal or regulatory violations have occurred. Entry summary documentation is filed and estimated duties are deposited within 10 working days of the release of the merchandise at a designated customhouse. Entry summary documentation consists of:

  • The entry package returned to the importer, broker, or his authorized agent after merchandise is permitted release:
  • Entry summary (Customs Form 7501)
  • Other invoices and documents necessary for the assessment of duties, collection of statistics, or the determination that all import requirements have been satisfied. This paper documentation can be reduced or eliminated when utilizing features of the Automated Broker Interface.

An alternate procedure which provides for immediate release of a shipment may be used in some cases by making application for a Special Permit for Immediate Delivery on Customs Form 3461 prior to the arrival of the merchandise. Carriers participating in the Automated Manifest System can receive conditional release authorizations, after leaving the foreign country, and up to five days before landing in the United States. If the application is approved, the shipment is released expeditiously following arrival. An entry summary must then be filed in proper form, either on paper or electronically, and estimated duties deposited within 10 working days of release. Release using Form 3461 is limited to the following merchandise:

  • Merchandise arriving from Canada or Mexico, if approved by the district director and an appropriate bond is on file.
  • Fresh fruits and vegetables for human consumption arriving from Canada and Mexico and removed from the area immediately contiguous to the border to the importer's premises within the port of importation.
  • Shipments consigned to or for the account of any agency or officer of the U.S. Government.
  • Articles for trade fair.
  • Tariff-rate quota merchandise and under certain circumstances merchandise subject to an absolute quota. Absolute quota items require a formal entry at all times.
  • In very limited circumstances, merchandise released from warehouse followed within 10 working days by a warehouse withdrawal for consumptions
  • Merchandise specifically authorized by Customs Headquarters to be entitled to release for immediate delivery.

If it is desired to postpone the release of the goods, they may be placed in a Customs bonded warehouse under a warehouse entry. The goods may remain in the bonded warehouse up to five years from the date of importation. At any time during that period, warehoused goods may be reexported without the payment of duty or they may be withdrawn for consumption upon the payment of duty at the rate of duty in effect on the date of withdrawal. If the goods are destroyed under Customs supervision, no duty is payable.

While the goods are in the bonded warehouse, they may, under Customs supervision, be manipulated by cleaning, sorting, repacking, or otherwise changing their condition by processes which do not amount to manufacturing. After manipulation and within the warehousing period, the goods may be exported without the payment of duty or they may be withdrawn for consumption upon payment of duty at the rate applicable to the goods in their manipulated condition at the time of withdrawal. Perishable goods, explosive substances, or prohibited importations may not be placed in a bonded warehouse. Certain restricted articles, though not allowed release from custody, may be warehoused.

Information regarding bonded manufacturing warehouses is contained in section 311 of the Tariff Act. (19 U.S.C. 1311).


If there is a failure to file an entry for the goods at the port or port of destination for in-bond shipments within five working days after arrival, the district or port director may place them in a general order warehouse at the risk and expense of the importer. If the goods are not entered within one year from the date of importation, they can be sold at public auction. Perishable goods, goods liable to depreciation, and explosive substances, however, may be sold sooner.

Storage charges, expenses of sales, internal revenue taxes, duties and amounts for the satisfaction of liens must be taken out of the money obtained from the sale of the unentered goods. Any surplus remaining after these deductions is ordinarily payable to the holder of a duly endorsed bill of lading covering the goods. If the goods are subject to internal revenue taxes and will not bring enough on sale at public auction to pay the taxes, they are subject to destruction.


Importers have found that in some cases it is to their advantage to use the mails to import merchandise into the United States. Some benefits to be gained are:

  • Ease in clearing shipments through Customs. The duties on parcels valued at $2000 or less are collected by the letter carrier delivering the parcels to the addressee.
  • Savings on shipping charges. Smaller, low-valued packages can often be sent less expensively through the mails.
  • No entry required on duty-free merchandise not exceeding $2000 in value.
  • No need to clear shipments personally if under $2000.
Joint Customs and postal regulations provide that all parcel post packages must have a Customs declaration securely attached giving an accurate description and the value of the contents. This declaration is obtained at post offices. Commercial shipments must also be accompanied by a commercial invoice enclosed in the parcel bearing the declaration.

Each mail article containing an invoice or statement cannot conveniently be enclosed within the sealed article, it may be securely attached to the article. Failure to comply with any of these requirements will delay clearance of the shipment through Customs.

Packages other than parcel post, such as letter-class, commercial papers, printed matter, and samples of merchandise, must bear on the address side a label, Form C1, provided by the Universal Post Union, or the endorsement "May be opened for customs purpose before delivery" or similar words definitely waiving the privacy of the seal and indicating that Customs officers may open the parcel without recourse to the addressee. Parcels not labeled or endorsed in this manner and found to contain prohibited merchandise subject to duty or tax are subject to forfeiture.

A Customs officer prepares the customs entry for mail importations not exceeding $2000 in value, and the letter carrier at the destination delivers the parcel to the addressee upon payment of the duty. If the value of a mail importation exceeds $2000, the addressee is notified to prepare and file a formal Customs entry (consumption entry) at the Customs port nearest to him. A commercial invoice is required with the entry.

A Customs processing fee of $5.00 will be assessed on each item of dutiable mail for which a Customs officer prepares documentation. This nominal charge on all dutiable or taxable mail, in addition to the duty, is collected from the addressee. There is also a postal fee (in addition to prepaid postage) authorized by international postal conventions and agreements as partial reimbursement to the Postal Service for its work in clearing packages through Customs delivering them.

NOTE: The following general exceptions apply to the $2000 limit:

Articles classified in sub-chapters III and IV, chapter 99, HTSUS: Billfolds and other flat goods; Feather and feather products; Flowers and foliage, artificial or preserved; Footwear; Fur, articles of Gloves, Handbags, Headgear and hat braids; Leather, articles of Luggage; Milinary ornaments; Pillows and cushions; Plastics, miscellaneous articles of Rawhides and skins; Rubber, miscellaneous articles of Textile fibers and products; Toys, games, and sports equipment; Trimmings

The limit for these articles is set at $250. However, almost all commercial shipments of textile fibers and products require formal entry regardless of value. Unaccompanied shipments of made-to-measure suits from Hong Kong require a formal entry regardless of value. Here is a selected listing of some of the more important US Customs Service forms used in importing goods into the United States:

Some of the following forms can be downloaded and viewed (using Adobe Acrobat), by following this link to the U.S. Customs Site. If the form you need is not listed for download, follow the link to contact your local service port. To return to this list, just click your Browser's "back" button.

  • CF 19 - Protest
  • CF 28 - Request for Information
  • CF 29 - Notice of Action
  • CF 214 - Application for Foreign-Trade Zone Admission and/or Status Designation
  • CF 216 - Application for Foreign-Trade Zone Activity Permit
  • CF 301 - Customs Bond
  • CF 331 - Manufacturing Drawback Entry and/or Certificate
  • CF 349 - Harbor Maintenance Fee Quarterly Summary Report
  • CF 434 - North American Free Trade Agreement Certificate of Origin
  • CF 262 - Request for Printed Material
  • CF 1300 - Master's Oath on Entry of Vessel in Foreign Trade
  • CF 1301 - General Declaration
  • CF 1302 - Cargo Declaration
  • CF 1302A - Cargo Declaration (Outward With Commercial Forms)
  • CF 1303 - Ship's Stores Declaration
  • CF 3039 - Request for Customs Forms, Publications, and Other Printed Matter
  • CF 3124 - Application for Customs Broker License or Permit
  • CF 3171 - Application-Permit-Special License-Unlading-Lading-Overtime Services
  • CF 3173 - Application for Extension of bond for Temporary Importation
  • CF 3189 - Lay Order Application and Approval
  • CF 3227 - Certificate of Disposition of Imported Merchandise
  • CF 3229 - Certificate of Origin
  • CF 3299 - Declaration for Free Entry of Unaccompanied Articles
  • CF 3311 - Declaration for Free Entry of Returned American Products
  • CF 3347 - Declaration of Owner
  • CF 3347A - Declaration of Consignee When Entry is Made by an Agent
  • CF 3461 - Entry/Immediate Delivery
  • CF 3475 - Merchandise Marking Requirements
  • CF 3495 - Application for Exportation of Articles Under Special Bond
  • CF 3499 - Application and Approval to Manipulate, Examine, Sample, or Transfer Goods
  • CF 3485 - Lien Notice
  • CF 4455 - Certificate of Registration
  • CF 4647 - Notice to Mark and/or Notice to Redeliver
  • CF 5129 - Crew Member's Declaration
  • CF 5297 - Corporate Surety Power of Attorney
  • CF 6043 - Delivery Ticket
  • CF 6059B - Customs Declaration
  • CF 7303 - Pro Forma List of Export Declarations for Rail Shipments to Canada
  • CF 7501 - Entry Summary
  • CF 7501A - Entry Summary Continuation Sheet
  • CF 7509 - Air Cargo Manifest
  • CF 7507 - General Declaration (Outward/Inward)
  • CF 7514 - Drawback Notice (Lading/Foreign Trade Zone Transfer)
  • CF 7511 - Notice of Exportation of Articles With Benefit of Drawback
  • CF 7533 - Inward Cargo Manifest for Vessel Under Five Tons, Ferry, Train, Car, Vehicle, Etc.
  • CF 7512 - Transportation Entry and Manifest of Goods Subject to Customs Inspection and Permit
  • CF 7512B - US-Canada Transit Manifest
  • CF 7512A - Transportation Entry and Manifest of Goods Subject to Customs Inspection and Permit Continuation Sheet
  • CF 7523 - Entry and Manifest of Merchandise Free of Duty, Carrier's Certificate and Release
  • CF 7539 - Drawback Entry Covering Rejected Merchandise
Other necessary forms:
  • Bill of Lading
  • Delivery Order
  • Document Transmittal and Instructions
  • FDA 701 - Food and Drug Administration
  • Import Invoice
  • Pro Forma Invoice
  • Reforwarding Sets With Bill of Lading


The following is a list of suggestions of ways importers and their suppliers can work together to speed up the clearance of shipments.

__ Include all information required on customs invoices

__ Prepare your invoices carefully, allowing adequate space for data. They must be clear and accurate in all respects!

__ Invoices should contain the information normally shown on an accurate packing list.

__ Mark and number each package to correspond with marks and numbers appearing on your invoice.

__ Give a detailed description on the invoice of each item in each individual package.

__ Clearly mark the goods with the name of the country of origin, unless they are specifically exempted, and with other markings as required by U.S. law.

__ Comply with special provisions in U.S. law that apply to your merchandise; food, drugs, animal life.

__ Ask U.S. Customs for help in developing packing standards for your merchandise.

__ Assure the security of your goods at all times (Do not allow your goods to become a hiding place for drugs or other illegal contraband)

__ Consider using a carrier who uses the Automated Manifest System and a customs broker who participates in ABI (Automated Broker Interface)



Merchandise arriving in the United States by commercial carrier must be entered by the owner, purchaser, his authorized regular employee, or by the licensed Customs broker designated by the owner, purchaser, or consignee. U.S. Customs officers and employees are not authorized to act as agents for importers or forwarders of imported merchandise, although they may give all reasonable advise and assistance to inexperienced importers.

The only persons who are authorized by the tariff laws of the United States to act as agents for importers in the transaction of their Customs business are Customs brokers who are private individuals or firms licensed by the Customs Service. Customs brokers will prepare and file the necessary Customs entries, arrange for the payment of the duties found due, take steps to effect the release of the goods in Customs entries, and otherwise represent their principals in customs matters. The fees charged for these services may vary according to the Customs broker and the extent of services performed.

Every entry must be supported by one of the forms of evidence of the right to make entry. When entry is made by a Customs broker, a Customs power of attorney given by the person or firm for whom the Customs broker is acting as agent is made in the name of the Customs broker. Ordinarily, the authority of an employee to make entry for his employer is most satisfactorily established by a Customs power of attorney.


Entry of goods may be made by a nonresident individual or partnership, or a foreign corporation through an agent or representative of the exporter in the United States, a member of the partnership, or an officer of the corporation.

The surety on any Customs bond required from a nonresident individual or organization must be incorporated in the United States. In addition, a foreign corporation in whose name merchandise is entered must have a resident agent authorized to accept service of process in its behalf in the state where the port of entry is located.

A licensed Customs broker named in a Customs power of attorney may make entry on behalf of the exporter or his representative. The owner's declaration made by a nonresident individual or organization which the Customs broker may request must be supported by a surety bond providing for the payment of an increased or additional duties found due. An owner's declaration executed in a foreign country is acceptable, but it must be executed before a notary public and bear the notary's seal. Notaries public will be found in all American embassies around the world and in most of the larger consulates.


A nonresident individual, partnership, or foreign corporation may issue a power of attorney to a regular employee, Customs broker, partner, or corporation officer to act for the nonresident employer in the United States. Any person named in a power of attorney must be a resident of the United States who has been authorized to accept service of process on behalf of the person or organization issuing the power of attorney. The power of attorney to accept service of process becomes irrevocable with respect to Customs transactions duly undertaken. Either the applicable Customs form or a document using the same language as the form is acceptable. References to those acts which the issuer has not authorized his agent to perform may be deleted from the form or omitted from the document.

A power of attorney from a foreign corporation must be supported by the following documents or their equivalent when foreign law or practice differs from that in the United States:

  • A certificate from the proper public officer of the country showing the legal existence of the corporation, unless the fact of incorporation is so generally known as to be a matter of common knowledge.
  • A copy of that part of the charter or articles of incorporation which shows the scope of business of the corporation and its governing body.
  • A copy of the document or part thereof by which the person signing the power of attorney derives his authority, such as a provision of the charter or articles of incorporation, a copy of the resolution, minutes of the meeting of the board of directors or other document by which the governing body conferred the authority. In this case a copy of the bylaws or other document giving the governing board the authority to designate others to appoint agents or attorney required.
A nonresident individual or partnership or a foreign corporation may issue a power of attorney to authorize the persons or firms named in the power of attorney to other qualified residents of the United States and to empower the residents to whom such powers of attorney are issued to accept service of process on behalf of the nonresident individual or organizations.

A power of attorney issued by a partnership must be limited to a period not to exceed two years from the date of execution and shall state the names of all members of the partnership. One member of a partnership may execute a power of attorney for the transaction of the customs business of the partnership. When a new firm is formed by a change of membership, the power of attorney of the prior firm is no longer effective for any customs purpose. The new firm will be required to issue a power of attorney for the transaction of its custom business. All other powers of attorney may be granted for an unlimited period.

Customs Form 5291 or a document using the same language as the form is also used to empower an agent other than an attorney-at-law or Customs broker to file protests on behalf of an importer under section 514 of the Tariff Act of 1930 as amended.



Information on how to pack goods for the purposes of transporting may be obtained from shipping manuals, carriers, forwarding agents, and other sources. This information deals with packing goods being exported in a way which will permit U.S. Customs officers to examine, weigh, measure, and release the goods promptly.

Orderly packing and proper invoicing go hand in hand. You will speed up the clearance of your goods through Customs, if you:

  • Invoice your goods in a systematic manner.
  • Put marks and numbers on each package.
  • Show those marks or numbers on your invoice opposite the itemization of goods contained in the package which bears those marks and numbers.
When the packages contain goods of one kind only, or when the goods are imported in packages the contents and values of which are uniform, the designation of packages for examination and the examination for Customs purposes is greatly facilitated. If the contents and values differ from package to package, the possibility of delay and confusion is increased. Sometimes, because of the kinds of goods or because of the unsystematic manner in which they are packed, the entire shipment must be examined.

Pack and invoice your goods in a manner which makes a speedy examination possible. Always bear in mind that it may not be possible to ascertain the contents of your packages without full examination unless your invoice clearly shows the marks and numbers on each package (whether box, case, or bale) and specifies the exact quantity of each item of adequately described goods in each marked and numbered package.

Also, be aware that Customs examines cargo for narcotics that may be hidden in cargo, unbeknownst to the shipper or the importer. This can be time-consuming and expensive for both the importer and the Customs Service. Narcotics inspections may require completely stripping a container in order to physically examine a large portion of the cargo. This labor intensive handling of cargo, whether by Customs, labor organizations, or private individuals, results in added, increased delays, and possible damage to the product. Importers can expedite this inspection process by working with Customs to develop packing standards that will permit effective Customs examinations with a minimum of delay, damage, and cost.

A critical aspect in facilitating inspections is how the cargo is loaded. "Palletizing" cargo - loading it onto pallets or other consolidated units - is an effective way to expedite such examinations. Palletization allows for quick cargo removal, in minutes using a forklift, compared to the hours it takes manually. Another example is leaving enough space at the top of a container and an aisle down the center to allow access by a narcotics detector dog.

Cooperating in these efforts will help Customs officers to decide which packages must be opened and examined; how much weighing, counting, or measuring must be done and whether the goods are properly marked. It will simplify the ascertainment of tare and and reduce the number of samples to be taken for laboratory analysis or for other customs purpose. It will facilitate the verification of the contents of the packages as well as the reporting by Customs officers of missing or excess goods. And it will minimize the possibility that the importer may be asked to redeliver for examination packages which were released to him on the theory that the packages designated for examination were sufficient for that purpose.

It is clear that packing which, in fact, amounts to a confusion of different kinds of goods makes it impractical for Customs officers to determine the quantity of each kind of product in an importation and leads to various complication. No problem arises from the orderly packing of several kinds of properly invoiced goods in one package - it is indiscriminate packing which causes difficulty.


Except as mentioned hereafter, whenever articles subject to different rates of duty are so packed together or mingled such that the quantity or value of each class of articles cannot be readily ascertained by Customs officers (without physical segregation of the shipment or the contents of any package thereof) the commingled articles shall be subject to the highest rate of duty applicable to any part of the commingled lot, unless the consignee or his agent segregates under Customs supervision.

The three methods of ready ascertainment specified by General Note 5, HTSUS, are (1) sampling, (2) verification of packing lists or other documents filed at the time of entry, or (3) evidence showing performance of commercial settlements tests generally accepted in the trade and filed in the time and manner as prescribed in the Customs Regulations.

The segregation is at the risk and expense of the consignee. It must be done within 30 days (unless a longer time is granted) after the date of personal delivery or the date of mailing of a notice to the consignee by the district or port director of Customs that the goods are commingled. The compensation and expenses of the Customs officers supervising the segregation must be paid for by the consignee.

Assessment of duty on the commingled lot at the highest applicable rate does not apply to any part of a shipment if the consignee or his agent furnishes satisfactory proof that (1) such part is commercially negligible, is not capable of segregation without excessive cost, and will not be segregated prior to its use in a manufacturing process or otherwise, and (2) the commingling was not intended to avoid the payment of lawful duties.

Any article for which such proof is furnished shall be considered for all Customs purposes as a part of the article, subject to the next lower rate of duty, with which it is commingled.

In addition, the highest rate rule mentioned does not apply to any part of a shipment if there is furnished satisfactory proof that (1) the value of the commingled articles is less than the aggregate value would be if the shipment were segregated, (2) the shipment is not capable of segregation without excessive cost and will not be segregated prior to its use in a manufacturing process or otherwise, and (3) the commingling was not intended to avoid the payment of lawful duties.

Any merchandise for which such proof is furnished shall be considered for all Customs purposes to be dutiable at the rate applicable to the material present in greater quantity than any other material.

The above rules do not apply if the tariff schedules provide particular tariff treatment for commingled articles.

5. MARKING Back To Top


United States Customs laws require that each imported article that is produced abroad needs to be marked in a visible place as legibly, indelibly, and permanently as the nature of the article permits, with the English name of the country of origin, so that the ultimate purchaser in the United States knows the name of the country in which the article was manufactured or produced. There is an exception to the rule for articles that are specifically exempted from individual marking. The exceptions are stated below.


If the article (or the container when the container and not the article must be marked) is not properly marked during importation, a marking duty equal to 10 percent of the customs value of the article will be tacked on the article unless the article is exported, destroyed, or properly marked under Customs supervision before the liquidation of the entry concerned.

It not feasible to state who will be the "ultimate purchaser" in every circumstances. An "ultimate purchaser" can be defined as the last person in the United States who will receive the article in the form in which it was imported. In general, if a article that has been imported to the U.S. is going to be used in manufacturing, which will result in an article having a name, character or usage different from that of the imported article, the manufacturer is the ultimate purchaser. If an article is to be sold at retail in its imported form, the purchaser at retail is the ultimate purchaser. A person who subjects an imported article to a process which results in a substantial transformation of the article is the ultimate purchaser, but if the process is merely a minor one which leaves the identity of the imported article intact, the processor of the article will not be regarded as the ultimate purchaser.

When an article (or its container) is required to be marked so it's origin is indicated, the marking is considered sufficiently permanent if it will remain on the article (or its container) until it reaches the ultimate purchaser.

When an article is of a type that is usually combined with another article subsequent to importation but before delivery to an ultimate purchaser, and the name indicating the country of origin of the article appears in a place on the article so that the name will be visible after such combining, the required markings, in addition to the name of the country of origin, words or symbols which clearly show that the origin indicated is that of the imported article only and not that of any other article with which the imported article may be combined after importation. For instance, if marked bottles, drums, or other containers are imported empty, to be filled in the United States, they need to be marked with such words as "Bottle (or drum container) made in (name or country)." Labels and similar articles so marked that the name of the country of origin is visible after it is affixed to another article in this country needs to be marked with additional descriptive words such as "label made (or printed) in (Name of country)" or words of similar import.

In cases were the words "United States" or "American" or the letters "U.S.A." or any variation of such words or letters, or the name of any city or locality in the United States, or the name of any foreign country or locality in which the article was not manufactured or produced, appear on an imported article or container, there needs to appear, legibly and permanently, in close proximity to such words, letters or name, the name of the country of origin preceded by "Made in," "Product of," or other words of similar meaning.

If marked articles are going to be repacked in the United States after release from Customs custody, importers need to certify on entry that they will not obscure the marking on properly marked articles if the article is repacked or if they mark the repacked container. If the importers do not repack, but resell to repackers, importers must notify the repackers of the marking requirements. Failure to follow certification requirements may subject importers to penalties and/or additional duties.


There are many articles and classes or kinds of articles that are not required to be marked to indicate the country of their origin. However, the containers in which these articles are in must be marked to indicate the English name of the country of origin of the articles. For further information and a listing of articles that are exempted from markings please contact the United States Customs Service.


In addition, the Secretary of the Treasury has authorized that under the following circumstances articles be excepted from marking to indicate the country of their origin. (The usual container in which these articles are imported in will also be excepted from marking):

  • An article imported for use by the importer and not intended for sale in its imported or any other form.
  • An article which is to be processed in the United States by the importer or for his account otherwise than for the purpose of concealing the origin of the article and in such manner that any mark of origin would necessarily be obliterated, destroyed, or permanently concealed.
  • An article with respect to which an ultimate purchaser in the United States, by reason of the character of the article, or by reason of the circumstances of its importation, must necessarily know the country of origin even though the article is not marked to indicate its origin. The clearest application of this exemption is when the contract between the ultimate purchaser in the United States and the supplier abroad insures that the order will be filled only with articles grown, manufactured, or produced in a named country.
The following articles under the stated circumstances are exempted from marking, however, the outermost containers in which the articles reach the ultimate purchaser in the United States must be marked to show the country of origin:
  • Article that are incapable of being marked.
  • Articles that cannot be marked prior to shipment to the United States without injury.
  • Articles that cannot be marked prior to shipment to the United States, except at an expense economically prohibitive of their importation.
  • Articles for which the marking of the containers will reasonably indicate the origin of the articles.
  • Crude substances.
  • Articles produced more than 20 years prior to their importation into the United States.
  • Articles entered or withdrawn from warehouse for immediate exportation or for transportation and exportation.
When the marking of the container of an article will reasonably indicate the country of origin of the article, the article itself may be exempt from such marking. This exemption applies only when the articles will reach the ultimate purchaser in an unopened container. For example, articles which reach the retail purchaser in sealed containers which are clearly marked to indicate the country of origin come within this exception. Materials that are to be used in building or manufacture by the builder or the manufacturer who will receive the materials in unopened cases also come within this exemption. The following articles, along with their containers, are excepted from marking to indicate the country of their origin:
  • Products that are duty free that come from American fisheries.
  • Products that come from possessions of the United States.
  • Products from the United States that were exported and then returned.
  • Articles that are no more than $5 in value that were passed without entry.

The marking requirements for country of origin are separate and apart from any special marking or labeling that is required by other agencies on specific products. It is recommended that the specific agency be contacted for any special requirements in marking and labeling.

Certain articles are subject to special country of origin marking requirements: Iron and steel pipe and pipe fittings, manhole rings, frames, or covers, and compressed gas cylinders, must generally be marked by one of four methods: die-stamped, cast-in-mold lettering, etching (acid or electrolytic) or engraving. In addition, none of the exceptions from marking discussed above are applicable to iron and steel pipe and pipe fittings.

The following articles, and parts belonging to these articles, need to be marked legibly and clearly to indicate their origin by die-stamping, cast-in-the-mold lettering, etching (acid or electrolytic), engraving, or by means of metal plates which bear the prescribed marking and which are securely attached to the article in an easily viewed place by welding, screws, or rivets:

Knives, clippers, shears, safety razors, surgical instruments, scientific and laboratory instruments, pliers, pincers and vacuum containers.

Watch movements are required to be marked on one or more of the bridges or top plates to show (1) the name of the country that manufactured the watch, (2) the name of the manufacturer or purchaser, and (3) in words, the number of jewels, if any, serving a mechanical purpose as frictional bearings.

Clock movements need to be marked on the most visible part of the front or back plate so that the following features are visible: (1) the name of the country of manufacture, (2) the name of the manufacturer or purchaser, and (3) in words, the number of jewels, if any, serving a mechanical purpose as frictional bearings.

Watch cases need to be marked on the inside or outside of the back cover to indicate (1) the name of the country of manufacture, and (2) the name of the manufacturer or purchaser.

Clock cases and other cases provided for in Chapter 91 of the Harmonized Tariff Schedule , are required to be marked on the most visible part of the outside of the back to show the name of the country of manufacture.

The terms "watch movement" and "clock movement" refer to devices regulated by a balance wheel and hairspring, quartz crystal, or any other system capable of determining intervals of time, with a display or system to which a mechanical display can be incorporated. "Watch movements" include those devices which do not exceed 12 mm in thickness and 50 mm in width, length, or diameter, "clock movements" include those devices which do not meet the watch movement dimensional specifications. The term "cases" includes inner and outer cases, containers, and housings for movements, together with parts or pieces, such as, but not limited to, rings, feet, posts, bases, and outer frames, and any auxiliary or incidental features, which (with appropriate movements) serve to complete the watches, clocks, time switches, and other apparatus provided for in Chapter 91 of the Harmonized Tariff Schedule .

Articles required to be marked in accordance with the marking requirements in Chapter 91 must be visible and indelibly marked by cutting, die-sinking, engraving, or stamping. Articles required to be marked in this manner will be denied entry unless marked in exact conformity with these requirements.

Movements that only have opto-electronic display and cases designed to be used with this design, whether entered as separate articles or as components of assembled watches or clocks, are not subject to the special marking requirements. These items need only to be marked with the marking requirements of Title 19 of the United States Code 1304.

In addition to the special marking requirements mentioned above, all watches of foreign origin must comply with the usual country of origin marking requirements. The U.S. Customs Service considers the country of origin of watches to be the country of manufacture of the watch movement. The name of this country should appear either on the outside back cover or on the face of the dial.


Section 42 of the Trade-Mark Act of 1946 (U.S.C. 1124) provides, among other things, that no imported article of foreign origin which bears a name or mark meant to induce the public to believe that it was manufactured in the United States, or in any foreign country or locality other than the country or locality in which it was actually manufactured, will be admitted to entry at any customs house in the United States.

In many cases, the words "United States" the letters "U.S.A.", or the name of any city or locality in the United States appearing on an imported article of foreign origin, or on the containers belonging to the article, are considered to be calculated to induce the public to believe that the article was manufactured in the United States unless the name to indicate the country of origin appears in close proximity to the name which indicates a domestic origin. Merchandise discovered after conditional release to have been missing a required country of origin marking may be ordered redelivered to Customs custody. If such delivery is not promptly made, liquidated damages may be assessed against the Customs bond.

An imported article bearing a name or mark prohibited by Section 42 of the Trade-Mark Act is subject to seizure and forfeiture. However, upon the filing of a petition by the importer prior to final disposition of the article, the district or port director of Customs may release it upon the condition that the prohibited marking be removed or obliterated or that the article and containers be properly marked; or the district or port director may permit the article to be exported or destroyed under Customs supervision and without expense to the Government.

Section 43 of the Trade-Mark Act of 1946 (15 U.S.C. 1125) prohibits the entry of goods marked or labeled with a false designation of origin or with any false description or representation, including words or other symbols tending to falsely describe or represent the same. Deliberate removal, obliteration, covering, or altering of required country of origin markings after release from Customs custody is also a crime punishable by fines and imprisonment (19 U.S.C. 1304(i)).

19 CFR 134.11- Country of origin marking required.

"Unless excepted by law, section 304, Tariff Act of 1930, as amended (19 U.S.C. 1304), requires that every article of foreign origin (or its container) imported into the United States shall be marked in a conspicuous place as legibly, indelibly, and permanently as the nature of the article (or container) will permit, in such manner as to indicate to an ultimate purchaser in the United States the English name of the country of origin of the article, at the time of importation into the Customs territory of the United States. Containers of articles excepted from marking shall be marked with the name of the country of origin of the article unless the container is also excepted from marking."

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the purpose of the country or origin marking requirement? The purpose is to insure that the ultimate purchaser of imported goods knows where those goods were made.

Who is an "ultimate purchaser"? It is not always obvious. The phrase refers to the last person who uses the good in its imported form. As a passenger, you may be the ultimate purchaser of the plastic disposable tableware that the airline provides with your meal. If you install windshields in new vehicles in a manufacturing plant, your company may be the ultimate purchaser. On the other hand, if you buy a windshield to replace a broken one, you may be the ultimate purchaser. So, "purchaser" does not always refer to the buyer; it means the user. Most goods that are free to the ultimate purchaser need to be marked. Foreign printed booklets are an example. Give away items made in NAFTA countries may be an exception to marking requirements.

May I use a self adhesive tag to mark my goods? It depends. We have all seen such markings on goods. The customs regulations specify that marking be as clear and permanent as the nature of the good allows. Some goods may by regulation be marked in one and only one way. Your method of marking may be clear and permanent, but be unacceptable. Hang tags on furniture used to be acceptable, but no longer. Also, if the package in which the item is sold will not likely be opened prior to purchase, the package must indicate the country of origin.

Must the marking say "Made in _______"? Again, it depends. Ordinarily the full English name of the country of origin is all that is required. Abbreviations or foreign spellings of the country of manufacture are not normally sufficient. If there is mention of a US location on the good or its package that might confuse the purchaser, the origin marking must indicate "Made in _______". Customs recently liberalized requirements concerning use of the phrase "Made in ___". If we keep the intent of the marking regulations in mind, common sense often provides the answer...but not always!

The seller shipped product to me with no origin markings. Customs will not release my goods. Now what? One options is to ship them back. Another is to have the goods marked at a location acceptable to customs. Another thought is that perhaps the goods need not be marked. There are special regulations that apply to goods to be repackaged in the U.S. Before you act, you may want to contact U.S. Customs at your port of entry
My product is made in China, but inspected, tested, and packaged in Macao. What is the country of origin? The origin is normally the country in which the last significant process of manufacture occurred. Packaging, testing, and inspecting do not substantially change most goods. The origin is China. Marking requirements for textiles and NAFTA products are not simple, however. It is better to contact U.S. Customs at your port of entry in advance than be surprised when your goods arrive and are held by customs at a US port.

Are there any products that do not need to be marked? Yes, but their containers usually must be marked. There is a list, called the 'J-list", of such products in 19 CFR 134. There are other exemptions, too. For example, goods made over 20 years ago need not be marked. Nor do goods made in the US (unless they were processed outside the US).

How do I know if my goods will be marked to satisfy all federal agencies? Most foreign sellers who export to the US are familiar with how their products need to be marked. Customs import specialists can tell you which agencies may require markings other than country of origin markings. Then, you can contact that agency. You can also contact U.S. Customs at your port of entry.

See 19 CFR 134 if you are interested in marking requirements. Click here for more on origin markings


The following labels provide examples about the correct and incorrect ways that products should be labeled. We also provide remedies for the improperly labeled products.

1) A paper label on the plastic shrink wrap package of computer software:

Programmed and Duplicated with pride in the Republic of Poland

Problem: Not permanently affixed and illegible.

2) A foil label on the front left fender of a main army battle tank:

Product of Germany

Problem: Not permanently affixed and possibly too small.

3) 1,000 unmarked semiconductor devices manufactured in Korea contained in a "magazine" for a machine, which will automatically "stuff" printed circuit boards with the devices.

When using a marking tube, this is sufficient, the devices do not need to be marked.

4) A 7" panetella cigar with the following printed on the cigar band:

Made in Cuba

Problem: Cigars are a "J-List" item (19 CFR 134.33). Also, Cuban products are embargoed into the United States.

6.INVOICE Back To Top


A Commercial invoice, signed by the seller or shipper, or his agent, is acceptable for customs purposes if it is prepared in accordance with Section 141.86, Customs Regulations, and in the manner customary for a commercial transaction involving goods of the kind covered by the invoice. Importers and brokers participating in the Automated Broker Interface (ABI) may elect to transmit invoice data via the Automated Invoice Interface or EDIFACT, and eliminating the paper document.

The invoice must provide the following information, as required by the Tariff Act:

  • The port of entry to which the merchandise is destined;
  • If merchandise is sold or agreed to be sold, the time, place, and names of buyer and seller, if consigned, the time and origin of shipment, and names of shipper and receiver;
  • A detailed description of the merchandise, including the name by which each item is known, the grade or quality, and the marks, numbers, and symbols under which sold by the seller or manufacturer to the trade in the country of exportation, together with the marks and numbers of the packages in which the merchandise is packed;
  • The quantities in weights and measures;
  • If sold or agreed to be sold, the purchase price of each item in the currency of the sale;
  • If the merchandise is shipped for consignment, the value for each item, in the currency in which the transactions are usually made or, in the absence of such value, the price in such currency that the manufacturer, seller, shipper, or owner would have received, or was willing to receive, for such merchandise if sold in the ordinary course of trade and in the usual wholesale quantities in the country of exportation;
  • The kind of currency;
  • All charges upon the merchandise, itemized by name and amount including freight, insurance, commission, cases, containers, coverings, and cost of packing; and if not included above, all charges, costs, and expenses incurred in bringing the merchandise from alongside the carrier at the first U.S. port of entry. The cost of packing, cases, containers, and inland freight to the port of exportation need not be itemized by amount if included in the invoice price and so identified. Where the required information does not appear on the invoice as originally prepared, it shall be shown on an attachment to the invoice;
  • All rebates, drawbacks, and bounties, separately itemized, allowed upon the exportation of the merchandise;
  • The country of origin; and
  • All goods or services furnished for the production of the merchandise not included in the invoice price.
If the merchandise on the documents is sold while in transit, the original invoice reflecting this transaction and the resale invoice or a statement of sale showing the price paid for each item by the purchaser shall be filed as part of the entry, entry summary, or withdrawal documentation.

The invoice and all attachments must be in the English language, or shall be accompanied by an accurate English transaction.

Each invoice shall in adequate detail what merchandise is contained in each individual package.

If the invoice or entry does not disclose the weight, gauge, or measure of the merchandise necessary to ascertain duties, the importer of record shall pay expenses incurred to obtain this information prior to the release of the merchandise from Customs custody.

Each invoice shall set forth in detail, for each class or kind of merchandise, every discount from list or other base price which has been or may be allowed in fixing each purchaser price or value.

When more than one invoice is included in the same entry, each invoice with its attachments shall be numbered consecutively by the importer on the bottom of the face of each page, beginning with number 1. If the invoice is more than two pages, begin with number 1 for the first page of the first invoice and continue in a single series of numbers through all the invoices and attachments included in one entry. If an entry covers one invoice of one page and a second invoice two pages, the numbering at the bottom of the page shall be as follows: Inv. 1, p.1; Inv. 2, p.2; Inv. 2, p.3.

Any information required on an invoice may be set forth either on the invoice or on the attachment.


1. Separate Invoice Required for Each Shipment. Not more than one distinct shipment from one consignor to one consignee by one commercial carrier shall be included on the same invoice.

2. Assembled Shipments. Merchandise assembled for shipment to the same consignee by one commercial carrier may be included in one invoice. The original bills or invoices covering the merchandise, or extracts therefrom, showing the actual price paid or agreed to be paid, should be attached to the invoice.

3. Installment Shipments. Installments of a shipment covered by a single order or contract and shipped from one consignor to one consignee may be included in one invoice if the installments arrive at the port of entry by any means of transportation within a period not to exceed 10 consecutive days.

The invoice should be prepared in the same manner as are invoices covering single shipments and should include any additional information which may be required for the particular class of goods concerned. If it is practical to do so, the invoice should show the quantities, values, and other invoice data with respect to each installment, and the identification of the importing conveyance in which each installment was shipped.

4. Production "Assist". The invoice should indicate whether the production of merchandise involved costs for "assists" (i.e. - dies, molds, tooling, printing plates, artwork, engineering work, design and development, financial assistance, etc.) which are not included in the invoice price. If assists were involved, state their value, if known, and by whom supplied. Were they supplied without cost, or on a rental basis, or were they invoiced separately? If the latter, attach a copy of the invoice.

Whenever U.S. Customs requires information on the cost of production of goods for customs valuation, the importer will be notified by the district director. Thereafter, invoices covering shipments of such goods must contain a statement on the cost of production by the manufacture or producer.

5. Additional Information Required. Special information may be required on certain goods or classes of goods in addition to the information normally required on the invoice. Although the United States importer usually advises the exporter of these special situations, section 141.89 of the Customs Regulations, covers the requirements for these goods.

6. Rates of Exchange. In general, no rate(s) of exchange may be used to convert foreign currency for Customs purposes other than the rate(s) proclaimed or certified in 31 U.S.C. 5151. For merchandise imported from a country having a currency for which two or more rates of exchange has been certified by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York (section 522 of the Tariff Act of 1930), the invoice the rate or rates used in converting the United States dollars received for the merchandise into the foreign currency and the percentage of each rate if two or more rates are used. If a rate or combination of rates used in payment or costs, charges, or expenses is different from those used in payment for the merchandise, state that rate or combinations of rates separately. Where dollars have not been converted at the time the invoice was prepared, that fact is stated on the invoice, in which case the invoice shall also state the rate or combination of rates at which the dollars will be converted or that it is not known what rate or rates will be used. Rates of exchange are not required for merchandise unconditionally free of duty or subject only to a specific rate of duty not depending on value.



If the required commercial invoice is not filed at the same time the merchandise is entered, a statement in the form of an invoice (a pro forma invoice) must be filed by the importer at the time of entry. A bond is given for production of the required invoice not later than 120 days from the date of entry. If the invoice is needed for statistical purposes, it must be produced within 50 days from the date the entry summary is required to be filed.

The exporter should bear in mind that unless he forwards the required invoice in time, the American importer will incur a liability under his bond for failure to file the invoice with the district or port director of Customs before the expiration of the 120-day period.

Although a pro forma invoice is not a document which is prepared by the exporter, it is of interest to exporters as it gives a general idea as to the kind of information needed for entry purposes and indicates what the importer may find necessary to furnish Customs officers at the time a formal entry is filed for a commercial shipment if a properly prepared customs or commercial invoice is not available at the time the goods are entered.

Some of the additional information specified for the commodities under section 141.89 of the Customs Regulations may not be required when entry is made on a pro forma invoice. However, the pro forma invoice must contain sufficient data for examination, classification, and appraisement purposes.


If difficulties, delays, and possible penal sanctions affecting the importer are to be avoided, care must be exercised by foreign sellers and shippers in the preparation of invoices and other documents to be used in the entry of goods into the commerce of the United States. Each document must contain all information required by law or regulations, and every statement of fact contained in the documents must be true and accurate. Any inaccurate or misleading statement of fact in a document presented to a Customs officer in connection with an entry, or the omission from the document of required information, may result in delays in merchandise release, the detention of the goods or a claim against the importer for domestic value. Even though the inaccuracy or omission was unintentional, the importer may be required to establish that he exercised due diligence and was not negligent, in order to avoid sanctions with consequent delay in obtaining possession of goods and closing the transaction. (See 19 U.S.C. 1592.)

It is particularly important that all statements relating to merchandise description, price or value and amounts of discounts, charges, and commissions be truthfully and accurately set forth. It is also important that the invoices shall set forth the true name of the actual seller and purchaser of the goods, in the case of purchased goods, or the true name of the actual consignor and consignee, when the goods are shipped otherwise than in pursuance of a purchase. It is important, too, that the invoice shall otherwise reflect the real nature of the transaction pursuant to which the goods were shipped to the United States.

The fundamental rule is that the shipper and importer must furnish the Customs officer with all pertinent information with respect to each import transaction to assist the Customs officers in determining the tariff status of the goods. Examples of omission and inaccuracies to be avoided are:

  • The shipper assumes that a commission, royalty, or other charge against the goods is a so-called "nondutiable" item and omits it from the invoice.
  • A foreign shipper who purchases goods and sells them to a United States importer at a delivered price shows on the invoice the cost of the goods to him instead of the delivered price.
  • A foreign shipper manufactures goods partly with the use of materials supplied by the United States importer, but invoices the goods at the actual cost to the manufacturer without including the value of the materials supplied by the importer.
  • The foreign manufacturer ships replacement goods to his customer in the United States and invoices the goods at the net price without showing the full price less the allowance for defective goods previously shipped and returned.
  • A foreign shipper who sells goods at list price, less a discount, invoices them at the net price, and fails to show the discount.
  • A foreign shipper sells goods at a delivered price but invoices them at a price f.o.b. the place of shipment and omits the subsequent charges.
  • A foreign shipper indicates in the invoice that the importer is the purchaser, whereas he is in fact either an agent who is receiving a commission for selling the goods or a party who will receive part of the proceeds of the sale of the goods sold for the joint account of the shipper and consignee.
  • Invoice descriptions are vague, listing only part numbers, truncated or coded descriptions, or lumping various articles together as one when several distinct items are included.


Examination of goods and documents is necessary to determine, among other things:

  • The value of the goods for Customs purposes and their dutiable status.
  • Whether the goods must be marked with the country of their origin or require special marking or labeling. If so, whether they are marked in the manner required.
  • 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
Prior to the release of the goods, the district or port director will designate representative quantities for examination by Customs officers under conditions properly safeguarding the goods. Some kinds of goods must be examined to determine whether they meet special requirements of the law. For example, food and beverages unfit for human consumption would not meet the requirements of the Food and Drug Administration.

One of the primary methods of smuggling narcotics into the United States is in cargo shipments. Drug smugglers will place narcotics into a legitimate cargo shipment or container to be retrieved upon arrival in the United States. Because smugglers use any means possible to hide narcotics, all aspects of the shipment are examined, including: container, pallets, boxes, and product. Only through intensive inspection can narcotics be discovered.

Textiles and textile products are considered trade sensitive and as such may be subject to a higher percentage of examination than other commodities.

Customs officers will ascertain the quantity of goods imported, making allowances for shortages under specified conditions and assessing duty on any excess. The invoice may state the quantities in the weights and measures of the country from which the goods are shipped or in the weights and measures of the United States, but the entry must state the quantities in metric terms.


The showing of the contents of each package on the invoice, the orderly packing of the goods, the proper marking and numbering of the packages in which the goods are packed, and the placing of the corresponding marks and numbers on the invoice facilitate the allowance in duties for goods which do not arrive and the ascertainment of whether any excess goods are contained in the shipment.

If any package is found by the Customs officer to contain any article not specified in the invoice, and there is reason to believe the article was omitted from the invoice by fraud, gross negligence or negligence on the part of the seller, shipper, owner, or agent, a monetary penalty may be imposed or in some circumstances the merchandise may be seized or forfeited.

When a deficiency in quantity weight, or measure is found by the Customs officer in the examination of any package which has been dated for examination, an allowance in duty will be made for the deficiency. Allowance in duty is made for deficiencies in packages not designated for examination, provided that before liquidation of the entry becomes final, the importer notifies the district or port director of Customs of the shortage and establishes to the satisfaction of the district or port director that the missing goods were not delivered to him.


Goods which are found by the Customs officer to be entirely without commercial value at the time of arrival in the United States because of damage or deterioration are treated as a "non importation." No duties are assessed on these goods on these goods. When damage or deterioration is present with respect to part of the shipment only, allowances in duties is not made unless the importer segregates the damaged or deteriorated part from the remainder of the shipment under Customs supervision.

When the shipment consists of fruits, vegetables, or other perishable merchandise, allowances in duties cannot be made unless the importer, within 96 hours after the unloading of the merchandise and before it has been removed from Customs custody, files an application for an allowance with the district or port director.

On shipments consisting of any article partly or wholly manufactured of iron or steel, or any manufacture of iron or steel, allowance or reduction of duty for partial damage or loss as a result of discoloration or rust is precluded by law.


In ascertaining the quantity of goods dutiable on net weight, a deduction is made from the gross weight for just and reasonable tare, which is the allowance for a deficiency in the weight or quantity of the merchandise by reason of the weight of the box, cask, or bag, or other receptacle which contains it and is weighed with it.


A customs bond is a guarantee from a surety company to the United States government that the importer will faithfully abide by all laws and regulations governing the importation of merchandise into the United States. Any corporation, company or individual who wishes to import goods into the U.S. is required to post a bond or its cash equivalent. The bond is submitted on Customs Form 301. Customs bonds are issued by surety companies. The Treasury Department annually approves insurance companies for the issuance of Federal surety bonds. For a listing of approved surety companies please see the Department of the Treasury's Listing of Approved Sureties (Department Circular 570)

A bond is not designed or intended to protect the importer. The purpose of a bond is to guarantee that all customs duties, customs penalties, and other charges assessed by U.S. Customs will be properly paid and that all trade procedures will be followed.


Customs bonds provide the following functions:

  • Secures deposit of estimated duty and additional duty.
  • Secures payment of duty on merchandise left in a bonded warehouse or improperly removed from a warehouse.
  • Secures promise to make entry.
  • Secures promise to produce any required evidence.
  • Secures promise to redeliver conditionally released merchandise.
  • Secures promise to bring conditionally released merchandise into compliance with U.S. admission requirements.
  • Secures promise to hold conditionally released merchandise intact for examination.
  • Secures promise to pay compensation of Customs officers and exonerate Customs officers.
  • Secures promise to use merchandise entered free or at a reduced rate in the manner as entitled and to furnish proof of that use.

There are two types of bonds: the single transaction bond and the continuous bond. Single transaction bonds cover single importations, and may cost as much as three times the value of the goods depending upon the goods. The bond covers only one import entry. Single importation bonds are used by the importer who conducts very few importations. The second type of bond is the continuous bond. This bond remains in force for one year and must be renewed annually. This bond is useful to the importer who is involved in trade throughout the year. The amount of this bond is usually equal to 10 percent of the total customs duties paid for the previous year or reasonably estimated for the current year, but not less than $50,000.


When goods are imported into the United States, the importer is responsible for making the goods available to the U.S. Customs Service for inspection, ensuring that labeling and packaging requirements have been met, making transaction records available for audit and paying estimated or additional duties and fees, where applicable. It is the surety company issuing the bond that guarantees that the importer will comply with U.S. Customs regulations. The surety company will be called on for payment when the importers cannot or will not fulfill their obligations to the United States government. In turn, the surety company is entitled to full recovery of any loss from the importer. If the importer fails to honor the conditions set forth in the bond, the surety company can be obligated to do so in the importer's place.

If you have any further questions, you can call U.S. Customs at 310-514-6030 and ask for a commodity control specialist.