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How to Ship and Import Goods from Overseas to the USA – 10 Questions Your Freight Forwarder/Customs

Updated: Jul 27, 2023

How to Import to the US

The same questions we ask below will apply if you are importing from China, Brazil, Turkey, South Africa, Vietnam, or any other country in the world to the USA. We also have a customs broker that will handle the customs clearance of your goods as well. If you are new to importing and have just finished a Kickstarter or Indiegogo campaign or are importing directly without any online campaign, please read below to learn more about how to import to the U.S.:

TIP: Make sure you DO NOT ship your goods without speaking with your Customs Broker or Freight Forwarder first. Failure to do so can result in monetary penalties, inspections and delays for not filing Importer Security Filing (ISF) 10+2 NO LATER THAN 24 hours prior to vessel departure. Ideally, you should aim to have ISF filed 72 hours prior to vessel departure.

This post is focused on the shipping and logistics of your goods from origin to final destination and does not involve sourcing, finance or any other aspect of international trade with your overseas supplier; this port is simply about what information we need to provide you an accurate freight quote:

10 Questions to Answer for an Accurate Import Quote:

1. Mode of Transport: Ocean Freight or Air Freight? If Ocean Freight, do you need LCL (less than container), FCL (full container, 20’/40’/45’/Flat Rack, Refrigerated etc.), Oversized, and Out of Gauge, or RORO service. If Air Freight, specify how urgent the shipment is so the quote reflects a faster or slower air freight service which also affects the price.

2. What is the commodity you are shipping? (e.g. food, kitchenware, machinery, etc) Please be specific because there may be a license or special clearance required to import your goods such as an FDA clearance.

3. Which of the following mode of service do you need: port to port, door to port, port to door, door to door? Also, when is the planned shipped date?

4. How is the cargo packaged? Is it in pallets, loose boxes, or other packaging? How many pieces in total? Provide dimensions/weight/# of pieces of the cargo.

5. What are the Incoterms between seller and buyer? Please see this link for an Explanation of Incoterms and download our Incoterms PDF on the same page. When sending us your request please input the incoterms with your supplier before the location in which you are responsible to take over the freight. If the freight terms are Ex-Works from factory, please include the factory address overseas. If FOB or FCA, please send us the seaport, airport or warehouse in which you are responsible to take over the freight. We don’t suggest shipping on CFR/CIF/DAP/DDP terms with your overseas supplier, because you, as the importer will have less control over your shipment, many times the freight charges are higher, the destination charges are definitely higher (if it’s an LCL shipment) and operationally it is inefficient for your destination forwarder or customs broker.

6. What is the final destination address of the cargo? Please specify if final delivery location is a business with a dock, a business without a dock or residence. If it is a residence, do you require inside delivery? Do you have a pallet jack when our trucker arrives or must he bring one?

7. Do you need us to handle any fulfillment/repackaging services? (e.g. relabeling, amazon fulfillment or other fulfillment delivery). If so, please specify what services (e.g. labeling only, repackaging into new boxes, etc) and the addresses of specific fulfillment centers we need to deliver. Please also include the number of packages, dimensions, and weight of the cargo going to each fulfillment center.

8. What is the Harmonized Tariff Schedule (HTS) Code of the cargo and the Total Value? If you include a commercial invoice or pro forma invoice, this will sometimes to clarify the HTS code. We need this information to send to you and the Customs Broker for the Customs Broker to provide you a non-binding HTS and Duty Advisory. Your supplier should provide this to you. You can also try to find the HTS code based on past CBP Binding Rulings.

9. Do you already have a Continuous Bond? If not, don’t worry, we will explain what this is and how much it costs. You can read more about Continuous Bonds on the US Customs website.

10. How often do you plan to ship (e.g. once per year, once per month, etc)?

The most basic documents that are required to handle customs clearance of your cargo can include:

1. Commercial Invoice / Pro Forma Invoice 2. Packing List 3. Certificate of Origin

There are many other documents that can be required, but this applies to most general shipments of goods that don’t require any additional certificates or special government approval.

Once we have this information we will get back to you with our quote proposal within 2 business days. Contact us today at (800) 874 4748 or request a quote.



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