US Customs Document Checklist
Getting your goods swiftly through US Customs begins with having the right paperwork. But what exactly are customs agents looking for when they inspect your shipment?
We spoke directly with licensed customs brokers and former US Customs agents to reveal their secret checklist of the essential documents required to breeze through inspections and avoid shipment delays:
The commercial invoice is the primary document detailing the imported goods transaction between you and the exporter. It includes descriptions, values, quantities, and other specs agents use to classify goods and assess duties.
Customs agents check packing lists itemizing every product in your shipment to confirm it matches the commercial invoice details. Accuracy on both documents is crucial to verify shipment contents.
Bill of Lading/Air Waybill
These transportation receipts prove legal ownership of the cargo by identifying the importer/exporter and containing shipment details. Ocean bills of lading are required for sea freight imports.
Importer of Record Declaration
Declaring the official importer of record on your customs paperwork establishes who takes legal responsibility for import compliance. Having this clearly defined expedites the process.
Agents look for customs bonds posted as financial security in case any duties, taxes, or penalties are found to be owed. Bonds allow cargo release without payment delays.
This document affirms where and by whom the goods were produced, as stated on the commercial invoice. It verifies the declared country of origin to set accurate duties.
Importer Security Filing
An ISF declaration, often called “10+2”, provides added cargo visibility by requiring importers to electronically file 10 data fields before the goods depart their foreign port of origin.
Certificates of Origin
By providing certificates of origin, importers certify where products were manufactured, produced, or grown. This helps determine duty/tax rates and trade agreement eligibility per country source.
FDA Information – import document requirements
Food, beverage, pharmaceutical, and medical shipment details must align with additional FDA paperwork requirements and compliance standards agents look for.
Wood Packaging Declaration
Treated wood packaging must be clearly declared to avoid agriculture holds. Customs checks for pest risks and whether USDA-approved methods were used.
Customs and Border Protection (CBP)
A division of the Department of Homeland Security oversees the import process for all goods entering the United States. CBP officers carefully review the commercial invoice, packing list, Bill of Lading/ Airway Bill, and other customs documentation provided for imported shipments.
Importers are held accountable for meeting all documentary requirements set forth by CBP and the import-export clauses enforced. This includes properly classifying goods with HTS codes to assess accurate customs duties and import taxes.
Additional documents like import licenses, End Use Certificates, or Countervailing Duty Bonds may be required depending on the product type. Social media posts and e-commerce order information may also be examined by CBP to verify declarations.
Knowing exact CBP import regulations and providing complete, accurate paperwork is essential for importers to successfully clear customs. Working closely with licensed customs brokers helps navigate the complex CBP import process.
Now that you know the crucial documents US Customs agents are trained to look for, ensuring you have this complete paperwork package organized will take the stress out of the clearance process.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection rigorously vets all imports for compliance and security. Having the right paperwork readily available expedites customs clearance so importers can focus on growing their business. Follow CBP’s requirements diligently to become a trusted trader.
With the right import documents, you can expect easy passage for your goods into the United States!