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Considerations before importing items into the United States

Requirements for importing specific commodities depend on a wide variety of things. Some information, such as whether an item is subject to quota restrictions, eligible for reduced rates of duty, or restricted from entry because they originate in an embargoed country, can be determined only if you know the item's Harmonized Tariff Schedule classification number.

Determining an item's HTS number can be extremely complicated. Please see our information under Duty Rates in the Import section of this web site.

Other requirements depend on other agencies' safety, energy efficiency, health, etc. standards. Many of the items governed by these various rules cannot be imported without a permit from the related agency. See the chapter on Special Requirements in our publication "Importing Into the U.S." for more information.

Another thing to consider is marking of county of origin. Everything imported for use in the U.S. must be marked with the country of origin, but some things are very hard, or impossible, to mark, such as diamonds, flowers, or water. See our publication "Marking of Country of Origin" for more information about marking.

Finally, the distribution of many trademarked and copyrighted items in this country is restricted by contractual agreements that give exclusive rights to specific companies or individuals to distribute the product in this country. If you attempt to import a product covered by such an agreement, it could be seized at the border. For more information please see our information on Intellectual Property Rights.

We have attempted to give some thumbnail guidelines about things to consider in this Q&A format. However, circumstances change every day, and it is advisable to call your local port for specific guidance in importing your particular commodity. We also advise you to review our series of Informed Compliance Publications. They provide very detailed guidance on importing a variety of items, only some of which are listed in the FAQ category for Requirements for Importing Certain Goods.

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