How to Import from Other Countries
Reading time: 4 – 7 minutes
Many people think it’s hard to import items into the United States but it’s really easy and almost as easy as getting a package. Believe it or not most of the stuff you bring in will be free of duty and probably is so small that Customs doesn’t even want to see it. Unless you are trying to bring in counterfeit stuff the government actually makes it easy for the small importer. So when you start out asking for samples for your product they’ll come in the regular mail unless you are getting samples of diamonds are something crazy!
Extra: I’ve been doing this for at least 15 years so if you have any questions email me at email@example.com and I’ll give you the inside scoup so you don’t get taken advantage of.
Steps to Importing:
- Contact the Manufacturer in China, India or wherever you want the item via email. (Alibaba.com is the biggest site out there to look for items)
- Email them for a pricelist of the items they sell as there are often more than what you see on the website.
- Ask for a sample and expect to pay more as they charge you for sending it out of their country. UPS imports samples all of the time and in fact regular mail can do it too.
- A lot of these foreign manufacturers accept paypal so you don’t even have to do a wire transfer…
Remember 1 thing: You have US dollars and they are worth a lot in other countries. They charge you USA prices but you should argue for a lower price. If footballs cost American dollars in Kenya then they wouldn’t make they because they couldn’t afford them!
When you really start to import (I mean you actually have a business not just little stuff):
- Contact a Freight Forwarder – their job is to get the freight from the port in China to the port in the USA. (Pick Your State and then give them a call)
- Contact a Customs Broker – their job is to clear customs for you which is present documents so Customs can release your shipment. (Pick Your STATE and then the nearest city and then Click the Broker View List)
- Contact a Trucker – You need someone to do deliver your products to your business (they charge more to deliver to your house)
- Some of your big places like UPS will do everything for you but they charge more than most people
Charges from importing:
- Depending on how fast you want your cargo the more it will cost. Air costs a lot more so use this only if you have to have it tomorrow. So prices could range from 200 to 3000 depending on if you have a couple of boxes or a big container full of cargo
- Customs Clearance usually costs about 125 bucks but there are costs like Bonds (to insure duty that Customs requires), ISF (importer security filing – early warning system since 9/11).
- Bonds range from $5 per thousand insured or $500 for a continuous bond that covers your any shipment to anyport in the USA for a whole year.
- ISF is usually $25 bucks but if you don’t have a bond setup it will cost you $100
- Exams – Sometimes Customs will examine your cargo. This can cost from $140 bucks to $1000 so the more you have your stuff in order like bonds and the like the less they will want to examine it. BUT BE READY TO PAY FOR IT!
So if you’re starting to import you can expect to pay about $250 minimum from your Customs Broker and depending on how much cargo you bring in $350 from your Freight Forwarder. Again, this is for bigger shipments not samples.
Here’s the stuff you should have ready:
- You will have to sign a Power of Attorney with both your forwarder and your broker as they cannot start until you authorize them.
- You can import using your Social Security Number so you don’t have to be a business at all. You can be regular old Daniel Freeman and bring in a books or a dinnerware . A business Tax ID is better but it’s not necessary.
You will need to call at least 5 to 10 brokers, forwarders and truckers as a lot of people take advantage of people who don’t know. Don’t ask them to teach you about what’s going on instead just keep track of where your cargo is via email. It takes anywhere from 10 days to a month for your cargo to get to where you live especially if you don’t live near the coast.
Make sure you pay the forwarder, broker and trucker on time if not early as they can hold your shipment until you end up owning the government thousands of dollars. You can call the government and they don’t care as they stay out of everything that has to do with payment. As long as they get their money they don’t care how mad you get or if you go and get a lawyer. When you signed that POA you gave everyone else the power to hold your stuff..
So next time you vacation in Belize and you want to import some nice furniture don’t think it’s impossible! You can probably get it all done and delivered to your house for under $1000. It’s easier than you think but start small and get used to doing small transactions and then next thing you know you’ll be supplying the gas station with Car Air Fresheners!