Customs import and export information is not a topic most people are familiar with, but impacts all of us in one way or another. In the past several months, importing and exporting has come to most people’s attention, through the news events being highlighted with tariff rates being increased and applied to product that previously haven’t had such rates. If you have a small business, or are affiliated with one, and would like to source your products outside of the USA, or if you have a product you would like to sell to other countries, either way it is likely you will need to learn a bit more than you currently know about importing and exporting laws. Here are four quick tips to keep in mind while navigating through customs compliance.
Work with a licensed customs broker. If importing into Mexico, a Mexican Customs Broker is needed. It is required to present import documents to Mexican Customs Authorities. Your documents will be completed by a Mexican customs broker. It is important to hire a broker you trust, and that has prior experience and expertise in your area of business. Navigating the legalities of customs compliance is vast and can get quite tricky if not done with a professional and licensed broker.
Know your product. Hiring a licensed customs broker will ensure you have the expertise needed for the importing and exporting laws but the importer is responsible for understanding the product. The customs process will require intimate knowledge about the commodity such as the country of origin, the material breakdown of the item, a great description of what your item is and does, the manufacturer’s name and address, the value of the item, quantity, weight and volume, and other information depending on the item. The broker will assign a harmonized tariff code to each item imported. These codes are assigned using the information provided and the HTS codes determines the duty rate required for each item. Please make sure the information provided is accurate to ensure the correct amount of duty is paid.
Familiarize yourself with possible government agencies that could be interested in your commodity. Once you have chosen a professional and experienced broker, it is still important to be familiar yourself as the importer to know understand the laws. Some products are regulated through other government agencies other than US or Mexico imports and exports and customs requirements. It is important to know if your product is regulated and what information could be required to ensure a smooth transaction. Doing the research and homework ahead of time can save you weeks or months of delays if you proceed with insufficient information and documentation.
Remain patient. Most of us have received mail or sent mail within the borders of our country before, but perhaps not internationally. We expect international shipping to be just as swift and easy, with our products delivered quickly. Please make sure to build in extra time for customs clearance processing and other other issues that could arise. Remain in frequent communication with your broker about a reasonable expectation of the clearance processes and timeline. While most shipping companies are fast and helpful, please understand that they cannot foresee every possible issue. Some problems arise from weather delays or cultural holidays, while others are more micro-focused on your specific items going through the various checks and balances. Make sure to pack a little extra patience and pad your timelines while your cargo is moving.
The area of customs brokerage and customs compliance is something most people will never need to have a first hand experience or knowledge, but if you are getting into any area of international trade, you will want to be at least familiar enough with it to know that hiring a licensed broker is one of the first steps to success.