The rise of the global economy and international trade has made importing an appealing option for entrepreneurs.
Fueled by low international prices and the promise of a business model with high growth potential, these entrepreneurs embrace importing with gusto. But many are disappointed when they discover how difficult it is to bring foreign products across U.S. borders.
In America, imports are regulated by U.S. Customs & Border Protection (CBP). CBP is an agency within the Department of Homeland Security, the same folks who are tasked with protecting American's from terrorists. Starting to get the picture? In the post-9/11 world, importing has become a highly regulated business activity with no shortage of complications and pitfalls.
Customs brokers can make the importing process much easier for business owners. They are international trade specialists with inside knowledge about the fastest and most efficient way to legally import foreign goods into the U.S. If importing is on your agenda, here's the information you to need know about hiring a customs broker for your company.
If you're new to importing, locating a list of qualified customs brokers is the first big challenge in the hiring process. Internet searches are valuable for a lot of things, but not for hiring a customs broker. The best way to identify a list of prospects is to contact the CBP office at the port of entry. They should have no problem providing you with the names and contact information of customs brokers.
When you start contacting prospective brokers, you'll want to look for people with experience importing the kinds of goods you are bringing into the country. A top-notch broker with no experience in your industry or product category will be less useful than a moderately experienced broker who specializes in importing your type of goods.
Harmonized Tariff Schedule (HTS)
One of your primary hiring concerns should be the broker's ability to accurately classify your cargo according to the Harmonized Tariff Schedule. Inept and inexperienced brokers frequently misclassify cargo, causing their clients to overpay tariffs and duties. The more information you give your broker about your cargo, the easier it will be for him to minimize your duty requirements.
Customs brokers also issue surety bonds for imported cargo. Bonds are critical because customs won't release your cargo until you have either paid tariffs or posted evidence of a bond. Brokers with national permits are capable of bonding cargo at any port in the nation.