Importing and Exporting Basics
Importing and exporting can help your business expand at home or abroad, but it’s important to follow all laws and regulations. U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) has basic information on importing and exporting.
Imports are any resources, goods, or services that producers in one country sell to buyers in another country. CBP offers tips for new importers, including those who have recently started importing or who would like to know more about the process.
Some types of goods and services require a license or permit to import into the U.S. as a part of your business.
Exports are any resources, intermediate goods, or final goods or services that a buyer in one country purchases from a seller in another country. The International Trade Administration provides tools, assistance, and expert knowledge to help your company grow in the global marketplace.
Depending on the good or service, you may need a license or permit to export it from the U.S. as a part of your business.
Get an Import License or Permit
In most cases, you will not need a license to import goods into the U.S. But, for certain goods being imported, some agencies may require a license, permit, or other certification.
Follow this checklist to avoid problems when importing:
Check the requirements of federal agencies. These guidelines from U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) describe the types of items that may require a license or permit. You can also get contact information for the agency that regulates a specific item you’re importing.
Contact the local port of entry you’ll use to import your goods for import requirements and other information about the process.
Even if you do not need an import license, you must fill out CBP entry forms within 15 calendar days of the date that your shipment arrives at a U.S. port of entry. Make sure to provide your importer number on all these forms.
You may also request a CBP assigned number by completing CBP Form 5106 and presenting it to the entry branch at a CBP port of entry.
Get an Export License or Permit
Most items exported to a foreign buyer will not require an export license. However, all items are subject to export control laws and regulations.
This list of federal departments and agencies is the best way to find out whether you need an export license for your product.
Save time by following the U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s (CBP’s) exporting requirements or contacting the local port of entry used to export your goods.
Last Updated: July 28, 2021