Importing Items into the United States

Multiple Federal agencies regulate the importation of goods into the United States. Regulatory jurisdiction is determined by the type of good being imported. This page contains information on the Federal agencies that regulate imports into the United States, the types of material each agency regulates, and their respective requirements importers must follow. All import shipments must have proper paperwork – at minimum a commercial invoice that lists complete contents of the package, their true value, and their country of origin.

Import Process Overview

The Department of Homeland Security’s Customs and Border Protection agency (CBP) is the United States’ primary border enforcement organization.  CBP is responsible for protecting and facilitating cross border trade by assessing and collecting duties, taxes, and other fees incident to international trade and verifying incoming items comply with US import regulations.  All incoming items to the US must be declared to, and subsequently released by, CBP before they can be delivered to their destination.

When items are shipped to the US they must be authorized by the CBP and any duties and taxes must be paid before the items can be released, or cleared, through Customs.  Multiple federal agencies regulate the importation of specific items (explanations below).  In some cases these agencies require the importer to request permission prior to allowing the goods into the country.  If the items are subject to any of the various import regulations, CBP will verify that any permits, permissions, or exemptions have been obtained.

This process, commonly known as customs clearance, is completed by using a commercial invoice, carrier authorization (air waybill, ocean bill of lading, truck or rail manifest), and any necessary import permits or regulatory documents to file an entry manifest with CBP.  This manifest provides CBP with the data necessary to assess duties and taxes on the goods, and once these have been paid the goods are released for delivery.

Customs clearance formalities will typically be completed by the carrier or an agent of the carrier, however for regulated items or unusual circumstances NC State University has a signed power of attorney with a licensed Customs Broker that specializes in customs clearance procedures.  If you are importing an item that is subject to one of the regulating agencies listed below, or your import requires special attention, contact to access the Customs Broker’s services.

If your import involves any of the items listed below you should contact for assistance.