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Part 1: U.S. Customs Compliance. It’s important. What’s involved?

Importing and exporting commercial goods across the Canada-U.S. border can be a complex endeavour. Doing it right requires a solid understanding of and strict adherence to a litany of government regulations overseen by government agencies on both sides of the border. On the American side, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) is the gate-keeper. 
It is incumbent upon you as a shipper to ensure you comply with all relevant trade and border regulations. This will not only help minimize the potential for any financial penalties levied upon your business, it will also mean that if the time comes that you are served with a CBP audit – and if you ship goods across the border with any frequency, there’s a good chance you will be – that process will unfold as quickly and painlessly as possible.
CBP’s import regulations subject all imports to certain prohibitions, restrictions and product requirements. If CBP requirements are not properly adhered to, the consequences to your business can be seriously costly and inconvenient and can include:
  • Monetary penalties
  • Increased scrutiny and more frequent examination of goods
  • Delays of incoming shipments
  • Inadvertent overpayment of duties and government fees
  • Suspension of import privileges
The CBP website offers the following suggestions to importers for faster clearance of shipments at the U.S. border:
  1. Include all required information on your customs invoices.
  2. Prepare your invoices carefully: Type them clearly; allow sufficient space between lines; keep the data within each column.
  3. Make sure that your invoices contain the information that would be shown on a well-prepared packing list.
  4. Mark and number each package so it can be identified with the corresponding marks and numbers appearing on your invoice.
  5. Show a detailed description on your invoice of each item of merchandise contained in each individual package.
  6. Mark your goods legibly and conspicuously with the country of origin (unless they are specifically exempted from country-of-origin marking requirements) and with such other marking as is required by the marking laws of the United States.
  7. Comply with the provisions of any special laws of the United States that may apply to your goods, such as laws relating to food, drugs, cosmetics, alcoholic beverages, radioactive materials, and others.
  8. Observe the instructions sent to you by your customer in the United States closely with respect to invoicing, packaging, marking, labeling, etc.
  9. Work with CBP to develop packing standards for your commodities.
  10. Establish sound security procedures at your facility and while transporting your goods for shipment. Do not give narcotics smugglers the opportunity to introduce narcotics into your shipment.
  11. Consider shipping on a carrier participating in the Automated Manifest System.
  12. If you use a licensed customs broker for your transaction, consider using a firm that participates in the Automated Broker Interface (ABI). 
Keep an eye open for part two of this blog post. For more information, visit our website, sign up for our technical updates, subscribe to our blog, or...
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Information provided by: U.S. Customs Consulting Dept. - Cole International
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