This series will address the top 10 frequently asked questions that we in UKTI USA, regularly receive from UK companies about U.S. trade. We hope you will find the following useful and we look forward to your comments.

Navigating U.S. Customs

U.S. Customs & Border Protection (CBP) is part of the US Department of Homeland Security with the responsibility of “keeping terrorists and their weapons out of the U.S., securing the border and facilitating lawful international trade and travel while enforcing hundreds of U.S. laws and regulations, including immigration and drug laws.”

Information about Importing and Exporting to the United States can be found at CBP’s website here:, with helpful tips for new exporters, information on documentation and licenses, guidance on selling via the internet and other useful pointers. There is also the CBP Info Center, a helpful area on the website where you can find quick online answers to import/export questions:

U.S. Customs & Border Protection
Customer Service Centre: +1 703 526 4200
Information Center +1 202 325 8000

Before you ship your items to the U.S, goods being imported into the United States will need to be classified in order to determine the applicable duty or import rates. Please follow the steps below to determine what your duties will be:

1. Classification Code
To classify goods, please check the Table of Contents for the Harmonized Tariff Schedule:
Tel: 01702 366 077 TARIFF (UK), Mon-Fri 9.00 – 14.30

2. Duty Rates
The United States International Trade Commission website provides international trade statistics and US Tariff data to the public full-time and free of charge. Here are the directions for access:
1. Go to
2. Enter Classification number in the box and click ‘List Items’
3. Select the relevant listing and click ‘Detail’
4. The rate is quoted under MFN (Most Favoured Nation)

Prior to importing, you should consider contacting the CBP Office to speak with a Customs Agent at the port of entry where your merchandise will enter the United States if you have additional questions. To locate the contact information, first enter the CBP website, (Locate a Port Of Entry – Air, Land, or Sea ) click the state, then the port, then call the general phone number and ask to speak with the customs agent in the sector that your goods fall within. (If you are unsure of or haven’t decided the port where your shipment will arrive, or if you are looking at importing through multiple ports, you should contact the service port of entry closest to the final destination.)

Another consideration is to hire a Customs Broker, who is licensed by CBP to assist importers and exporters with federal requirements. Brokers have experience with the necessary procedures and submit the required information and payment to CBP on behalf of clients and charge a fee for this service. Approved brokers by state can be found through the Port of Entry link above. Click the state, then the port, then click the “View List” link for Brokers.

Additional Information:

-Landed Costs: A landed cost is the total price of a product once it has arrived at a buyer’s door. The landed cost includes the original price of the product, all transportation fees (both inland and ocean), customs, duties, taxes, insurance, currency conversion, crating, handling and payment fees

ITC Trade Law: Transportation Costs PDF
UPS: A Guide to International Shipping

Good luck!

Updated: February 19, 2014
Originally published on July 3, 2013

Countries: United States
Topics: Customs Procedures and Getting Started
Export Action Plan