Import/Export Company news United States

Everything you need to know about getting a customs clearance

If you're new to importing goods into the United States, you may be overwhelmed with the sheer amount of information you need to read to ensure you're complying with the country's laws and regulations. But here are some customs clearance FAQs that may be able to help you get started in the right direction.

1. What documents do I need to prepare prior to the arrival of my cargo?

The documents will largely depend on your chosen mode of transportation for your cargo.

For sea cargo, you’ll need:

  • Commercial invoice which is usually provided by your manufacturer
  • Bill of Lading which is provided by your freight forwarder or supplier
  • Arrival notice
  • Importer Security Filing information

For air freight, you’ll need:

  • Commercial invoice which is usually provided by your manufacturer
  • Airway bill which is provided by your freight forwarder
  • Packing list of the goods (not mandatory)

Before importing, you need a customs bond on file if your goods have a value of over $2,500. If it’s less than that, then you can opt to import under what’s classified as an “informal entry” which does not require a customs bond. However, this process would require you to submit paperwork manually. You do have an option to import under a “formal entry” classification even if your shipment is valued below $2,500, as long as you’re willing to get a customs bond.

2. Where can I get a Customs bond?

A customs bond can be obtained from a customs broker. Brokerages can purchase bonds on your behalf. You can choose from two types of customs bond: single entry and continuous entry. Single entry bonds, as the name suggests, can be used one time only. Meanwhile, a continuous entry bond will cover all shipments within a period of one year.

You’ll need to provide your customs broker with your tax ID number, proof of identification, and a signed Power of Attorney so they can purchase a bond on your behalf.

3. When and how can I submit these documents?

These documents will need to be sent to the customs broker. For air shipments, customs clearances should be filed prior to the arrival of the goods in the US and after the plane has already flown. For sea/ocean shipments, you can file your entries up to five days before your goods arrive in the US.

Regardless of what mode of transportation you use, the documents need to be sent to the broker as soon as possible so that clearances can be obtained before your goods arrive.

4. Do I need to get any licenses or permits before I import my goods?

Bonds are required for all imported goods for import security filings and entries. Again, this can be obtained from your customs broker. It usually takes around five days for a bond to be activated.

You’ll need to check the requirements of US agencies before you import. These agencies include:

  • DOT – Department of Transportation
  • FDA – Food & Drug Administration
  • FWS – Fish & Wildlife Services
  • FCC – Federal Communications Commissions
  • USDA – US Department of Agriculture
  • ATF – Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms
  • CPSC – Consumer Product Safety Commission

Other considerations include import duties, which are calculated based on the value of the goods, processing fees, maintenance fees, and other charges.

About Boris Dzhingarov

Boris Dzhingarov graduated UNWE with a major in marketing. He is the CEO of ESBO ltd brand mentioning agency. He writes for several online sites such as,,, Boris is the founder of and

Let's do Biz