Frequently Asked Questions
Whether you’re a seasoned importer / exporter or this is your first time, we’ve got answers. Every question is important and our experienced staff is ready to answer all of yours.
Frequently Asked Questions About Imports
- Before I place my overseas order, what should I know?
This is an important question because there are a host of things to know before you place your order. We recommend, first and foremost, contacting a U.S. Licensed Customs broker. They can discuss all aspects of the importing process with you. But here are a few things to know:
- Know your Incoterms – These are the terms of the invoice and details who pays for what in the process of getting your product to it’s final destination.
- Know how you’ll make payment to the supplier and ensure you receive your product.
- Identify ALL your foreseeable costs including cost of product, transportation, insurance, bonds, duties, brokerage fees etc. as well as unexpected costs such as customs exams and storage for delays.
- Know your products tariff classification and duty rate.
- My order is ready to ship. What do I do?
File an ISF – Contact a Licensed U.S. Customs broker to file your ISF (Importer Security Filing). The ISF must be filed 48 hours prior to loading your items on the ship. It is not required if you are shipping via air. The ISF lets the U.S. know, in advance, what shipments are headed this way and is part of the Department of Homeland Security’s efforts to secure the U.S. borders.
- My cargo is loaded and ready to sail. What's required now?
Make payments – Your customs broker will be required to make entry when your shipment arrives in the U.S. They’ll need the final invoice from your supplier, a packing list and a bill of lading. You will be getting your financial “ducks in a row” so you can pay for all Incoterms that are your responsibility based on negotiated terms, duties and possible unexpected costs such as customs exams and storage caused by delays.
- Should I purchase insurance for my shipment?
Insurance is a love-hate relationship. You’re happy you bought it if you need it. At Unit International, we recommend buying insurance as you can never foresee what may happen and we’ve seen it all-from containers going overboard to ships sinking. In fact, it’s estimated that over 10,000 containers go overboard every year. Also, even though it may not be your container, you may be liable on a pro-rated basis to help cover damages whether you have insurance or not. We recommend weighing the cost-benefit-risk in all cases.
- My shipment was supposed to take a certain amount of time. Why was it longer?
Many times people confuse the ocean shipment time with the total transit time. For instance, your pallet may take 30 days on the ocean to arrive in the port. That’s just one part of it’s journey. You’ll have transit times from the manufacturer to the export port, you’ll have a particular sailing date, you may have customs exams or delays upon arrival in the U.S., you’ll have transit times to the final destination, etc. Most you can foresee but some you can’t. Make sure your deadlines allow for delays that may crop up. Of course, your broker will work diligently to make sure your shipment if moving but not all of your transit times may be met.
- What is OGA and why do I care?
OGA stands for Other Government Agency…think FDA, DOT, USDA etc. If you’re importing medicine, sunglasses, cosmetics and food, the FDA is interested in your import. If you’re importing autos or auto parts, the DOT wants to “look under your hood”. EPA is interested in engines. USDA wants to make sure the beef, pork and chicken imports meet U.S. standards. And then you have Fish and Wildlife, Aphis, FCC, ATF and more! Let your customs broker help you determine if your product peaks the interest of OGA’s.