Documents That An Importer Needs

What Are The Documents That An Importer Needs To Have To Import Goods To The United States?

The import and export trade happens across the borders, which can be bilateral or multilateral, which means that it involves trade between two or more countries. In a situation like this, a good amount of paperwork becomes mandatory and inevitable, especially when importing goods to the United States.

The US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) mandates anyone importing goods to the US to fulfill the import requirements. Apart from having the importer’s permit, the CBP also requires the importers to execute the steps of entry, examination, appraisal, classification and liquidation as stated in the US import data. 

This article intends to serve as a very useful piece for any new importer or anyone who is either unaware or believes he has a vague idea of the importing formalities in the US. 

Documents Required At The Time Of The Entry Of Goods 

Once the goods enter the US port, the port director directs the importer to arrive at a specific location to fill the entry documents. This must be done within 15 days of the arrival of shipment. The custom import data mentions a list of documents required at this step. The list of documents are:

  • Entry application or special permit for the immediate release of the merchandise
  • Evidence of ‘right to make entry.’
  • Commercial or pro forma invoice 
  • Packing lists
  • Other important documents that determine the admissibility of the merchandise

Alongside this, the CBP must authorize the delivery, and the importer must pay the necessary duties. Then the importer of record arranges for the examination and release of the goods. 

Examination Of The Goods Imported

This is the second step in the list. The United States is one of those countries that lay monumental importance on national security. Law and order are very stringent, especially when it comes to protection against foreign agents. 

The reasons for this could be numerous, including the fact that it is the ultimate global powerhouse or, in other words, the most powerful country in the world. So, when any commodity is imported in the US, it has to go through a stringent examination check so that:

  • The value and dutiable status of the goods can be determined.
  • It can be ensured that the goods are marked with their country of origin or with special labelling. 
  • The correctly invoiced goods can be separated from others.
  • If the shipment contains prohibited articles, the importer can be called to answer, and a special investigation can be conducted.
  • To ensure the correct quantity of imports. 
  • Illegal narcotics can be seized if discovered.

In most cases, it is required that the country of origin marks its English name in the goods delivered for identification. 

Classification And Appraisement

The next step is classification and appraisement. Classification must be done at the time of filing entry. Classification must be done with the utmost care, or it can lead the importer into trouble. A verified importer database can generate specifications that may help an importer classify the commodities he intends to import. 

The CBP officer fixes the value of the commodities after appraisement even though the entry filer is endowed with valuing the imported goods and informing that to the CBP officer after that. The value is determined based on:

  • The transaction value of the goods 
  • The transaction value of similar goods
  • The transaction value of identical goods
  • Deductive and computed value


The last and final step is liquidation. In this step, the value and amount of the goods are finalized. It must be done within a year of the arrival of goods. The importer must file a protest, if he desires to, within 90 days of it. 

Prohibited Imports 

Below is a list of goods that are prohibited from entry into the United States. If these are caught, they shall be seized and disposed of permanently. You can also check out the US import data for detailed information. So, if you are willing to import into the US, make a list of things that must stay out of your list:

  • Electronic products with radiofrequency or radiation
  • Gold, silver, currency and stamps
  • Food, cosmetics, medical devices
  • Agricultural commodities (fruits, vegetables, milk, tobacco, livestock etc.)
  • Arms, ammunition, implements of war, explosives
  • Industrial equipment
  • Pesticides 
  • Toxic and hazardous substances 
  • Conflict diamonds
  • Obscene, immoral or seditious stuff
  • Wildlife and pets
  • Counterfeit products
  • Textile, wool, and fur 
  • Artefacts

Import Clearance Documents

Although the article above gives a clear picture of the documents and formalities of import into the US, some general documents required for customs clearance as per the custom import data are: 

  • Custom entry document
  • Custom bond 
  • Custom declaration
  • Import license 
  • Legal undertaking 
  • Insurance certificate 
  • Certificates of inspection
  • Purchase order or letter of credit
  • Commercial invoice or packing list 
  • Certificate of origin 
  • Certificate of analysis 
  • Certificate of free sale 
  • Weight certificate 
  • Temporary shipment certificate 
  • Consular invoice 

Documents Required For Import Of Specific Or Prohibited Products (If Applicable)

  • Health or sanitary certificate
  • Dangerous goods certificate 
  • Electronic export information
  • Radiation certificate 
  • Phytosanitary certificate 
  • Quarantine certificate 
  • Inspection certificate 
  • Ingredient certificate 
  • Halal certificate 
  • Fisheries certificate 
  • Fumigation certificate 
  • Dock/Warehouse receipt
  • Product manual/catalogue
  • Certified engineer’s report 
  • Chartered engineer’s certificate 
  • Product specification certificate 
  • Other specified documents 

Need Help?

If you wish to import goods to the US, the paperwork is usually quite complicated. But understanding the safety procedure and the complete nature of paperwork can mitigate the complexity to some extent. A good import data provider like Trademo with a detailed and updated importer database can guide you through the process.