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What is Importing?

Importing involves bringing products or services into a country for sale that have been made elsewhere. U.S. companies that buy products overseas and ship them into the U.S. for sale, or as part of a product that is being assembled in the U.S., are importing.

Many small businesses import items that cannot be made in the U.S. economically, ranging from shoes to clothing to crafts, as well as larger items, such as furniture, and are then sold for high profit to local buyers.

The Small Business Administration (SBA) provides a useful introduction to importing.

Prohibited Products and License Requirements

U.S. Customs and Border Protection oversees the import of products to the U.S., to ensure they are permitted. Types of products that are prohibited from being brought into the country include, but are not limited to:

  • Dangerous toys
  • Illegal substances, such as Rohypnol and absinthe
  • Bush meat
  • Cars that do not provide occupants with ample protection
  • Dog or cat fur

Products that may be permitted to be imported (some are outright prohibited), but that may require a license or extra inspection to do so, include:

  • Firearms
  • Fish and wildlife
  • Hunting trophies
  • Haitian animal hide drums
  • Pets
  • Plants and seeds

By the same token, some countries prohibit or restrict the export of what they consider to be protected goods, including:

  • Religious artifacts
  • Furs
  • Ivory
  • Counterfeit goods, such as designer purses and clothing

Before investing in products for import, consult a licensed customs broker to help ensure you are permitted to bring the products into the U.S. A broker can also help you obtain any necessary licenses and calculate any taxes and duty fees that will need to be paid when the products enter the country.

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