Sadie Keljikian, Express Trade Capital
A galaxy of constantly changing regulations governs the complex world of US imports. In our previous article on this subject, we focused on agricultural and licensed products. This time, we focus on some of the primary regulatory requirements imposed on other varieties of goods.
Prescription drugs, and even certain non-prescription drugs, are strictly regulated in the US, so much so that imported medications and medical equipment must be declared and permitted by CBP and the FDA ahead of shipment. Adding to the difficulty of regulatory compliance, international laws regarding medical supplements and equipment change quickly and often, which requires importers to stay vigilant and nimble.
Paperwork is paramount. For example, drug paraphernalia imports are illegal in the US unless intended for “authentic medical conditions.” If you import goods classified as drug paraphernalia, it is safest to include as much documentation as possible to specify and confirm the intended use of the items in question, including medical records if possible. Thorough documentation should, in theory, help your goods move more quickly, but you should always build in extra time in case CBP flags your shipment for inspection.
Depending on your level of experience in the automotive industry, you may have trouble auditing your automobile imports since regulations are more technical than those for most other products.
First and foremost, any automobiles imported into the US must adhere to the Environmental Protection Agency’s fuel-emission requirements, unless the vehicle was manufactured before a designated date. Gasoline-fueled cars or light-duty trucks, for example, must adhere to federal emission standards unless they were manufactured before January 1st, 1968.
Furthermore, if the vehicle has ever been driven outside the US, its undercarriage must be thoroughly cleaned to remove any foreign soil or dangerous pests. CBP indicates that you must have the car steam-sprayed or thoroughly cleaned by other means prior to shipment to prevent ecological damage.
There are also specific documentary requirements for automobile imports including EPA form 3520-1 and DOT form HS-7. Depending on the vehicle’s size, vintage, and fuel efficiency, there may be more. As always, do your research or hire a customs broker if you aren’t confident in your compliance.
Ceramic Home Goods
Although items like ceramic tableware and other home goods are not restricted per se, some ceramic goods from outside the US contain dangerous levels of lead in their glaze. These products are ultimately unsafe because the lead can seep into food and beverages served on or in them. Therefore, when importing ceramics, the primary concern is lead concentration.
CBP recommends testing the lead content in imported ceramics to avoid distribution of harmful goods. Since a lot of countries do not have strict legal guidelines for vessels intended to handle food, foreign government agencies will often skip this step. Thus, it is up to the ceramics importer to obtain satisfactory inspections and documentation.
If you must import and distribute ceramics that are not safe for food or drink, or you cannot ensure quality control or compliance, you must provide clear instructions to use those ceramics for decorative purposes only when you distribute them to avoid endangering customers and possible litigation.
One of the more prevalent challenges in importing is monitoring your supply chain. If your goods come from a foreign country, and you aren’t familiar with your supplier’s practices, you could find yourself in possession of, and liable for, stolen cultural artifacts. The best way to avoid this is to know with whom you are doing business and remain extra cautious in countries that are home to frequent artifact smuggling. As always, obtaining thorough documentation is key to avoiding confrontations with the CBP and other government agencies with jurisdiction over the matter.
While alcohol imports are generally legal in the US, one must acquire a permit from the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau before importing alcohol for sale. It is also important to note that most alcohol regulations differ between states. Thus, there are limits on the quantity of alcohol one can bring into certain states. Importers must always thoroughly research the regulations of state into which they plan to import alcohol and acquire any additional permits.
It is important to note that absinthe and any comparable spirits fall under stricter regulations. If you import absinthe, you need full details on the brand you plan to purchase and its packaging. Bottles labeled with the word “absinthe” or printed with images implying psychotropic effects may not be imported into the US. The product must also contain less than 10 parts per million of thujone due to its potentially dangerous effects.
These are just a few of CBP’s regulatory requirements and restrictions. CBP’s numerous regulations cover virtually all commercially traded goods. Before importing goods, educate yourself thoroughly, or, hire a competent customs broker to guide you through the process and to ensure that your goods are never delayed or detained due to lack of compliance.
If you need assistance in transporting your goods and ensuring compliance, contact our logistics department.
Learn more about our services here.