Your Guide to Selecting a Customs Broker in the U.S.

Ensure your goods make it into the United States safely and are compliant.

Customs Brokers in the USA 

Bringing goods into the United States of America may seem like a difficult task. However, when you hire a U.S. Customs broker, you'll make the task of importing goods into the USA much easier.

A customs broker in the USA gives you a partner with vast experience when it comes to importing and U.S. Customs. Having an expert on your side goes a long way to importing goods successfully. While it's not a legal requirement for you to hire a U.S. Customs broker, many importers enjoy the convenience and expertise offered by a licensed U.S. Customs broker.

Before you hire a customs broker, it's important to understand the answers to the following questions:

  • What is a Customs Broker?
  • What does a U.S. Customs Broker Do?
  • Why do you need a Customs Broker in the USA?
  • What benefits do you gain from hiring a U.S. Customs Broker?

It's also important to understand the entire process of importing goods into the USA, whether you're importing vehicles, consumer goods, or something else.

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Table of Contents

What is a Customs Broker?


According to the U.S. Customs and Border Protection website, "Customs brokers are private individuals, partnerships, associations or corporations licensed, regulated and empowered by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to assist importers and exporters in meeting Federal requirements governing imports and exports."

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Your customs broker will submit the paperwork necessary, along with the necessary payments to CBP in order to get your goods cleared through customs. Brokers provide expertise in many areas when it comes to US importing, including:

  • Entry Procedures
  • Admissibility Requirements
  • Classification
  • Valuation
  • Rates of Duty
  • Applicable Taxes and Fees

Hiring a customs broker in the USA ensures you have somebody on your side offering specialized services specifically for importers. You'll be able to develop new product lines, enter into new markets, and better control your business costs when you choose the right U.S. Customs broker for your specific needs. Dealing with U.S. Customs and getting your goods across the border is the main job of a customs broker. However, the best customs brokers in the USA will also offer many other services.

WATCH VIDEO: What is a Customs Broker? 

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What does a Customs Broker in the USA do?


A U.S. Customs broker provides all the necessary services to ensure your goods make it across the border safely and compliantly. According to the CBP website, "If you choose to file your own Customs entry, please read our publication Importing into the United States for an overview of what is involved."

The "Importing into the United States" document they want to you read and understand is 211 pages long. You havea business to run and probably don't have the time to read and fully understand this document, especially considering it will likely include language you're not familiar with.

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A customs broker knows the information found in this document inside and outside. They work with US customs every single day. The entire job of a customs broker in the USA revolves around understanding this document and how to get your goods into the country safely and compliantly.

In order to get your goods across the border successfully, a U.S. Customs broker will do all of the following for you:

  • Help to ensure your goods meet the federal requirements governing imports and exports
  • Act as a liaison between any/all involved agencies and you
  • Prepare and submit all necessary documents and payments to the Customs authorities for you
  • Ensure all commercial documents are compliant with regulatory requirements before submission
  • Make sure all goods are classified properly so all taxes and fees can be accurately calculated
  • Provide industry expertise and advice throughout the entire importing process

Trying to understand the complex regulatory requirement, necessary fees, and the entire U.S. importing process is a full-time job. As a business owner/manager, you likely don't have time to handle all of these duties on your own. Hiring a US customs broker will save you time and money as you import goods from other countries into the United States.

In addition to the basic services listed above for customs brokers in the USA, the best customs brokers will also offer the following:

At Cole International, we offer all the necessary services you need to ensure your goods enter the USA safely and compliantly. Whether you need help with customs compliance, trade consulting, freight forwarding, logistics, or importing vehicles into the USA, we're ready to help.

Why do you need a Customs Broker in the U.S.?


The U.S. importing process is complicated and often becomes far too time-consuming for businesses to handle on their own. Hiring a customs broker in the U.S. to handle your goods at the border just makes sense. Without an expert on your side, that 211-page document mentioned above will not only need to be read but also understood by you or whoever handles your goods when passing through U.S. Customs.

Making the mistake of thinking importing goods into the USA is really easy could lead to spending unnecessary money and delays at the border and penalties. A customs broker will help handle the forms and documents you will need including:

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  • The commercial invoice
  • The packing list
  • The bill of lading
  • The arrival notice

Along with handling all the documentation, your customs broker will ensure all taxes, duties, and fees are properly calculated and paid. Unless you have expertise in the U.S. Customs process, hiring a customs broker will ensure you don't have to worry.

You need a customs broker in the U.S. for many reasons, including:

  • The knowledge they provide of complex regulatory requirements
  • Complete expertise to facilitate the entire customs clearance process
  • Ability to help you avoid paying unnecessary fees, taxes, and penalties
  • Expertise in verification of declarations and identifications of goods

There are several other reasons why you need a U.S. Customs broker to ensure your goods make it across the border.

WATCH VIDEO: The Value of a Good Customs Broker

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Benefits of Hiring a U.S. Customs Broker ⭐️⭐️⭐️


When you hire a U.S. customs broker, you unlock several benefits. From the ability to expedite international trade to the money-saving benefits, you might be surprised how much the right U.S. customs broker will provide for you.

Budgeting - Three Arrows Hit in Red Target on a Hanging Sack on Green Bokeh Background.Some of the basic benefits you will gain from hiring a customs broker in the USA include:

  • Reduced importing costs
  • Better overall efficiency
  • Lower risk for U.S. importing
  • Potential competitive advantages

As your U.S. Customs broker provides you with their expertise and incredible knowledge of U.S. importing and exporting, you'll gain the peace of mind knowing your goods will clear customs safely and be compliant.

Along with the basic benefits listed above, your U.S. Customs broker will also provide the following benefits:

  • Make it easier for your business to enter new markets
  • Provide professional advice to ensure your goods will make it across the border
  • Additional in-house tools to help increase your efficiency, reduce your risk of non-compliance, and keep your costs down
  • Customized services to fit your specific US importing and exporting needs
  • Up-to-date advice on the latest regulatory changes and adjustments to the U.S. Customs process
  • And more!

The benefits you gain from hiring a customs broker in the USA will help to ensure mistakes are not made. Some importing mistakes could end up costing you with severe penalties imposed. A U.S. Customs broker will eliminate mistakes and help to ensure you comply with all customs regulations.

Top 5 Reasons to Hire a U.S. Customs Broker


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There are several reasons to hire a United States customs broker. When you decide to import goods into the U.S., it can become a tedious process and rather overwhelming. With a customs broker as your partner, you will be able to eliminate the guesswork and the steep learning curve.

Dealing with U.S. Customs isn't an easy task. Hiring someone with intimate knowledge of the process and regulations simply makes sense. Here are the top 5 reasons you should hire a US customs broker when importing goods into the United States.

1. Help with Trade Agreement Understanding and Certification

Trade agreements are very important to the customs process and they are constantly changing in today’s political climate. Having a customs broker with the ability to collect data and complete the necessary documentation goes a long way. The right customs broker in the USA will ensure your goods gain NAFTA certification and remain compliant with any other trade agreement.

2. Customized Services to Increase Your Business Reach

With a good customs broker on your side, it becomes easier to enter new markets. At Cole International, we offer additional services that can be fully customized to fit your business needs. Whether you simply need help importing vehicles into the USA or you need help with freight forwarding, importing and an audit, our team is ready to serve you.

Customizing the type of logistics services you need not only allows you to better plan for customs implications in your current markets, but it also makes it easier to enter new markets. The professional advice of a skilled U.S. Customs broker goes a long way to ensure you can quickly, easily, and legally enter a new market with your products.

3. Easy Automation

All customs brokers use automated systems with the ability to exchange shipping data with customs. However, some of the best brokers use in-house systems with additional tools to better automate the entire process. With the right customs broker, you'll deal with far less paperwork and you'll be able to build a positive relationship with U.S. Customs.

4. Full Understanding of US Customs Compliance

Remaining in compliance with CBP is vital to your business and one of the main reasons you should hire a licensed customs broker in the United States. When trying to ensure your goods clear customs, self-filing could lead to mistakes you simply cannot afford.

Customs brokers understand things, such as the Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States or HTSUS and Title 19, Code of Federal Regulations. Unless you have a full understanding of these publications, along with others, you could make a mistake costing you thousands of dollars.

Compliance is one of the main reasons any importer should hire a customs broker in the USA. A licensed broker will understand how to classify each item on the commercial invoice, along with any additional filing or notifications needed for any Partner Government Agencies (PGAs). Avoiding costs associated with non-compliance.

5. Remain Up-To-Date with New Regulations

Do you have time to stay up-to-date on all new regulations when it comes to importing goods into the USA?

It can be rather difficult to know which new regulations have gone into effect and how they impact the process of clearing freight through U.S. Customs. With a good broker, you won’t have to worry as they will take care of the responsibility of staying up-to-date on these regulations. They will be ready to advise you on changing regulations that will impact the import of your goods.

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Importing Goods into the United States


When you need to successfully import goods into the United States, you need to know how it's done. There are several requirements, restrictions, and regulations involved including customs forms, quota restrictions, and permits from Partner Government Agencies. Big Journeys Begin With Small Steps sign on desert road

In addition to understanding the basics of importing goods into the U.S., you'll also want to understand if you're eligible for one of the many Free Trade Agreements (FTA). If you are eligible, you could pay a reduced rate for duty.

With so much to consider when importing goods into the United States, you may be wondering how you'll do it successfully. Here are a few things to consider when importing becomes a part of your business.

Shipment Examination

Understanding what the Customs officials may be looking for when they examine your shipment goes a long way. If you know what they are looking for, you can make sure your goods will make it across the border easily and safely.

Some of the things Customs look for include:

  • Drugs
  • The value of the goods
  • The country of origin
  • Proper country of origin marking
  • Prohibited articles
  • Proper invoicing
  • The invoiced quantity

Hiring a customs broker in the USA will help the process go faster. They will know how to ensure your invoices are clear and have the correct information. They will also know how to make sure every package is properly marked, the country of origin is clear, and all other information is completely in order.

Duties and Tariffs

When importing goods, you want to make sure you understand the duties and tariffs. Some goods are subject to duty, while others may be duty-free. It all depends on the classifications found within the Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States.

You can search the USITC website to find out if your goods will require a duty or if they will be duty-free. It's important to understand the three types of duties, which include Ad valorem, Specific, and Compound.

Ad valorem duties are charged as a percentage of the value of your goods, while Specific duties are change based on the weight or quantity, and Compound duties use a combination of both Ad valorem and specific.

The rate of duty may also depend on the country of origin for your goods.

Amazon Fulfillment

When importing goods into the USA, you may also need to understand how the Amazon Fulfillment process works. This is especially true if you're importing from China, as many businesses import goods from China to sell on Amazon.

You have the option to have your goods sent directly to an Amazon FBA warehouse or you can have them sent to yourself first. Before importing goods to sell on Amazon, make sure you understand the full process or hire a U.S. Customs broker with experience importing goods for Amazon FBA.

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The Surety Bond

Another thing to understand when importing goods into the US is the Surety Bond. All goods will need to be accompanied by a bond as an assurance to Customs that the taxes, fees, and duties will be paid. You can get a bond through your Customs Broker if they provide them or through a US-based surety company.

There are two types of bonds you can use for U.S. Customs:

  1. Single-Entry Bond - This bond is used for importers only expecting to import infrequently and maybe only 5 to 10 times per year.
  2. Annual Bond - The most common type of surety, the annual bond allows imports for a full year. It will cover a specific amount and bonds of all different amounts can be purchased. Determining the proper bond sufficiency amount can be complicated, but your customs broker is there to assist you.

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Potential Import License

Most of the time, you won't need a license when importing goods into the United States. However, some goods will require a license from certain agencies or a permit. Make sure you understand if you need a license or permit.

By hiring a good customs broker in the U.S., they will help you determine if you need a license. They may also be able to act on your behalf with the license they already have. The requirements from CBP’s website can help you determine if you need a license to import your goods.

What happens if your commercial goods don't clear U.S. Customs?


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One of the best things you can do to make sure your goods clear U.S. Customs is avoid trying to import goods found on the prohibited and restricted items list. There are several items found on this list and you can find a full list by visiting the CBP website here.

If you're shipping goods into the United States directly to a customer, having the shipment stuck at customs can destroy the relationship. Even if you're importing goods and they get stuck, you could struggle to deliver on time to your customer.

A shipment may be stuck at Customs for many reasons from prohibited goods to incorrect paperwork. One of the first things you should do, if you're goods are stuck is to find out why they are stuck. The reason will help you fix the issue.

Hiring a good customs broker in the United States will ensure your goods don't get stuck at customs. A customs broker will know how to ensure the paperwork is filled out correctly, you don't have any prohibited goods, and all taxes and fees are properly paid.

In addition, your customs broker has relationships with carriers and shipping providers to ensure they can remedy the issue quickly. If your goods end up stuck at the border and you have a customs broker, they will make sure the problem is solved as quickly as possible.

Choosing the Right Customs Broker in the U.S.


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Not all customs brokers in the United States are created equal. In addition, not all situations for importers are thesame. Whether you're just starting out or you already send more than 1,000 shipments per year, choosing the right customs broker in the United States matters.

There are several different brokers out there and some will offer more complete services compared to others. Here are a few things to consider when searching for the right U.S. Customs broker for your business.

 

 

Knowledge and Experience

A big part of making sure your goods make it into the US safely is the knowledge and experience you have with U.S. Customs. Choosing a customs broker means you need to find someone with plenty of knowledge about the customs process that is willing to partner with your company to learn its business. It's also a good idea to check their experience in your industry.

You may also want to find out how long they’ve been in business and what the average tenure is for their employees. Afterall, the employees and their experience is the real value behind a good customs broker.

Accessibility

It's usually a good idea to choose a customs broker with 24/7/365 access. Anything less could mean you end up with delays in your shipments. The last thing you want to happen is you need your customs broker and you cannot reach them.

Along with how often you have access to your broker, it's a good idea to find out how you can communicate with them. Do they offer phone services, email, live chat, or other ways to communicate? Make sure you're comfortable with the way they allow you to reach them, when you need them.

Other Services

You may need additional services outside of getting a shipment through U.S. Customs. If this is the case, you want to choose a full-service logistics provider with the ability to offer all the services you need.

Updates and Education

Choosing a customs broker that will keep you updated and help educate you on the import process is always a good idea. Find out what resources they offer to keep you updated and what training you can take to make the partnership a success.

What type of communications will they have with you?

Customs brokers should be able to provide the level of customer service you desire. If you need to be able to reach a live person 24/7/365, don't choose a customs broker without this option. You should also know if most communications will be via phone, email, or another form of contact.
Along with these questions, you should also consider asking the following:
  • Will I have someone assigned specifically to my account?
  • Are you affiliated with any foreign customs brokers or carriers?
  • Does your company offer any specific areas of expertise?
  • What do you require from me to develop my database records?

Each situation is a bit different, and your requirements will certainly help to determine the level of service necessary from your customs broker in in the USA. Make sure you ask the right questions before you commit to a U.S. Customs broker. You want to ensure they will be the best partner for your importing/exporting needs.

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Obtaining Clearance at Commercial Customs Ports of Entry in the USA


There are many ports of entry throughout the USA. You can find a full list on the CBP website here.

Hiring a U.S. Customs broker in the right location for your business does make a difference. Many customs brokers don't offer physical locations near the ports of entry, but some do. This can be a huge benefit, especially if you find your shipment held up at the border.

At Cole International, we offer physical locations near many of the major ports of entry in the USA. All of our United States locations are found below, along with a contact number. If you need a customs broker near any of the major U.S. ports of entry, call us, and we will be happy to help you with all your importing needs.road and cloudy sky

 

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Customs Broker in North Dakota


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We currently offer two locations in North Dakota to serve your needs. When you choose Cole International, you'll gain access to incredible personal service every single time you import goods into the United States. We don't just communicate through email. We also talk to you directly on the phone, and, if necessary, we show up in person to handle your U.S. Customs needs.

Customs Broker in Pembina

Our North Dakota Customs Broker office found in Pembina serves many industries including furniture, agriculture, oil & gas, construction, and more. We know how logistics should work and our Pembina customs team provides plenty of experience to ensure your goods make it safely into the United States.

When you need a Pembina Customs Broker, Cole International has you covered. We offer a customs broker office in Pembina found at 222 South - 5 Street. You can also reach of by phone at 701-825-6396.

Customs Broker in Portal

Our other North Dakota Customs Broker office is found in Portal. Through this office, we serve many industries such as; oilfield supplies, steel pipes, heavy equipment, and more. We receive many requests, such as one-time U.S. customs clearance, general information for shipments to the U.S., and more.

Our Portal customs broker team will be glad to help when you plan to bring your goods through this port of entry. You can contact this location by calling us at 701-926-2653 or through our mailing address at PO Box 155, Portal, ND, 58772.

Customs Broker in Michigan

We offer one location in Michigan covering the Port Huron and Detroit ports of entry. This location makes moving goods into the United States through Michigan easy.

Customs Broker in Port Huron

Our Port Huron/Detroit Customs Brokerage office knows how logistics works and provides everything you need to import your goods into the US. This location helps to import many products, such as foods/meat, wood, automotive products, hair products, and more. If you're importing vehicles into the USA, our Port Huron Custom Broker office will be happy to help!

No matter what you're importing, when you come through Michigan our Port Huron/Detroit Customs Brokerage office is ready to assist. Our physical location is found at 803-B 10 Avenue and you can contact us at 810-966-9225. 

Contact us today!

Customs Broker in Michigan


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We offer one location in Michigan covering the Port Huron and Detroit ports of entry. This location makes moving goods into the United States through Michigan easy.

 

Customs Broker in Port Huron

Our Port Huron/Detroit Customs Brokerage office knows how logistics works and provides everything you need to import your goods into the United States. This location helps to import many products, such as foods/meat, wood, automotive products, hair products, and more. If you're importing vehicles into the USA, our Port Huron Custom Broker office will be happy to help!

No matter what you're importing, when you come through Michigan our Port Huron/Detroit Customs Brokerage office is ready to assist. Our physical location is found at 803-B 10 Avenue and you can contact us at 810-966-9225.

Contact us today!

Customs Broker in Montana


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Our Montana Customs Broker office is found in Sweetgrass. We provide a full customs team here to ensure all your logistics needs are met.

 

Sweetgrass Customs Broker

When importing goods into the U.S. through Montana, you'll work with our Sweetgrass branch. We serve many industries here including Automotive, Oil & Gas, Agriculture, Steel, and more. No matter your request, we are ready to help!

You can find our Sweetgrass office at 115 Central Avenue or call us at 406-335-4000.

Contact us today! 

Customs Broker in New York


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We offer two branch offices in New York for your importing needs. Our New York Customs Brokers provide plenty of logistics services and will be happy to help you import your goods into the United States.

 

Buffalo Customs Broker

With a deep understanding of logistics and the process of importing goods into the U.S., our Buffalo Customs team is ready to help you. We field several requests at this branch office including remote filing entries, HTS, customs clearance, customs consulting, and more.

Our Buffalo Customs Broker office is found at 2094 Grand Island Boulevard and you can reach us by phone at 716-773-9207.

Champlain Customs Broker

Working with our customs team in Champlain will help to ensure your goods make it into the U.S. safely and compliantly. We serve several industries here including Agriculture, Automotive, and Medical. You can find our Champlain Customs Broker office at 42, 100 Walnut Street or call us at 518-298-6600.

Contact us today! 

Customs Broker in Texas


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We offer a Texas Customs broker office found in Houston. When you need to move goods into the United States through the port of entry near Houston, Texas, we are ready to help. Our customs team will ensure you gain access to incredible personal service and all the necessary help to make sure your goods make it across the border.

 

Houston Customs Broker

Our Houston customs team offer all the knowledge and experience you need to import goods into the United States. We know logistics and we can help you, no matter the type of goods you want to import. Some of the goods we help import in Houston include oil & gas equipment, manufacturing machinery, nickel, and stainless piping, household goods, and more!

We are located at 2700 Greens Road in Suite 100 of Building E in Houston. You can also contact us over the phone at 281-999-3737.

Contact us today! 

Customs Broker in Washington


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Our team of customs professionals are found at two different locations in Washington. When you need to import vehicles or other goods into the United States through Washington, we are here to help.

 

Blaine Customs Broker

With a complete understanding of logistics and how U.S. Customs works, our Blaine Customs Brokerage office is ready to serve you. We provide a full team and we have worked to help our clients import vehicles, auto parts, coffee, sawmill machinery, heavy equipment, and more through the port of entry near Blaine.

Our Blaine office is located at 441 Peace Portal Drive. You can call us at 360-332-1124.

Seattle Customs Broker

When you choose to import goods into the USA through the port of entry near Seattle, you will want to work with our customs team here. We know how to ensure your goods make it across the border easily and without delay.

Our Seattle customs broker office is found at 6811 South 204 Street in Suite 360. You can also call us at 253-277-3430.

No matter your logistics or customs needs, we are ready to help you. At Cole International, we take great pride in providing the very best service for U.S. importers and those needing help to clear customs with their goods. Our U.S. Corporate Office is ready to help you with all your freight forwarding, logistics, and importing needs. Call us today at 360-332-1124 or toll-free at 1-800-313-4281.

Customs Brokerage. It's what we do.
Contact us today!