Keep the following questions in mind before you buy something from a foreign source. The answers will have far-reaching CBP implications (explained below) that could influence your decision to buy.
Can the goods be legally imported? Are there restrictions on, or special forms required, for your purchase’s importation?
Are you buying the item(s) for your personal use or for commercial purposes?
Will you be responsible for shipping costs?
If so, you should discuss with the seller how your purchase will be shipped. The choices are freight, courier service or international postal service. If you’re not careful, transportation and handling costs could far outweigh the cost of your purchase. Sometimes, the seemingly cheaper methods can be more expensive in the long run because they are more susceptible to theft, misdeliveries and logistical problems.
You should discuss with the seller what the exact delivery arrangements will be. If the seller does not make arrangements for postal or door-to-door delivery, you will either need to hire a customs broker to clear your goods and forward them on to you, or go the port of entry and clear them yourself.
Can you trust the seller to provide accurate information about the item being shipped in the Customs section of the shipping documents? Giving misleading or inaccurate information about the nature of the item and its value is illegal. And it is the importer – YOU – who could face legal action and fines for this violation!
The following is a brief primer on the various factors that can impact the clearance of your goods through CBP.