Importing and Exporting

Learn how to start importing or exporting.

Importing and Exporting Basics

Importing and exporting can help your business expand at home or abroad, but it’s important to follow all laws and regulations. U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) has basic information on importing and exporting.

Importing

Imports are any resources, goods, or services that producers in one country sell to buyers in another country. CBP offers tips for new importers, including those who have recently started importing or who would like to know more about the process.

Some types of goods and services require a license or permit to import into the U.S. as a part of your business.

Exporting

Exports are any resources, intermediate goods, or final goods or services that a buyer in one country purchases from a seller in another country. Export.gov provides tools, assistance, and expert knowledge to help your company grow in the global marketplace.

Depending on the good or service, you may need a license or permit to export it from the U.S. as a part of your business.

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Obtain an Import License or Permit

In most cases, you will not need a license to import goods into the U.S. But, for certain goods being imported, some agencies may require a license, permit, or other certification.   

Follow this checklist to avoid problems when importing:

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Get an Export License or Permit

Most items exported to a foreign buyer will not require an export license.  However, all items are subject to export control laws and regulations.

The best way to find out if an item requires an export license is by checking which agency has jurisdiction over, or regulates, the item you are trying to export. Search this list of federal departments and agencies to find out whether you need an export license for your product.  

To avoid any problems, follow the U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s (CBP’s) exporting requirements or contact the local port of entry used to export your goods.

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Last Updated: May 04, 2017