If your company's executives travel frequently, or if your business regularly imports or exports goods, you'll need a thorough understanding of worldwide customs regulations, and a plan for ensuring that all of your employees follow the laws. Without this, you risk not only travel delays, but also an interruption in your company's productivity. Worries about international terrorism are making it tougher to earn US customs clearance, but there are several online resources designed to help businesses and international travelers stay compliant.
Several agencies are involved in customs regulations, including:
- U.S. Customs and Border Protection
- Department of Homeland Security
- Office of the United States Trade Representative
- U.S. International Trade Commission
- Foreign agencies overseeing customs compliance
Comply with U.S. customs regulationsYou'll likely want to start by educating yourself on U.S. customs regulations. The United States implemented stricter trade and customs laws after the September 11 terrorist attacks, meaning you may have to go through more red tape to bring items into the country.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection is the primary agency regulating US customs regulations. The Market Access and Compliance division of the International Trade Administration offers assistance to small and large American businesses.
Research international customs regulationsCustoms rules vary widely around the world, so you'll also need to know what your destination country will allow you to bring in and take out. You can contact the country's embassy or consulate in Washington D.C. for complete guidelines.
The U.S. Department of State Bureau of Consular Affairs website features country-specific customs information, including entry rules. At the U.S. Trade Representative site, check out the Priority Watch List, a list of countries where counterfeit and pirated goods are common, and illegal to bring back to the United States. Or, use online databases such as Embassy.org to search for embassies and consulates.
Set up a customs compliance programIf you frequently ship goods overseas or import foreign goods in the United States, a company-wide customs compliance program can ensure that all employees comply with all customs regulations, that every part of the company is involved and informed, and that you know who is responsible for customs compliance.
Hire a customs and international trade consulting firm, such as Global Customs Compliance Ltd, to help you create a corporate compliance program. Or, purchase software designed to help automate and streamline customs compliance, such as Descartes Global Logistics.
Consult an attorney specializing in international customs lawsWhen in doubt, it's always best to consult an expert, and customs attorneys can help you stay compliant with the ever-changing field of international trade law. Consider hiring one whether you're setting up a customs compliance program, about to send employees overseas, or if you've encountered legal trouble.
Find an attorney specializing in international trade with the American Bar Association's "Lawyer Locater" feature, and follow the recommendations for choosing a customs attorney at Informed Trade.
Find up-to-date customs regulations information on the webCustoms compliance grows more complex every day; for current information, seek out websites that focus on customs and international trade, and that cater to a business audience. Through articles, forums and resource sections, you can stay updated and legal.
Make sure you know the basics of customs regulations, with resource sections at trade sites like Informed Trade. Or, consult government websites, like that of the International Trade Administration.
- Preparation is the key to successfully complying with customs regulations. It takes much less time to prevent violation of customs laws than to unravel the government red tape if you make an error.