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Exporting & Importing Goods/How to clear shipments on my own?


Hello Lisa!

I am planning to start a small business.  I will be importing goods from Nepal and India by air cargo and sea cargo. I have no previous experience with importing.

The items mainly will be  Soap Nuts and rare honey. (very limited supply for the later one)

I would like to clear the shipments on my own. It might be challenging without any previous experience but does not make economical sense to clear it with a custom broker. For example I am offered 1000 lbs Soap Nut for about $800 including ocean shipping. (very low value makes it uneconomical to use broker)


*** I will import honey this way. 50-100 lbs at the time. Most likely by Fedex or DHL. What happens when the shipment reaches the JFK Airport? (I am based on New York City)
- is it always the duty of the courier to do the clearance for me?
- how paying duty will take place? Will the Customs call me and I can  pay them over the phone? Or DHL will call me and I pay them, then they pass it to the Customs?
- do I need any  to register with the Customs if I plan to receive 50-100 lbs honey every 2-3 months?

I would like to import Soap Nuts this way, about 1000 lbs at the time. As I mentioned I'd like to clear it on my own. Can you please summarize what happens to  to the shipment once it is on the vessel?
- I heard that the US Customs needs to be notified in advance before arrival. Is that right? Who notifies them? Is it the shipping company? ( I guess it is not me...)
- What criteria I have to meet in order to receive goods by sea?
- If I do not use broker how clearing of the shipment takes places?
- Usually the shipping company notifies me when the Soap Nuts arrived me to the port of entry? Or the Customs will notify me?
- How the Customs will take my payment? Can I go to the port of entry and fill out the papers and make the payment on the spot? Or is there a way to do over the phone or internet?
- As first time importer will I get help/customer service from the Customs on the spot?
- What papers/forms are generally involved? (Soap Nuts are duty free)
- Once the paper work is done how usually the goods are picked up? I can pick it up when it is unloaded from the ship or the Customs/Shipping company have their storage? I'd like to time it right and avoid penalty of delayed pick up.


As you can see I am pretty much in the dark....I contacted several places including shipping companies but they did not help me to picture how it will happen the first time.

I am wondering if I am able to compensate you for your answer?

Thank you!


I appreciate your desire to be thrifty and avoid paying an expert to assist you but it is not really an area where you should be cutting corners.  There are too many details involved in not only clearing you shipments but in getting you set up for importing.  Any mistakes could cost you money as well as time.

I am a compliance consultant and would be happy to spend some time with you if you still insist on trying to do this yourself but I also charge for my time.  If you would like to set up a consultation, please start a new question to me, in PRIVATE mode.  We can exchange contact information and I will do my best to assist you.

Best regards,

Exporting & Importing Goods

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Lisa Madrid


I have over 20 years of experience in import transportation and customs clearance. I am not able to answer export related questions but can assist with imports into the United States.


I have been a licensed Customs Broker since 1996 and have been working for the freight forwarding industry for 24 years. I currently have my own business as an import consultant offering advice to importers in area of Customs regulatory compliance and am partnered with several prominent Customs attorneys.

CCBFA (Chicago Customs brokers and Forwarders Association) OWIT (Organization of Women in International Trade) ITAGC (International Trade Association of Greater Chicago)

Licensed as Customs Broker, issued 1996 NCBFAA Certified Customs Specialist

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