Forms and Documents, U.S. Customs

Guide to Non-Resident Importing

Expanding into international markets is a worthwhile business decision. There is no need to occupy a physical address in the country whose market you wish to become involved in either. By registering to become a non-resident importer (NRI), you can do all your business from the comfort of your home – wherever that may be!

As a NRI, you facilitate both the exporting and importing of your product from origin to destination. Once your product has cleared customs and crossed the border, it is considered to be coming from a domestic retailer. This is made possible by the fact that you will have obtained a domestic business number.



Your international customers will experience much less hassle when ordering from you as a NRI because you’ve taken care of all the customs and border related technicalities. Regardless of a variety of fees related to importing/exporting, your customers are charged one price, which does not change. The prices that your business charges should be calculated to include shipping, customs clearance fees, and duties & taxes already.

Importing to the US & Canada

Whether you are choosing to permeate the US or Canadian market, the process is going to be similar. In both cases, the journey should begin with seeking out a reliable customs broker who can provide you with guidance. Once you have them by your side, there are a number of things you will need to do.

When your goods are passing over the border, your customs broker will be acting on your business’ behalf to facilitate the process. In order for them to do this, you will have to sign a Power of Attorney (POA, US) or General Agency Agreement (also known as a POA, CA). This document extends the rights to act on your business’ behalf to your broker.

In order for the POA to be validated, the individual who signed it must also sign a corporate certificate. Corporate certificates further legitimize the signer of the POA.

You will also have to register as a business in the country you are importing into. In the US, this means obtaining a customs assignment number, which you guessed it – your broker can take care of! In Canada, you will need a business number (BN), a process also made easier by your broker. All you need to do is fill out the required forms.

As with any importing/exporting endeavor, taxes and duties must be considered. Both the US and Canadian border patrol organizations oblige customs bonds before processing any goods for import. Customs bonds are contracts that assure importers will pay the taxes and duties required for their merchandise. There exist several options for customs bonds based on your business’ needs.

Sign up with a customs broker

Although not required by law in either the US or Canada, it is a wise idea to use a customs broker to facilitate the process of becoming a NRI. Reason being, customs brokers are experts in the rules and regulations of importing and exporting, which can change on the daily.

As you may have noticed, customs brokers can take care of many aspects of becoming a NRI. Rather than spend your time trying to make heads or tails of the fine details, sign up for Clearit’s free NRI account.