During the product development and/or business development portion of being an importer, there are many cases in which you would want to move commercial samples into the US (if you haven’t done so already!). Sampling of goods and prototypes is a common request of manufacturers and exporters by US-based importing businesses and they are often used to accommodating — if they are not, this could potentially be a bad sign.
Of course, this is to ensure that you know exactly what you’re getting before you place a large order for sale. This is almost doubly important if it is a new kind of product that you’re working on bringing to market! In essence, for most cases it is advised that — when you are in the research phase of importing commercial goods — you take the time to bring in samples and get a clear view of the products you’ll be selling in the US.
Recommended reading: Guide to Importing into the USA
Now, beyond laying out why an importer would want to bring in commercial samples, exactly, another key question to ask is: why is this such a popular topic of inquiry?
Most importers are aware, but commercial samples can be eligible for duty free importation, depending on the documentation and process you follow to bring your samples in. But, like many importing businesses, saving resources on the little things allows you to reinvest in other areas. So it’s an important process to do your research on.
Customs and Border Protection (CBP) has a full-fledged guide on the process and what things you will need. They explain the different methods of importing commercial samples (and prototypes) in order to avoid paying duties. As they put it: “it is intended to be an aid for importers and other interested parties in determining the appropriate method of importation.”
Here is a link to that document: What Every Member of the Trade Community Should Know About: Importation of Commercial Samples.
The main part of the document outlines the main options for entry for commercial samples (among other things like general info, regulations, quotas, etc. — all important!).
Below, we’re breaking down the 3 main options to import your commercial samples into the US.
Option 1: Duty Free Consumption Entries
For this option, goods may possibly enter the US with regular consumption entry stipulations, but free of any duties. This applies to small amounts of consumption samples, including: alcohol samples, tobacco samples, and samples not valued over 1$.
Option 2: Temporary Importation Under Bond (TIB)
Samples entering under this procedure may enter into the US duty free by “posting a bond”, This bond is submitted by the importer, agreeing to export or destroy the sample within a specific time period (or pay a hefty fine!).
Option 3: Carnets
Under this option, samples may be imported on a temporary basis using a carnet. The US recognizes 2 types of carnets — which we’ve written about before — in where a sample may be imported temporarily. i.e. ATA Carnet and the AIT Carnet.
Recommended reading: Navigating Temporary Imports: ATA Carnet
We encourage you to do your research on this and ensure that the entry option you’re choosing is right for your business needs! The good news? There are definitely flexible options out there to accommodate importers. The “bad” news is that it can be a bit tricky to navigate all of the specifications.
In most cases, it is ideal to link up with a customs broker for this process that can help guide you and fulfill the necessary requirements. Click here to start the conversation.