Importing restricted products into the U.S. is achievable. With certain documentation, companies can ensure their goods clear U.S. Customs at the port of entry.
Some items are not permitted into the United States under any circumstances. These goods are often referred to as "prohibited items." Importing such products is illegal, resulting in sharp penalties and other costly consequences.
Some banned products include:
- Cuban-made products
- Dog or cat fur
- Gold from Cuba, Iran, Burma (Myanmar), most of Sudan
- Meats, livestock, and poultry from most foreign countries
- Including African
- Some wildlife and fish may be prohibited
- Fraudulent prescription and nonprescription medication
- Some plants, cuttings, and seeds are entirely forbidden
- Products that infringe on Intellectual Property Rights
- Most merchandise from embargoed countries - unless specially licensed, or under an exception
Importing Restricted Goods Requires Special Attention
The following examples contain some items that may fall under the prohibited list, but contain some exceptions:
- Endangered wildlife species and products of them
- Ivory, except for Ivory from a warthog
- Unless it is considered antique (more than 100 years old and with documentation)
- Foods regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA)
- Game and hunting trophies
There are many caveats to banned and restricted imports. The full list and additional details can be found on U.S. Customs and Border Protection's (CBP) website. If you are unsure, talking with CBP or a Customs broker can help guide you in the right direction.
Take Special Care When Importing Goods
Now that we know what items are not permitted, and which may have exceptions to the rule, we also must realize that restricted commodities may need special documentation for import.
In addition to special documentation and Customs requirements, some items being imported may be subject to other Participating Government Agency (PGA) requirements, such as the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) or Fish and Wildlife Services.
Typically all items imported into the U.S. require a commercial invoice at a minimum. In instances when a PGA is involved a company may need to get permits or licenses, and other goods could have import quotas. These considerations may impact your decision to import that product.
Researching and knowing as much as you can
More on PGA Regulations and Restricted Commodities
If your imports involve one or more PGAs, you'll want to understand the applicable import requirements. The following list of PGAs is adapted from CBPs PGA Import Guides, provides importers with the agencies responsible for enforcing and issuing regulations on imported commodities:
- U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)
- Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS)
- APHIS Trade
- Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS)
- Agriculture Marketing Service (AMS)
- Foreign Agriculture Service (FAS)
- Department of Health & Human Services
- Federal Drug Administration
- Centers for Disease Control (CDC)
- Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC)
- Department of Commerce
- Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
- National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS)
- Enforcement and Compliance within the International Trade Administration
- Office of Textiles and Apparel
- Department of Transportation
- National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA)
- Department of Justice
- Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF)
- Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA)
- Department of Interior
- Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS)
- Department of Treasury
- Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB)
- Craft Beverage Modernization Provisions of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017
Now, keep in mind, the PGAs do not just apply to restricted commodities; they apply to all imported goods that fall within their oversight.
Bringing goods into the US that have restrictions can be a challenge, but not impossible.
Am I Eligible for Cargo Insurance When Importing Restricted Goods?
Knowing what else you need to import is also an important factor. We recommend companies purchase a cargo insurance policy for all shipments. Cargo insurance protects you and your goods from liability for damages in the shipping process and is available for restricted goods. In general, each insurance broker will have certain stipulations. Frequently, restricted products will be only covered on a Free of Particular Average (FPA) policy.
For example, the following items are typically FPA:
- Jewelry and watches
- Plants/flowers, live & cut
- Windows & Plate Glass
There are many more on the list of FPA-only coverage, and others under restricted commodities that may have special rates or conditions for coverage. Confirm with your cargo insurance carrier or Customs broker your policy and obligations.
We'll discuss in another blog why you need cargo insurance, and how it can protect you and your business.
- Know your product and import/shipping requirements
- Get proper permits, licenses, certifications, and other documentation where appropriate.
Understanding what goods are banned in the U.S. versus the commodities with restrictions will prevent the confiscation of your goods and ensure trade compliance. Protect yourself with cargo insurance and ask your Customs broker for guidance when in doubt.