How to Hire a Good Customs Broker

customs broker working on laptop
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When it comes to importing from anywhere in the world, the first question United States clients ask me is: How do I clear goods at a border? The answer is to hire a good customs broker who knows the rules and regulations of the country you wish to import goods from and can get the job done safely, fast and economically. This will allow you to focus on selling the merchandise, getting paid or both.

Here’s a look at what a customs broker is, what they do and how to find one.

What Is a Customs Broker?

Much like a freight forwarder or logistics expert on exports, licensed customs brokers are individuals, associations, corporations or partnerships that are licensed and regulated by the U.S. Customs Border Protection (CBP).

What Does a Customs Broker Do?

Customs brokers assist with documentation (both offline and online), country specific rules and regulations, calculation of duties and related taxes, if any, and payments to the CBP. They ensure that your goods are cleared through customs in a timely, seamless and economical fashion. This service is provided for a reasonable fee.

These experts typically handle issues concerning entry procedures, classification issues such as the U.S. Harmonized Tariff Classification System, tariff treatments and trade agreements, compliance, valuation and classification of goods, assessment of duties, marking of imported goods, duty drawbacks and refunds, anti-dumping and countervailing duties, Foreign Trade Zones, and record keeping, if needed.

Their obligation is to comply with regulatory and statutory requirements on behalf of an importing client.

Not all brokers can process entries nationwide, meaning at any customs port of unloading, nor can all prepare and process the paperwork required by U.S. Customs, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).

Be sure to inquire before making a hiring decision.

Finally, check whether you require a license, a permit to import certain goods or special additional paperwork. A customs broker can help you with this aspect of importing goods as well.

How to Find a Customs Broker

Two places to look for a customs broker and additional information on importing to the United States:

a. The National Customs Brokers & Forwarders Association of America, Inc. (NCBFAA)

b. International Federation of Customs Brokers Associations​


Additional information on importing to the United States:

U.S. Customs and Border Protection - Importing into the United States​

Importing can become a lucrative business in and of itself or an extension of a small organization that offers exciting growth potential. Either way, learning the ropes and doing your homework makes the process that much easier and smoother.

Note: If you are interested in learning more about customs brokers in other parts of the world, conduct a Google or Bing search with the following words: “The ____________ Customs Brokers Association” Fill in the blank with your country — Japan, Australia or Singapore, for example.