What is Customs Looking For?

Basic to the entire U.S. Customs clearance system is the invoice for the articles imported, issued by the foreign seller. There are specific requirements as to the content of an invoice, but these are not commonly known.

An invoice that does not reflect the basic information required by Customs cam delay release of your shipment, cause errors in the assessment of duty and in some cases result in the assessment of penalties or fines (liquidated damages).

An invoice in one form or another is required for every commercial shipment, whether the imported article is sold on consignment or loan, is a gift, sample or return of the importers own product.

The Basic invoice requirements are:

  1. Names and physical addresses for both the seller and the importer. If the seller is not the manufacturer or producer of the product, the name and complete physical address of the actual manufacturer or producer must be clearly indicated and prefaced with a statement such as "Manufactured by".
  2. Terms of sale and currency in INCOTERMS (click here to view them).
  3. Country of Origin must be clearly stated on the invoice. Acceptable wording is "Made in ..." or "Product of ..."
  4. Description of the article or products must be in plain English, and avoid technical terms so the average person can understand what it is. It should be as descriptive as possible. Your description should include, but not limited to
    1. What is it
    2. How is it used
    3. Who uses it
    4. What specific function does it perform
    5. How is it operated (by hand, battery or electric power (including current),
    6. If it is a part, it must be attached to another machine (describe) to operate or can it operate on its own
    7. What material is it made of
    8. Your invoice should "paint a word picture" of the article(s) you are importing in the mind of the person reading it.

Note that only you know what you are buying. We do not. Therefore, when you receive the commercial invoice from your supplier, if it does not paint a "word picture" you are allowed to annotate the invoice with as much information as you wish. We cannot take these amendments on the phone or by email. You must make the changes or additions on the commercial invoice and fax or scan it to us. We are not allowed to add anything to the commercial invoice as we do not have a fiduciary interest in the transaction.

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Brokerage Division
11222 La Cienega Blvd.
Suite 400
Inglewood, CA 90304
Phone: 310-642-1082
Fax: 310-642-0075

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