customs help

HMF-Harbor Maintenance Fee for Ocean Imports to USA

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What Is The Harbor Maintenance Fee (HMF)

The main purpose of the Harbor Maintenance Fee is to help cover the costs of maintaining the Ocean Ports of the United States. Funds taken from the HMF fee are used for the Harbor Maintenance Fund which is controlled and distributed by Congress.

According to the US Customs and Border Protection, the Harbor Maintenance Fee is required at USA sea ports for all incoming commercial cargo.

How much will the HMF Fee cost?

The chargeable amount for the HMF is 0.125% of the total invoiced value of the cargo in transit.

The Harbor Maintenance Fee is not charged on air freight.

Importing with Alibaba-DDU/DDP

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When ordering on alibaba, manufacturers and suppliers often offer DDU shipping as the default option. This puts the manufacturer in charge of your entire transaction where you, the buyer, ends up overpaying greatly for shipping services. You also risk doing so without having any control over who is transporting your goods or whether they will properly clear your goods through US customs. You want a customs broker and freight forwarder who will work on your behalf and will be available to communicate on US time. Thats where Freightclear/Cleared and Delivered comes in.

Choose EXW or FOB and hire Freightclear/Cleared and Delivered to take charge of your goods

So you hire us as your broker. You now have an entire US based import team who will look out for your best interests during this transaction. We will make sure you are charged fairly for the freight as well as handling any customs compliance issues clearing through a USA port. When the freight is cleared, we arrange port to door delivery that is fairly priced, fast and efficient. The best part of our service? We communicate with you the whole way. In the end, you will find you saved quite a bit of money over the DDU/DDP option.

Shipping EXW-This basically means you will trust your US based broker/forwarder to book your freight aboard an ocean vessel or airline. You are basically asking them to provide door to door services for your order. This may take slightly more work on your behalf, but is worth it when it comes to cost savings.

Shipping FOB-This means the supplier manufacturer is including the ocean freight as part of the purchase price. Once the ship leaves port, it is now your responsibility to clear and deliver to your door. This is where Freightclear/Cleared and Delivered makes the process simple. Once you get your bill of lading and ISF data sheet, its time to get a quote from us and get started. Once the freight arrives at your will find the cost savings to ship EXW, FOB using Freightclear was much lower than most shipping options on Alibaba.



4 essentials for clearing freight


Cleared and Delivered suggests being well prepared before clearing your goods through a U.S port. Below are 4 “must have” items for quick and easy customs clearance and delivery

1. The Commercial Invoice
Have a detailed Commercial Invoice on hand-The Commercial Invoice (link) contains a vast amount of detailed information about your product, it’s manufacturer, origin, destination, HTS code, and more. This info is crucial for a customs broker clearing your freight.*

“Download Invoice”:

2. Power of Attorney
Cleared and Delivered needs power of attorney over your shipment to classify and clear your goods through customs. We also need this privilege to pay duty on your behalf. This document authorizes your broker to take control over your import.

“Download Power of Attorney”:

3. Airway Bill/ Bill of lading and Arrival Notice
This is the “boarding pass” from the shipping line or airline that your freight is onboard their vessel or airplane. The “Arrival Notice” notifies Cleared and Delivered that your freight has arrived at a ocean port or airport, and is ready to clear. An AWB/BL also provides a tracking number to locate your freight and shipping details.

4. Harmonized Tariff Code
Cleared and Delivered can find and classify the harmonized tariff code for you, but thing’s move quicker if you have this information available on your commercial invoice, or enter it in your Cleared and Delivered quote inquiry. “Find your HTS code here”:

Duty-who is responsible for paying it?


The importer of record is responsible for paying duty. The seller of the goods cannot pay duty in advance. Be leery of sellers who claim duty on your purchase will be prepaid. Cleared and Delivered may pay duty on your behalf as part of their services in clearing your goods when they arrive in the United States.

“Duty explained CBP website”

Importing a car to the USA


Before you decide to import an automobile or car parts into the United States, you should ensure that the car or car parts conform to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Department of Transportation (DOT) regulations. These agencies have very detailed requirements that can make importing a vehicle difficult, if not impossible, for some vehicles that were not originally manufactured for the U.S. market.

Nonconforming vehicles less than 25 years old entering the United States must be brought into compliance, exported, or destroyed.

Cars over 25 years old are exempt from EPA and DOT requirements, although you will still need to obtain and prepare EPA and DOT paperwork to provide to a Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officer in order to clear your car through CBP.

From a CBP standpoint, you must file an entry on the car to receive the entry summary document CBP Form 7501. Filing an entry is initiated by declaring the car to a CBP officer when you enter the U.S. If your paperwork is in order, the officer will help you file the entry at the border. If you are not prepared, the officer may advise you to file the entry at a CBP port near your residence – however, in many cases the closest port could be 1-3 hours from your home, so it is in your best interest to be prepared to file the entry when you initially bring the car into the U.S. Without a copy of the CBP entry form, you will not be able to register the car in the U.S.

Prior to filing your entry with CBP, ensure you have valid proof of ownership, which is an original certificate of title, or a certified copy of the original. Ensure you have documentation, such as a manufacturer’s letter, stating that the car conforms to EPA and DOT standards, as well as a completed EPA form 3250-1 and DOT form HS-7. (If the vehicle has stickers on the engine (EPA) and inside the drivers-side door (DOT) stating that the car was manufactured to U.S. standards, you will not need a manufacturers letter. Some vehicles are listed by make, model, and year on the DOT and EPA web sites as conforming. If your vehicle is one of those, that would also negate the need for a manufacturers letter.)

If the vehicle has not been in your household for at least one year, you will be required to pay 2.5% duty, which is assessed based on the purchase price or blue book value. It is illegal to bring a car into the U.S. and sell it without first entering it through CBP. If you purchase a car that was brought into the U.S. and sold without being properly entered through CBP, that car is subject to seizure. NEVER purchase a used car in the U.S. if the owner cannot show that it is currently registered in the U.S. and demonstrate that it conforms to DOT and EPA standards.

If purchasing a car from a dealer, they should handle registration for you, if they don’t, the purchase should be contingent on your successful registration of the vehicle. (We get many calls from people who unwittingly purchased a vehicle that had been brought into the U.S. and then illegally sold. Buyer beware.)

Importing textiles


Textiles: Clothing, Yarns, Fabric, Wearing apparel, Made-up goods (i.e. luggage, towels, etc.) Most textiles imported for commercial use are subject to quota and or visa, depending on the country they are being imported from. It is essential to know the correct HTS classification number in order to determine the quota restrictions for any particular item. Textiles imported for personal use are not subject to quota except for hand made suits from Hong Kong.

Additional considerations for importing textiles include Consumer Product Safety Commission requirements for flammability. Wearing apparel must have labels specifying content and instructions for care. All textiles must have either labels indicating the country of origin or, if this is not feasible, (yarn, thread, wool) be packaged in such a way that country of origin is discernable to the ultimate purchaser. Determining country of origin for mixed products (blouses made in Italy from Chinese silk) can be very complicated. Other information may also be required.

Types of customs entries

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T&E Entry – Transportation and Export: Goods shipped under U.S. Customs bond from a U.S. Port of Entry to a second U.S. Customs port for export to a third country.

VST&E – Vessel Transportation and Export: This is a specialized U.S. Customs bond intended for a foreign vessel which will be immediately leaving the USA.

Warehouse Entry– This entry is for goods entering the USA under bond to temporarily store goods in a warehouse without paying duties and/or taxes.

Informal Entry– This type of entry is performed for shipments valued under $2,000 USD. (Some commodities are restricted to on an informal entry, regardless of the value.)

Consumption Entry– Designed for shipments entering the U.S.A. with a value over $2,000 USD.

TIB– Temporary Import Bond: Goods entering USA temporarily and intended for re-export to the originating county. Some restrictions do apply.

4455– Certificate of Registration: We also prepare this U.S. Customs document which is intended for foreign shipment exporting from the U.S.A. and then intended for return to the U.S.A.

IT Entries– Immediate Transit: Goods shipped under U.S. bond directly from initial Port of Entry into the USA to a second U.S. Customs port. Note: Restriction: The Car*rier must hold a Bond with U.S. Customs.

Remote Location Filing

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Remote Location Filing (RLF) is a pilot program that allows approved participants to electronically file entries with CBP from a location within the United States other than the port of arrival or location of examination. For example, merchandise is entered in Miami; a Seattle filer, via RLF, files the entry.

Customs container inspections

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Under Title 19, section 1467, of the United States Code (19 U.S.C. 1467), CBP has a right to examine any shipment imported into the United States and it is important to know that you, the importer, must bear the cost of such cargo exams. Cleared and delivered in no way can control or defer the costs of these inspections should they occur. Per the CBP regulations, it is the responsibility of the importer to make the goods available for examination—“The importer shall bear any expense involved in preparing the merchandise for CBP examination and in the closing of packages” (19 C.F.R. 151.6). ( 19 C.F.R. 151.6 ) Household effects are not exempt. No distinction is made between commercial and personal shipments. In the course of normal operations, CBP does not charge for cargo examinations. However, there may still be costs involved for the importer.

For example, if your shipment is selected for examination, it will generally be moved to a Centralized Examination Station (CES) for the CBP exam to take place. A CES is a privately operated facility, not in the charge of a CBP officer, at which merchandise is made available to CBP officers for physical examination. The CES facility will unload (devan) your shipment from its shipping container and will reload it after the exam. The CES will bill you for their services. There are also costs associated with moving the cargo to and from the exam site and with storage. Rates will vary across the country and a complete devanning may cost several hundred dollars.

Quotas and Imported Goods

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Many kinds of goods imported for commercial use may be subject to a quota limit. It is the classification number of the article as identified in the Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States and the country of origin that determine whether or not an item is subject to quota requirements.

In some cases, the quota is absolute, meaning that once the quota is filled – because the quota has reached its limit for that particular period of time – no additional quantities of that item may be imported until the next open period. Such merchandise must be warehoused or exported. Other quotas are tariff-related, which means that a certain quantity of goods may enter at a low rate of duty, but once that threshold is reached – during a specified period of time – a higher duty rate will be assessed for any additional quantities of that particular imported good. Unlimited quantities of some merchandise subject to tariff-rate quota may, however, enter at over the quota rates.

If you are importing goods for commercial use or resale, it’s a good idea to contact your local port of entry for more specific information.

Fill levels for quotas are currently posted on the CBP Electronic Bulletin Board in the file called Quota Threshold Status. Fill levels for textile items can be found in the Quota section of Importing/Exporting.

The Quota program is generally applied only to commercial importations. While the importation of many goods imported under “personal use” quantities are not affected by quota restrictions, there is one exception; made-to-measure suits made in Hong Kong, which are restricted for both personal and commercial use.