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Articles, Import, US Customs

10 Country of Origin Marking Procedures to Avoid Seizure by US Customs

Properly marking imported goods with the appropriate country of origin is the law. All imported goods must be marked in accordance with Customs regulations in a visible, permanent, and indelible manner. Failure to do so can result in:

  • Delayed shipments due to Customs examinations,
  • Fines and penalties for failure to abide by Customs regulations,
  • Loss of import privileges,
  • Additional costs to rework and remark goods before they are allowed to enter the US,
  • Permanent seizure of your goods by US Customs.

Points to consider when marking your good for import

  1. Markings must be permanent. Stickers, rub-ons, and pen/pencil marks are generally unacceptable. Markings should be etched into glass, die stamped into metal, dyed or sewn onto fabrics, etc.
  2. Markings must be legible. They should be easy for an inspector to find. If a stranger can’t locate it without help in a few seconds, it’s not marked clearly enough. Hiding your country of origin markings where they can not be seen without removing pieces or disassembling merchandise is unacceptable.
  3. Country of origin markings are intended for the ultimate consumer. The regulation is enforced at the borders and ports, but the goal is that the ultimate consumer understand where their product was made.
  4. Country of origin refers to the country where the item was manufactured or underwent the most significant manufacturing process. For agricultural products, the country of origin is the country where the commodity was grown or raised. For manufactured goods, it is the country where the goods were underwent their most significant manufacturing process.
  5. Special trade programs that reduce duty based on country of origin are very stringent about properly declaring an item’s origin.
  6. Country of origin markings must be in English or an acceptable English abbreviation. When in doubt, use the full English name of the originating country
  7. Some items are exempt from marking requirements. Exempt items include:
    • Items that can not be marked (sugar, oil, or other crude substances),
    • Items for use solely by the importer,
    • Items that would be damaged by any marking process,
    • Items for which its container marking will suffice,
    • Items produced 20 years or more prior to their importation,
    • Items produced in the United States, exported, and then returned.
  8. Some goods require a specific type of marking set forth in the regulations. Examples include:
    • Knives, forks, spoons and other tableware
    • Dental and medical instruments
    • Watches, clock, and timing mechanisms
    • Native American style jewelry
  9. Marking must unmistakably convey the origin of the goods if expressed as an adjective. For example, “Brazil Nuts” does not convey the country of origin because the term may refer either to the country of origin or the type of nut.
  10. If any other identifier exists that might confuse the ultimate use as to the country of origin of the good (such as a trade name “American Eagle Clothing”) it must also display a conspicuous declaration of its country of origin preceded by “Made in” or “Product of.”

Final Note

If imported items are found lacking proper country of origin marking, they must be exported, destroyed, or modified at the importer’s expense and under the supervision of US Customs.

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