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Visa and Certification Exemption Requirements for Textiles

Export License and Textile Visa Requirements A textile visa is an approval in the form of a stamp on an invoice or export control license which is issued by a foreign government. It is used to restrict the exportation of textiles and textile products to the US and to prevent the unauthorized entry of the merchandise into this country.

A visa system is the most efficient way to prevent illegal trans-shipments and quota fraud. It ensures that both the foreign government and the US tally merchandise and charge quotas in a similar way so that overages, incorrect quota charges and country embargoes can be avoided. If a visa has an incorrect quantity, category, or other missing or incorrect data, or a shipment departs without a visa, the entry is rejected and the shipment is not released until the importer reports the error to the foreign government and receives a new visa or a waiver from the government.
By issuing a new visa or waiver the foreign government is acknowledging that it has been made aware of the category under which US Customs is classifying the shipment and charging the quota, if any, and/or the amount that is being charged.

However, a visa does not guarantee entry of the shipment into the US. If the quota is closed between the times the visa is issued in the foreign country and the merchandise arrives in the US the shipment will not be released to the importer until the quota opens again.

A visa may cover either non-quota or quota merchandise. Conversely, quota shipments may or may not require an import visa depending upon the country of origin. As of this date, the US has entered into visa agreements with many other countries but is enforcing quotas (administered by the US Customs Service) on merchandise from other countries with which the US has no visa agreements. Therefore, shipments from the countries without a visa agreement do not require a visa but are charged to the necessary quota.

Occasionally, when bilateral agreements end and quotas are not in effect, the visa agreement, which is a separate agreement that remains in force, requires that shipments continue to be accompanied by a formal visa.

Visa agreements are unique and most are comprehensive agreements. This means that all commercial shipments of textiles products or textiles of vegetable fibers, man-made fibers, wool and silk blends covered by a category number from a country with which the US has such an arrangement must travel with a visa in order to enter the US However, other agreements cover only a limited number of categories, (e.g., only cotton of categories 300-369). Also, some agreements have exemptions for shipments valued at $250.00 or less (note: this exemption is being phased out of all new or renegotiated agreements), or for traditional cottage industry products. Distinct differences are found in agreements which require a visa to show exact categories and quantities in the shipment while others do not.

To regulate these agreements, textile products are grouped under three digit category numbers. The category numbers were developed by the Committee for the Implementation of Textile Agreements (CITA), an interagency committee comprised of representatives from the Departments of State, Commerce, Labor, and the Treasury and the Office of the US Trade Representative. These category designations cover some several thousand 10-digit legal/statistical item numbers under which the merchandise is classified in the Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the US Annotated (HTSUSA).

The category system was developed to simplify the control of textile imports and to facilitate bilateral agreements by combining the thousands of HTSUS item numbers into only 167 categories.

This effort to simplify the system has been derailed by the fact that these 167 categories have been further divided by country into approximately 350-450 subcategories, sub-sub-categories and combined categories in order to establish quotas on a smaller range of products. Each of these subparts in itself has a separate quota. The narrow breakouts were made to protect different segments of the market for US domestic suppliers affected by the large volume of foreign imports.

When a shipment arrives at a port in the US, an import specialist reviews the visa documents for completeness and accuracy before release of the merchandise. The review requires that the category number, signature, date, quantity, and visa number are correct and match the merchandise involved. After this action is completed and the merchandise is charged to the quota (if required), the shipment is released to the importer.

Shipments – Personal Use:

Products imported for the personal use of the importer and not for resale (regardless of value and whether or not accompanying the traveler, excluding suits tailor made from Hong Kong) are exempt from visa, quotas, and exempt certification requirements.

For Hong Kong, tailor made suits of man-made fiber, wool, silk blend and vegetable fibers other than cotton, without regard to value, not accompanying the traveler, require visas (443/643/(1) or 444/644/(1)).

Personal use shipments are outline by chapter 98, subchapters IV, v, VI, vii, and xvi of the HTSUS, Code of Federal Regulations 143.21 and section 5.2 of the Customs inspector’s handbook. To be a personal shipment, the article must be for the household or personal use of the importer (including gifts) as well as not intended for resale or sale by commission.

Samples – Commercial:

Commercial sample shipments that have been properly marked and are valued at less than $800 from certain countries are not subject to quota and do not require a visa or exempt certification. Shipments may be entered under the informal entry procedures. The guidelines for “properly marked commercial samples” is found in paragraph 4a-h, dated February 28, 1986, of customs directive number 3500-07, or in telex #11061, dated august 3, 1988. The guidelines are below as follows:

A. The invoice for these shipments must contain the statement “marked sample – not for resale”.

B. The inside of the article must be indelibly stamped with the word “sample”. This stamping must be in contrasting color to the article, near the country of origin label, in one (1) inch or greater letters and physically placed on the article itself.

C. Articles which are transparent or incapable of being marked (such as briefs, bikinis, hosiery, blouses without collars, sheer or very thin scarves or garments, etc.) And for which the stamping of “sample” would render the article unsuitable for use as a trade sample, the following guidelines are provided:

1. Fabric labels, not smaller than 2 1/2″ by 1/2″ containing the words “sample-not to be sold”, must be conspicuously and permanently affixed to the article in close proximity to the country of origin label.

(Please note that paragraphs d, e and h of the directive are not pertinent to this section and have been omitted.)

F. The invoice must have been annotated with the notation required in paragraph 4a above and the article marked in accordance with the provisions of 4b and c above, prior to importation into the US The importer will not be allowed to do this after importation.

G. Although these “samples” may be entered under the informal entry procedures (and are exempt from quota, visa and exempt certification requirements) they do not qualify for entry under item 9811.00.60, HTSUS. Accordingly, they are subject to duty under the appropriate HTSUS item number.

Mutilated Samples – HTSUS 9811.00.60:

HTSUS classifications 9811.00.60 for samples are duty-free and do not require a visa or exempt certification. In addition, they are exempt from quota requirements. Reference telex #vbt-88-103 dated, January, 1988 for guidelines on mutilation.

Standard Visa Number:

Visa numbers are mandatory for all visas and export licenses. Most countries use a nine digit number (e.g., 9in123456) standard which is reported to the quota section. When a country is not on the standard system, do not report the visa number to the quota section.

The standard visa number is included in reports sent to foreign governments. A government can verify the categories and quantities authorized for export to the US against the quantities charged by US customs at the time of entry. This reduces re-verification of discrepancies to the specific shipments at rather than having to review individual entries covering a particular category.

Required Visa Number On CF 7501:

Under the authority of paragraph 34d of customs directive no. 3550 061, dated September 18, 1992, the visa number (whether it is the standard nine digit number or not) must be reported in column 34 on the CF-7501, entry summary, for shipments which require an export license or textile visa (including Hong Kong). The number must be shown for each line item covering individual category numbers. Failure to report this number will result in rejection of the entry summary and if it is a live entry (entry/entry summary) the shipment will not be released until the entry summary is in proper format.

The statistical copy of the CF 7501 or the statistical information reported by the broker under the Automate Broker Interface (ABI) program must include this number before transmittal of this information to the census bureau. Exempt certification numbers will not be reported on the CF 7501 or through ABI.

Only one visa number is applicable to a single line. If a line has more than one visa number, then individual lines must be provided for each visa number.

Date of Export/Country of Origin Required On CF 7501:

Under the authority of section 12.130 (i) of the customs regulations, and paragraph 14 of customs directive no. 3550 061, dated September 18, 1992, for visa, quota, or export license requirements, and statistical purposes, if the country of export differs from the country of origin, the export date from the country of origin must be reported on the CF 7501 in column 34, for all textiles and textile products classified in chapters 50 through 63, including chapters 42 an 94 of the harmonized tariff schedule of the US annotated (HTSUS), regardless of whether the merchandise requires a visa or is subject to quota restraints. As in the case of the visa number, a failure to report this date may result in rejection of the entry summary and will delay release of the shipment.

Folklore Products Designation “F” Required On CF 7501:

Shipments of fabric loomed by hand, hand-made articles and traditional folklore merchandise of the cottage industry, are exempted from visa and quota requirements if they are a produced in a country with which the US has both a visa agreement and a bilateral agreement which outlines exemptions for such products if the foreign government has issued a proper and correct certification for exemption. These agreements only waive the visa and quota requirements but do not waive the duty.

Merchandise must be reported in column thirty four of the CF-7501 by placing the symbol F as a prefix to the appropriate HTSUS item number in accordance with statistical head note (1) of section 11, HTSUS and paragraph thirty of customs directive 3550 061, dated September 18, 1992. With the exception of the HTSUS numbers for folklore products shown below in the discussion of Generalized System of Preference exemptions for certain wall and rug hangings, the numbers will be the normal HTSUS item numbers for those articles. As in the date of export and visa number requirements, failing to provide the folklore prefix may result in rejection of the entry.

Merged and Part Categories:

Because of numerous merged and part categories included in textile agreements signed over the past several years, it is now necessary to combine this information into a single document. This report includes the merged categories that are permitted, for both special access and visa program exempt certifications, as well as the category part designations required on visas from those countries that require accurate categories. Countries presently omitted have no merged or part categories for exempt certification or visa purposes.

More current agreements contain verbiage specifying that merged or part categories for purposed of quota are automatically applicable to visa purposes as well.

In the past, quota and visa agreements had been signed separately and at different times, so that merged and part categories for visas were not the same as those for quota. For countries other than those included in this report, along with visa book telegrams and other publications relating solely to visa requirements may be used to determine correct merged and part categories for visas.

Agreements have provided a “catchall” category (e.g. 659-o) for Harmonized Tariff Schedule numbers remaining after some part categories (e.g. 659-h) have been blocked off. However, in some agreements this was not the case. In those cases where a “catchall” category does not exist, only the basic category number (excluding any suffix) is required, even though there are suffixes for the specific parts in the category.

Some merged categories may apply to exempt certifications for special access programs. They are listed separately where needed.

Descriptive language appears in this guide, for ease of reference, but is not exhaustive. The Harmonized Tariff Schedule numbers alone completely represent the part categories.

There are visa stipulations for the following country not listed on the status report. This country is:

(RU) Russia category 435 – subject to visa requirements.

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