Doing Business in Greater Phoenix, U.S.A. - Chapter 10: Importing to/Exporting From the United States



The World Trade Organization notes one of the benefits of international trade is that it gives consumers more choice and a broader range of goods from which to choose. The WTO also says can also bolster the quality of locally produced goods in the U.S. because of the competition from imports.

There are multiple resources – including the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce – available to assist companies of any size and with any level of import experience. The CBP is part of the Department of Homeland Security. The CBP has the responsibility of securing the United States’ borders and facilitating lawful international trade and travel. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce represents the interests of more than 3 million businesses across the country. The Chamber of Commerce has colleagues in a number of countries around the world and can offer information on importing from these areas.

Basic Guide

For a basic look into importing to the U.S., please follow the basic guide below, which was assembled for fair trade organizations that have a desire to import goods into the country. Please note that every product has specific criteria, rules and regulations. These steps are merely a general overview to guide you through the basics of the importing process:

  1. Locate Suppliers for Fair Trade Importers: Locating producer partners is the most important step. Try consulting the International Fair Trade Association directory or ask the Fair Trade Federation to recommend specific products or producer groups.
  2. Determine Method of Transport: You need to determine the best mode of transport for your specific items. As you decide, take the following factors into consideration: Customer deadlines, your budget, producer’s production time, the shelf life of the items and environmental concerns.
  3. Determine Port of Entry: Your port of entry is the place where your items can lawfully enter the country. Consult www.portcodes. com for a list of U.S. ports. Customs brokers should be available at each port to assist you.
  4. Determine Classification and Dues: You can file the import paperwork yourself at the local port office, or you can hire a licensed customs broker to transact business on your behalf – the latter method is recommended given the complexity of handling customs. Determining the classification of your products can be very difficult; a customs broker can help you with this as well. U.S. Customs officials at the point of entry have the final say on into which tariff rate your product fits. All dues must be paid within 10 days of arrival at port.
  5. Determine Formal versus Informal Entry Status: Informal entry is for items valued $2,000 or less for consumption. Formal entry is for commercial shipments supported by a surety bond to ensure payment of dues and compliance with Customs regulations. Informal versus formal entry must be determined ahead of time to know whether a surety will be required.DOING BUSINESS IN GREATER PHOENIX, U.S.A. Greater Phoenix Economic Council 59 602.256.7700 | 1.800.421.47321.800.421.4732 FREE |
  6. Prepare All Documents: You must fill out a certain number of documents for all your shipments coming into the U.S., including, but not limited to, a commercial invoice stating the value and origin of the goods you’re receiving and a packing list with the weight and quantity of all items.
  7. Transport Your Items to Their Final Destination: Once everything is cleared through U.S. Customs and Border Protection, you are fee to move your products to their final destination.

To see the full guide from the Fair Trade Federation, visit

You also need to determine if there are restrictions or needs for licensing on products you’re trying to import into the country. Licensing and restrictions depend on the types of products you wish to import. Items that require licensing include, but are not limited to, alcoholic beverages, firearms and ammunition, meat products, milk and dairy products, petroleum and more. Certain products must comply with the regulations of agencies such as the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Animal and Plant Inspection Services and Consumer Product Safety Commission; such goods include, but are not limited to, art materials, some electronics products, hazardous/toxic materials, children’s articles and more.


There are 10 ports of entry in Arizona: Douglas, Lukeville, Naco, Nogales (Service Port), Phoenix (Service Port), San Luis, Sasabe, Scottsdale Airport (User Fee Airport), Tucson, and Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport (User Fee Airport). The Phoenix (Port Code: 2605) Service Port is a CBP location that has a full range of cargo processing functions, including inspections, entry, collections and verification. The port is located at 3002 E. Old Tower Road, Suite 400, Phoenix, AZ 85034. Its operational hours are from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. (Mountain Standard Time) from Monday through Friday. The general phone and cargo phone number for the Phoenix Service Port is (602) 914-1400(602) 914-1400. The passenger processing phone number is (602) 392-4400(602) 392-4400.


“More than 70 percent of the world’s purchasing power is beyond our borders,” Israel Hernandez, Director General of the U.S. and Foreign Commercial Service, recently said.

In Arizona, you will have multiple resources at your disposal that can assist you with exporting goods, no matter the size of your company or the level your export experience. Such resources include the U.S. Commercial Service (with two offices in Greater Phoenix), the Arizona Commerce Authority (ACA), Arizona’s State Trade and Export Promotion Program, the Export-Import Bank of the United States, and the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA). You can find contact names and information for each of these agencies and programs in the appendix at the end of the toolkit.

Foreign Trade Zones

Companies who choose to locate in a Foreign Trade Zone (FTZ) are eligible for benefits that can save the company millions of dollars per year. Foreign Trade Zones are secure areas under supervision of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) that are considered outside of the customs territory of the U.S. at which special CBP procedures may be used. You may move foreign and domestic merchandise into an FTZ for storage, assembly, manufacturing and processing, all without the payment of dues and other import restrictions until you decide to enter the goods into the U.S. market.

Arizona is one of only two states in the nation with the ability to lower real and personal property taxes up to 72 percent for FTZqualified companies. Greater Phoenix has three FTZs: One each in Phoenix, Mesa and Western Maricopa County. Companies locating within a certain distance of these FTZs may apply to be considered having located in a subzone. GPEC has assisted several companies with FTZ paperwork and qualification. Numerous companies have already taken advantage of Foreign Trade Zone benefits in Greater Phoenix, including ST Microelectronics, Intel, Conair, Abbott Laboratories, PetSmart, Microchip Technologies and Sub-Zero.


If you need assistance with the transportation of goods, your best option is to go through the National Customs Brokers and Freight Forwarders Association of America (NCBFAA).

Headquartered in Washington, D.C., the NCBFAA represents nearly 940 member companies in international trade, including the nation’s leading freight forwarders, customs brokers, ocean transportation intermediaries (OTIs), non vessel operating common carriers (NVOCCs) and air cargo agents. Established in 1897 in New York, the NCBFAA maintains a close watch over legislative and regulatory issues that affect its members.

The NCBFAA currently has 13 members within Greater Phoenix. To see the full list and contact information of the member companies in all of Arizona, please visit the appendix at the back of this toolkit. To get more information about the NCBFAA, visit

This Guide – Doing Business in Greater Phoenix, U.S.A. – can be downloaded at

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