“Know before you go” is a U.S. Customs and Border Protection tagline meaning travelers heading into the USA should arrive at their port of entry prepared with all the necessary supporting documents. Without the correct information, you and your samples likely won’t be allowed to enter the states.
According to U.S. Customs & Border Protection:
“If you are traveling into the U.S. to exhibit a product at a Trade Show/Fair, the following is a checklist of recommendations useful for the entry of the items:
- Official documentationdate and location of the Trade Show
- Confirmation that you are an exhibitor
- Documentation indicating value of items
- Mark items “Not for Sale” or mutilate the items
- Contact the Port of Entry prior totravel
- Complete CBP 7523 “Entry and Manifest of Merchandise Free of Duty” (For NAFTA items only).
- Check with the government agency that regulates your product for any possible restrictions or required documentation
- Obtain the HTSUS code for your items”
There are several U.S. regulatory government agencies that oversee imports. The CBP officers are ‘called upon to enforce [the] laws and regulations of [these] other agencies.’
“A license or permit from the responsible agency may be necessary to import: Alcoholic beverages, animal and animal products, certain drugs, firearms and ammunition, fruits, nuts, meat and meat products, milk, dairy, and cheese products, plants and plant products, poultry and poultry products, petroleum and petroleum products, and vegetables.”
You may be thinking, sample pens certainly don’t fall under any of those agency’s jurisdictions but often it’s what is not obvious that surprises you. In the example of sample pens, often the country of origin of the ink can be an issue and prevent entry. Consult with a credible customs broker and do your homework before you arrive at any U.S. port of entry with your trade-show booth materials and samples. It’s worth it in the long run to ‘know before you go.’
Related article: Shipping from Canada to the USA
CBP Online Resource: “Tips For Importers and Exporters”
Disclaimer: The above is general information and does not replace professional or legal advice. Always seek the counsel of an Immigration Lawyer, Customs Broker, Customs and Border Patrol and/or a qualified cross-border export professional.