US Customs marking rules and regulations require that all items that are imported into the United States clearly indicate country of origin.

This blog post is not intended to provide definitive information on issues related to US Customs marking rules. It is intended, however, to make certain that those that are importing goods into the commerce of the United States are aware of the importance of getting markings related issues right.

For those companies and individuals that are importing articles into the United States, it is critical to make certain that US Customs marking rules and regulations regarding said items are followed and implemented correctly, and in accord with US Customs law. US Customs marking rules state that, unless a legal exception is granted, “all items imported into the United States must be clearly marked as to indicate country of origin.” Legal exception to marking rules is sometimes granted through what is known as a “binding ruling.” Binding rulings are granted by US Customs and Border Protection. Requests for binding rulings related to certain marking issues, classification under the Harmonized Tariff Schedule (HTS), country of origin, and NAFTA and applicability of Trade Program considerations can be made via the US CBP’s eRulings program. Submission of information related to US Customs marking rules and other matters in order to request a “binding ruling” can be made on-line, through the CBP’s eRulings Template.

Binding rulings are issued through the National Commodity Specialist Division (NCSD) of the Office of Regulations and Rulings, and are generally resolved within 30 calendar days of the date of receipt. Rulings on complex issues that require referral to US Customs and Border Protection headquarters, or its Office of Regulations and Rulings (OR&R) can sometimes take up to 90 calendar days to be resolved.

What is the purpose of US Customs marking rules?

US Customs and Border Protection requires that goods entering the United States as imported items are marked clearly for the purpose of informing the “ultimate purchaser,” in which country the articles or articles that have been acquired were made.

According to the definition provided by the US CBP, the “ultimate purchaser” of an imported good or goods is “the last person that receives the item in the form in which it was entered into the country.” It should be noted, however, that if further work is done, or materials and value are added to the imported item or items that change its character, name or the purpose for which it is and can be used, the importing country of the original goods may become the country of origin of the newly transformed

What kind of markings are acceptable?

Under US Customs marking rules, the best form of identification are those that become a part of the item itself. Examples of these types of marking methods include:

  • Printing
  • Molding
  • Stamping
  • Stenciling
  • Branding

Under US Customs markings rules, all printed country of origin information must be visible, and clearly and plainly legible. It also must be remembered that, under certain circumstances, it is permissible to employ the use of tags. Tags, of course, must be placed in such a way as to be clearly visible, as well.

Some items, such as knives, forks and products made of steel, or other metals, must be conspicuously marked with country of origin information. This marking may be accomplished by using techniques that employ:

  • die stamping
  • etching
  • engraving
  • cast-in-mold lettering

When US Customs marking rules don’t apply

By nature, some items do not lend themselves to being marked, or, cannot be marked at a cost that is not economically feasible. In such cases, it is, in many instances, sufficient that the ultimate purchaser of such class of items receive in a clearly marked container.

Because US Customs marking rules can be complex,  it is important to reiterate that this blog post has been written for the purpose of advising importers of the critical importance of this subject. Importing parties with questions concerning the marking of items entered into the commerce of the United States should direct them to a licensed US Customs broker, or to the US Customs Border and Protection Service.