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Frequently Asked Questions

Is your company ready for exporting? Entering foreign markets requires navigating through complex channels, and it can be tricky to know where to start.

Let the the U.S. Export Assistance Center of Harlem be YOUR resource! We have compiled this list of questions that we hear on a fairly regular basis from companies just like yours who are looking to expand their international sales. If you don’t find the question you are looking for, please contact us and we’ll be happy to assist you.

I want to export my "U.S. made" product(s)... where do I start?

The best place to start is right here. Contact us at our office at 212-860-6200 and ask to speak to one of international trade experts.

How do I know if I need to get an export license from the Department of Commerce?

The Department of Commerce, Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS) is the primary licensing agency for dual use exports (commercial items which could have military applications). Other departments and agencies have regulatory jurisdiction over certain types of exports and reexports. For example, the State Department licenses the export defense articles and services. Of those exports and reexports subject to BIS' Export Administration Regulations (EAR), a relatively small percentage require the submission of a license application to the Department of Commerce. License requirements are dependent upon an item's technical characteristics, the destination, the end-use, and the end-user, and other activities of the end-user.

You will need the following five facts to determine your obligations under the EAR: What is the item you intend to export or reexport; Where is it going; Who will receive it; What will they do with it; and, What other activities are they involved in? Export control guidance is available at: The first step in determining your license requirements under the EAR is to classify your product by determining its Export Control Classification Number (ECCN) on the Commerce Control List (CCL). More information on Commodity Classifications is at:

When do I fill out a Shipper's Export Declaration?

When a shipment is over $2,500 or when an export license is required (regardless of value), a SED is necessary. This includes shipments by US post, as well as shipments to or through the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico. This information is used by the Foreign Trade Division of the US Census Bureau to track US export statistics (import data is collected by US Customs). The only country that does not need a SED is Canada. If your product requires an export license, you are now required to submit your SED electronically through the Automated Export System (AES). It might be a good idea to start filing your SED electronically now, as it saves us and you money, and will be required for all shipments in the near future.

When is NAFTA certificate necessary?

A NAFTA certificate is never necessary, but if your product has a reduced tariff under NAFTA, it is in your interest to go through the NAFTA certification process. Since we have MFN trading status with both Mexico and Canada, your tariff rate might already be 0%, without having to go through NAFTA certification. If your products are used by other US manufacturers who export to Canada and Mexico, they may request that you certify your goods so that they can in turn get preferential tariff treatment under NAFTA.

What's the difference between a Schedule B and HTS number?

All import and export codes used by the U.S. are based on the worldwide Harmonized Tariff System (HTS). The HTS assigns 6-digit codes (known as the HS number) for general categories that are used worldwide. These 6-digit codes are broken down by Chapter (2 digits), Heading (4 digits) and Sub-heading (6 digits). Countries that use the HTS are then allowed to further define their commodities at a more detailed level, usually 8-10 digits, but still using the universal 6-digit number to start with. The United States uses this system as a foundation for determining both Schedule B numbers and the Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States (HTSUS), which are nearly identical. The Schedule B number (reported on your SED) is used by Department of Commerce's Foreign Trade Statistics office to generate export statistics. The HTSUS number is used by U.S. Customs in the import process.

How do I determine my HS or Schedule B Number?

To obtain HS or Schedule B numbers, visit the TIC website at and click on “HS/Schedule B.” From there, you can access the U.S. Census Bureau's Schedule B Search Engine. Or, go directly to the Census Bureau website at, and classify your own product through a keyword search. If you require assistance in classifying your product, call the Census Bureau’s Foreign Trade Division at (301) 763-3259 (for durable goods) or (301) 763-3484 (for non-durable goods).

Do I need to register for an international copyright?

An "international copyright" does not exist; however, it is recommended that you register for a copyright in the U.S. as well as any country that you will be doing business in. A comprehensive list of all of the national copyright offices throughout the world is available at:

Where can I find out the duty rate for my product?

Tariffs and taxes may be obtained through this Department of Commerce website by harmonized code and country:

How can I avoid paying excessive duties and value added taxes for temporary exports?

ATA Carnets are “Merchandise Passports,” international customs documents that simplify customs procedures for the temporary importation of various types of goods and ease the temporary importation of commercial samples (CS), professional equipment (PE), and goods for exhibitions and fairs (EF). They facilitate international business by avoiding extensive customs procedures, eliminating payment of duties and value-added taxes (minimum 20% in Europe, 27% in China), and replacing the purchase of temporary import bonds.

For more information, click here.

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  Notice to Visitors!

  The link you have chosen will take you to a non-U.S. Government website.

  If the page does not appear in 5 seconds, please click this: outside web site is managed by the International Trade Administration and external links are covered by its website disclaimer statement.