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Questions about Import Laws and Rules

Imports are goods or services from other countries that are brought into a country by legal transfer to be sold. Import/export operations are the backbone of international trade and affects every aspect of everyday life. Without import services, many of the products in the average U.S. household would not exist. Below are a few of the more commonly asked questions about imports.

I want to open an import/export company and need some information. I live in Ft. Lauderdale, is this where I should have the business? Where do I find out about taxes on imports into the US?

An import/export business doesn't require you to have special licenses to operate. However you will be requires to register the business through the Florida Division of Corporations under the title of business in which you are going to operate, such as an LLC, LP, INC, etc. You can remain as a sole proprietor if you want to which is legal but not highly recommended.

When you first start importing, you may want to have an import broker to assist you in the first transactions. Import brokers are familiar with the fees and taxes involved in importing and can help you sort through the steps of the process. You should be fine to conduct the business after you have familiarized yourself with the process.

Exporting products can be a very dangerous business in the sense that if you are not familiar with the rules and regulations, you can get into trouble fast. Technology in particular is a highly regulated product, and if you export certain technology to areas of the world, you could possibly face extreme penalties or even prison sentences. If you are going to be dealing with technology, such as laptops, you need to be sure to understand the basics of the Bureau of Industry and Security.

I am an Egyptian trader and I want to open a company in the United States and import Egyptian product. What are the restrictions and how would I pay the taxes?

The restrictions on your business would depend on what products you want to import into the US. The U.S. Department of Customs can assist you in the requirements and your responsibility of the imports. You can open a company in the U.S. and the company would have to taxes as well as income tax.

I am on H1-B Work Visa (I am not a US citizen) in the US and want to sell a product online. Can I open an e-commerce website in the USA and sell product or is it possible to open a website and sell internationally from my country? Will it require an import/export license to buy/sell from the internet?

Usually, anyone could operate an international website that is based in a foreign country. Before you begin to sell products abroad, you should learn the export laws of the country that you will be sending your product to as well as the import laws of the country that you will be shipping the product from. The import/export laws will differ from each country. The type of products that you will be selling will have an impact on any restrictions that may arise. Because you have an H1-B Visa, you are restricted from working for anyone in the U.S. who isn't an H1B employer; this would include being self employed.

How do I go about getting distribution rights for a product in Colombia?

The first thing you should do is to contact the company or person who has the product that you are interested in and try to obtain exclusive rights to the products distribution. You will need to find an attorney located in Columbia who can assist you with contracts and agreements. If you need assistance, you can contact the U.S. Consulate in Columbia and ask for the commercial section. The people in this office will explain the export rules and laws pertaining to the country.

You need to be familiar with the import laws of all countries that you want to import the product to. You will also need the ability to repatriate (converting foreign currency into the currency of your own country) profits as well as being able to obtain foreign exchange. The repatriation of profits may need to be negotiated before you begin business in certain countries.

Imports are an important part of our everyday lives. The U.S. depends greatly on the import of oil, technology, autos, and many other products that otherwise would be unavailable. The import/export business can be a lucrative business but it can also be a nightmare if you are not familiar with the import/export rules and regulations. Before you attempt to import products from other countries, you should consult with an Expert in the import/export business to assist you with any legal issues.
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