In 1993, significant changes were made in the United States' import laws and regulations through Title VI of the North American Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act. The most impactful concepts of this act which is also referred to as the Customs Modernization Act are those of "informed compliance", "shared responsibility" and "reasonable care." Essentially, the various departments of the government that regulate imports are also charged with keeping the industry adequately informed of all regulations, restrictions and requirements while importers are being held more responsible for adhering to them. For most businesses, this has resulted in a need for originating or improving import compliance training as well as frequent import compliance audits to ensure imported merchandise passes through customs successfully. Navigating the often complex customs regulations as well as establishing practices within companies to consistently address them has led to a growing need for import compliance consulting firms.

What is "Reasonable Care?"

"Reasonable Care" is a subjective term and is determined by the U.S. Customs Service, The U.S. Department of Commerce Export Administration, and any other applicable federal agency responsible for clearance of different types of imported products. Although the Customs Service issues a multitude of publications and checklists to aid businesses in the exercising of "reasonable care", they clearly state that it is impossible to define it absolutely as each import transaction or situation can differ greatly. Essentially, the importer is responsible for reporting precise merchandise descriptions, tariff classification, valuation, country of origin and other applicable information that enables the merchandise to be cleared by the agency. In addition to following the regulations of the Customs Service, the importing business is also responsible for simultaneously obtaining clearance from other agencies that regulate certain products such as the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), U.S. Department of State, the
U.S. Department of Commerce as well as others.

What Do Import Compliance Consulting Firms Do?

The multitude of agencies and regulations has resulted in the necessity for import compliance training within every company that engages in international trade. Import compliance consulting firms have proven to be the most cost effective and efficient way to ensure the fulfillment of the "reasonable care" mandate by establishing procedures and performing periodic import compliance audits.

Though there are a few import compliance consulting firms that specialize in one type of product, their roles and functions are basically the same: to ensure that the company successfully imports its merchandise by fulfilling all of the federal government requirements and regulations. This accomplished through existing procedure evaluation, best practices procedure modification or origination, import compliance training and import compliance audits performed by the contracted firm.

Import compliance consulting firms keep abreast of the ever changing federal regulations and requirements that the international trade industries are subject to. For that task alone the contracting company saves several thousands of dollars per year in what would require the dedication of several employees. As an integral part of the import compliance procedures, appropriate documentation training and usage helps to fulfill the "reasonable care" requirements.

Author's Bio: 

For more information about import compliance consulting, export compliance manuals, and export compliance training please visit