Ultimate Guide to Section 321 and How to Take Advantage

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With the incredible fast-paced growth of the e-commerce world, it’s important that business owners find the most efficient and affordable way to receive shipments from across the globe. One strategy that can help budding importers cut down on cost- the section 321 type of entry. 

What is Section 321?

Section 321 is a statute of the American Customs and Border Patrol that describes the de minimus threshold. Which is the value below or at which goods can be imported into the country without paying duties or taxes. Section 321 was amended in 2016, increasing the de minimis value from $200 to $800. The statute applies to both private shipments and commercial imports. 

Section 321 Compliance and Best Practices

Although Section 321 offers a quick way to import low-value goods. Business owners need to comply and follow a couple of best practices to avoid heavy penalties and delays in shipment.

  1. Indicate your name and address on the shipment and not your courier or postal address.
  2. Manifest all your shipments separately on eManifest. Each shipment with its own unique shipment control number.
  3. For section 321 to apply, you cannot put together several goods into one shipment if the total value exceeds $800.
  4. Build strong communication lines with your logistic team and use only one provider at a time to ensure the filling of transactions is consistent.

How to Declare Section 321

Now that you know which type of shipments are eligible for a section 321 entry. Let’s move on to how you can declare this statute.

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Normally goods valued at or below $800 can enter duty-free without formal entry into the US. But in some cases, your shipment may require an eManifest. In that case, here’s what you need to do:

  1. Log in to the eManifest portal.
  2. Select section 321.
  3. Indicate your name, the value of the shipment, description of goods, country of origin, and shipment company.
  4. Submit to the Customs Border Patrol (CBP).

Note: Importers can only claim section 321 once per day. 

You need to ensure your carrier doesn’t make multiple claims at the same time. Or you’ll end up paying penalties for your shipment.

CBP gives importers the option of self-filing section 321 or hiring a customs broker. If you choose to self-file, once the carrier gives you the estimated arrival date, you’ll need to notify the entry port’s Custom office. Letting the officials know you’ll file an informal entry to process and clear your shipment.

Each day approximately 2 million shipments are released into the US under section 321. To reduce the chances of cross-border entry delays, make sure you file your forms with the CBP several days prior to the arrival of your shipment. Making it easier for customs officials to identify high-risk goods and quickly ensure compliance with US safety and security requirements.

Other Section 321 Restrictions 

Apart from the restriction on the number of claims you can make in a day. The statute also places restrictions on certain regulated goods. Like;

  • Quota-class goods such as crude oil.
  • Goods regulated by certain Partner Government Agencies such as the FDA.
  • Goods that need inspection before release, even if valued below $800.
  • Goods subject to Anti-Dumping / Countervailing duty.

How to Receive a Section 321 Shipment

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Once your shipment arrives, custom officials will need the bill of sale, invoice, and valid identification before releasing the merchandise to you. 

If you can’t pick up the shipment yourself or the point of entry is too far away from where you live. You can write a letter to the CBP port director to allow someone (of your choosing) to pick the goods for you. Try to be as specific as possible in your letter. It will go a long way in proving ownership of the shipment.

Your shipment only stays at the port for 15 days, afterwards, it’s shipped to a warehouse. And you’ll have to cover storage fees before the goods are released to you. If after six months, the shipment is still unclaimed, CBP is legally allowed to sell the goods.

With an increase in online shopping and high consumer expectations, understanding how section 321 works can help business owners seamlessly import low value goods into the US.

Hire a Canadian Fulfillment Company 

Of course, there is another way to go about it. You don’t have to go through all the hassles of ensuring that your shipment complies with statutes of section 321. You could hire a Canadian fulfillment company to do all of that for you. By partnering with a company north of the border, you can enjoy all the advantages of not paying tariffs, without all of the leg work. 

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