US imports amounted to $2.16 trillion in 2015, giving it the honor of being the world’s largest importer. Over the preceding five years, US imports increased at a rate of 3.1% annually. Overall, its imports have increased 20% from $1.8 trillion in 2010. Its top import origins include China, NAFTA partners Canada and Mexico, Japan, and Germany. Goods form the largest bulk - some 80% of the total imports to the United States. The most imported product goods are machines such as computers and broadcasting equipment, cars, and chemical products such as packaged medicaments. Its two largest ports, the Port of Los Angeles and the Port of Long Beach, are considered major container gateways for trade with Asia. Together, they represent over a quarter of the North American market share.

Import to United States: Ocean freight vs air freight

Worldwide, air freight contributes to around 3.7% of containerized tonnage shipped. Most of it consists of perishable or time-sensitive merchandise. The cost of air freight shipping is around double of that of ocean freight. But this varies from destination to destination.

FCL or LCL for your import to the US

When deciding on your import to the US, you can choose to either ship Full Container Load (FCL) or Less than Container Load (LCL). This depends on the size of your shipment. The general rule is to opt for an FCL if you’ll be occupying more than half of the container space. Likewise, choosing LCL would be the more cost-effective option if you don’t have that much cargo. Many importers prefer FCL simply for the freedom and flexibility of greater control and lesser risk.

Door-to-Door shipping to the US

To better facilitate your shipment, you also have the option of shipping Door-to-Door when making an import to the US. iContainers offers Door-to-Door shipping to the US from UAE, Spain, Taiwan, Dominican Republic, Netherlands, and China.

Consult our page on Door-to-Door shipping to the US for more information.

Documents needed to import to the US

The importer has 15 days from the shipment’s arrival date to file entry documents. These include but are not limited to:

  • Entry manifest
  • Evidence of right to enter
  • Commercial invoice
  • Packing list (if any)
  • Declaration forms (if any)

Customs

Merchandise transported by ocean freight must pass through customs at both the port of origin and the port of destination. Customs offices around the world usually require the above-mentioned documents to release the goods. They may also request to inspect the merchandise either at random or under suspicion.

Incoterms

The Incoterms under which merchandise will be sent is decided by the shipper and the consignee. It determines the cost liabilities related to the shipment. Some of the more common Incoterms used as a US importer are:

Top 10 countries the US imports from

Country Imports
1. China $458 billion (21%)
2. Mexico $291 billion (13.0%)
3. Canada $289 billion (13.0%)
4. Japan $129 billion (6.0%)
5. Canada $123 billion (13.0%)
6. South Korea $72.7 billion (3.4%)
7. United Kingdom $54.7 billion (2.5%)
8. India $44.1 billion (2.0%)
9. Italy $43 billion (2.0%)
10. France $39.1 billion (1.8%)

Top 10 US imports

Product Value
1. Cars $169 billion (7.8%)
2. Crude petroleum $120 billion (5.6%)
3. Computers $91 billion (4.2%)
4. Vehicle parts $66.7 billion (3.1%)
5. Packaged medicaments $64.6 billion (3.0%)
6. Broadcasting equipment $54.8 billion (2.5%)
7. Refined petroleum $45.5 billion (2.1%)
8. Telephones $38.4 billion (1.8%)
9. Integrated circuits $28.1 billion (1.3%)
10. Video displays $24.5 billion (1.1%)