Getting Import Help from Commodity Specialist Teams

By John J. Capela

U.S. Customs has groups of import specialists who can help you get started in importing. Import specialists are organized according to commodity specialist teams, which are assigned specific types of goods and are available to respond to any questions you have about U.S. importing rules and regulations.

Import specialists provide information about the proper classification of goods for the purpose of charging duties as well as information regarding specific agency permits, licenses, or certifications. The following table lists each commodity specialist team and its corresponding types of goods for the port of New York and New Jersey.

Commodity Specialist Teams
Commodity Specialist Team Number Products
201 Animals, meat, fish, dairy, trees, plants, vegetables, fruits,
nuts, cereals, prepared foods, sugars, cocoa, raw hides, skins, fur
skins, and articles of fur
202 Animal products, coffee, tea, lac, gum, resins, vegetable
products, fats, oils, edible preparations, beverages, feed, and
tobacco
203 Wood, paper, books, furniture, lighting, art, antiques, stones,
ceramics, glass, salt, sulfur, lime, cement, minerals, fuels,
glassware, and nonmetallic minerals
204 Toys, games, sporting goods, musical instruments, arms, and
ammunition
206 Footwear
207 Gemstones, jewelry, coins; optical products; photographic,
cinematographic, measuring, checking, precision, medical or
surgical instruments and apparatus; musical instruments and parts
and accessories thereof; clocks and watches and parts thereof
208 Reactors, machinery, heating and cooling apparatus, machine
tools, office machines, valves, bearings, and computers
209 Transportation products, vehicles (automobiles, trucks, and so
on), aircraft, pleasure boats, and civil aircraft equipment
210 Electrical machinery and devices, consumer electronics,
televisions, radios, and tape recorders
211 Chemicals and chemical products; photographic supplies
212 Plastics and rubber products
220 Silk yarn fabric, wool yarn fabric, cotton yarn fabric, other
vegetable textile fiber fabric, felt non-woven special yarns,
cordage carpets, textile fibers, yarns, cordage, non-woven fabrics,
textile furnishings, and miscellaneous textile products
221 Special wovens, lace, trimmings, embroideries, knitted
fabrics
223 All underwear, nightshirts, nightdresses, pajamas, and
headwear
224 Menswear apparel, boys’ apparel in sizes 8 to 20
225 Women’s knit apparel
226 Leather articles, travel goods, gloves, mittens and mitts,
umbrellas, walking sticks, feathers and down, artificial flowers,
and wigs
227 Iron, steel, articles of iron or steel, copper, nickel,
aluminum, tin, lead, zinc, other metals, ores, slag, ash, tools,
implements, cutlery, and tableware

Each district Customs office throughout the U.S. has a division set up with commodity specialists assigned for each group.

Suppose you’re interested in importing seafood from Thailand. Looking at this list, you’d contact team 201. But if you want to import paper clips from South Korea, you may look through the list and say, “Great — there’s no team for paper clips or office supplies.”

If you can’t find your item on the list of commodity specialist teams, determine what the primary component of the item is. If the paper clips you want to import are made of steel, you’d contact team 227, which handles articles of iron or steel. On the other hand, if the paper clips are plastic, you’d contact team 212, because it handles plastic and rubber products.

When dealing with ports other than New York and New Jersey, you should identify which port your goods will be entering the country through. You can visit U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s website, click the appropriate state, and click the port name to find the necessary contact information. Call the port and ask to speak to the Commodity Specialist Team (CST) that handles the type of merchandise you’re importing.

When talking to the commodity specialist team, make sure you provide the complete product description and the country where the goods are coming from. The same product coming from different countries can have different rates of duty and different rules and regulations.