How to Start Importing from China?

Importing from China can be an affordable way to purchase products for sale. However, importing items on your own requires establishing relationships, setting up shipping, and navigating the regulatory of customs. Get started on your way to importing from China by taking steps to set up your import process and planning ahead.

Part 1 Finding a Supplier

1). Make sure you can legally import your chosen item. Most items will be allowed, but there are certain guidelines that must be followed for some types of items. The United States imposes stricter guidelines on agricultural products, for example. Additionally, Chinese laws may prohibit the export of certain items, like animal by-products or fake designer clothes and accessories. Check with the laws and regulations of both countries before making an order.

2). Make a list of Chinese exporters, or suppliers, who can provide you with your product. The easiest way is to search on B2B websites such as Alibaba, Global Sources, etc.

3). Contact each supplier on your list. Once you have a list of exporters, you can begin asking questions in order to narrow it down to the supplier who is right for you. Some things you will want to ask each exporter to provide you with include: client reference/ business licensing information/ manufacturing and staffing information/ the name and location of the factory producing the product.

4). Investigate the product. Request information regarding the experience of each factory in producing your particular product. You should also ask for samples of the product. Unless you will be manufacturing your own new product, the supplier should be able to provide you with samples of the product so that you can get a better idea of the quality and know ahead of time exactly what you are paying for.

Part 2 Making an Order

1). Make a trip to meet with your supplier. If at all possible, it's best to schedule a visit to your supplier in China. This will help you establish a relationship with the supplier and get a sense of how well their business is operated. This provides a better opportunity for negotiation than working on a deal via email.

2). Obtain a business visa. In order to enter China, you will need to apply for and receive a Chinese visa for business activities.

3). Negotiate a deal with the supplier. Remember that business interactions with Chinese exporters are governed by Chinese culture and customs, and different negotiation skills and tactics may be required. Some things to keep in mind when negotiating with Chinese suppliers include: The focus is on relationships; Reliance is on moral influence, not legal practice; Hierarchy is important.

4). Begin placing your orders. Each company will have a minimum order amount and a basic shipping agreement. Most exporters expect orders of at least 1,000 units, depending on the item in question. The most common types of shipping arrangement include air courier and sea freight.

5). Pay for your products. To place your order, you will have to pay a deposit on the value of your order. Usually an initial deposit of 30% will be requested by a Chinese manufacturer to get your order into production. The remainder is paid prior to shipment or upon copy of bill of lading. Never pay the entire amount of the purchase order upfront. If there is a problem with the order, you may not be able to get your money back.

6). Avoid payment fraud. Some importers may experience this type of fraud when placing their orders. It typically involves their payment for orders being sent to the wrong bank account, which can leave both the supplier and the importer out of a large amount of money.

Part 3 Getting Your Items Through Customs

1). Hire a customs broker. Locating and hiring a licensed customs broker can make your importation process much easier. This professional facilitates communication between you and the government, fills out and files necessary paperwork, and can help you navigate import regulations. They can also help estimate import costs and how long the import process will take. Just make sure that you can cover their fee with the sale of your imported products.

2). Acquire necessary permits and licenses. Work with your customs broker to identify which licenses and permit you need, if any. Apply for them through the appropriate government channels and wait for your application to be accepted before placing an import order.

3). Submit initial import documents. Once the goods are received by the port of entry, you (or your customs broker) have five days to submit the first round of required import documents.

Part 4 Taking Possession of Your Items

1). Pay your import duties. Your import duties will be calculated using the value of your shipment as estimated by customs officers and the shipment's grouping on the harmonized tariff schedule.

2). Arrange for pick-up and transport. Contact a commercial cargo company to arrange to have your shipment picked up at the port of entry and shipped to your warehouse or local resellers. Cargo companies can be located by consulting your local yellow pages or favorite online phone book.

3). Check your shipment for accuracy and damage. Once the items have made it to you, look at the packaging and items themselves for any damage sustained over the course of the trip. If there is significant damage, you may want to rethink your choice of shipping method or urge your supplier to better prepare your items for shipment.