Importing wine into the U.S. can be a complicated process. Before you start this journey, spend time on the websites of the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau and U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to start a to-do list of tasks. If you are only importing wine for personal use, you only need to deal with CBP.
Here are several things to keep in mind:
Unfortunately, there is a lot of it. You’ll need an Importer’s Basic Permit, a Certificate of Label Approval (COLA) for each product you’re importing and, if you’re located in Florida, a Florida importer or broker/sales agent license.
You may also need to apply for a “primary American sources of supply” (PASS) license from the Florida Alcohol Beverages and Tobacco agency if you are the actual importer. This isn’t necessary if you are buying products from an importer who already holds a PASS.
Once that’s in order, you’ll need to file an Importer Security Filing, get a Customs Import Bond on file, submit a cargo release and entry summary, acquire a certificate of age and origin and provide advanced notice of your imports to the FDA, among other tasks. If you’re importing more than twice a year, consider a “Continuous Customs Import Bond.”
Alternatively, you can hire a customs broker to do all of this for you.
Find a courier that will deliver wine
USPS will not deliver alcohol. UPS and FedEx are the two large-scale couriers that will deliver alcohol but depending on your situation you may want a local/regional courier. You’ll have to do a little research depending on the location.
Marine cargo insurance
This insurance will cover items that are damaged, stolen or lost during sea transit. Wine is particularly vulnerable to damage, including getting “cooked” during transit, so this is strongly recommended.
Familiarize yourself with Florida’s alcohol import laws
Each state has their own import laws for alcohol, and while Florida’s laws are not unusual, make certain you are in compliance.
Taxes, duties and regulations
Before your wine will be released from customs, you must pay federal excise taxes and duties. You will also be required to satisfy product certification requirements and comply with U.S. labeling laws.
Getting started in wine importation is labor-intensive and time-consuming, even if everything goes smoothly. Consult an attorney to make this process as painless as possible.