In this post I’d like address not the scenario where you are an importer of textile articles and you buy from licensed exporters, regardless what the country of origin is. Instead I’d like focus on a situation where a small business owner, for example an American boutique owner, may travel to for example India or Indonesia, and ends up spending fair amount of money on purchases of garments for his or her boutique. Whether he will plan on shipping his purchases using commercial freight, or he plans to hand-carry the purchases on the plane with him, he may potentially face serious problems getting the product out of the country of origin if he had bought from unlicensed exporters who do not possess appropriate textile visa documents.
These are the possible problems:
1. The vendor / supplier you bought from may be able to obtain the necessary textile visa documents for you from a licensed exported. At times he may be able to get the paperwork at no charge, sometimes at a nominal cost even though in theory the documentation is and should be free as it is allocated by the US government to all respective countries free of charge and they then distribute the documents among their major exporters. Needless to say this is more of a case in a Third World country where everything will have its price and if a licensed exporter has not had customers buy as much as he anticipated and he may have documents left over, he may gladly sell those to other vendors in need. Your supplier may not bother to tell you what transpired as he may routinely work the charges into his cost of goods, you get the necessary documents and can now export from country of origin and import into the US.
2. The vendor can’t get the necessary textile visa for you and as without it you can’t ship (or hand-carry your commercial purchases into the US for that matter), you can seek help from the shipper. He too can work any extras costs associated with getting the appropriate visa documents from his trade office into cost of preparation of your shipping documents. As above you may or may not really know how much you may really be paying for the documents themselves, or the charges appear to be insignificant, increasing your landed cost of goods only in a manageable amount.
3. But there is a potentially a third scenario where suddenly seemingly there are no more visa documents available simply because the quota for the reminder of the year has been exhausted. If that is the case, you will not be able to ship until the quota is re-allocated by the US government in the beginning of the next calendar year.
4. Of course you can find out whether the quota is closed or is still open, because you can check it online on the “textile bulletin board” at the US Customs website. Say you found out the quote has not yet been exhausted, but all around you, from the vendor to the shipper tell you the only way to ship will be you buy the necessary documents and it will cost you so much per piece. This undesirable situation is more of a case when shipping from Third World where an item such as a low cost blouse or a shirt you’re buying for couple dollars may cost you extra fifty cents for the quota paperwork. The extra cost may suddenly increase the cost of what you first thought was a great price to a price that is no longer so attractive. Needless to say if you had not bought yet, you can refrain from buying. But if you already paid your supplier and you now need to ship, you will have no choice but to buy the paperwork at the extra cost. In theory US government allocates the quota to each respective government in whatever the number of pieces per calendar year. Those governments then distribute the visa documents to their respective exporters, all done in theory at no cost to anyone, including you, the buyer / importer.
So back to the original case in point. As a small time boutique owner you could find yourself in Bali in September having spent $20,000 on purchases for your boutique, getting excited you will have wonderful stock addition on the floor of your store for the coming holiday season, until suddenly you find out that either the extra cost of quota documents will be so prohibitive to actually make it worth shipping your purchases at all or worse, the quota already closed for the year and you simply can’t ship until January. You can certainly visualize the consequences of such an ordeal, thus my warning – before you buy, make sure the quota has not been exhausted for the year, and you can either get the documents at no cost or only nominal cost, even if you will buy from unlicensed exporters. If neither may be the case, answer is simple – do not buy or buy from a licensed exporter that has all the documents you will need, although his price may likely be higher than that of the unlicensed vendor you thought to buy from in the first place.