Import quotas control the amount or volume of various commodities that can be imported into the United States during a specified period of time. Quotas are established by legislation and Presidential proclamations issued pursuant to specific legislation and provided for in the Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States (HTSUS).
There are three types of quotas: absolute, tariff-rate, and tariff preference level. Absolute quotas strictly limit the quantity of goods that may enter the commerce of the United States for a specific period. Tariff Rate Quotas (TRQs) permit a specified quantity of imported merchandise to be entered at a reduced rate of duty during the quota period. Once the tariff-rate quota limit is reached, goods may still be entered but at a higher rate of duty. Many Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) and other special trade legislation establish Tariff Preference Levels (TPLs) that Customs and Border Protection (CBP) administers like tariff rate quotas.
For more general information about quota, see the document titled "A Guide to Import Goods".
Several key factors determine whether a shipment is subject to quota requirements or eligible for preference benefits:
- HTSUS classification (based on merchandise description)
- Textile category number, used to determine proper quantity in square meter equivalents (SMEs) to apply to a quantitative restraint (see #2 below)
- HTSUS chapter notes and additional U.S. notes to HTS chapters
- Country of origin (where the goods were grown, produced, or manufactured)
Evaluating whether goods are subject to quota:
- Determine the HTS number (classification) of the goods by:
- Contacting an Import Specialist at a CBP port of entry. Refer to the ports page for list of service port telephone numbers.
- Requesting a binding ruling from the Office of Regulations and Rulings, National Commodity Specialist Division.
- Querying the Customs Rulings Online Search System (CROSS) for binding rulings previously issued for similar merchandise.
- Reviewing the Harmonized Tariff Schedule.
- Determine the textile category number (if applicable). The category is a three-digit number listed in parentheses next to the HTSUS number. The category number is used for converting from the reporting quantity as noted in the HTSUS to the square meter equivalent, the unit of measure for the restraint limit of the TPL. The category number, not the conversion factor is in the HTSUS. For more information on textile categories and SME conversion factors see the U.S. Textile and Apparel Category System correlation.
- Determine whether the merchandise qualifies for preferential treatment and is subject to a restraint limit under a Free Trade Agreement or other special trade program.
- If the merchandise qualifies for preferential treatment (see above), refer to the Commodity Status Report for Tariff Rate Quotas. This weekly report provides information on imported merchandise subject to Tariff Rate Quotas. The four most recent reports are available on this web page. In addition to textiles, the Commodity Status Report also contains information about food/agricultural and non-textile products, whose quotas are specified in notes to HTS chapters. This report assists in tracking rates of fill for the various import restraint limits.
- Any additional relevant information for a particular quota is posted on the CBP website in the form of Quota Bulletins. These links also contain general information related to the processing of quota-class goods.
For more information on quotas see the various topics on the quota site. If further clarification is still required, contact the CBP Headquarters Quota Branch.