As we’ve discussed before, Americans love to their alcohol. But it takes a lot of work (and certificates) to import alcoholic beverages into the states. To start the process of importing spirits, wine, or malt beverages, you’ll need to begin before you even have your product. Apply for a Federal Basic Importer’s Permit by filing an “Application for Basic Permit under the Federal Alcohol Administration Act” with the Tax and Trade Bureau’s (TTB) National Revenue Center. You can do this all online, and there’s even a handy guide with tips, tutorials, and a list of current processing times for permits. Like with many imports, there will be duties so you can find the HTS here.
Once you’ve received the Importer’s Permit, the next step is obtaining a Certificate of Label Approval (COLA) from the TTB. Each type of alcohol you are importing will need a COLA. To get a COLA, you’ll file for an Application for and Certification/Exemption of Label/Bottle Approval with the TTB’s Advertising, Labeling, and Formulation Division (ALFD). You can do this online or by submitting the paper copy of the form, but you must have a COLA at the start of importation. Some products will require you to get a pre-COLA approved, you can see which products here.
Natural Wine Certificate
Wine will take yet another step for importers. To assure that wine produced after December 31, 2005 is made from quality fruit, wine importers must receive a certification as outlined by the Miscellaneous Trade and Technical Corrections Act of 2004. We take our wine seriously in the United States, and this certificate will make sure that imported wine was made using proper practices. If the country from which you are exporting already has an enological practices agreement with the US, this step won’t be required.
Certificate of Age and Origin Requirements
Some alcoholic beverages are “better with age.” Or just need a certificate of age or origin in order to pass customs. You can see if the product you are importing is one of these here.
These certifications will appease the TTB, but remember, importers will also need to comply with requirement from other government bodies, such as the FDA. Alcohol importers will need to provide prior notice of food, which includes alcoholic beverages, that is to be imported.