Importation of Alcohol

Commercial Import of Alcohol to the U.S.

The importation of alcohol spirits, wine and beer to the United States can be streamlined with the help of a licensed customs broker.

Managing the correct classification and delivery of goods from port to your warehouse or final destination are one of the many services offered by ER Hawthorne. We specialize in securely expediting goods through customs, then shipping your sealed goods from port to warehouse destinations via intermodal transportation. We regularly work with importers of beverages to save them expensive fees and time with our well practiced process of shipping wine, beer and spirits.

Learn more about the requirements and how Hawthorne Global services makes importing and shipping alcohol, beer and wine a standardized process for business.


Requirements for commercially importing alcohol to the U.S.

There are a series of documents and approvals that must be completed to import food and specifically wine, beer or liquor. We suggest having everything in place prior to bringing goods into the United States.

Alcohol beverages falls under the rulings of three agencies:

  1. Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB)
  2. Federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA)
  3. Customs and Border Protection agency (CBP)


Importing Requirements for Bottled Alcoholic Beverages:

The Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau requires its own set of forms and permits. Many of these forms required by the Federal Alcohol Administration Act (FAA Act) can be completed online through their Permits Online website. At the online website, you can apply for a Federal Basic Importer’s Permit and also a Wholesaler’s Basic Permit if needed. These permits are completed online or can still be submitted via a paper copy.

Labels and Certificate of Origin will be required for import of the alcoholic beverages in order to clear customs.

After you receive your Importers permit, you can apply for the approval of your labels. The labels may need to be pre-approved by the Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) to obtain a Certificate of Label Approval (COLA). Each unique product must have and approved label for distilled spirits, wine or malt beverages. You can apply for the COLA online on the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau website. Depending on the alcohol beverage you may need to submit the formula for review, testing, and approval. Without this label approval, however, Customs will reject the entry.  The label must read, “Imported by,” followed by the name of your company and be approved by the TTB for each unique product you plan on importing.

If you have any questions regarding the COLA process you may contact ALFD at 202-453-2250 or


Certificate of Age and Origin Requirements for importing beer, wine and spirits

Federal labeling regulations will require you to obtain a certificate of origin for certain wines and distilled spirits that states: 1) the country where the alcohol is produced, and 2) the age of the alcohol as well as the percent of alcohol in the beverage.

The CBP uses the Certificate of Origin to determine:

  • Duty rates
  • Duty preferences
  • Violation of U.S. trade quotas, and
  • Sanctions against a specific country or product

Normally, obtaining a Certificate of Origin for the alcohol beverage is fairly simple. However, if the alcohol is produced from products grown in more than one country, obtaining the certificate could involve more complicated submissions, tests, and reviews from any one of the three agencies that govern the importing of this product.


Food and Drug Administration requirements for importing alcohol

In addition to TTB requirements, you as an importer will need to comply with the FDA requirements of the Bioterrorism Act of 2002 and register with the FDA. You must provide prior notice of goods to be imported as outlined on the FDA website.


Customs Regulations for importing alcohol for commercial business

U.S. Customs requires you have all the above TTB permits in addition to meeting all labeling and certificate of origin documentation requirements.

Part of the import process includes the assessing and paying of taxes and duty for import. The Customs and Border Protection agency collects the taxes on distilled spirits, wine, and beer as defined in the Internal Revenue Code.  CBP also collects all applicable duties.  For information on duties and taxes, contact us for a quote for importing goods.

Customs will require the payment of the excise tax and import fees, and submission of the paperwork you received from the TTB and FDA. In order to assess taxes and duty, you will need an invoice for each import shipment along with the entry form completed with an entry summary. Each invoice must have the name of the importer, exporter, and the port of entry. Invoices need to contain the number, price, and weight of the product you are importing and a detailed description. Without this invoice, Customs may reject the entry.

There may be additional requirements across state and local jurisdictions for transloading from port of entry to delivery. In addition, warehousing and shipping requirements before reaching your final destinations can be managed with the help of our Hawthorne Global warehouse and shipping teams. We offer the complete logistics solutions from import to delivery.

Contact ER Hawthorne at 1-800-580-8399 to get a fast and fair quote for importing and shipping alcohol.