There are a few ways to import commercial samples into the United States duty free, such as a Temporary Import under Bond (TIB), a Carnet, and as prototypes under subheading 9817.85.01.

However, very small quantities of samples used for soliciting orders may be imported on a traditional consumption entry. Here are three types of samples that are eligible and the conditions for doing so:

  • 9811.00.20. 🍸 Alcoholic beverages samples (each sample containing not more than 300 milliliters if a malt beverage, not more than 150 milliliters if a wine and not more than 100 milliliters if any other alcoholic beverage).
  • 9811.00.40. 🚬 Samples of tobacco products, and cigarette papers and tubes (each sample consisting of not more than (a) 3 cigars, (b) 3 cigarettes, (c) 3.5 grams of tobacco, (d) 3.5 grams of snuff, (e) 3 cigarette tubes, or (f) 25 cigarette papers).
  • 9811.00.60. 👜🎧👓 Any sample, except those referenced above, valued not over $1 each, or marked, torn, perforated or otherwise treated so that it is unsuitable for sale or for use other than as a sample.

Let's focus on that last one, because "unsuitable for sale or for use other than as a sample" has a strict definition, particularly with reference to textiles and footwear. And for that definition, we'll take a trip back to 1989.

  • 👚 Merchandise must be marked “SAMPLE” in indelible ink or paint or cut or torn in the manner prescribed in the Interim Update to Customs Directive 3500-07,
    Textiles Samples Guidelines, dated January 4, 1989.
  • 👡 Sample footwear must be either (1) marked “SAMPLE- NOT FOR RESALE” conspicuously and in a location where the ink is not likely to wear off or (2) both shoes must have a 1/4 inch hole drilled in the sole of each shoe, altering the footwear so that it is unsuitable for commercial sale, but preserving its usefulness as a sample.

If you're importing commercial samples and you want to learn more about using these tariff provisions, contact us at and we'll make sure everything is in good order.

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