Solar module importing: What to know when requesting an Advance Ruling from Customs

US shipping port

Solar PV module purchasers or manufacturers in the United States navigating the WRO should consider getting an Advance Ruling from U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) prior to entering into a transaction. Doing so can speed up the eventual import review process and also protect you from potentially engaging in a transaction that will be subjected to the WRO and detained when it hits the port.

FYI: If items shipped to the U.S. are detained, they are the responsibility of the importer of record, including the costs for storing the detained shipment at CBP warehouses.

The ruling itself is a written statement from CBP, that interprets Customs laws to a specific set of facts. The ruling is in response to a written request, and that request must include that specific set of facts. All the information pertaining to the Advance Ruling process is on the U.S. Customs website. So, start there and arm yourself with what you need to do.

Don’t confuse this with actual legal advice page, but we did catch wind of some best practices and general notes to consider when requesting an Advance Ruling on a recent SEIA webinar. Hopefully these help clear up some points of confusion or lead to a swifter response from CBP.

  • Since each letter is individualized based on those specific set of facts (and the documentation you’ll be sending is so dense) this process can take a while. No, there is no general timetable. Advance ruling requests are taken in the order they arrive.
  • The ruling is only applicable to prospective transactions, not current transactions. If the deal is sealed, or the shipment is en route, you are definitely too late.
  • Requests need to include complete statements of all the relevant facts related to the transaction – all of the interested parties, the ports, the supply chain and so on. The more information provided up front the better. Be as forth coming as possible.
  • When submitting electronic documentation to CBP, it helps to put it all neatly in a shared folder, versus sending multiple emails with zip files and PDFs. And any summary or road map to help navigate it all will only help.
  • Be sure all of the information is accurate and complete. If the request is incomplete or inaccurate in some way, you will be asked to fix or provide more and slow everything down.
  • The ruling letter only applies to the recipient of the letter.
  • The recipient may rely upon the ruling for subsequent transactions provided that all of the facts of the subsequent transactions are substantially the same.
  • An Advance Ruling will still need to be verified with the actual transaction. So, a ruling does not remove the review of the actual transaction and import, but it focuses the agency’s attention when the actual transaction and import takes place.

That up-front due diligence hopefully speeds things up and, more importantly, prevents entering into transactions that violate the WRO.

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