What is an Importer of Record?

An importer of record (IOR) is the entity or person in the destination country responsible for ensuring compliance requirements are met when importing goods internationally.

It is much like an Exporter of Record (EOR) but applies to imports rather than exports.

What Does an Importer of Record Do?

The importer of record is responsible for ensuring all the legal requirements are met before goods can be cleared through customs.

During this process, the IOR must ensure that the product classification is accurate and that imported goods have been appropriately valued. They will also be responsible for paying fees, duties, and taxes associated with importing goods and completing the required documentation and paperwork.

The importer of record is the entity liable for all risks associated with clearing the goods.


Importer of Record Documentation Responsibilities

When importing goods, you must comply with the customs requirements of the destination country. The most common documentation requirements include:

  • Product classification – this will detail the type and value of goods being imported
  • Import and export licenses – proof that you have the permission to import goods
  • Permits – specific documentation relating to your importing activities
  • Fees/Taxes/Duties – when paying associated fees, taxes or duties, the associated paperwork will need to be filled out
  • Power of Attorney (POA) – documentation that appoints a power of attorney to take on legal responsibilities, acting on behalf of the importer of record when they are not on site.

Countries may also require local regulations and rules to be followed, for which further paperwork and documentation may be required.

Who Can Act as an Importer of Record?

Any locally registered entity can act as the IOR. The importer of record must have a presence within the destination country to act as such.

In some cases, the consignee (the recipient of the goods at the time of import) will act as the importer of record; however, for more complex transactions, it may be necessary to appoint a customs broker or importer of record service partner.

Appointing an importer of record helps to avoid confusion between suppliers, distributors, and end users as to who owns the goods. At the time of import, the IOR temporarily becomes the owner of the goods and assumes all responsibility relating to the import process.

The power of attorney may also act on behalf of the importer of record with the proper documentation.

IOR Definitions


Definition: the entity who imports the consignment and has a financial stake in the importing of the goods.


Definition: the entity recognized by customs as the legal export of goods from one country to another. The exporter can be a business, an individual, or a company acting on behalf of the exporter as their exporter of record.



Definition: the owner and recipient of the goods on import. The consignee does not take ownership of the goods until customs have cleared them. The consignee can be an individual or a business entity. They can also be both the importer and the consignee if a business imports goods for internal use, storage, or distribution.

Customs Broker

Definition: an agent or broker external to the business, who acts as the importer of record, taking on the legal responsibility for documentation, fees and compliance.

How to Become an Importer of Record

To become an importer of record, you’ll need to apply for an importer of record number. There will likely also be a fee involved in gaining this, and you’ll need to provide documentation such as proof of identity and a power of attorney declaration.

You’ll need a good working knowledge of the importing process, a presence within the importing country and you should feel comfortable taking on the legal requirements relating to customs clearance. Fines and penalties may be imposed if all the requirements are not fulfilled, and these will be the responsibility of the IOR to pay. Shipments may also get stuck at customs, for which demurrage charges apply.

Find out more about demurrage

If you are not familiar with the process, using an importer of record service can help to avoid any nasty fees or delays.

Customs and Compliance Considerations

It’s the IOR’s responsibility to ensure they remain compliant with the laws, regulations, and statutes of the country they are importing to. This should be done via self-auditing programs, compliance tools, training, and more. This is known as voluntary compliance.

The appointed IOR is also subject to enforced compliance. Enforced compliance includes inspection of imports, documentation audits, monetary penalties, civil penalties, criminal penalties, and investigations.

Some government agencies can overrule the IOR and deny entry to imported goods if they believe they may pose a threat. These agencies include the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).


Streamlining Your Global Supply Chain

Importing goods on a global scale can be an extremely complex process. One of the main responsibilities of an importer of record is to ensure this runs smoothly. When suppliers, distributors, and end users are involved, important things can be missed, resulting in stuck shipments, penalties, and fines.

The supply chain can be effectively streamlined by choosing to use an entity such as TecEx as the importer of record. We will take on all the necessary responsibilities associated with importing goods, ensuring first-time customs clearance. This minimizes the risk, which can save you both time and money.

With a dedicated importer of record, you can also be confident that nothing will be missed. Other people in the supply chain may also have a wide range of responsibilities that could make gathering the necessary documentation difficult. Importer of record services can improve accuracy and efficiency and give peace of mind.

We offer end to end importer of record solutions, specializing in the medical and technology sectors. Get in touch to speak to one our expert advisors about your importing needs.


Does the IOR own the goods?

In some cases, the importer of record is also the owner of the goods; however if a third party service such as a customs broker is used, they will take temporary ownership of goods until cleared through customs. Once cleared, the consignee will take ownership.

An IOR number is a unique number given to the importer of record by the government of the country you are importing to.

The consignee is the entity that takes ownership or responsibility of the goods once they have been cleared. In cases where the imported goods belong to the company in-country and are for internal use or storage, the consignee can act as an importer but are not always the same entity.

Yes, if goods have been shipped under DDP terms (delivered duty paid), the shipper can also act as the importer of record.

Yes, if goods have been shipped under DDP terms (delivered duty paid), the shipper can also act as the importer of record.

Under DDP (Delivered Duty Paid) shipping, a seller is responsible for the shipment’s goods until the point at which it’s finally delivered. This occurs regardless of which mode of transport is selected.

When selling, a goods owner can act as their own importer of record (IOR). However, for cost and convenience, many choose to work with a licensed service partner who can take control of all the relevant legal requirements and prevent unnecessary penalties.

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