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Ordering from Outside the U.S.


Boston University and all its employees are required to comply with federal export and import control laws and implementation of the regulations. The purpose of this instruction is to provide guidance to aid compliance with those laws.


This instruction provides guidance for imports, exports, shipping, special requirements, Incoterms®, insurance requirements, ordering and payment methods.


It is the policy of Boston University that all members of the University community shall comply with all applicable import and export control laws and regulations. Failure to do so can result in significant civil and criminal penalties for Boston University and for the individuals involved.


Before you carry, ship or otherwise transport materials or equipment into or outside of the United States, you should determine if the commodity requires an import or export license, ensure that you correctly complete export paperwork, apply for an import license in the destination country when required, and ensure that you meet all of the customs requirements. It can take several weeks to obtain licenses and to determine foreign import requirements so plan ahead. Guidance and assistance in making this determination and applying for a license are provided below.

You should consult with the University’s Export Control Director on all export compliance questions and the University’s Customs Broker on imports into the United States or foreign import requirements to ensure that your shipment meets other legal requirements, including Customs and packaging requirements. The University Export Control Director is also available to assist with US import regulations if necessary.

The University’s Export Control Director is:
Marie Hladikova
Office of Sponsored Programs
25 Buick Street, 2nd Floor, Suite 200 - 220
Tel: 617-353-6753

The University’s Customs broker is:
SDV (USA) Inc.
301 Edgewater Place, Suite 300
Wakefield, MA 01880

SDV contact for imports:
David Becker
Import Manager
Direct Telephone: 781-928-2312

SDV contact for exports:
Alex Nichols
Export Manager

SDV holds Boston University’s Power of Attorney for import and export matters. SDV provides Customs broker services such as:

  • Processing import and export documents
  • Filing duty-free exemptions, carnets and temporary import bonds
  • Advising on import permits and licenses
  • Advising on tariff classification
  • Advising on import and export requirements, such as required permits and documentation

Depending on your needs, SDV also provides freight forwarding services such as:

  • Coordination of pickup and delivery services on a global basis
  • Provide details to you, including quotation of all transportation and Customs clearance costs
  • Transportation of shipments by air, ocean, and land
  • Provide web based visibility of all shipments
  • Coordinating inside delivery to Boston University
  • Issue house Airway Bill or Bill of Lading and shipping export documents per instructions from Boston University

US Export Laws & Shipping

Export control laws regulate the transfer of commercial goods as well as controlled materials (including certain biological and microbiological agents), information (including technical data and technical assistance), technologies, software, and hardware abroad or to foreign nationals in the United States.

Boston University and all its employees are required to comply with the federal export control laws and implementation of the regulations. These regulations apply regardless of the source of funding, both external and internal, apply to temporary export shipments or items that you take abroad in a suitcase when you travel to a conference or an international research site. Shipments taken to Canada are considered exports from the United States. If you are planning to export materials abroad on a permanent or temporary basis, or if you have any questions related to exports, you are encouraged to contact the University’s Export Control Director:

Marie Hladikova

The Office of Research Compliance developed a comprehensive guide on U.S. Export Regulations that includes a section on shipping items abroad. The information is located on the following website on pages 33-47.

The University’s Export Control Director is also available to provide customized training and assistance on all aspects of export shipping and compliance and online training is available on the following website.

Most violations occur inadvertently due to lack of information about regulations and can result in significant civil and criminal penalties for Boston University in addition to shipment delays, disruption of research activities and debarment from federal government contracting.

All export shipments over $2,500 per one schedule B number (except for Canada), licensable shipments, and shipments to some territories like Puerto Rico & U.S. Virgin Islands must be filed online via the Automated Export System (AES). If your shipment does not meet this requirement (small shipments), you are required to document the exemption on the Commercial Invoice and Airway Bill or Bill of Lading. Refer to the Export Compliance Program Manual – page 41 for additional information. The University’s Customs Broker can complete this filing on our behalf.

Keep in mind that you are required to keep all documentation on file for 5 years after the date of export.

The University’s Export Control Director is available to assist with any questions.


All shipments coming from outside the United States borders must clear through United States Customs upon arrival in the United States. This is the last step of the journey before delivery to Boston University. These shipments are subject to the rules and regulations of the United States Customs and Border Protection Agency and other agencies depending on the imported item. The full set of regulations can be found in CFR Title 19. Most items enter the United States duty free; however, customs duties are not unusual and can add to the cost of your transaction. The fact that we are a University does not preclude us from these regulations and paying import duties in some cases. In addition, certain transactions require permits or licenses from local, state, and federal government agencies. It is the policy of Boston University that all members of the University community shall comply with all applicable import control laws and regulations. Failure to do so can result in significant civil and criminal penalties for Boston University and for the individuals involved.

Keep in mind that when your import enters the United States Customs territory you have a limited amount of time to process the shipment through Customs and have to have all documentation handy. If you do not possess the required documentation, your shipment may be returned to the destination (small shipments will be returned after 10 days) or may be entered into storage at U.S. Port and you will be charged daily storage fees. These charges can be significant so plan ahead of time and contact the University’s Customs Broker or Export Control Director immediately if problems arise.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection Agency published a helpful guide on importing “Importing into the United States”.

Special Requirements

Some commodities require permits and licenses for importation. For example, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) require permits to import biological agents or vectors of human disease (including select agents, see section below). More information may be obtained at the CDC website. The Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) require permits for the importation of biological agents (animals and plant pathogens) and related biological materials that are infectious or have the potential risk of introducing exotic diseases to livestock and plants in the United States. Additional information may be obtained at the APHIS website. The United States Fish and Wild Life Service (USFWS) requires import and export permits of endangered species, wildlife, reptiles, Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), plants, pet birds, circus animals, sport-hunted trophies, museum specimens and exhibits for scientific exchange. More information may be obtained at the USFWSB website.

All required forms to apply for such permits or licenses need to be completed, signed, and submitted to the proper agency for approval several weeks and sometimes months before shipment to the United States. If no approval is obtained, United States Customs will not clear such goods for entry into the country and can charge you or your cost center for destroying the material or product.

Shipment of items that might cause harm, risk, peril, or other potential danger to people, the environment, equipment or any property must be packaged, labeled, and properly documented in compliance with the relevant Federal and international regulations for dangerous goods and hazardous materials.


Select Agents and Toxins

Boston University complies with the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) and United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Final Rule on Select Agents and Toxins. CDC and USDA regulate the possession, use and transfer of Select Agents and Toxins. All principal investigators wishing to possess and work with any select agents and toxins are first required to be registered and approved with CDC or USDA. The Environmental Health and Safety office manages the registration program for the University.

For a list of select agents, please go to the CDC website.

BU Requirement for Biological and Recombinant DNA Materials

The Principal Investigator (PI) and researcher are responsible for knowing the type of materials that they plan to bring and use in the laboratory. The planned use of biological products for research, including agents that are infectious to humans, animals and plants, recombinant DNA, infectious vectors, human materials, diagnostic specimens, and other biological materials and substances that may be potentially infectious, must first be registered with the Institutional Biosafety Committee (IBC) prior to the acquisition and use. The IBC is a University and Hospital-wide biosafety committee responsible for reviewing and approving recombinant DNA and biohazard projects and gene transfer clinical trials. The committee sets the appropriate laboratory containment levels in accordance with the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Guidelines and the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

For more information on the IBC.

Hazardous Chemicals

Hazardous chemicals are substances (liquid, solid and gas) which have hazardous characteristics such as flammable, corrosive, reactive, toxic, radioactive, poisonous, and carcinogenic. In a general sense, these materials are considered hazardous because they present a potential risk to humans and/or the environment. These materials are regulated by a number of federal, state and local agencies. For the purposes of importing, it is important to understand that it is a violation of federal law to import a chemical substance which has not been registered with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Exotic or new molecules created in another country are the chemical substances most likely to trigger this rule. It is very important to verify with the foreign manufacturer that all chemicals have been registered with the EPA prior to attempting their import. Contact the Environmental Health and Safety office for assistance with chemical imports.

Radioactive Materials

Only those individuals authorized by the University’s Radiation Safety Officer at EHS may use, bring into, or remove from the University any radioisotopes. Radioactive materials are regulated by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health and the United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission. Every individual working at Boston University with radioisotopes must be registered with the Office of Medical Physics and Radiation Safety. For more information, click here.

Controlled Substances

Persons working at Boston University who need to use controlled substances (scheduled drugs) for their research must be licensed by both the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency, and authorized by Boston University’s Research Compliance at EHS. For more information regarding requirements, contact the EHS office prior to arranging shipments. For more information, click here.

Laboratory Animals

Airlines, shippers and freight forwarders involved in the transport of live animals must ensure that animals arrive at their destinations in good health. The International Air Transport Association (IATA) Live Animals Regulations (LAR) describes the containers that should be used for each species, and the safeguards required during transport by air, sea or land. Boston University requires all arrangements for the transport of live animals to be made through the laboratory animal facilities on campus.

Do not contact the customs broker for animal shipments.

For the Charles River Campus, contact the Laboratory Animal Care Facility at 617-353-5415.

For the Medical Campus, contact the Laboratory Animal Science Center at 617-638-4086

International Commercial Terms (Incoterms®) and Insurance Coverage


Incoterms® is an abbreviation for International Commercial Terms. They are a set of rules which define the responsibilities of sellers and buyers when shipping goods internationally. These rules are issued by the International Chamber of Commerce and are similar to the domestic shipping terms governed by the Uniform Commercial Code (UCC). There are few differences so when you ship abroad, you should use Incoterms, 2010. Incoterms® determine how shipping costs, risks and responsibilities are allocated to the parties in a transaction. Details for Incoterms® can be found here and in the University Export Compliance Program Manual, page 43.


Boston University’s insurance coverage will protect the shipment up to a value of $200,000. Do not purchase insurance if your shipment is valued at less than $200,000. If the value of your shipment exceeds $200,000, the Office of Risk Management recommends that you purchase additional insurance coverage from SDV for only the additional value. For a more complete description of Boston University’s property insurance coverage, please review the Office of Risk Management website.

If your supplier is make shipping arrangements and using their own freight forwarder, advise the supplier to make note on shipping documents that SDV is Boston University’s custom broker and provide the SDV contact information above. You should also notify SDV of the incoming shipment. These steps will minimize delays upon entry through Customs. Be sure to review insurance requirements with your supplier and have them purchase additional insurance if the value of your shipment exceeds $200,000.

Duty-Free Entry

Some categories of scientific instruments and apparatus can be imported duty-free to educational institutions under certain conditions:

The scientific instrument and apparatus must be used exclusively for educational purposes and scientific research, and the scientific instrument or apparatus, or its equivalent, is not manufactured in the United States. A request form for duty-free entry must be completed by the researcher and submitted to SDV well in advance of making the purchase. SDV will submit the request to the Department of Commerce for approval. Once approved, SDV will file the request with U.S. Customs. This form is known as ITA 338P Request for Duty-free Entry and may be obtained on this website.

Duty on scientific equipment is usually substantial. For more information about duty-free entry please see The Florence Agreement Program.

Moreover, the United States maintains Free Trade Agreements with several countries so even if your shipment does not qualify for the Duty-free Entry as scientific equipment, you may be able to take advantage of an existing free trade agreement if the shipment qualifies. More information on free trade agreements is located on the following website. The University’s Export Control Director is available to help with any free trade agreement determination.

Small Size, Low Value Shipments

If your shipment is valued at less than $2,500.00 and weighs less than 25 lbs., it is recommended that you use FedEx, UPS, DHL or any similar carrier to ship your goods. When you use couriers for shipments that need to be cleared via US Customs, ensure that the Courier possesses a Customs Power of Attorney Form to clear the shipment. Contact Rosalind D’Amico at Sourcing or Marie Hladikova, Export Control Director immediately if any one of these companies requires any documentation to clear U.S. Customs. Alternatively, you may contact the Office of the General Counsel (Christy Talley, Associate Counsel) to assist with the Power of Attorney form.

BU Sourcing & Procurement Services

If BU Sourcing & Procurement is ordering for you, you need not contact the supplier or SDV to arrange shipment and Custom’s clearance. The appropriate buyer in Sourcing will work with your supplier and SDV to arrange freight, clearance, and delivery to Boston University.

Order and Payment Methods for SDV Services

SDV services must be ordered with a shopping cart and purchase order. Obtain a written quote from SDV for their services and shipment costs and upload the quote to the shopping cart.

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