What Is Importer Of Record and Who Can Act As One?

Posted on 28 October 2021

The hand of a businessman writes with a pen on a white sheet of paper. In the office

If your e-commerce business is making the step toward international shipping, congratulations—it’s a serious milestone! However, it might be hard to be in the celebratory entrepreneurial mood with so much terminology and a minefield of regulations to navigate. You may have plenty of questions like, “What does customs cleared mean?”, or “What is the difference between FBM and FBA?”,  and “Why are there so many acronyms in the world of international shipping?”.

As an international seller, there are a handful of considerations to take into account. This leads us to three of the most important questions that should not be overlooked by sellers establishing an international presence for their e-commerce business: What is an Importer Of Record (IOR), and what does IOR mean in shipping circumstances?

What Is An Importer of Record?

An Importer Of Record (IOR) is an individual responsible for the goods arriving in the destination country. When imported goods arrive at customs in a foreign country and go through clearance, the IOR works with customs officials to document and value the goods and produce payments for duties, fees, and tariffs.1 An IOR is a role required by the U.S. Customs and Border Protection and recognized by many governments. The more you learn about the role, the better chance your business will succeed in international markets. 

Who Can Act As An Importer Of Record?

An Importer Of Record can be any locally registered entity in the destination country. By “registered entity” we just mean someone with a tax registration happy to be held responsible for the item as it’s imported. That includes:2

Importer of Record Responsibilities

The Importer Of Record operates on behalf of the shipper. The IOR essentially takes on the legal responsibility of the goods until they’ve been accepted by a distribution center or another recipient. 

An Importer of Record’s responsibilities include:3

The IOR also needs to keep track of the import records—and these notes have to be pretty thorough. An IOR service provider is required to identify and maintain up to 40 pieces of information about each shipment, including:4

Under the North American Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act of 1993, these documents and records must be maintained, usually in their original format, for five years.5

What Are The Risks For Importers Of Record?

The Importer Of Record helps ensure your happy customers receive their goods and keeps your company above board legally. The IOR is a role governments take very seriously, as the misrepresentation of import locations and processes puts countries at considerable risk.

Breaking the rules can result in: 

For any business breaking into the international market, these penalties can throw you off course or even put your entire business at risk. That’s why, ultimately, businesses should use an IOR they can trust when importing goods to a foreign country. 

If you’re looking to combine the tasks of locating and appointing an IOR with making shipping arrangements to an Amazon warehouse, Zee can provide an all-in-one solution.

Ready To Multiply Your E-commerce Customers?

An e-commerce seller holds the risk through every leg of the shipping journey—whether by land, air or carrier pigeon—so it’s critical to rely on resources you can trust that will follow the local law of the destination country you are shipping to.

If you’re ready to open up your sales to international customers but are overwhelmed by all the red tape, Zee can help!

Consider Zee your personal guide to international e-commerce success. We operate as an IOR in multiple countries and can navigate the ins and outs of international shipping so your company can thrive. We’re always ready to pick up the phone, solve problems, and help pave the way for your products to clear customs and reach their destination.

Let Zee handle the burden of import bureaucracies so you can focus on what you do best—building a business you’re proud of. Learn more at Zee.co.


  1. Flash Global. Importer of Record / IOR. https://flashglobal.com/importer-of-record-2/
  2. Trade Risk Guaranty Brokerage Services. What is an Importer of Record? https://traderiskguaranty.com/trgpeak/importer-of-record/
  3. Blackthorne. What Is The Difference Between A Customs Broker And Importer Of Record? https://blackthorneit.com/difference-between-customs-broker-and-importer-of-record
  4. Logistics Plus. What is an importer of record (IOR)? https://www.logisticsplus.com/what-is-an-importer-of-record-ior/
  5. U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP). What Every Member of the Trade Community Should Know About: Recordkeeping. https://www.cbp.gov/sites/default/files/assets/documents/2016-Apr/icp027_3.pdf
  6. Investopedia. Delivered Duty Paid (DDP). https://www.investopedia.com/terms/d/delivery-duty-paid.asp