Bilingva Translation and Interpreting


We’ve worked with Bilingva on several occasions

and we’ve always been pleased with the level of customer service we’ve received. Every time we had questions we’ve received responses in a timely manner and our contact at the company is very knowledgeable and professional. Bilingva definitely proofed to be a reliable localization vendor for our company.

Adriana Kevill
Director, Creative and Production
KRT Marketing, Inc.

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So, you want to import goods into the US?

You sit in the office and hunt for some attractive merchandise you could sell to a wide audience. You see that these particular couches looking like Rolling Stones logo are manufactured on the dime overseas, and would sell like hot cakes in the US for a cool grand each. Let's buy some, bring them over and make a killer business! All right, read on!

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Booths, and nothing but the booths.

Our company decided to start offering interpreting booths for rent and sale - a step in expanding our inventory of interpreting equipment. Now, let's just buy us some booths, and we are in business, right? Well, not quite: there are no manufacturers of interpreting booths in the US, so you have to start looking abroad.

We could import the booths either form Canada or from China. Canadian-made equipment was twice as expensive and of lesser quality. Choosing Chinese manufacturer was a no-brainer decision, and we embarked on an adventure of bringing commercial goods into the US. Somehow, there was no coherent explanation of the process on the web, and most of the steps were successfully completed with the help and advice from manufacturers, shippers, friends with experience in the industry, and some trial and error.

We've put together this guide on importing, so hopefully someone searching the web for help will find it useful. It is by no means definite, so we welcome your comments and additions!

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First things first: who's going to make it?

It seems that everything these days from pins and needles to ships and planes can be manufactured in China. Interpreting booths are no exception. But how can you trust the manufacturer to produce quality goods? There are a number of websites such as http://made-in-china.com or http://www.chinatradeauditreports.com that maintain a list of Chinese suppliers who have passed a certain standard and became certified. Some of these websites offer a company audit report if one is available or can run a report on a company by request. Unfortunately, certification is by no means a seal of approval - there really is no substitute for an in-person visit to the office and factory, and recent references from existing clients to verify manufacturer's credibility. However, a membership on one of these sites and a report is definitely a positive sign you want to consider.

A visit to China for inspection is an expensive proposition, and does not guarantee you anything: unless you are experienced in inspecting factories and end-result production, you may not notice any troubling signs. Besides, you may want someone to check-in periodically to make sure things are going smoothly. Unless you are moving significant volumes of goods that cover expenses of placing an employee in China to oversee production, your best option is to find a representative in China who, for a modest fee, will conduct initial scoping of the manufacturer's facilities, will perform a background check to make sure they are a credible company, will monitor production and facilitate shipping.

Another important aspect of representative's job is that they speak the language. A lot of manufacturer's management speaks little to no English, and language barrier becomes a big obstacle in trade talks between the parties. Since we are an interpreting company, we could easily bring in a Mandarin or Cantonese speaking interpreter on a conference call and make sure everyone understood the terms of the deal, and how our goods would be manufactured and shipped to us.

These representatives are a big part of business in China, and many Western outsources use their services. Due to the nature of our business, we happened to already have an established contact in China who helped us with the whole process, so unfortunately we do not have any information on how to find these consultants. If any of our readers provide this information, we would be happy to update this post.

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How do you pay?

Once the terms of the deal are set, the manufacturer will send you a pro-forma invoice which has all items fully itemized. If goods are manufactured to order, they will typically want an advance equal to half of the whole amount paid, before they begin production.

Now you have a problem of delivering the money to the supplier and retaining some form of control over them until you receive the goods. Most suppliers accept wire transfers (also referred to as Telegraph Transfers or TT) to their bank accounts. Unfortunately, wire transfer leaves you no control over money in case the supplier folds up shop and disappears from the face of the earth.

The other option is called LC - letter of credit. It is a more complicated transaction wherein you open up a line of credit in your bank, and your bank, in turn, certifies to the bank where the manufacturer holds an account, that you have money in good standing, and redy for withdrawal by the manufacturer if the supplier produces necessary documentation. Documentation kind is specified in the letter of credit - for example, supply of goods within a certain time limit. For complete details of commercial letters of credit see the link here.

However, due to the complexity of process with LCs, many Chinese manufacturers do not accept them as payment, and you are back to square one - paying with a wire transfer. This is where your research on the supplier or a hired consultatnt will tell you whether you can trust the other party and wire the money, or look elsewhere.

Deadlines will be missed

It is the nature of the game, and an inevitable reality - the deadlines you set will be missed. Our booths were supposed to be manufactured within three weeks, but then there was Chinese New Year, and the whole country shut down for a week. Then the supplies came in late, and production completion date was moved by another week. Two weeks loss overall, but eventually goods were ready. During the manufacturing stage the supplier provided regular updates with photos, so we could see how the booths were being assembled, painted, packed and prepared for shipment.

Unfortunately, everything was packed up and ready to go in the afternoon, and the shipper for the company already made rounds. This meant that they would come again in a few days, and the ship was going to sail the next morning, so the next opportunity for shipping would be in one week. Another week of delay.

The moral of the story is: plan for delays, and start the whole process very early, if you plan on hitting specific dates with the delivery of goods.

Shipping and receiving

The goods are ready, it is time to pay the final installment and wire the money. If you have a hired consultant, he or she will now travel to the factory and personally inspect that the goods are manufactured to spec and with promised quality. If not - you will most likely receive a photo of the finished product ready to go. Then you take another leap of faith and send the money over.

If the supplier has been in business for quite some time, they already have a shipping broker they work with, and they will include shipping charges in the total quote for goods to be produced and delivered to you. If not - you will have to locate a shipping broker who will arrange the transportation for you.

Shipping broker handles customs and transportation: they arrange for your goods to be placed in a shipping container and pass customs inspection both on the way out of China and on the way into the US. They file the necessary paperwork for you, but it is your responsibility to provide them with information in due time.

Shipping is a two-way process: first, the shipping broker files paperwork on behalf of exporter, so that the goods can leave the country. But you, as an importer, are responsible for filing the ISF - Importer Security Form, also widely known as "10 + 2" - on your end to have the goods come into the United States. Do not delay! This form must be filed 48 hours before the ship sets sail, and at least 24 hours before the goods are laden aboard. Otherwise either your items will not be loaded on the ship, or you will face potential stiff penalties from the customs for filing late.

Practical Example

So how do you file all this and how do you handle this massive load of paperwork that is suddenly bound your way? The supplier will provide you with all the necessary information, and the shipping broker will file it all for you, but you have to contact them in due time.

Once your items are accepted for shipment, the supplier will receive a Bill of Lading, which will list everything you need to know about your shipment: the shipping broker information, the weight and volume of your items, the ship they travel on, etc. Your supplier will provide you with this Bill of Lading and the information for the ISF 10+2 form.

Here's a very good article explaining every item on the ISF 10+2 form. If your supplier has been in the shipping business for some time, they will fill out the 10+2 for you, and send it to you for review. Our mistake here was the we simply took it as notice of goods being shipped and did nothing about it. Supplier, being none the wiser, that we were in this for the first time, did not warn or instruct us either, on what to do with this. Do not make this mistake again.

With this 10+2 form and Bill of Lading presented to you, you now contact the shipping broker indicated on the Bill of Lading. They will have you fill out the form with information about your company (you are now officially importer!) and file all the required paperwork with the US customs.

Our paperwork was late - the ship set sail. The items were indeed aboard in the container, but they were not cleared with the customs before the ship left the docks. Potentially, this could turn into a $10,000 dollar fine, especially if US customs has reason to believe you are not being cooperative, or if this is not your first offense. However the shipping broker assured us, that in this line of trade late ISF filings occur quite commonly, and this being an honest mistake, US customs would look on this favorably. It did, however, cost us additional $150 in clearance charges as a penalty for late filing.

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Charges? What charges?

If you thought that all your expenses were over, and you can now kick back and wait for the items to arrive, you are in for a surprise. We already mentioned that shipping is a two-way process: someone exporting and someone importing. The money you already wired for shipping covered exporting and transportation costs. Now you have to pay importing costs, which cover thing such as US customs fees, unloading of the vessel, transition through port, loading onto truck, shpping broker's fees for handling and filing your paperwork, etc.

Wait a minute, but hasn't the shipping broker already been paid out of the money you wired for transitioning your goods? Well, yes, but on the export side. Now everyone collects on the import side. The shipping broker will provide you with a full breakdown of charges for everything, except for one big variable: US customs fees.

US customs fees are a black art of magic - no one knows exactly what your duty will be, except for the customs themselves. There are volumes of classifications for everything from little bolts and nuts to cranes and turbines with duties set for everything. Two identical sofas, for example, except one made with steel supports and the other one made with wooden frame will vary wildly in the taxes collected. There are online calculators that will help you estimate your duty to give you a rough idea of the costs, for example http://www.dutycalculator.com here.

The ship arrives.

The shipping broker informed you of the expected ship arrival date, and barring any unforeseen cicumstances, your items have arrived in port aboard the vessel. It typically takes about five days for the ship to be unloaded, your items cleared and moved to the warehouse. As soon as your broker has paid the US customs duties on your behalf, they will send you the itemized bill. Your goods will not be released until you pay the invoice in full.

Once the payment is made, you will receive Delivery Order, also called Release Order or Turnover and a copy of cleared customs form from the shipping broker. It is time to pick up your goods. Are you excited?

More charges!

The shipping broker will inform you where your goods will be stored after they are moved off port's territory. Now it's time to call the warehouse and check with them when your items will be available. It usually takes about 24 hours for the warehouse to pick up items in port after they pass through customs, unload them from the container, sort inside the warehouse and prepare for delivery to you. Of course, all this work is not done for free either. You will need to pay the warehouse storage fees before they will release the items to you. Don't forget to bring your Delivery Order form and US Customs release as well, otherwise the warehouse will not release the goods.

Almost home.

One final step - you need to move your imported goods to your location. How are you going to do that? If you do not have a company truck, you can rent one or have a freight company move the items for you. If your items are bulky and heavy (and the interpreting booths are very heavy and very bulky), and your storage place does not have a loading dock, you will need a truck with a liftgate. Make sure the liftgate on the truck is big enough to fit your items on it. Otherwise you may find yourself in quite a predicament: truck bed sits high, and pushing your crates and containers up and down on a makeshift ramp could be very damaging both to your health and the goods.

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Congratulations, you are done!

And that's all there is to it. Technically, none of these steps is very difficult, but the process could be indeed quite tedious and end up costing you more money than you expected. Now that you know about all the potential charges, you will be able to make an informed decision on importing vs. purchasing locally, and whether transportation costs and hassles still make it worthwhile bringing the goods from overseas.

Thank you for reading.