Unless you are in the business of importing articles into the US, you should use the services of a customs broker. Even if you are an experienced importer, do you keep up with the ever changing regulations that govern importing animals from multiple African countries? And if animals governed by CITES are involved, it becomes even more demanding. A customs broker that regularly handles the importing of African trophies is familiar with the customary practices of getting your animals exported out of Africa and into the US without having them seized by US Fish and Wildlife for minor irregularities in the paperwork.
Could you accomplish this process yourself? Possibly, but why take the chance of having your valuable trophies seized or held up for months. You do not want to pay for going through the learning curve of successfully importing trophies into the US. Just as you placed your faith in your PH while hunting, you must place your faith in your customs broker that they will get your trophies through.
A Customs Broker is a person licensed by the Treasury Department, who has passed an extraordinarily difficult examination, as well as having been vetted by the FBI to represent a company or individual in their transactions with Customs and Border Protection as well as the other Government Agencies required for the product being imported.
A customs broker is your legal representative during the importation process. They will work with you to see that you get the proper permits and that those permits are submitted with the correct information to get your animals home. They will work with the exporting agent on the other side to make sure that all of the export documents and permits are in place before your trophies leave Africa. For an additional fee, they may fill out and process any required CITES permits, should they be required.
After your trophies arrive at the Port of Entry, the customs broker will have an agent meet with Fish and Wildlife to open and inspect your crate and verify that all necessary paperwork is in order. Once the shipment has cleared the Port of Entry, the customs broker will have the shipment forwarded to your taxidermist.
You should select a customs broker before you leave on your discounted African safari. There are 16 Ports of Entry in the US for hunting trophies. Try to pick one that is logical for where you live. Look for one in the nearest large city that has an international airport. Google or do an internet search. Call them and see if they have an agent that handles importing hunting trophies. Tell them which animals you hope to get on your safari. Find out if any of them are protected and require special permits such as CITIES and TOPS. Be aware that in some countries, you may be able to legally take a species but will be unable to import it into the US even if the rest of the world allows importation. A good example would be cheetah or brown hyena. These animals are not allowed to be imported into the US, or may require extremely difficult to get exception permits. Find out what you can bring back before you shoot. If you still desire to take one of those animals, you will have to live with a good photo of your trophy.
Have your customs brokers info put on your taxidermy trophy tags. Take your customs brokers contact information with you. Most correspondence between your customs broker and the exporter will occur via E-mail, and you will most likely be copied and kept in the loop.
Ask your customs broker for their fee structure to avoid any surprises.
I recommend Coppersmith Global Logistics. They have been in business since 1948, have been importing hunting trophies since 1995 and have 8 offices that handle hunting trophies in the US. They are competitively priced, keep up with the ever-changing regulations, and communicate with the hunter well. They have a lot of informative information on their website and I recommend that you visit it.