import export textiles. image by Bruno Bernier from

How to Become an Import-Export Agent

Growth Trends for Related Jobs

An import-export agent, also known as an international trade agent, is an individual or company that sends and receives goods to and from other sovereign nations. According to the Office of the United States Trade Representative, Americans trade in more than 2.5 trillion annually. Of that, 95 percent are small businesses.

To become an import-export agent, you’ll need storage space, a staging area, an import and export license, and initial capital investment.

Locate business space. Choose space that provides adequate storage of goods received through international exports. It also should accommodate an office, complete with Internet connection, phone, fax, copier, and shipping supplies.

When you receive imports, you’ll need to mark a space designated solely for imports, arranged by exporter and goods. For instance, if you are importing watch valet boxes from China, have a dedicated space for both Chinese imports and watch-related items. This will make it easier to catalog your inventory.

Set up a staging area. A staging area or shipping area will be needed for exporting goods. In this area, you’ll need shipping supplies such as (but not limited to) boxes, packaging tape, international address labels (supplied by shipping companies or the United States Postal Service), a weighing scale, ballpoint pens for writing on shipping labels, packing peanuts, and related items.

Keep this area separate from your import space and maintain a complete list of all goods being exported by country, date, and method of shipping.

Secure an import and export license. There is no need for such licenses if you are not importing livestock, alcohol, copyrighted material, food, tobacco, and firearms, according to Informed Trade International. Check with your state agency that governs international trade to inquire if the goods you are importing or exporting are "license-dependent." As an alternative, contact the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Agency or the US Department of Commerce.

Arrange an initial capital investment. Typically, you’ll need about $5,000 as an initial capital investment for your import-export business. These monies will go toward renting space, office and shipping supplies, and purchasing of import goods.