Federal Compliance and Defense Representation for Importers

U.S. companies that import products from overseas face a host of federal compliance obligations. The same is true for companies that obtain software licenses, technology transfers, and other intellectual property assets from foreign businesses. If your company is subject to federal import controls, our attorneys and former federal agents can assist you with all aspects of federal compliance, and we can represent your company if it is being targeted in a federal audit or investigation.

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As consumers, we don’t give a second thought to ordering products from companies around the world. But, as a business, importing products – both tangible and intangible – takes on an entirely different dimension. Federal import compliance can be a major undertaking for companies of all sizes, and the consequences of non-compliance can be substantial. 

At Oberheiden P.C., we represent companies across the United States with regard to federal import compliance. We assist foreign businesses with import control compliance as well. Whether you are at the stage of putting together an import compliance program or you have run into an issue with U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), or any other federal agency, we can help you navigate your situation, and we can help you avoid sanctions and other penalties.

Put our highly experienced team on your side

Dr. Nick Oberheiden
Dr. Nick Oberheiden



John W. Sellers
John W. Sellers

Former Senior Trial Attorney
U.S. Department of Justice

Local Counsel

Joanne Fine DeLena
Joanne Fine DeLena

Former Assistant U.S. Attorney

Local Counsel

Lynette S. Byrd
Lynette S. Byrd

Former Assistant U.S. Attorney


Amanda Marshall
Amanda Marshall

Former U.S. Attorney

Local Counsel

Aaron L. Wiley
Aaron L. Wiley

Former Federal Prosecutor

Local Counsel

Roger Bach
Roger Bach

Former Special Agent (OIG)

Gamal Abdel-Hafiz
Gamal Abdel-Hafiz

Former Supervisory Special Agent (FBI)

Chris Quick
Chris Quick

Former Special Agent (FBI & IRS-CI)

Kevin M. Sheridan
Kevin M. Sheridan

Former Special Agent (FBI)

Ray Yuen
Ray Yuen

Former Supervisory Special Agent (FBI)

Dennis A. Wichern
Dennis A. Wichern

Former Special Agent-in-Charge (DEA)

Federal Import Compliance: What Does it Take to Lawfully Import Products into the United States?

There are many aspects to federal import compliance in the United States. There are many different laws and regulations that can potentially apply, and your company’s specific obligations will be determined based on factors including (i) the type(s) of products being imported, (ii) the country from which they are being imported, and (iii) potentially even the company from which they are being purchased. 

Our federal import compliance lawyers can help you avoid compliance mistakes that could lead to problems with CBP, OFAC, and other agencies. We offer custom-tailored compliance programs, and we provide comprehensive legal representation for all federal import compliance issues.

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Developing and Implementing an Import Compliance Program

For U.S.-based companies that import tangible and intangible products (including software and technology licenses) from businesses in other countries, compliance is essential. We offer full-service compliance representation, from needs assessments to training and implementation:

1. Import Compliance Needs Assessment

Before you can implement an import compliance program, you need to know what compliance measures are required. Companies’ import compliance obligations are heavily circumstantial, and what is essential for one company could be completely inapposite for another. Before we take any steps toward developing a compliance program, we first conduct a comprehensive needs assessment in order to ensure that we are doing everything that is necessary without doing anything that isn’t required.

2. Import Compliance Policies and Procedures

Once we know what your company needs, then we can get to work developing compliance policies and procedures that are specifically tailored to your company’s import operations. Our federal import compliance lawyers will draft clear and practical compliance documents that your company can use to avoid unwanted federal scrutiny. Your company’s compliance documents will address all applicable import laws and regulations; and, if desired, we can integrate these documents with your company’s other policies and procedures.

3. Third-Party Due Diligence and Contracting

Third-party due diligence is a key aspect of import compliance. Companies in the United States need to ensure that the foreign entities from which they are purchasing, their import brokers, and the other third parties with which they do business are not putting them at risk for federal enforcement action. Our lawyers can conduct efficient and comprehensive due diligence before your company does business with a new third-party supplier or broker, and we can review and negotiate the terms of your company’s commercial agreements to ensure that they do not omit key terms or otherwise raise import compliance concerns. 

4. CBP, OFAC, and Other Federal Agency Compliance Matters

Our attorneys can assist your company with CBP rulings, OFAC general and specific licensing, and other federal agency compliance matters as well. In many circumstances, prior to importing products into the United States, it is necessary to notify federal authorities and seek advance approval. We can help you understand when these types of measures are required, we can help you adopt protocols designed to ensure that these requirements are not overlooked, and we can seek the necessary rulings, licenses, and approvals on your company’s behalf. 

5. Import Compliance Program Training and Implementation

Once we have thoroughly addressed your company’s import compliance obligations through policy documentation, the next step is to train your company’s personnel and implement your new compliance program on a company-wide scale. The amount of effort this entails will depend on your company’s size and the scope of its import operations, and we can custom-tailor or training and implementation efforts to meet your company’s specific needs. 

6. Import Compliance Program Reevaluation and Reinvigoration 

Import compliance is not a one-time event. Once your company has implemented a compliance program, in order for the program to remain effective, companies must constantly monitor their personnel’s adherence to the program, and they must continually reassess their needs on an ongoing basis. Due to the specific nature of many import compliance regulations, even slight shifts in business can potentially have drastic compliance implications; and, as a result, companies must be prepared to update and modify their import compliance programs as well. 

7. Internal Compliance Audits and Event Response

In order to determine whether an import compliance program is effective (and whether there are any gaps in documentation or implementation that need to be filled), companies must audit their compliance efforts. Our attorneys conduct internal compliance audits on behalf of our clients (which ensures that the audit is protected by the attorney-client privilege); and, when necessary, we assist our clients with responding to and remedying import compliance violations. 

Addressing All Federal Import Laws and Regulations that Apply to Your Business

Determining what your company needs in terms of an import compliance program isn’t easy. Companies must navigate a complex web of federal rules and regulations, and they must abide by the rules of multiple federal administrative and law enforcement agencies. At Oberheiden, P.C., our attorneys rely on extensive federal experience to comprehensively identify the issues that are pertinent to our clients’ businesses, which may include:

  • Customs Rulings, OFAC General and Specific Licenses, and Other Necessary Authorizations and Approvals
  • Customs-Trade Partnership Against Terrorism (C-TPAT) Certification 
  • Duty Reduction, Exemptions, and Reconciliation 
  • Exemptions and Exclusions Under Tariff Statutes and Various Federal Import Laws and Regulations
  • Harmonized Tariff Schedule (HTS) Classification Compliance
  • NAFTA (USMCA) and Other Free Trade Agreement Compliance 
  • Software Licensing, Technology Transfers, Importer of Record (IOR), and Other Special Compliance Issues 

Federal Import Control Audits and Investigations: What Does it Take to Avoid Administrative, Civil, and Criminal Penalties?

Despite their best efforts to comply, companies can still find themselves at the center of federal audits and investigations targeting alleged statutory and regulatory violations. These audits and investigations can arise in various contexts, from routine agency reviews to whistleblower claims and criminal fraud allegations.

In addition to assisting importers with federal compliance, we also provide strategic representation for federal import control audit and investigation defense. If your company is being targeted, or if one of your trade partners or competitors is being targeted and you are concerned that your company might be next, we encourage you to contact us right away. 

For companies that are facing federal import control audits and investigations, we offer services including:

1. Preliminary Risk Assessment

Import control audits and investigations can target a multitude of administrative, civil, and criminal violations. Our first step will be to determine the scope, nature, and severity of the issue(s) at hand. 

2. Intervention in the Audit or Investigation

Our attorneys will promptly intervene in the audit or investigation to let the agency (or agencies) involved know that your company is represented. This will also slow down the process and give us time to implement a strategic and targeted defense. 

3. Proactive Defense Representation 

While the audit or investigation remains ongoing, our focus will be on resolving the matter without further law enforcement action being taken. We will work with the relevant agency(ies) to address any deficiencies, demonstrate your company’s good-faith compliance efforts, and show that your company is committed to compliance going forward. 

4. Preventing Federal Charges and Indictments

No matter what, we want to try to make sure that your company, its owners, and executives are not charged with civilly or criminally. To date, we have resolved the vast majority of our clients’ audits and investigations without charges being filed. 

5. Defending Against Charges in Administrative and Judicial Proceedings

If necessary, however, we will rely on our attorneys’ centuries of combined experience on both sides of federal law enforcement matters to defend your company, its owners, and executives in court. We will continue to work toward a favorable pre-trial resolution while also preparing for the possibility of trial. 

Contact the Federal Import Compliance and Defense Lawyers at Oberheiden, P.C.

If you need legal advice regarding a federal import compliance issue, audit, or investigation, we encourage you to get in touch. To speak with one of our attorneys in confidence, call 888-680-1745 or request a free case assessment online now. 

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