Insular Possessions and Customs Territories of the United States

Many companies have questions about the requirements of importing and clearing goods from an insular possession of the United States (e.g., Guam) or a U.S. customs territory (e.g., Puerto Rico) into the United States.

Not only will this article cover the different requirements for insular possessions and customs territories of the United States, but it will also explain the required security filings, and most critical to importers, the duties and taxes required.

United States customs territories

Customs territories fall under the jurisdiction of U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP). Passengers and cargo arrivals to the United States from another customs territory location are considered domestic travel, they do not require a CBP clearance. This also means duties and taxes are not applicable when entering the United States. The 50 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico are all U.S. customs territories. 

In addition to not requiring payment of duties and taxes, Automated Manifest System (AMS) filing and Importer Security Filing (ISF) are not required when shipping into the United States from these U.S. customs territories. 

United States insular possessions

Insular possessions are not part of the States or Federal district of the United States. Most insular possessions are not considered part of the U.S. customs territory, because they are not governed by the Tariff Act of 1930—Puerto Rico is an outlier. 

Insular possessions that are not part of the customs territory include the U.S. Virgin Islands, American Samoa, Guam, American Soma, Wake Island, Midway Islands, and Johnson Atoll. 

Because these insular possessions are outside the territory of U.S. customs, they require a customs declaration. Accordingly, the applicable duties and taxes from Column 1 of the Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States (HTSUS) are due upon importation into the United States. The insular possessions shown in the table below are governed by the administrations listed for each.

Insular Possession Governing Administration
U.S. Virgin Islands Secretary of the Treasury through U.S. Customs and Border Protection*
Guam Government of Guam
American Samoa Government of American Samoa
Wake Island Department of the Air Force (General Counsel)
Midway Islands Department of the Navy
Johnston Atoll No customs authority. (Operationally controlled by Defense Nuclear Agency)
Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands Government of the Commonwealth


The U.S. Virgin Islands are an outlier, and the Secretary of the Treasury administers the customs laws through U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP). Importation of goods into the U.S. Virgin Islands is governed by Virgin Islands law. Tariff classification and rates of duty applicable to importer merchandise are established by the Virgin Islands legislature. When there are no Virgin Islands laws applicable, U.S. laws and regulations are used as a guide and complied with as closely as possible.

AMS filing is required for ocean and air shipments moving between insular possessions to ports within the customs territory of the United States. ISF is required for shipments moving from an insular possession to the United States. 


There are exceptions for certain goods from insular possessions that make them eligible for duty free treatment, for instance goods wholly or in large part grown or produced in the insular possession or goods that became a new or different article in the commerce of the insular possession.

Exporting to insular possession or customs territories

Exporting shipments from the U.S. to an insular possession or customs territory country follow a completely different set of rules. Reach out to your C.H. Robinson representative with specific questions. 

Additional resources

Stay informed

Developments in customs and trade continue to evolve—stay informed to be prepared:


Jessica Woltering
Manager, Compliance
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