The Office of the U.S. Trade Representative is directing U.S. Customs and Border Protection to permit importers to submit electronic images of appropriate export visas when claiming preferential treatment for textile and apparel products under the African Growth and Opportunity Act. This change will be effective as of Feb. 8.

Under directions issued in January 2001, textile and apparel products of designated beneficiary sub-Saharan African countries for which preferential treatment is claimed under AGOA must be accompanied by an appropriate export visa; i.e., an original circular visa must be stamped, in blue ink only, on the front of the original commercial invoice. USTR is now modifying these directions to allow importers to submit this visa electronically via the Document Image System or other approved functionality in the Automated Commercial Environment or any CBP-approved successor system.

Affected shipments must still be visaed by stamping an original circular visa, in blue ink only, on the front of the original commercial invoice and the information required on each visa stamp (visa number, date of issuance, authorized signature, and correct grouping, quantity and unit of quantity) will remain the same. In addition, importers must provide the original invoice with the original visa stamp for physical inspection upon request by CBP personnel.

USTR notes that a visa will not be accepted and AGOA preferential tariff treatment will not be permitted if the required information is missing, incorrect or illegible or has been crossed out or altered in any way. If the visa is not acceptable, a new visa must be obtained from an authorized official of the beneficiary country or his/her designate before preferential tariff treatment can be claimed.

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