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Customs: ELVIS Is in Hong Kong

WASHINGTON -- The U.S. Customs Service said Thursday that electronic visas will soon accompany U.S.-bound textiles and apparel under quota from Hong Kong, a high-tech step hailed by importers, as well as U.S. mills and apparel makers.<P>However, Hong...

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Customs Service said Thursday that electronic visas will soon accompany U.S.-bound textiles and apparel under quota from Hong Kong, a high-tech step hailed by importers, as well as U.S. mills and apparel makers.

However, Hong Kong’s use of Customs’ Electronic Visa Information System — the second country in the program known as ELVIS — will be short lived. As of Jan. 1, 2005, the visa requirement for textiles and apparel governed by quota restrictions will be eliminated along with the quota system.

Since ELVIS was launched in 1994, only Singapore has been given the OK to have paperless textile and apparel visas. Ten other countries are in line to be certified as ELVIS countries, but they haven’t completed their test phase that requires a dual electronic and paper visa system. These countries are Bangladesh, Cambodia, China, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Sri Lanka, South Korea, Taiwan and Thailand.

For importers, dealing with ELVIS countries means fewer headaches due to lost paper visas and processing delays. For domestic manufacturers of textiles and apparel, having electronic visas means easier and faster detection of fraud, including when the country of origin of products are falsified in order to avoid tight quota limits.

“With electronic visas, you start seeing screwy stuff sooner,” said Charles Bremer, vice president of international trade with the American Textile Manufacturers Institute.

After 2005, importers are hoping electronic transmissions will be extended for other textile and apparel paperwork, including forms detailing where various components in a garment were made.

“It makes sense to go to paperless processing,” said Julia Hughes, vice president of international trade with the U.S. Association of Importers of Textiles & Apparel.

Meanwhile, in a related matter, Customs has barred three Cambodian garment manufacturers from exporting to the U.S. after being cited for irregularities in complying with U.S. quota restrictions. Anti-transshipment Customs officials, trying to verify where U.S.-bound shipments from Cambodia were being produced, found these companies had either closed, were unable to provide production records or had transshipped goods to circumvent U.S. quota restrictions.”