United States International Trade Commision Rulings And Harmonized Tariff Schedule
faqs.org  Rulings By Number  Rulings By Category  Tariff Numbers
faqs.org > Rulings and Tariffs Home > Rulings By Number > 2001 HQ Rulings > HQ 964723 - HQ 964837 > HQ 964761

Previous Ruling Next Ruling
HQ 964761

January 24, 2001

CLA-2:RR:CR:TE 964761 JFS


TARIFF NO.: 4202.92.9026

Mr. Spencer Hutchins
AKA International, Inc.
1200 South 192nd Street
Suite 103
Seattle, Washington 98149

RE: Binding Ruling Request; Classification of Travel Document Holder; Heading 4202, HTSUSA.

Dear Mr. Hutchins:

This letter is in response to your request for a binding ruling, dated November 3, 2000, on behalf of your client, Sanmar, Inc., concerning the classification of a travel document holder pursuant to the Harmonized Tariff Schedules of the United States (HTSUS). A sample was submitted and will be returned upon issuance of this ruling.


The article identified as “SB-707 Ballistic Passport/Ticket Organizer” consists of a jacket or case which is zippered on 3 sides and is approximately 10 ½ inches high, 5 ¼ inches wide, and 1 ½ inches deep (in the closed position). The outer surface is constructed of woven nylon. There is a flat, open, full-height pocket on the article’s exterior front that is suitable for holding a plane ticket. There is a small nylon loop sewn to the top of the spine of the organizer to which a wrist strap is attached by means of a small clip. Plastic foam and paperboard are sealed between the outer and inner surfaces of the article. The case is black in color.

The interior surfaces of the case are constructed fine woven nylon. On the right interior side, there are three flat full-height pockets (one on top of the other). The pockets are sleeve-like and open on the right. The interior left side of the case features one flat, full-height pocket. Attached on
top of this pocket are eight slots for business or credit cards and one flat pocket with a transparent plastic window for an identification card. There also is a pen holder attached to the right side of the case. The article is imported without contents.

The sample submitted was made in Vietnam, however the proposed country of origin is Sri Lanka.


What is the proper classification of the document holder?


Classification under the HTSUSA is made in accordance with the General Rules of Interpretation (GRI). GRI 1 provides that the classification of goods shall be determined according to the terms of the headings of the tariff schedule and any relative Section or Chapter Notes. In the event that the goods cannot be classified solely on the basis of GRI 1, and if the headings and legal notes do not otherwise require, the remaining GRI may then be applied.

The Harmonized Commodity Description and Coding System, Explanatory Notes (ENs), represent the official interpretation of the Harmonized System at the international level (for the 4 digit headings and the 6 digit subheadings) and facilitate classification under the HTSUSA by offering guidance in understanding the scope of the headings and GRI. The Explanatory Notes, although not dispositive or legally binding, provide a commentary on the scope of each heading of the HTSUS, and are generally indicative of the proper interpretation of these headings. See T.D. 89-80, 54 Fed. Reg. 35127, 35128 (August 23, 1989).

Heading 4202, HTSUSA, provides:

Trunks, suitcases, vanity cases, attache cases, briefcases, school satchels, spectacle cases, binocular cases, camera cases, musical instrument cases, gun cases, holsters and similar containers; traveling bags, toiletry bags, knapsacks and backpacks, handbags, shopping bags, wallets, purses, map cases, cigarette cases, tobacco pouches, tool bags, sports bags, bottle cases, jewelry boxes, powder cases, cutlery cases and similar containers, of leather or of composition leather, of sheeting of plastics, of textile materials, of vulcanized fiber, or of paperboard, or wholly or mainly covered with such materials or with paper.

The plain language of heading 4202, HTSUSA, includes similar containers. Additionally, the EN to heading 4202, HTSUSA, state that the heading only covers the specifically named containers and similar containers. Applying the principle of statutory construction known as ejusdem generis, which means “of the same kind,” Customs finds that the instant travel document holder is covered by the term “similar containers” contained in the heading.

Under the rule of ejusdem generis, where an enumeration of specific things is followed by a general word or phrase, the general word or phrase is held to refer to things of the same kind as those specified. With respect to the broad reach of the residual provision for “similar containers” in heading 4202, HTSUSA, the courts have found that the rule of ejusdem generis requires that the imported merchandise possess the essential characteristics or purpose that unite the articles enumerated in order to be classified under the general term. Totes, Inc. v. United States, 18 Ct. Int’l Trade 919, 865 F. Supp. 867, 871 (1994), aff’d, 69 F.3d 495 (1995). The Court of International Trade’s determination that the “essential characteristics and purpose of Heading 4202 exemplars are . . . to organize, store, protect and carry various items[,]” was affirmed by the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit. Totes, Inc. v. United States, 69 F.3d 495, 498 (1995). Applying the rationale set forth in Totes, Customs finds that the instant travel document holder serves the purposes of organizing, storing, protecting and carrying the various documents that are typically carried during travel. Accordingly, the document holder is classifiable under heading 4202, HTSUSA, as a “similar container.”

With respect to classification at the subheading level, there are several possible subheadings in which to classify the article. One possible subheading is 4202.32, HTSUSA, covering articles of a kind normally carried in the pocket or in the handbag. The EN to subheading 4202.32, HTSUSA, state that the subheading covers "articles of a kind normally carried in the pocket or in the handbag and include spectacle cases, note-cases (bill-folds), wallets, purses, keycases, cigarette-cases, cigar-cases, pipe-cases and tobacco-pouches." Document holders are not provided for in the EN.

On June 21, 1995, this office published a General Notice in the Customs Bulletin, Volume 29, Number 25, concerning goods identified as "Wallets on a String." The attributes of articles of a kind normally carried in the pocket or in the handbag were discussed. The notice stated in pertinent part:

Such articles include wallets, which may be described as flat cases or containers fitted to hold credit/identification cards, paper currency, coins and in some instances a checkbook holder. Articles meeting this description which also possess a detachable carrying strap have been classified as flatgoods.

In order to be classified as a flatgood, the article must fit comfortably in a handbag or pocket. For example, rectangular or square cases measuring approximately 7 1/2 inches by 4 1/2 inches, or 4 3/4 inches by 4 1/2 inches, in their closed position, have been classified as flatgoods.

While having similar features as the flatgoods described in the notice, the document holder under consideration is too large to qualify as a flatgood, and cannot be comfortably carried in the pocket or in the handbag. Furthermore, the addition of the wrist strap indicates that the document holder was designed to be carried in the hand as opposed to being placed in a handbag. Accordingly the document holder does not qualify as a flat good to be carried in the pocket or in the handbag.

Another potential subheading in which to classify the article is 4202.92.4500, HTSUSA, as a travel or similar bag. The instant document holder has some of the same characteristics as a travel bag, e.g., organizing, storing, protecting, and carrying a person’s documents while traveling. However, application of Additional U.S. Note 1 to Chapter 42, HTSUSA, removes the document holder from the subheading for travel and similar bags. The additional U.S. notes become applicable at the eight-digit level or U.S. subdivision of the international subheadings. The provision for travel and similar bags is defined by Additional U.S. Note 1, Chapter 42, HTSUSA, as follows:

For the purposes of heading 4202, the expression “travel, sports and similar bags” means goods, other than those falling in subheadings 4202.11 through 4202.39, of a kind designed for carrying clothing and other personal effects during travel, including backpacks and shopping bags of this heading, but does not include binocular cases, camera cases, musical instrument cases, bottle cases and similar containers.

The Additional U.S. Note clarifies what characteristics will be considered to determine if a bag is a travel or similar bag. Significantly it lists travel and similar bags as bags that are designed for carrying clothing and personal effects. In order to hold clothing and personal effects, a bag must have a generic or general carrying capacity. The exemplars, backpacks and shopping bags, both have a general or generic carrying capacity suitable for holding clothing and personal effects. Because the document holder does not have a generic carrying capacity, it does not meet the definition of travel and similar bags in Additional U.S. Note 1, Chapter 42, HTSUSA.

In HQ 954298, dated October 27, 1993, Customs considered three travel pouches. The first pouch was described as a travel pouch and measured 6” by 9”, had one main compartment with two pockets on the front, and attached to a person’s belt. The second pouch also attached to a person’s belt, but it was shaped to hold and carry a hand weapon or pistol. The third pouch was designed to hold and carry an ammunition clip and it too attached to a person’s belt.

The travel pouch was deemed to be classifiable as a travel, sports and similar bag because of its ability to carry personal items. However, the weapon and clip pouches were excluded from classification as travel, sports and similar bags because they were similar to those bags excluded by U.S. Additional Note 1 to Chapter 42.

HQ 954298 provides guidance as to the proper classification of the document holder that is the subject of this ruling. The pouch that had the generic or general carrying capacity was the only pouch that was classified as a travel, sports and similar bag. The two other pouches, which were somewhat specially fitted and had no generic carrying capacity, were excluded from the provision for travel, sports and similar bags. The document holder, due to (1) its lack of general or generic carrying capacity and (2) the fact that it is partially fitted, is more similar to the weapon and clip pouch, than it is to the travel pouch. See also HQ 954288, dated October 27, 1993.

Similarly, the document holder has characteristics and functions that are similar to other fitted or compartmentalized cases such as trucker’s wallets, camera tripod cases, palmtop pocket cases, and compact disk (CD) carrying cases.

In 1997, the HTSUSA was modified by adding 4202.92.9050, HTSUS, “Cases designed to protect and transport compact disks (CD’s), CD ROM disks, CD players, cassette players and/or cassettes.” Like the document holder, these cases (1) are not designed to fit in the pocket or handbag, (2) are somewhat fitted to carry, protect, and organize a general class of goods, and (3) have no generic or general carrying capacity. See, HQ 084931, dated August 14, 1989 (trucker’s wallet classified in 4202.99.0000, HTSUSA, as “Other”); HQ 087113, dated July 26, 1990 (carrying case for scope, tripod and photo adapter eyepiece classified in 4202.92.9000, HTSUSA, as “Other”); HQ 962341, dated November 23, 1998 (“Palmtop Pocket Case” classified in 4202.92.9026, HTSUSA, as “Other”). HQ 960527, dated April 11, 2000 (CD-ROM storage folios classified in 4202.92.9026, HTSUSA, as “Other”); HQ 960983, dated September 25, 1998 (diskette storage case classified in 4202.99.9000, HTSUSA, as “Other”); HQ 953175, dated February 17, 1993 (compact disc holder classified in 4202.92.9020, HTSUSA, as “Other”).

Lastly, the document holder serves to organize and protect flat items, and has many of the same characteristics as the attache cases and briefcases that are covered in subheadings 4202.11, HTSUSA, through 4202.19, HTSUSA. However, the document holder is not designed to store protect, and carry items such as newspapers, small umbrellas, and/or other objects normally carried in an attache case or briefcase. See, HQ 962757, dated June 21, 2000; and HQ 962030, dated May 13, 1999.


Accordingly, for the reasons stated above, Customs finds that the document holder is classified under subheading 4202.92.9026, HTSUSA, as “Trunks, suitcases, vanity cases, . . .: Other: With outer surface of sheeting of plastic or of textile materials: Other: Other: Other: With outer surface of textile materials: Other: Of man-made fibers.” The duty, at the general one column rate, is 18.3 percent ad valorem.

The designated textile and apparel category may be subdivided into parts. If so, visa and quota requirements applicable to the subject merchandise may be affected. Since part categories are the result of international bilateral agreements which are subject to frequent negotiations and changes, we suggest that the importer check, close to the time of shipment, the Status Report On Current Import Quotas (Restraint Levels), an issuance of the U.S. Customs Service, which is updated weekly and is available at the local Customs office.

Due to the changeable nature of the statistical annotation (the ninth and tenth digits of the classification) and the restraint (quota/visa) categories, the importer should contact the local Customs office prior to importing the merchandise to determine the current status of any import restraints or requirements.


John Durant, Director

Previous Ruling Next Ruling

See also: