In a sea port

low-down on the ISF and US customs clearance process

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While China’s customs are unlikely to have an issue with your shipment, get ready for the US customs clearance process! US customs authorities are typically more interested in imports than exports; therefore if you haven’t dotted the i’s and crossed the t’s, especially with regards to filing your ISF Bond, your shipping experience may be less than plain sailing!

The i’s and the t’s

So, what are the i’s and t’s? Customs filing and clearance for US imports usually involves a customs agency, a broker, and you. The previous two handle entry, ISF filings, and clearance (liaison, coordinating payment, and pickup). However, you still have some responsibilities, including taking out the bond and arranging payment. These are essential steps in the process, and being in the know can help speed up the clearance process.

What is ISF bond?

The Importer Security Filing (aka 10+2) is compulsory security required for ocean freight imports only. It must be filed electronically with US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) 24 hours before the cargo sails from its port of origin. An ISF bond is required for formal shipments with a value that exceeds 2500$ (Or shipments from China with a value of 250$ or more). Essentially, the bond is a financial guarantee that the CBP (the Obligee) will receive all payments due from the Importer of Record (IOR; the Principal), and if not, the insurance company (the Surety) will pay up.

ISF filing also identifies to US Customs the importer, shipper, and shipment. Don’t confuse filing the ISF with the Entry Summary (aka 7501 form), mandated by the CBP for all imported shipments for all shipping methods.

How to get an ISF bond?

There are two ways to meet ISF bond requirements: a Single ISF Bond, or a Continuous Bond that covers both ISF and Entry filings. Since every IOR is different, the best options vary. Also, bond fees differ between agencies, customs brokers, and freight forwarders. Generally, the most cost-efficient is the continuous importer/broker bond as it meets both the Entry Summary and ISF requirements. The Continuous Bond Fee ranges from $450 to $550. If you file late, you’ll be subjected to additional costs.

Where do I stand?

You dotted the i’s, crossed the t’s in time, paid the dues, and received confirmation that your ISF was filed. However, how do you then check your ISF filing status? Can the carrier send your shipment?
Every ISF filed to CBP gets a unique transaction number confirming that the ISF is in their system. Next, each shipment is identified by CBP from the Master and the House bills of lading numbers issued by the freight forwarder. When the ISF filing is passed to CBP, the MBL and HBL numbers and carrier’s number must match exactly. If not, the ISF receives a “pending bill match” status meaning the filing has not been successful. Lastly, when you get your confirmation email receipt, you’ll see a letter “Y” indicating your ISF was filed successfully, or an “N” meaning it’s not yet cleared or is in pending status with “No Bill on File. If the filing has not been successful, you can change the information and resend it.

CBP & ACH – Paytime is showtime!

The CBP encourages importers, especially regular ones, to pay using its ACH (automated clearing house) electronic payment system. You can sign up for a US customs ACH debit application, ACH Credit, or ACH Refund. ACH helps speed up the clearance process, removes the risk of being fined for late clearance, and saves you money.
Electronic filing and payment are not only recognized and encouraged by the CBP but are also the way of the future. eezyimport takes this to the next level, saving you time and money, by helping you become a self-filer – not only of the ISF from, but also the Entry Summary – both vital applications required for the clearance process when importing to the US!

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