12 Tips for Faster Customs Clearing
Hello. Doing some research for a client last week, I came across a list of suggestions on www.CBP.gov for exporters in other countries to prepare their shipments so that they can be cleared more quickly when arriving in the US. Here, I post their suggestions, then add some clarification for those who are new to the International Trade game. We hope it is helpful.
1 Include all information required on your customs invoices. "All information" is pretty subjective, and if you are new at this, you may not know all of the questions to answer/ask. Basically, you will need the following: Recipient (Consignee) name, address, phone, email; Shipper (seller) name, address, phone, email; Date invoice is created; Date shipment is to be picked up; Origin port; Destination port; Via (pass through) port (if there is one). Then, you will need to account for the items in the shipment. Each type of item may be denoted by a line number. In that line, you should input Quantity of Packages (carton count), Description, Quantity in Each Package (items per carton), Total number of items (Qty of PKG x Qty per PKG), Price per Unit, and Total price (Total number of items x Price per unit). At the bottom, include any markings on the packages, and add a notify party, such as your customs broker. We suggest you make a spreadsheet as a template, where you can include automatic calculations in the formulas bar. Here is our standard template:
2 Prepare your invoices carefully. Type them clearly. Allow sufficient space between lines. Keep the data within each column. The reason is because the agents at customs have a tendency to write on these forms, making notes where necessary. These notes must be legible, and provide the right information to any reviewing authority.
3 Make sure that your invoices contain the information that would be shown on a well-prepared packing list. Your packing list is going to look very similar to your commercial invoice, but, the information is going to pertain to the shipment, not its value. You will include weight, dimensions, not costs. This should be on the second worksheet of your excel spreadsheet. Here is a sample of ours:
4 Mark and number each package so it can be identified with the corresponding marks and numbers appearing on your invoice. This is very helpful for exams. For example, if you have Item #111222333, and there are 5 cartons of it, marking each carton will help Customs identify the packages without the need to open each one individually. This can reduce your costs of demurrage (storage) and detention (container usage time) by aiding Customs in doing their job. It sucks to be stopped for exam, especially when you are low on inventory, but helping the reviewing authorities to find the necessary packages saves you delay and costs.
5 Show a detailed description on your invoice of each item of merchandise contained in each individual package. By detailed description, it is good to follow your SKU description. If it is a box of red shirts, size medium, say that exactly. This will aid the process if an exam is required.
6 Mark your goods legibly and conspicuously with the country of origin unless exempted. Exemptions usually apply to goods that cannot be individually marked, like tiny items, such as screws. You should, however, mark the sale packaging of these types of items.
7 Comply with the provisions of any special laws of the United States that may apply to your goods, such as food, drugs, cosmetics, spirits, radioactive materials, and others. Some goods may require processing through USDA, FDA, FWS, or a combination of government entities. Make sure to inform your customs broker about your product, so that the correct paperwork can be provided prior to shipment.
8 If you are a US importer, provide specific instructions to your shipper regarding invoicing, packaging, marking, labeling, etc. If an exporter to the US, follow the instructions from the importer very carefully. I paraphrased a bit here. Providing specific instructions to shippers, and ensuring these instructions are followed, is very helpful in making sure the importing process goes as smooth as possible.
9 Work with CBP to develop packing standards for your commodities. Depending on your product, some ways of packaging may be conducive to a faster process. For example, keeping all the same SKUs together may help Customs as much as it helps the warehouse manager with determining the content of the shipment.
10 Establish sound security procedures at your facility and while transporting your goods for shipment. Do not give smugglers the opportunity to introduce contraband into your shipment. This is, of course, sound advice for all importers. But many of us don't realize the security shortfalls in our logistics process. The use of C-TPAT transportation providers can help to avoid these issues.
11 Use a carrier that participates in AMS (Automated Manifest System). In more than a decade, I have never used a non-AMS carrier. Not sure they still exist. Would be wary if they do.
12 Use a licensed customs broker (LCB) that has an ABI (Automated Broker Interface). Pretty sure we all have that, but it is something that you should ask your broker. A reputable customs brokerage house can be found on the CBP website: https://www.cbp.gov/contact/ports. Select the state you want to use (does not have to be a state with an ocean port, as many of us have remote entry abilities), select a location, then click on the 'Brokers' list. For example, for Los Angeles port, you would end up here: https://apps.cbp.gov/brokers/index.asp?portCode=2704 If you scroll down, you will find us:
Note: This is not our current address. We sent a change of address in October. Should be updated soon.
Originally published on December 22, 2017 by Kim Daniels