FAQs

Getting Started FAQ

Do I need to be licensed by Customs?

No. According to the Customs regulations, an importer may file entries, for their own benefit, without a license.

Do I need to have a broker on staff?

A licensed broker on staff is not required by CBP. However, to ensure a successful and highly compliant direct filing program, it is important to have a well-trained, experienced and knowledgeable staff with proper employee over-site.

Are any importers restricted from direct filing?

CBP has few limitations on direct filing. Any importer with recurring entries, in good standing, may file their own entries. Foreign importers of record are restricted from filing their own entries, unless they have a U.S. office with on-site personnel who will file the entries and maintain the records.

How do I get started?

First, a filer code is requested from CBP. Second, a letter requesting participation in ABI is submitted to CBP. Once approved, CBP assigns a filer code and an ABI Client Representation to your account. CustomsNow™ will guide you though the entire start up process by providing forms, instructions and support.

How long does it take to get started?

From start to finish it can take anywhere from 8-10 weeks. It takes approximately 6 weeks to receive a filer code from CBP, during which time the system can be set up and some training conducted. Once the filer code is received, and a Customs’ ABI Client Representative is assigned to your account, allow an additional week or two for entry training and CBP testing to be completed and reviewed. Once the testing has been completed sufficiently, the go-ahead to direct file is given from Customs.

What exactly is a Customs’ ABI Client Representative?

An ABI Client Rep is an employee of Customs under the Office of Information and Technology who specializes in the ABI system and entry processing from a technical aspect. This contact is your main contact for all things ABI: initial testing, set up of the system on CBP’s side and ongoing entry processing questions or issues.

What kind of testing do I need to do with Customs before filing? (ABI & AII)

Since the CustomsNow™ system has been proven and familiar to CBP for years, importers are only required to complete limited testing, based on each ABI Client Rep. The ABI testing can consist of a range of “test entries” related to your import business, usually somewhere between 5-25 test entries. Testing for AII normally consists of the transmission of 5 electronic invoices.

What is remote location filing (RLF)?

RLF is the ability to electronically file entries with CBP from a location within the United States other than the port of arrival or location of examination. Importers use CBP’s Automated Invoice Interface (AII) to transmit and electronic commercial invoice to CBP only when requested.

I already have a filer code for drawback; can I use it to file entries?

Yes, the same filer code for drawback purposes can also be used for filing import entries. If so, only a letter to CBP’s Office of Information Technology, requesting participation in the ABI program and the assignment of a CBP ABI Representative is required. This process usually takes no more than a week.

What type of entries can I direct file?

As an importer of record, you are legally able to file any and all types of entries with U.S. Customs and Border Protection. That includes air, ocean, truck and rail and even hand-carried shipments, however, the specific processes required for the different modes of transportation may vary. Each importer should factor in their unique supply chain business requirements when determining which entries should be direct filed and which are best left with a broker.

What kind of Customs bond is required?

A continuous U.S. Customs bond must be on file with CBP in order to direct file your entries. Single entry bonds are not acceptable (except where the bond is written to cover only one particular entry (shipment) or Importer Security Filing (ISF)). Conveniently, importers may purchase bonds through CustomsNow™. Please see our Customs Bond page for details. In addition, CBP provides a helpful FAQ page for all of your bond questions.

Will I need additional resources to file my own entries?

Your current compliance process should be thoroughly reviewed to understand future staffing needs under direct filing. Questions such as “How much time does my staff currently spend on broker oversight, problem resolution and manual audits?” should be answered. We’ve found that most average sized importers have enough resources on staff to implement the initial direct filing process. However, as savings are generated and the program expands further, additional staffing may be necessary.

How do I roll-out a direct filing program?

Each importer should thoroughly assess their import supply chain in order to develop a simple, logical and smooth roll out program. Determining factors can include, for example, the number of paperless entries, the origin of the goods, the relationship with the vendor, and the mode of transportation or shipping terms. Our professional services team can conduct a complete business review and develop a plan that best suits your needs.

Do I have to direct file all my entries?

No. You can direct file as few or as many as you’d like. It’s best to select one import lane segment to begin with and grow from there.

My broker has a relationship with Customs at the local ports and I don’t. I don’t want to lose that connection.

Although your broker has a relationship within the ports, it important that you, as the importer of record, establish one as well, if you haven’t done so already. Direct contact with the respective agencies can ensure understanding that your company takes the responsibility of compliance very seriously and that you are experienced and in control of your process. When issues arise, you know who to call directly to get answers or to resolve problems. Only positive things can happen when direct relationships are built.

How many days before arrival into the U.S. can I file my entries?

Ocean shipments can be transmitted and cleared 5 days prior to arrival at the U.S. port of entry. An entry can actually be transmitted anytime before arrival but CBP will only respond 5 days before the estimated arrival date.

What if my shipment does not clear “paperless”?

On most entries types (formal, informal), an electronic invoice can be sent via ABI and AII (CBP’s Automated Invoice Interface). The invoice is automatically formatted in the ABI system when the entry is created, so the user simply transmits it directly to CBP, in any port, for processing and eventual release. Some special entry types require that physical documents be submitted to the port of entry.

Who takes care of the additional steps when a Customs or other exam is required?

You are responsible to arrange for the movement of the container and/or the devanning of the cargo. Therefore it is important to establish a relationship with a trucking company and Customs Exam Station (CES) within the port of entry.

How do I pay the collect freight charges and or submit an original bill of lading (OBL) to the carrier?

The payment and/or OBL can be submitted directly to the carrier or freight forwarder in the U.S. any time prior to the release of the freight.

Who arranges the delivery of the shipment after clearance?

Delivery can be arranged by either the forwarder, carrier or by the importer. In the CustomsNow™ system, a delivery order is auto-populated as the entry is created making it very simple to print, fax or email to the delivering carrier.

How does the duty payment process work?

The importer must be set up with CBP to pay their duties via the ABI system through ACH (Automated Clearing House). This requires submission of a simple application form to CBP’s finance department, which takes about 10 days to process.

Our company pays their duties on PMS; can I do this with direct file?

Both daily and monthly duty statements can be processed in the system for payment via ACH.

Who should the shipping documents be sent to?

The overseas consolidator / carrier will collect the vendor documents, create the bills of lading and send the packets directly to you. Make sure that your company name is listed on the documents as the notify party.

Will I have access to entry / liquidation status of my entries?

With 24/7 Customs access via ABI you’ll be able to not only query the entry and liquidation status of entries direct filed, but on any of your entries regardless of by whom they were filed. The only thing needed is the complete entry number. The query returns details such as current status, scheduled liquidation date, duties and taxes.

How can I track and trace my entries?

The CustomsNow™ system has a detailed search function that allows you to find entries based on a variety of factors: PO number, Invoice number, Item/Part number, tariff number or even shipment information such as bill of lading or container number.

What if I find an error on my entry?

When filing your own entry, the chances of making an error are greatly reduced. Even so, if an entry error is found prior to duty payment, the correction can be made and the entry summary retransmitted. Since you’re able to perform an audit much sooner after clearance most entries can be corrected though this easy, immediate process. If the error is found after the duties have been paid, the normal post-entry correction process must be followed.

If I have repetitive entries is there a way to copy previous entries to help speed the entry process?

Yes. The system included a copy entry function which will reduce the data entry on similar, repetitive entries.

What kind of reporting is available?

The system has both standard and customizable reporting functions which include all elements of the entry or ISF submission, including PO number, invoice number, part number, tariff, B/L, container number and more. All reports can be saved into an excel format for easy distribution as well as audit purposes.

What are the recordkeeping requirements for direct filers?

CBP’s recordkeeping requirements for importers are the same whether the entries are direct filed or filed by a broker. The importer is required to keep copies of all entries and related documents according to the regulations. With CustomsNow™ you’ll be able to print or save to soft copy (with CBP approval) all documents, plus the documents are accessible for reprint at anytime in the future.

What if I decide I don’t want to direct file anymore?

There is no requirement from either CustomsNow™ or CBP to direct file once you’re set up. The filer code issued by CBP is yours whether it is used or not.

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Special Entry FAQ

Can I do reconciliation entries?

Your entries can be flagged individually or blanket-flagged based on the specific reconciliation required. Then, our customizable reporting function allows you to easily manage the reconciliation process, ensuring the timely submission of the final reconciliation entry. In addition, we have the ability to populate the CustomsNow™ system with entries flagged by other brokers as well as with an internal copy / linking function which makes the final reconciliation process simple.

Can I file Foreign Trade Zone (FTZ) Entries?

Your consolidated entry for goods entered into the U.S. commerce can be completed with the CustomsNow™ system, using either the data generated from an FTZ software program or by manually entering the data.

Will I be able to query ADD/CVD information?

With 24/7 Customs access via ABI, you are able to query detailed ADD/CVD information based on country and/or tariff combinations and case numbers. Up-to-date CBP information is returned within seconds that includes factory details, case numbers as well as amounts.

Can I find out if an item is subject to quota?

With 24/7 Customs access via ABI, you are able to query absolute or tariff-rate quota information based on tariff number and country of origin combinations. Up-to-date CBP information is returned within seconds that includes factory details, case numbers as well as amounts.

Can I find out if an item is subject to Partnering Government Agencies (PGAs)?

With 24/7 Customs access via ABI, you are able to query PGA information based on tariff number. Tariff numbers are flagged by PGAs if specific information is required to be filed at the time of entry. In addition, from the entry screen, the entry system will give a warning and/or require specific information to be filed before it will allow transmission of the entry.

How do I clear FDA entries?

The FDA clearance module is included in the ABI application, which means that the Customs and FDA entry data is completed and transmitted together. CBP does a validation to ensure required FDA information exists and then passes the data on to FDA for processing. The user will receive ABI status / release messages from both FDA and CBP until both have been released.

How do I submit FDA Prior Notice?

The Prior Notice modules are part of the entry as well and can either be sent alone or as part of the entry. Again, the user will receive ABI status messages from FDA via CBP to ensure the PN was accepted.

How do I file entries subject to FCC?

The electronic FCC forms are included in the ABI application, which means FCC entry data is completed and transmitted together with the entry. CBP does a validation to ensure required FCC information exists when an entry is filed but there is no actual “release” process.

How do I file entries subject to DOT?

The electronic DOT forms are included in the ABI application, which means DOT entry data is completed and transmitted together with the entry. CBP does a validation to ensure required DOT information exists when an entry is filed but there is no actual “release” process.

How do I file entries subject to FWS?

U.S. Fish & Wildlife does not have a clearance or submission process that is integrated with ABI. The filer is responsible for submitting the proper data via their web-interface or manually prior to moving the shipment. For details see www.fws.gov.

How do I file entries subject to BTF?

The Bureau of Tobacco and Firearms does not have a clearance or submission process that is integrated with ABI. The filer is responsible for submitting the proper data via their web-interface or manually prior to moving the shipment. For details see www.btf.gov.

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CustomsNow™ Solutions FAQ

What are the start-up costs?

The one-time startup costs are nominal and include online training as well permanent access to our process & procedure manuals, our online knowledgebase and our superior, ongoing customer support.

What type of training is given?

CustomsNow™ offers online, onsite and customized training programs. We will train you on every aspect of direct filing from the setup process to the detailed, day-to-day operational issues faced while filing entries and managing the import process. Our online customer portal also contains ongoing training programs for refresher courses or to assist with new employee training.

What kind of ongoing support is provided?

We combine the right level of technology support tools with highly qualified support agents. The support consists of our online customer portal which is accessible 24/7 and includes a searchable knowledgebase, FAQ, valuable training tools and an automated ticketing process. In addition, we offer both email and toll-free phone support.

Can you provide entry, post-entry and other compliance assistance?

Our experienced Professional Services team offers additional Customs compliance assistance beyond that of a traditional ABI software company, including classification, valuation, audits and general compliance process development.

How many users /logons are included?

Our solution includes an unlimited number of users and/or login for your company’s use. At any time, additional login ids and users may be issued directly by you.

Are there different logons for the ABI, ISF and customer portal?

No. Only one user id and password is required to access all secured areas, and the user id and password functions are managed by you.

Does CustomsNow™ require IT resources or dedicated hardware?

No. All you need is an internet connection to access the system.

Can CustomsNow™ integrate with other systems?

Although it is not a requirement, CustomsNow™ can integrate with your system(s) to fully maximize efficiency and savings, whether your data is stored in your ERP, GTM, commercial invoice and/or other systems.

Are Customs updates an additional cost?

With CustomsNow™ there are no costs for system updates. They are all included and are done automatically and are available the next time you login.

What kind of security does your system have?

CustomsNow™ uses strong RSA encryption combined with 256bit token based session authentication.

How is the entry data stored?

CustomsNow™ is run on two separate data centers in Chicago and New York City. Each center is a carrier class facility and fully redundant. The data is stored on our server, as well as streamed to our alternative server every 15 minutes, and is accessible to you at all times.

How is the data backed up?

Offsite backups are done every 15 minutes to our alternative server site.

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CustomsNow™ ISF Solution FAQ

How soon can I get started?

You can start filing your ISF submissions immediately.

What are the start-up costs?

The one-time startup costs for ISF are nominal and include online training as well permanent access to our process & procedure manuals, our online knowledgebase and our superior, ongoing customer support.

What type of training is given?

CustomsNow™ offers online, onsite and customized training programs. We will train you on every aspect of ISF from the setup process to the detailed, day-to-day operational issues. Our online customer portal also contains ongoing training programs for refresher courses or to assist with new employee training.

What kind of ongoing support is provided?

We combine the right level of technology support tools with highly qualified support agents. The support consists of our online customer portal which is accessible 24/7 and includes a searchable knowledgebase, FAQ, valuable training tools and an automated ticketing process. In addition, we offer both email and toll-free phone support.

How many users /logons are included?

Our solution includes an unlimited number of users and/or login for your company’s use. At any time, additional login ids and users may be issued directly by you.

Can I file my own ISF, but continue to have my broker(s) file the entries?

Yes. Our ISF solution is a stand-alone system which can be used without the ABI entry application.

What kind of bond is required for ISF?

A valid activity 1, 2, 3, or 4 continuous bond is sufficient for the ISF requirement. In addition an FTZ bond can be utilized. See our Customs Bond page for more information.

Does the ISF Filer need to be located in the U.S.?

No. You or your designated agent can file all or part of the ISF.

When will CBP begin to enforce the ISF rule?

Although the requirements went into effect on January 26, 2009, CBP will show restraint in enforcing the rule, taking into account difficulties that importers may face in complying with the rule, so long as importers are making satisfactory progress toward compliance and are making a good faith effort to comply with the rule to the extent of their current ability. However, on and after January 26,2010 CBP may assess liquidated damages for ISFs that are not complete, accurate and/or timely.

Does the ISF solution require IT resources or dedicated hardware?

No. All you need is an internet connection to access the system.

Can ISF solution integrate with other systems?

Although it is not a requirement, CustomsNow™ can integrate with your system(s) to fully maximize efficiency and savings, whether your data is stored in your ERP, GTM, commercial invoice and/or other systems.

Are Customs updates an additional cost?

With CustomsNow™ there are no costs for system updates. They are all included and are done automatically and are available the next time you login.

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