Archive for the ‘US Customs’ Category


The Importance of an Ironclad Record Keeping System

In today’s compliance driven world, where U.S. Customs is enforcing rules more than ever and issuing penalties, importers are left wondering how to best utilize their resources to remain compliant. One of the most effective ways to ensure doing business in a compliant fashion is to create a solid “ironclad” record keeping system.

Frequently Asked Questions

There are a lot of requirements for record keeping and as a result importers are often left with many questions:

  • Who is responsible for keeping records?
  • Isn’t my customs broker responsible for keeping my records?
  • How long do the records have to be maintained?
  • Do the records have to be kept on my premises?
  • What are the liabilities for improper record keeping?


The term “records” in the language of U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) is defined in the Customs regulations under Part 163.

Part 163 defines the term “records” to mean any information made or normally kept in the ordinary course of business which pertains to the following activities:

  • any importation, declaration or entry;
  • the transportation or storage of merchandise carried or held under bond into or from the Customs territory of the United States;
  • the filing of a drawback claim;
  • the completion and signature of a NAFTA export Certificate of Origin pursuant to Part 181;
  • the collection and payment of fees and taxes to CPB; and
  • any other activity required to be undertaken pursuant to laws or regulations administered by CBP.

“Records” include any information required for the entry; this includes but is not limited to:

  • statements, declarations, documents;
  • electronically generated or machine readable data;
  • electronically stored or transmitted information or data;
  • books, papers, correspondence;
  • accounts, financial accounting data;
  • technical data; and
  • computer programs necessary to retrieve information in a usable form.

Who exactly is responsible for record keeping?

Any owner, importer of record, consignee, customs broker or any other party that:

  • imports merchandise into the United States;
  • files a drawback claim;
  • transports or stores product that is transported or held under bond;
  • an agent or customs broker of any person referenced above; or
  • a person whose activities require the filing of a declaration or entry, or both.

Additional record keeping requirements exist for:

  • any party who completes and signs a Certificate of Origin for goods exported to Canada or Mexico pursuant to NAFTA
  • customs brokers
  • Importer Security Filings

Are there any exceptions to the rules?

Exceptions to record keeping requirements can include:

  • Any traveler that makes a baggage or oral declaration upon arrival into the United States is not required to keep records regarding non-commercial merchandise acquired abroad;
  • A person that orders merchandise from an importer which knowingly causes the products to be imported , but does not:
    • furnish technical data, molds, equipment; other production assistance, material, components, or parts with knowledge that the goods will be used for further manufacturing of the imported merchandise or;
    • controls the terms and condition of importation.

How long is the responsible party obligated to keep the records?

Records that importers are required to keep under Part 163 must be kept for 5 years from the date of entry. There are of course exceptions to that rule. Below is a list of documents that have a different time limit requirement:

  • drawback claim records – 3 years
  • packing lists – 60 calendar days
  • a consignee who is not the owner and who appoints a U.S. customs broker must keep all records that pertain to the merchandise covered by an informal entry – 2 years
  • NAFTA certificate and all supporting documents pertaining to that certificate – 5 years (from the date of signature on the certificate)
  • ISF records – 6 years (from the date of export)

Do original documents need to be maintained?  

Yes. Original records must be kept unless the record keeper has adopted an alternative storage method.  The record keeper must maintain the original records whether on paper or electronically. Visit 163.5 Methods for storage of records for more information.

Certain records must be kept in their original format for a limited time or may not be alternatively stored at all even if proper alternative storage methods have been approved:

  • with the exception of packing lists, entry records must be maintained in their original format for a period of 120 calendar days from the end of the release or conditional release period.   If re-delivery has been requested for a period of 120 calendar days from the date the goods are re-delivered or from the date specified in the demand as the latest re-delivery date;
  • records required by other federal agencies are subject to the same record keeping requirements

Customs records that are kept in original format or under an approved alternative method of storage must be capable of being retrieved upon request by Customs.

What are the liabilities?

Consequences can be severe if the proper records are not retained.

  • willful failure to maintain, store or retrieve a demanded record, U.S. Customs can issue an administrative penalty for each release of merchandise, not to exceed $100,000 or an amount equal to 75% of the appraised value of the merchandise, whichever is less; or
  • negligent failure to maintain, store or retrieve a demanded record, U.S. Customs may issue an administrative penalty for each release of merchandise, not to exceed $10,000 or an amount equal to 40% of the appraised value of the merchandise, whichever is less.

Record keeping is a shared responsibility between all parties involved in Customs transactions. Just because you hire a third party to process your clearances does not absolve you from record keeping requirements. Reviewing your current record keeping procedures today and making sure you have a strong record retention program in place will save you from potential sanctions and penalties against your organization.

Remember, importing is a privilege you cannot afford to lose.

Mandatory AES Filing for Used Vehicles Exported to Canada Effective April 5th


Update April 4, 2014: The U.S. Census Bureau in concurrence with U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), agrees to provide an additional 180 days to come into compliance with the new export reporting requirements. During this 180 day period the Census Bureau and CBP will use “informed compliance” to educate the trade on the new requirements. During this time, no penalties will be issued for failure to comply with any new requirements found in the March 14, 2013 rule. Penalties may be issued for violations of regulations that remain unchanged from the FTR published on June 2, 2008. The period of informed compliance will take place from the revised FTR effective date of April 5, 2014 through October 2, 2014.

Read more: AES Informed Compliance Period Announced


On March 14, 2013, the United States Census Bureau published a final rule amending its regulations to require new export reporting requirements. Previously scheduled to take effect on January 8, 2014, the FTR final rule published on March 14, 2013, will now be effective April 5, 2014.

Additionally, the Office of Management and Budget has approved the collection of two new data elements (license value and ultimate consignee type) in the Automated Export System (AES) under control number 0607-0152.

New Requirements for used self-propelled vehicles:

Some of the new requirements for used self-propelled vehicles include:

  1. The vehicle must be filed in the AES regardless of value or country of destination
  2. The vehicle must be filed 72 hours prior to export

What is the Automated Export System (AES)?

The Automated Export System (AES) is a computer system that collects Electronic Export Information (EEI). The AES is the primary instrument used for collecting export trade data, which is used by the United States Census Bureau  for statistical purposes only and by other federal government agencies for purposes of enforcing U.S. export laws and regulations.

What is considered a self-propelled vehicle?

According to U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), self-propelled vehicles as includes any automobile, truck, tractor, bus, motorcycle, motor home, self-propelled agricultural machinery, self-propelled construction equipment, self-propelled special use equipment, and any other self-propelled vehicle used or designed for running on land but not rail.

Impact on importers and exporters:

As of April 5, 2014, the current AES exemption for used self-propelled vehicles destined for Canada will no longer be valid. Thereby requiring mandatory filing of export information through the Automated Export System (AES) and accompanying electronic information submitted to CBP 72 hours before the vehicle’s arrival at the border. Non-compliance with this mandatory AES filing may result in very severe penalties, enforced by CBP, on behalf of the Census Bureau.


If you have questions regarding these new changes to the FTR final rule or for more information regarding the key changes, please contact our customs and trade experts. Additionally, Pacific Customs Brokers can handle these filings on your behalf. Contact us to learn how we will help you meet your AES obligations.

Additional Resources:

Importing Food Products into the USA — A Quick Overview

Importing food products

Customs clearing food products through the U.S. border can be challenging if you do not know how the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) works. Shipments of FDA regulated products cross the border and get delivered to U.S. consignees daily. Just because the shipment gets delivered does not mean it has been released by FDA. Let’s begin by reviewing what is required by the FDA, the entry process at the border and the different reviews a shipment may undergo before release.

Information Required by FDA for the Import of Food Products:

When sending shipments of FDA regulated products to the U.S. you need to provide the following information:

  • The FDA requires that all food facilities register. Once registered, all shipments must declare the FDA Food Facility Registration Number.
  • Imports of food products require the name, address, and FDA registration number for:
    • Manufacturer
    • Last place the product was packaged, processed or stored
  • It is also recommended that you provide the following to your customs broker for clearance:
    • Copy of label
    • Ingredient list

The Entry Process:

When a shipment of FDA regulated product crosses the border, a Customs entry is submitted by the customs broker. If regulated by the FDA, FDA Information and if required Prior Notice is submitted to FDA. The Prior Notice must be submitted at least two hours prior to the shipment arriving at the border so FDA can review the entry and decide if the product crossing is something they want to further examine.

It is important that your shipment crosses the border during normal FDA hours of operation to allow FDA to review or examine the shipment while it is at the port.

If you have a shipment under FDA Review, you should notify your customer to hold the product intact. Failure to follow FDA procedure can result in a penalty of up to three times the value of the product and/or refusal to enter the commerce of the United States.

Types of FDA Reviews:

There are a few types of FDA Reviews that shipments can undergo:

  1. FDA Review -  FDA analyzes the information that has been submitted electronically. As long as all the required information has been provided at the time of entry, typically FDA will release the shipment without further review.
  2. FDA Hold or Documents Required – What this means is FDA has analyzed the electronic submission and is now requesting further information. FDA will require physical copies of the documents. You would need to submit a commercial invoice, packing list, label copies and any other pertinent product information.
  3. FDA Exam Sample – This is the most thorough type of FDA review and can mean a variety of things such as FDA has examined or intends to examine the shipment. This results in a physical sample of the product or the product’s labeling.


No matter what type of FDA review, your shipment is not released until you receive  a “May Proceed” message from FDA after which your products may be distributed and consumed in the USA.


An Opportunity to Increase Your Awareness:

Register today for a webinar on FDA Regulated Goods on May 8, 2014 at 9:00 am PDT. In this 75 minute session we will review FDA prior notice, required documentation, penalties and other pertinent topics. Additionally, we will provide you with a better understanding of the interaction between the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP).


Post your thoughts or questions on shipping food products into the USA in our comments section below or email us at Ask Your Broker.

Considerations When Importing Produce Into Canada

Check boxes

The importation of produce into Canada is a hugely important industry and it brings with it some unique challenges.

One of the primary  challenges is understanding the interaction between Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) and Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA). The type of produce, the time of year, and the packaging itself are all variables that can cause potential delays and added costs at the border. Licensing, permits and accurate documentation all play a key role in a successful shipment.

For example, fresh potatoes for consumption have minimum grade requirements that must be met as well as be accompanied by a certificate from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) attesting to this fact. Potatoes also are one of the few fresh produce items that attract a duty rate of $4.94 per metric tonne. In addition, during the period of August 1st through April 30th, Russet potatoes are subject to dump duty. The amount of dump duty changes from week to week and is affected by the type of potato, packaging, and the U.S. state it is grown in. Not all produce commodities are as complicated as potatoes, however the basic procedures and processes are similar.

Getting Started:

A good first step is to ensure that the type of produce that you wish to import is admissible into Canada. Certain commodities from certain countries or regions are prohibited entry, such as crab apples from Brazil or blueberries from Peru. The CFIA’s Automated Import Reference System (AIRS) is a handy interactive tool that allows importers to check the admissibility of a wide variety of products. This website will also advise of any additional documentation requirements and the associated regulations.

Secondly, importers of fresh fruits and vegetables are required to hold either a CFIA Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Licence or become a member of the DRC (Dispute Resolution Corp). Please see the below links to each of the respective applications.


Fresh Fruit and Vegetables for which Grades are Established:


1. Apples

2. Apricots

3. Blueberries (exception – for processing)

4. Cantaloupes

5. Cherries

6. Crabapples

7. Cranberries

8. Grapes

9. Peaches

10. Pears

11. Plums and Prunes

12. Field Rhubarb

13. Strawberries (exception – if no grade is used)

Vegetables: (miniature vegetables are excluded, but miniature cucumbers are included)

14. Asparagus (exception – white asparagus)

15. Beets (exception – beets with tops)

16. Brussels Sprouts

17. Cabbages

18. Carrots (exception – carrots with tops)

19. Cauliflower

20. Celery

21. Sweet Corn

22. Field Cucumbers (exception – pickling cucumbers)

23. Greenhouse Cucumbers

24. Head Lettuce – Iceberg type

25. Onions (exception – onions with tops)

26. Parsnips

27. Potatoes (excluded if certified for seed)

28. Rutabagas

29. Field Tomatoes (exception – cherry tomatoes)

30. Greenhouse Tomatoes

For most produce items containers cannot exceed 50 kg, although container sizes for apples cannot exceed 200 kg. Containers that fall outside of the approved standard sizing requirements would require application for a Ministerial Exemption which is further explained under the General Guidelines for Requesting Ministerial Exemptions.

Labelling and Packaging:

As with all importations into Canada, produce is subject to strict guidelines on labelling and packaging. Please visit Labelling Guide for Fresh Fruit and Vegetables for more information.


Documentation Requirements:

All produce entries are required to be documented on a Confirmation of Sale (COS). This document must be completed properly, signed, and kept at the importer’s place of business for six (6) years. Your customs broker will also be able to assist with filling this out.

Certificates of Origin, Phytosanitary Certificates, Plant Protection Import Permits, CITES Certificates, and Ministerial Exemptions are all types of additional documents that may be required to satisfy the CFIA, CBSA and other government departments. The perishable nature of produce make it a target for a variety of pests and this pest risk factor is the biggest trigger for additional documentation. As mentioned , the CFIA AIRS website mentioned above is an excellent tool that importers can use to determine whether the commodity in question requires any further documentation. Once a specific commodity is typed into the search, the system will prompt you for further information until all variables have been satisfied and then a list of required documents will pop up. Additionally, the specific regulations that pertain to the commodity are accessible by clicking the link.

In conclusion, the key to any successful importation is to research the product and regulations surrounding it thoroughly prior to its arrival at the border. A good rule of thumb is to check with your customs broker prior to importing a new produce item or importing from a new supplier as this will allow time to obtain any additional documents needed to meet the requirements of CBSA and CFIA.

Many importers find it valuable to attend educational seminars and webinars on the topic. The next webinar on CFIA Regulated Goods will be on Thursday, March 13, 2014, at 11:00 am PDT for 75 minutes. Register today!

Have questions about importing produce into Canada? Leave them in our comments section below or email Ask Your Broker.

What’s New with Pacific’s Trade Compliance Education?

calendar-300Pacific Customs Brokers is pleased to begin another season of Trade Compliance Education with the exciting expansion of webinars. The 2014 Winter Spring Seminar and Webinar registrations are now available  on and

Trade Compliance Seminars and Workshops

At these sessions, Pacific’s experts will share their knowledge pertaining to the fundamentals of cross-border and international shipping. By attending,  you will keep current with Customs and other government departments regulations and gain awareness on best practices on how to be a compliant importer and/or exporter.Our experts cover a variety of subjects including the H.S. Tariff and Classification, how to take advantage of free trade agreements, methods of valuation, documentation requirements, as well as penalties and consequences of being non-compliant. Throughout the day, our experts are available to answer your questions.

Canadian Society of Customs Brokers (C.S.C.B.)

Many of our Canadian and U.S. seminars are recognized by the C.S.C.B. for points towards the maintenance of the Certified Customs Specialist (CCS) and the Certified Trade Compliance Specialist (CTCS) designations. For approved seminars and workshops view the 2014 Winter Spring Trade Compliance Seminar Schedule.

National Customs Brokers and Forwarders Association of America, Inc. (NCBFAA)

As of January 2014, the NCBFAA Educational Institute (N.E.I.) has recognized a number of our U.S. seminars (including H.S. Tariff and Classification, NAFTA, and Global Export) and will award points towards the maintenance of the U.S. Certified Customs Specialist (CCS) designation for the completion of these sessions. For approved seminars and workshops view the 2014 Winter Spring Trade Compliance Seminar Schedule.

Trade Compliance Webinars

Our webinar events are Pacific’s latest addition to the Trade Compliance Education Program. They were designed to meet the demands of the fast growing trade community. Benefits of attending an online event:

  • Cost-effective training tool for importers, exporters, purchasers and shippers in understanding landed costs of purchasing outside of the country.
  • Companies with multiple locations or branches are able to benefit from a single training source.
  • Concise training on understanding trade compliance requirements and risks involved.
  • Convenience of attending from the comfort of your desk.

Events Will Be of Interest to:

  • Business owners and directors
  • Importers and exporters
  • Operation managers and chief financial officers
  • Financial controllers
  • Customs logistics employees
  • Purchasers of goods outside of Canada or the United States
  • Shippers to clients in another country
  • International carriers

Customized Seminars and Webinars for Your Business

Pacific Customs Brokers offers customized events specifically suited to your company’s import or export trade requirements. We will design a presentation that provides specific training for your staff. Pacific Customs Brokers will travel to your location anywhere within Canada or the United States or facilitate an online event at your convenience. To discuss the details of your private event, phone us at 888.538.1566 or email

International Trade Speaking Engagements

Pacific Customs Brokers leads and conducts seminars, webinars and presentations in joint cooperation with the following organizations:

  • Canada Border Services Agency
  • Canadian Food Inspection Agency
  • B.C. Government’s Ministry of International Trade
  • B.C. Small Business
  • TradeStart
  • The Canadian Produce Marketing Association
  • American Chamber of Commerce Canada – Pacific Chapter
  • U.S. Customs Border and Protection
  • U.S. Department of Agriculture
  • U.S. Food and Drug Administration
  • U.S. Commercial Service
  • Universities and business colleges
  • Chambers of Commerce and Board of Trade

If you are interested in inviting Pacific Customs Brokers’ to speak at your next event, please phone us at 888.538.1566 or email and we would be happy to discuss this further.