For Importers who are importing goods into the US for the first time. The ISF Filing is your first declaration to US Customs, and will also be their first impression of you as an Importer. It is important to make sure that your first ISF is filed on time (24 hours before loading of vessel) to keep a good record with customs and to avoid the potential fines of $5,000 for late ISF Filing.
So here are the 5 tips to ensure your ISF Filing and Customs Clearance goes smoothly.
1. Obtain Customs Brokerage Services:
Inquire with a Customs Broker to obtain U.S. Import services. Ask them about the import requirements for your goods to make sure your items can be imported safely. Some products may require prior preparations such as import licenses or permits before they can be imported. Upon confirmation from your broker that the goods can be shipped safely, this would be the best time to make the sale to your vendor overseas. Another reason why it is best to get service with a broker first, is that the Importer is required to fill out forms such as the Power of Attorney and to provide IDs before they can start service.
2.. Ask your seller for the ISF information or documents 3-4 days prior to loading of vessel:
As soon as you pay the seller for the goods. Have them to send you the ISF Info or documents 3-4 days prior to the loading of the vessel. Many overseas sellers are actually on top of this, but as an Importer you will also need to make sure they do their job on their end.
3. Provide ISF info to Customs Broker no later than 48 hours before loading of vessel:
The requirement to file the ISF is no later than 24 hours prior to loading of vessel. It would be best for you to provide all ISF info and docs no later than 48 hours of loading to your broker. Your broker may also need at 1 day prior notice to file your ISF, due to their work schedule.
4. Request for the ISF Filing Receipt or Confirmation:
After your ISF is filed, request from your broker to provide copy of the ISF Filing. If you are unsure how interpret the information on the filing. As them to show you how, and what customs data elements on the filing receipt confirms this was filed. Also be sure to review all information on the filing such as the name and addresses for proper spelling and accuracy.
5. Gather documents for Customs Clearance:
After your ISF is filed, make sure that you have copies of the Invoice, Packing List, and Bill of Lading at a minimum no later than 1 week after the goods have been shipped. Forward these documents to your broker in advance for them to prepare for your upcoming customs clearance. Also depending on your specific type of product, some may require extra paperwork in which your customs broker will let you know.