If you are importing goods into the US via Sea freight for the first time, you will need to know about the Importer Security Filing (ISF). It is a document that supports the importation of containerized goods and serves as your first declaration to the US Customs. It would help if you met the ISF deadline, which is 24 hours before loading goods to the vessel to minimize smuggling risk. Failure to do so can result in a fine from US Customs.
Here are the ISF Filing requirements and essential tips to help you go through Customs Clearance smoothly for the first time.
1. Obtain customs brokerage services
Before you embark on the importation program, you must inquire about the specific import requirements for your goods to be sure you can import them safely and without legal complications. The first place to start is the Customs Broker, where you will obtain US Import services.
Also, keep in mind that some goods may require prior preparations before importation. Find out from the broker if your particular products need an import license or permit. Once you confirm from the broker that your merchandise can ship to the US, you can now contact your overseas vendor to begin preparing the goods.
2. Get the ISF information from your seller prior to loading your vessel
Once you make payment for the goods, let the seller send you the ISF information or documents three to four days before loading the vessel. Many overseas vendors are already familiar with this procedure, but you need to make a follow-up, just if you have bumped into a seller venturing into the business for the first time. As the importer, it is your responsibility to ensure they do their job at their end.
3. Provide ISF information to Customs Broker within 48 hours before loading the ship
The law requires you, the importer, to file the ISF no later than 24 hours before loading goods onto the vessel in readiness for transportation from overseas to the US. Since your broker may need a one-day notice before they can file your ISF, consider availing all the ISF docs and information to your broker not later than 48 hours after loading the vessel. Your broker needs enough time to work on your ISF since they may have a substantial workload when you want to import goods.
4. Ask for ISF Filing Receipt or Confirmation
After filing the ISF with your broker, ask them to provide you with a copy of the ISF filing. If you can’t understand the ISF file’s data, request the broker to break it down for you. Ask them which part of the information on the file reflects the customs data elements on the filing receipt confirms the successful filing of ISF. At this stage, review all the information on the document, and verify the names and addresses of both the seller and buyer and the correct spellings of those names.
5. Gather documents for custom Clearance
Be sure to have the invoice, Bill of Lading, and Parking List within seven days after shipping the goods. Hand these documents to your broker early enough so they can have ample time preparing for your upcoming customs clearance. Some goods may even require extra paperwork, but your customs broker will let you know. Still, it is good practice to know about such goods in advance and prepare for them accordingly. It prevents inconveniences that may crop up when the seller finally dispatches the products by sea.