ISF declaration is key to imports into America. For any failure to complete this declaration as required, U.S. customs will reject shipments. This is a big loss for importers. So it is essential to get a good understanding of ISF. Today’s post will explain it in detail. Let’s take a look.

1. What is ISF?

ISF stands for Importer Security Filing. This security declaration is a must for all products shipped by vessel to enter the USA. Since the September 11 attacks, US CBP (Customs and Border Protection) requires the ISF declaration of cargo import information throughout the whole transit process, so as to enhance cargo traceability and local security.

Note that ISF is a mandatory regulation only available to US Customs. And it only applies to ocean freight. That is to say, it does not affect cargo arriving by other transportation methods.

In addition, bulk cargo is exempt from ISF, as bulk cargo is directly put on the ship’s hold without packaging, for example, mineral sand. But ISF is necessary for containerized bulk cargo.

What does ISF mean for importers?

As a matter of policy, it is good for importers as long as ISF filing is accurate and within the required time. CBP can use it to identify low-risk shipments and release them quickly, combined with other declaration documents. Under efficient clearance, you can pick up goods fast. Also, CBP officers can identify high-risk goods more efficiently and better control shipment entries.

If failing to comply with this regulation, you’ll face monetary fines, followed by customs inspections and delays of cargo.

2. What info to include in an ISF form?

There are 2 types of ISF forms:

  • ISF (10+2) — for goods imported into the US.
  • ISF (5+2) — for goods that transit and depart the US.

Here I’ll introduce ISF (10+2) form contents, followed by ISF (5+2) form.

ISF (10+2) form contents

The one-page ISF document covers shipment info of the buyer, seller, shipping company, etc.

10 data elements from importers and suppliers

Seller name and address

Buyer name and address

Note that buyer and seller info is the same as the party on the commercial invoice.

Manufacturer or supplier name and address

Usually the same as the seller. As long as the seller is a separate legal entity from the ISF Importer, it is OK, according to the CBP’s official explanation.

Country of origin

The country of product manufacturing. This info should match the customs declaration.

Importer of Record (IOR) Number

The party responsible for import customs clearance and paying duties, taxes, and fees. This number can be the importer company’s or freight/customs brokers’.

Consignee Number (TAX ID)

Usually the IOR Number. If using the broker’s number as an IOR number, here the tax ID must be the ultimate individual who receives products.

Ship-to name and address

The place of delivery. That is the receiving party/consignee‘s address, which should be the same as that on the Bill of Lading.

Commodity HTS code (the first 6 digits)

HTS code should be the same as that on the B/L.

Consolidator name and address.

Usually freight forwarders. They arrange the loading of cargo into the containers for subsequent shipping.

Container stuffing location.

The place of loading goods into the container.

2 data elements from carriers (shipping companies)

Under the Additional Carrier Requirements, shipping firms should submit the final 2 pieces of information: the vessel stow plans and container status messages.

ISF (10+2) form vs. ISF (5+2) form

The common point lies in the 2 data elements from shipping lines as mentioned above.

The difference is the rest of the data elements. One is ISF 10. That is, 10 pieces of importer and supplier information as listed above. The other is ISF 5 as below.

  • Booking Party
  • Ship-to-party name and address
  • Commodity HTS code (the first 6 digits)
  • Foreign port of unloading
  • Place of delivery

Either ISF (10+2) or ISF (5+2), the key is to ensure the filed content is correct and complete. If not, you’ll get into trouble and pay penalties.

Jingsourcing supports your import business with long-term reliable brokers who are experienced in the ISF declaration.

3. Who is responsible for filing the ISF?

In theory, the ISF importer needs to file. In practice, purchasers usually entrust agents like freight forwarders or licensed customs brokers to do it. Professional reliable agents are experienced in ISF filing and help purchasers save time & trouble. Read on to know filing steps.

Submit ISF to CBP within 3 easy steps

Step 1 — collect relevant necessary info and make preparation

The party performing the filing needs to gather all information for the ISF form. If using an agent, he will do this, and ask you to sign a POA (Power Of Attorney). After that, he will fully represent you in the filing procedures.

Step 2 — submit the ISF form to CBP systems online

All the data pertaining to merchandise should be transmitted to CBP online. The common way is through AMS (America manifest system), or ABI (Automated Broker Interface) in the ACE (Automated Commercial Environment) Portal.

If you want to do it by yourself, it is through ACE under your ACE Portal Account. Note the restricted filing times per year, 12 times at most.

Step 3 — follow up on the ISF filing status until acceptance by CBP

CBP will review the ISF submission and give feedback to the filer. Once CBP accepts ISF filing, there will be a unique ISF number. For rejection, CBP will point out the reason. You or your agent need to create a new one and resubmit it.

Then check whether your ISF filing matches AMS filing or not. If yes, this means your ISF successfully filed in CBP systems.

What is the ISF filing deadline?

The ISF must be filed no later than 24 hours before goods are loaded on a vessel that sails for America. Typically, this means the port of departure. And the ISF filing is usually done with the export declaration.

Can ISF be amended?

The ISF data can be updated if necessary. Remember the time limit is 24 hours before the ship’s arrival at the US port. Moreover, only the ISF filer can make changes.

4. What is the ISF fee?

The ISF fee is the cost you pay the forwarder or customs broker for the filing service. This varies among different agents. Typically, the agent charges you from $25 to $50. Additionally, agents often include this charge in customs clearance fees and collect money from you as a whole.

Pay attention to the ISF filing penalty

For any ISF filing violation, you’ll pay CBP $5,000. This includes the following common ones.

  • No ISF filing or late ISF filing.
  • Incorrect or incomplete ISF filing.
  • Untimely ISF updating.
  • Failure to match ISF filing with the B/L.

Note the $5,000 penalty is charged per ISF filing, i.e., per shipment.

The Final

As importers, you’d better take ISF filing seriously, avoiding extra costs like fines. If you still have questions, leave a comment below.

As a leading Chinese sourcing agent, Jingsourcing has helped many clients import products from China to the USA. Not only can we offer the most competitive price, but we also have long-term reliable freight forwarders who cooperate with licensed customs brokers to smooth the import clearance process. Contact us to support your import business.

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