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Introduction to the CBP Import Process



Entry Process

When a shipment reaches the United States, the importer of record (i.e., the owner, purchaser, or licensed customs broker designated by the owner, purchaser, or consignee) will file entry documents for the goods with the port director at the goods' port of entry. Imported goods are not legally entered until after the shipment has arrived within the port of entry, delivery of the merchandise has been authorized by CBP, and estimated duties have been paid. It is the importer of record's responsibility to arrange for examination and release of the goods.

Pursuant to 19 U.S.C. 1484, the importer of record must use reasonable care in making an entry.


NOTE: In addition to contacting CBP, importers should contact other agencies when questions arise about particular commodities. For example, questions about products regulated by the Food and Drug Administration should be forwarded to the nearest FDA district office (check the local phone book under U.S. government listings) or to the Import Division, FDA Headquarters, 301.443.6553. The same is true for alcohol, tobacco, firearms, wildlife products (furs, skins, shells), motor vehicles, and other products and merchandise regulated by the other federal agencies for which CBP enforces entry laws.


Goods may be entered for consumption, entered for a warehouse at the port of arrival, or they may be transported in-bond to another port of entry and entered there under the same conditions as at the port of arrival. Arrangements for transporting the merchandise in-bond to an in-land port may be made by the consignee or by a customs broker or by any other person with an interest in the goods for that purpose. Unless your merchandise arrives directly at the port where you wish to enter it, you may be charged additional fees by the carrier for transportation to that port unless other arrangements have been made. Under some circumstances, your goods may be released through your local port of entry, even if they arrive at a different U.S. port from a foreign country. Prior to the goods' arrival, arrangements for entry must be made at the CBP port of entry where you intend to file your duties and documentation.


Evidence Of Right To Make Entry

Goods may only be entered by their owner, purchaser, or a licensed customs broker. When the goods are consigned “to order,” the bill of lading, properly endorsed by 12 the consignor, may serve as evidence of the right to make an entry. An air waybill may be used for merchandise arriving by air.

In most instances, entry is made by a person or firm certified by the carrier bringing the goods to the port of entry. This entity (i.e., the person or firm certified) is considered the “owner” of the goods for customs purposes.

The document issued by the carrier for this purpose is known as a “Carrier’s Certificate.” An example of this certificate is shown in the Appendix. In certain circumstances, entry may be made by means of a duplicate bill of lading or a shipping receipt. When the goods are not imported by a common carrier, possession of the goods by the importer at the time of arrival shall be deemed sufficient evidence of the right to make an entry.

Right To Make Entry  

Merchandise arriving in the United States by the commercial carrier must be entered by the owner, purchaser, his or her authorized regular employee, or by the licensed customs broker designated by the owner, purchaser, or consignee. U.S. CBP officers and employees are not authorized to act as agents for importers or forwarders of imported merchandise, although they may give all reasonable advice and assistance to inexperienced importers. Customs brokers are the only persons who are authorized by the tariff laws of the United States to act as agents for importers in the transaction of their customs business. Customs brokers are private individuals or firms licensed by CBP to prepare and file the necessary customs entries, arrange for the payment of duties found due, take steps to effect the release of the goods in CBP custody, and otherwise represent their principals in customs matters. The fees charged for these services may vary according to the customs broker and the extent of services performed.  When a customs broker makes an entry, a CBP power of attorney is made in the name of the customs broker. This power of attorney is given by the person or firm for whom the customs broker is acting as an agent. Ordinarily, the authority of an employee to make an entry for his or her employer is established most satisfactorily by a CBP power of attorney.


Entry For Consumption

Entering merchandise is a two-part process consisting of:


(1) filing the documents necessary to determine whether merchandise may be released from CBP custody, and

(2) filing the documents that contain information for duty assessment and statistical purposes.


Both of these processes can be accomplished electronically via the Automated Broker Interface (ABI) program of the Automated Commercial System (ACS).


Entry Documents

Within 15 calendar days of the date that a shipment arrives at a U.S. port of entry, entry documents must be filed at a location specified by the port director. These documents are:


• Entry Manifest (CBP Form 7533) or Application and Special Permit for Immediate Delivery (CBP Form 3461) or other forms of merchandise release required by the port director,

• Evidence of right to make an entry,

• Commercial invoice or a pro forma invoice when the commercial invoice cannot be produced,

• Packing lists, if appropriate,

• Other documents are necessary to determine merchandise admissibility.


If the goods are to be released from CBP custody at the time of entry, an entry summary for consumption must be filed and estimated duties deposited at the port of entry within 10 working days of the goods' entry.



The entry must be accompanied by evidence that a bond has been posted with CBP to cover any potential duties, taxes, and charges that may accrue. Bonds may be secured through a resident U.S. surety company but may be posted in the form of United 13 States currency or certain United States government obligations. In the event that a customs broker is employed for the purpose of making an entry, the broker may permit the use of his bond to provide the required coverage.


Bond Required to Obtain Release

Merchandise shall not be released from customs custody at the time CBP receives the entry documentation unless a single entry or continuous bond on a CF 301 has been filed. A single entry bond covers one entry transaction, whereas a continuous bond covers entry transactions that take place over a one-year period. A basic importation bond is a contract whereby a guarantor (the surety) has an obligation to pay a second party (CBP) upon default by a third party (the importer of record/bond principal) in the performance that the third party owes to the second party. Basic importation bonds may be secured through approved surety companies, or maybe posted in the form of U.S. currency or certain U.S. government obligations.


Basic Importation Bond Conditions

As principal on a basic importation bond, the importer of record agrees to comply with the bond conditions specified in Part 113 of the CBP Regulations (19 CFR Part 113), which currently include:

  • Agreement to pay duties, taxes, and charges.

  • Agreement to make or complete entry.

  • Agreement to produce documents or evidence.

  • Agreement to redeliver merchandise.

  • Agreement to rectify any non-compliance with provisions of admission.

  • Agreement to hold merchandise for examination.

  • Agreement to reimburse or exonerate the United States.

  • Agreement to use and handle duty-free merchandise in accordance with the law.

  • Agreement to comply with CBP Regulations applicable to CBP security areas at airports.

  • Agreement to comply with electronic entry and/or advance cargo information filing requirements.

  • Agreement to ensure and establish the issuance of softwood lumber export permits and collection of export-fees. A default on any of these agreements may lead to the assessment of liquidated damages against the obligors (the principal and surety) for breach of the conditions of the bond



Entry Summary Documentation

Following the presentation of the entry, the shipment may be examined, or examination may be waived. The shipment is then released if no legal or regulatory violations have occurred. Entry summary documentation is filed and estimated duties are deposited within 10 working days of the entry of the merchandise at a designated customhouse. Entry summary documentation consists of:

• Return of the entry package to the importer, broker, or his authorized agent after merchandise is permitted release,

• Entry summary (CBP Form 7501),

• Other invoices and documents are necessary to assess duties, collect statistics, or determine that all import requirements have been satisfied. This paper documentation can be reduced or eliminated by using features of the ABI.


Unentered Goods

If no entry has been filed for the goods at the port of entry, or at the port of destination for in-bond shipments, within 15 calendar days after their arrival, the goods may be placed in a general-order warehouse at the importer’s risk and expense. If the goods are not entered within six months from the date of importation, they can be sold at public auction or destroyed. Perishable goods, however, and goods subject to depreciation and explosive substances may be sold sooner.




CBP has broad authority to examine imported merchandise. After an entry is filed, CBP has 5 working days from the date of presentation for examination to decide whether to release, seize or detain merchandise. This rule applies only when no other agency determines admissibility. If CBP decides to release the merchandise, the port director will issue a permit to release. Merchandise not released within the 5-day period is considered detained. CBP must issue a detention notice no later than 5 working days after a decision to detain is made or after a failure to release within the 5-day period. Following notice, CBP has 30 days from the date of presentation for examination to decide whether to release, seize or deny entry of the goods. Goods denied entry may be exported. If no decision is made within 30 days, the merchandise is deemed excluded. The importer may protest the exclusion. A protest under these circumstances shall be deemed denied on the 30th day after it was filed with CBP if CBP has reached no-decision. The importer may then appeal directly to the Court of International Trade.



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