U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP)

The U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) is a federal law enforcement agency within the Department of Homeland Security.

It is responsible for regulating and facilitating international trade, collecting import duties, and enforcing U.S. regulations, including customs, immigration, drug enforcement, and agricultural regulations at all ports of entry into the United States.

CBP works closely with other agencies to ensure that goods entering the country are legitimate and properly documented while also protecting against terrorism or contraband activities.

Its primary mission is to protect national borders by preventing the illegal entry of people or goods and facilitate lawful travel and trade in accordance with applicable laws.


Do All Shipments Entering the United States Have to Go Through CBP?

Generally speaking, yes, nearly all shipments entering the United States are required to go through U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) for customs clearance. CBP plays a crucial role in ensuring the security and compliance of imported goods with U.S. laws and regulations. This process helps prevent illegal or prohibited items from entering the country, assesses duties and taxes on eligible imports, and verifies that the documentation for shipments is accurate and complete.

In practice, whether you are a commercial importer or an individual receiving a package from abroad, your shipment will typically be subject to CBP inspection and clearance. CBP officers may examine the goods, review the accompanying documentation (such as invoices and customs declarations), and assess any applicable duties and taxes. The specific procedures and requirements may vary based on factors such as the type of goods, their value, and the mode of transportation.

However, there are certain exemptions and programs in place, such as the de minimis value threshold  for low-value shipments, which allow for expedited clearance and reduced scrutiny for some shipments. Additionally, specific trusted trader programs, such as the Customs-Trade Partnership Against Terrorism (CTPAT), provide benefits like faster clearance times for participants who meet specific security and compliance criteria.


Frequently Asked Questions About U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP)


What is the Role of a Freight Forwarder in the Customs Clearance Process?

Freight forwarders act as your all-in-one solution for all of your shipping needs, covering a wide range of services such as helping you choose a suitable carrier, managing container logistics, securing cargo insurance, drayage, and, of course, handling all customs clearance procedures. For customs clearance, a freight forwarder serves as your dedicated representative. His role is to efficiently coordinate the process, including paperwork and communication with customs authorities, to help ensure full compliance while minimizing or preventing delays or additional costs.


How Does CBP Contribute to Supply Chain Security and Cargo Screening?

U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) plays a fundamental role in securing the supply chain and streamlining cargo screening processes. With a strategic approach that combines risk assessment, regulatory enforcement, and advanced technology, CBP ensures that goods entering the United States adhere to all legal and regulatory standards. The agency’s approach balances strict security measures to facilitate legitimate trade. This is done by employing sophisticated data analysis and both non-intrusive and physical inspections to efficiently evaluate the cargo as it enters the country. This not only aids in identifying potential threats but also minimizes delays in cargo processing, contributing to the fluidity of international commerce.

Complementing these core functions, CBP has also implemented specific programs like the Customs-Trade Partnership Against Terrorism (CTPAT) and the Container Security Initiative (CSI). These initiatives, while forming a part of CBP’s broader objectives, offer targeted solutions to enhance supply chain security. CTPAT, for example, collaborates with businesses to strengthen security measures along the supply chain, offering benefits such as reduced inspections. Meanwhile, CSI focuses on proactive container screening at foreign ports to mitigate risks before cargo arrives in the U.S. As a whole, these security measures are a reflection of CBP’s comprehensive efforts to protect national borders while supporting international commerce.


What Documents are Required by Customs Border Protection for Importing and Exporting?

U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) has specific documentation requirements for importing and exporting goods. The specific documents needed can vary depending on the nature of the goods, their value, and the countries involved. However, here are some common documents required for importing and exporting:


Both of Import and Export

  • Commercial Invoice: Provides details about the goods, their value, quantity, and costs. Used for customs assessment and financial records.
  • Bill of Lading (B/L) or Airway Bill (AWB): Confirms the transportation of goods, including carrier, destination, and consignee information.
  • Packing List: Lists the contents of a shipment, including dimensions and weights.
  • Certificate of Origin: Demonstrates the country where the goods originate, which can impact customs duties and trade agreements.


Documents Required for Importing

  • Customs Declaration: Importers are required to complete a customs declaration form (such as CBP Form 3461) to provide additional details about the goods, their origin, and their intended use.
  • Importer Security Filing (ISF): Also known as the “10+2” rule, this filing requires importers or their agents to submit certain information about the cargo to CBP at least 24 hours before the cargo is loaded onto a vessel bound for the United States.
  • Import License or Permit: Certain goods may require special licenses or permits for importation. These are typically obtained from relevant government agencies.
  • Harmonized System (HS) Code: Importers must provide the correct HS code for their goods, which is used to determine the applicable tariffs and regulations.


Documents Required for Exporting

  • Export Declaration: In the United States, the Electronic Export Information (EEI) filing through the Automated Export System (AES) or the Automated Commercial Environment (ACE) is required for most exports valued at over $2,500.
  • Export License or Permit: Certain goods, especially those with national security or export control implications, may require an export license or permit. This is determined by the nature of the goods and their destination.


What is the Customs-Trade Partnership Against Terrorism (CTPAT), and How Can Businesses Participate?

The Customs-Trade Partnership Against Terrorism (CTPAT) is a voluntary partnership program established by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to enhance the security of the international supply chain. CTPAT is designed to strengthen the security of goods imported into the United States and reduce the risk of terrorism-related threats.

Participating in the Customs-Trade Partnership Against Terrorism (CTPAT) is a straightforward and cost-free process for businesses. Companies can apply directly online without intermediaries. 

In order to qualify for the CTPAT program, businesses must evaluate their eligibility based on the CTPAT requirements. Following this, they submit an application that confirms their voluntary commitment to the program. The next step involves creating a supply chain security profile, which often necessitates a risk assessment, to show adherence to CTPAT’s security standards. During this process, businesses are guided by a CTPAT Supply Chain Security Specialist. Within 90 days, CBP will either certify or reject the application. After certification, a validation process is conducted within the following year. With the help of this process, the CBP ensures supply chain security while minimizing bureaucratic barriers and unnecessary costs.


What Are the Primary Responsibilities of CBP When It Comes to Importing?

The U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) is responsible for managing the flow of commerce into the United States. The duties and responsibilities of CBP in the importation process are as follows:

  • Customs Clearance: CBP oversees the customs clearance of goods entering the U.S., which includes thorough inspections. This process involves checking the accuracy of shipping documents, assessing duties and taxes, and conducting physical inspections of imported goods when necessary.
  • Security Enhancement: A key part of CBP’s mission is to bolster national security. This is achieved by identifying and preventing the entry of illegal or prohibited items, such as drugs, weapons, or counterfeit products, which pose a threat to security.
  • Trade Compliance Enforcement: CBP ensures that imported goods comply with U.S. trade regulations. This involves adherence to tariff classifications, valuation, and country-of-origin rules. Ensuring accurate documentation is a vital aspect of this enforcement, as it is crucial for compliance and efficient processing of shipments.
  • Duty Collection: Another significant responsibility of CBP is the collection of duties, taxes, and fees on imported goods. These collections are essential for funding government operations and protecting domestic industries.
  • Intellectual Property Rights Protection: CBP also plays a role in protecting intellectual property rights. The agency actively combats the infringement of these rights by confiscating counterfeit or pirated goods at ports of entry, thus protecting the rights of legitimate trademark and copyright holders.


What Are the Primary Responsibilities of CBP Regarding Exporting?

It is the responsibility of CBP to oversee exports with an emphasis on ensuring compliance with export controls and trade embargoes. The agency works to prevent the unauthorized export of sensitive items and technologies that could potentially harm national security or foreign policy interests. CBP also places emphasis on verifying that the necessary documentation for exporting goods, including export licenses or permits, is in order and compliant with U.S. export regulations. In line with its role in enforcing export laws, CBP conducts audits and investigations to confirm that exporters and other entities involved in trade adhere to export regulations. While primarily oriented toward enforcement, CBP also provides support to lawful trade by offering guidance and information to exporters regarding export regulations and compliance requirements. Furthermore, the agency contributes to export security by assisting in preventing the unlawful export of items that could pose security threats internationally.


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