Answers to Your Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) About Import Customs Clearance

Q: What documents does Customs require from me?

A: Depending on the type of commodity you are importing, you will at least need a commercial invoice, packing list, and a bill of lading (provided by the international carrier or freight forwarder). Additional information will be required if your commodity is regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), or other government agencies. Please contact your local Transmark Customs Brokers representative for specifics.

Q: When do I need to file an ISF?

A: For non-bulk ocean shipments, Customs requires an electronic Importer’s Security Filing (ISF), listing important details about your shipment, at least 24 hours before it is loaded on a vessel bound for the U.S.

Q: Why should I purchase a continuous customs entry bond?

A: When you import once a month or more, or goods valued at more than $100,000 per year, a continuous bond is the best choice both operationally and economically. For more information on how to obtain a Customs bond, please contact Transmark Customs Brokers (TCB).

Q: How can RLF help me?

A: Remote Location Filing (RLF) can be used to clear most types of goods at any U.S. port of entry, regardless of where the importer or Customs broker are located.

Q: Are Customs brokers regulated by any government agencies?

A: Yes, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) licenses all customs brokerage firms. These firms must maintain business licenses required by state and local authorities, as well as remaining in good standing with Customs. Individually licensed customs brokers must pass a very detailed and demanding examination to qualify.

Q: How many U.S. Federal government regulatory agencies have jurisdiction over shipments of imported merchandise?

A: Over 50 agencies have some degree of jurisdiction over various types of imported merchandise. To learn which agencies may be concerned about your shipments, discuss the details with your Transmark Customs Brokers representative.

Q: Can my Customs broker clear my shipment before it even arrives in the U.S.?

A: Yes, for many types of goods. For advance clearance of eligible items, we need complete shipment information, including document copies, as early as possible. For details, ask your TCB representative.

Q: What goods are eligible for duty-free treatment under the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) or the new US-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA)?

A: Goods made in Mexico or Canada may be eligible for duty-free treatment or reduced duty rates under NAFTA and/or USMCA. To find out whether the goods you intend to import are eligible, please see the official NAFTA website,, or the website for USMCA,

Q: Do I always have to pay Customs duty immediately after my goods arrive?

A: No. Duty deferral programs can allow you to postpone duty payment – ask us how!

Q: Can I redesign my products to qualify for a lower duty rate?

A: Yes, tariff engineering may be a way to qualify for lower customs duties. The experts at Transmark Customs Brokers can consult with you to explore how or if this common practice may apply in your case.

Q: What happens if my shipment is flagged at Customs for physical inspection?

A: Customs holds may happen for any number of reasons. Often is it because of improper product classification or a discrepancy with paperwork. The hold must be removed from the items before they can be released to the importer.

Q: Is there any way to minimize the possibility of Customs delays?

A: The best way to avoid potential delays in Customs clearance is to be thorough and file all commercial documents as early as possible. Transmark Customs Brokers can help you with the paperwork to avoid Customs delays.

Q: What other costs might I incur if my shipment were flagged for inspection or otherwise held up in Customs?

A: Cargo held past “free time” at a cargo terminal pending Customs exam or release will incur storage charges from the terminal operator. Containerized goods may also incur container detention charges from ocean carriers. Although Customs does not charge importers for Customs examinations, terminal operators do charge for staging the goods for exam. If Customs orders a shipment to a privately operated Centralized Examination Station (CES) for physical inspection, the CES may charge hundreds or even thousands of dollars for unloading, staging, and reloading the goods, among other charges.

Q: What is the process for dealing with FDA regulations?

A: Imports regulated by the FDA must meet specific requirements. The FDA provides a list of items and publishes guidelines regarding customs clearance rules. The experts at Transmark Customs Brokers have experience with FDA shipments to expedite the process, saving you time and money.

Q: Who can sign a Power of Attorney (POA) for Customs paperwork?

A: A Customs Power of Attorney for a corporation is valid only if it is signed by an officer of the company. CEO, CFO, COO, President, Vice President, Treasurer, and Secretary, and variants such as Executive Vice President and Assistant Secretary, are officer titles regularly accepted by Customs.

For answers to your frequently asked questions (FAQ) about the import process, clearing Customs, or handling your shipment logistics, contact Transmark Customs Brokers now.

For more information on Customs Clearance, click here.

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