What Information is Required by US Customs?


Compared to many other countries, the US has very simple, basic requirements for data and documents used to clear an import shipment through Customs.  Since most customs entries are now filed electronically, US Customs is now reviewing far more data in electronic formats, than as paper document packages. 

However, Customs can – and does – require that the electronically reported data be supported by sufficient documentation, which may often include both electronic and paper documents issued by the foreign shipper, and by other parties to the import shipment transaction.  Even when paper documents are issued, electronic copies are commonly used to move that information between the shipper, the importer, the importer’s customs broker, and US Customs. 

Some of the international trade documents commonly used and accepted in electronic copy form are:

  * “Importer’s Security Filing” (ISF) data worksheet (for ocean shipments)

  * commercial invoice – explains what items the shipment includes, with quantities, unit values, and total values.  Usually also includes name, address, and contact information for shipper and consignee, and country of origin of each type of goods in the shipment.

  * packing list – usually includes number of packages, gross and net weights, cubic measure, and marks and numbers, for each type of goods in the shipment

  * copies of any applicable licenses, permits, certificates, and similar documents for which original paper copies are not specifically required

  * international carrier’s ocean Bill of Lading or Air Waybill

  * international carrier’s shipment arrival notice

The importer’s customs broker normally reviews copies of these and other documents, including specific additional types of data required for entries of special types of goods.  The broker uses this data to prepare the customs entry, and electronically transmits that entry to US Customs.

For shipments of some very specific types of goods, either Customs or other Federal government agencies may require that the original of a specified type of license or permit be presented for agency review, before the agency will release the shipment.  One relatively common example is:

  * CITES permit – for transport and import of endangered species of plants or animals, or parts of them, or products incorporating parts of them

For a no-charge review of just what types of data and documents US Customs is likely to want for your import shipments, and how you can help your foreign suppliers provide all of the right information for your products, please call TCB at 253-893-7400 or send your e-mail message to TCB@TCBclearances.com.