How to Submit ISF to U.S. Customs Correctly

A customs broker talks with an importer about how to submit his ISF to CBP.
Read our step-by-step guide on how to submit your ISF to U.S. Customs and avoid costly fines and delays.
December 5, 2023
Last Modified: February 9, 2024
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To submit an ISF to Customs, it must be filed electronically via Customs and Border Protection’s Automated Commercial Environment (ACE) or the Automated Broker Interface (ABI). This can be done with the assistance of a Licensed Customs Broker, or through the use of a third-party software service.

Submitting an importer security filing is one of the most important steps in the importation process. We’ll provide a step-by-step guide to walk you through what you’ll need to know to submit your ISF accurately and on time.

An importer fills out an Importer Security Filing to submit to CBP

How to Submit ISF Form to CBP

Once you’re ready to begin the import process and file an ISF, there are a few steps you’ll need to follow. These steps can be performed yourself or with the help of a customs broker. Just make sure each step is followed correctly in order to avoid costly penalties for incorrect information.

Want to know more about Importer Security Filings? Check out our article on ISF filings to learn more about what they are and why they are needed.

Step 1: Gather All the Required Information

The first thing you need to do when preparing to submit an ISF is to track down all the required information you’ll need to include when filling out the form.

This includes information about both the buyer and the seller of the goods in question, the products, country of origin, and more. All of this information must be submitted no later than 24 hours before the cargo is put aboard a vessel heading to the U.S.

The full list of information required by the ISF importer is as follows:

  • Buyer
  • Seller
  • Consignee number(s)
  • Importer of record number/FTZ applicant identification number
  • Ship to party 
  • Country of origin 
  • Manufacturer (or supplier)
  • Commodity Harmonized Tariff Schedule 
  • Consolidator
  • Container stuffing location

If you need to submit an ISF-5, it requires a different set of data elements. Check out our article on the difference between an ISF-5 and an ISF-10 to learn more!

Step 2: Create an ACE Portal Account

If you don’t already have an ACE Portal account, you need to create one. The ACE Portal is necessary for importers to perform all tasks required before, during, and after the importing process – such as:

  • File ISF
  • Submit Protests
  • Respond to CBP Forms
  • and more

Step 3: Submit ISF Online

ISF filings are submitted electronically and must be done using an online portal.

You can file your ISF online through CBP by using their Automated Broker Interface (ABI) in the ACE Portal, or by using a CBP-approved third party. Once you have an account set up, you can use the interface to input all the required information and submit the ISF.

If you’re using a customs broker, they can submit the ISF online on your behalf.

Step 4: Monitor the Status of Your ISF

After submitting your ISF to CBP, you’ll want to keep an eye on it to make sure it was accepted; or alternatively, correct any mistakes that caused it to be rejected.

Another perk of working with a customs broker is that they can monitor the status of your ISF for you. If any issues come up, they can either alert you or take care of the issues on your behalf.

The process of submitting the ISF can be lengthy and frustrating, which is why so many importers choose to work with a Licensed Customs Broker. You can save time and not have to deal with the stress of the whole process by letting a Customs Broker handle everything for you. 

A container ship sales to a U.S. port to unload its shipments.

What Happens if an ISF is Filed Incorrectly?

If an ISF is not filed on time, or if it is filed with inaccurate or incomplete information, an importer will be charged fines of up to $5,000 per violation. Additionally, failing to file an ISF correctly can lead to an inspection by CBP and a delay or seizure of your shipment.

Working with a licensed professional is the best way to ensure that every aspect of your ISF is submitted accurately and on time in order to avoid these ISF penalties. From a risk-reward standpoint, spending a small amount to safeguard a shipment against massive fines is a no-brainer, especially for first-time importers.

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Can an ISF be Amended after it’s Submitted?

An ISF must be amended if there are any changes to the shipment or if more accurate information becomes available before the goods arrive at port.

Your customs broker can update an ISF form on your behalf. However, if you ever need to update an ISF without the aid of a broker, you must contact a CBP client representative to have the original filing canceled and then submit a new filing.

How Much Does it Cost to File an ISF?

In order to submit an ISF, you’ll need to pay a filing fee, which typically ranges between $30 and $50. However, you will likely need to purchase an ISF bond as well. A customs broker will often combine the two to charge a fee between $150 and $180.

Submit Your ISF Correctly with USA Customs Clearance

At USA Customs Clearance, you can work directly with a CBP-Licensed Customs Broker and get assurance your ISF is submitted accurately and on-time, every time.

Our brokers can work with you at any stage of the import journey, whether it’s providing personalized, 1-on-1 consultations before you begin the process, or filling out the necessary paperwork in order to clear customs. 

Give us a call at (855) 912-0406 or fill out our customs brokerage form and learn how we can help boost your import business today!

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