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ISF Filing: The Complete Guide

ISF Filing
What is an Importer Security Filing (ISF) and how does impact shipping goods by ocean vessel? Did you know it has to be filed 24-hours before cargo can be loaded? Our guide helps answer those questions and more.
By
USA Customs Clearance
November 11, 2020
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Enacted in 2009, the Importer Security Filing(ISF)  system supports the importation of goods via ocean vessels into the United States and reduces the risk of smuggling.In order to continue to do this, importers must meet the ISF filing deadline. As a policy of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency, importers who do not meet the deadline will face serious consequences when sending goods to the country. After several years of phasing in the new policy, in 2013, the CBP started penalizing importers who failed to file the ISF in accordance with the rules. Additionally, more new changes were made to the law in early 2018.  

The ISF Filing Deadline is 24 hours before cargo is loaded onto a ship that is bound for the U.S. This deadline is mandated and enforced by the CBP. Failure to meet the deadline can result in financial penalties, delayed cargo, and more inspections. 

Need help with the ISF Filing? Our Licensed Customs Brokers can submit the ISF for you and help you avoid any penalties or delays. Contact our team today at (855)912-0406 to get the help you need.

Work with a specialist to make importing and exporting to the USA a hassle-free process.

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When Should ISF Be Filed?

One of the most important requirements to know about the ISF system is when it should be filed. ISF is required to be filed no later than 24 hours before the cargo is loaded onto a ship with a destination of the United States or a foreign trade zone (FTZ). With that being said, it should be submitted as soon as possible. Submitting the ISF earlier will allow the filer additional time to correct any mistakes and revise the filing if needed. The  information must be submitted electronically to the CBP before the vessel is even loaded. 

The ISF Filing consists of 10 data elements.

Below is the list of the elements that are required to be included in the ISF Filing.  

  • Seller
  • Buyer
  • Importer or record number or FTZ applicant identification number
  • Consignee number
  • Manufacturer or supplier 
  • Ship to party
  • Country of Origin 
  • Commodity Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States number (HTSUS) 
  • Container stuffing location 
  • Consolidator 

For  shipments consisting of foreign goods remaining on board (FROB) or shipments of goods intended for transportation in-bond as immediate exportation (IE) or transportation and exportation (T&E) to an FTZ, only five elements are required. Those transported in-bond must also be filed 24 hours prior to loading while FROB must be done anytime before lading. Those five data elements consist of the following: 

  • Booking party 
  • Foreign port of unlading 
  • Place of delivery 
  • Ship to party 
  • Commodity HTSUS number

Work with a specialist to make importing and exporting to the USA a hassle-free process.

Get the details you need with our import consulting services.

Who Does the ISF Filing?

Who Does the ISF Filing

Another important requirement to understand is who does the ISF filing. The CBP states that the person responsible for filing the ISF is the importer. They are referring to the individual who is bringing merchandise within the limits of a port in the United States via ship. The importer can be the receiver of the goods, the individual conducting the purchase, or a customs broker.  

Similarly, for FROB the importer is considered the carrier and thus they are the ones who need to file the ISF. For IE and T&E shipments the importer who needs to file the ISF is the same person who files the IE, T&E and FTZ documentation. 

The rules may sound a little tricky and it’s important that you know who is responsible for filing the ISF ahead of time so as not to miss the ISF filing deadline. This is especially important considering the new rule the CBP enacted in 2018 in regards to the ISF. The rule dictates that the ISF importer have a direct involvement with the cargo. The goal of this rule is actually to help the ISF filing process by allowing whoever has the most access to the required information to fill in the data elements. 

One way in which to ensure you have the correct information for filling out the ISF is to hold your suppliers accountable. You can do this by including wording in your purchase orders, contracts, letters of credit, and other materials that include your ISF expectations. This will help make sure those individuals know they are responsible for providing the ISF information in a timely manner.  

Work with a specialist to make importing and exporting to the USA a hassle-free process.

Get the details you need with our import consulting services.

What Happens If I Don’t File the ISF?

No matter how hard you try or how prepared you are sometimes things just don’t work out. If this happens and you don’t file the ISF or fail to meet the ISF filing deadline, there are several things that will happen. 

First, if you failed to file the ISF or missed the deadline the port you arrived at will file a case with the CBP. Sometimes the port will even begin the process right there rather than send it on to the CBP. The CBP will then proceed to file claims for the violations. They can assess damages up to $10,000 for failure to comply with the ISF. 

For failure to file the ISF, late filing, incomplete filing, failure to withdraw the ISF, or failure to ensure it matches the Bill of Lading the CBP can assign penalties of $5,000 per shipment. In some cases the government agency will hold your cargo until the proper information has been received and reviewed. 

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How Much Does the ISF Filing Cost?

ISF Filing Cost

If you utilize a customs broker or forwarder they will charge you a small fee for their services. On its own, the ISF Filing fee is typically between $30 and $50. Most brokers combine this cost with the cost of an ISF Bond. This combined amount is usually between $80 and $120. 

In order to avoid the fees imposed by the CBP it may be worth your while to pay a smaller fee to avoid missing the ISF filing deadline. It will also ensure that you have all the required data elements. Also, if something does go wrong you can specify in your contract wording that requires the suppliers to take responsibility for payment if they’re the ones at fault. 

Need Help Importing?

Complying with all the rules and requirements when importing into the U.S. can be confusing. At R&L Global Logistics, we will help you navigate the tricky waters of importing goods to the United States. We offer a wide range of ocean importing and exporting services to meet your specific needs. Beyond importing your goods, we manage the transportation, warehousing, and more. This allows us you to communicate through one point of contact, eliminating unnecessary communication with multiple vendors.

Our experienced professionals will help you track your shipments and ensure your goods are stored safely and properly. We offer a global partner network and fully integrated transport, clearance, and distribution. . You won’t have to worry about missing the ISF filing deadline when you work with R & L Global Logistics. 

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8 comments on “ISF Filing: The Complete Guide”

  1. it is ok for us to not file ISF for our shipment since the shipper and CNEE on Bill of landing is forwarder?

    1. Hi Duyen,

      The Importer of Record is ultimately responsible for filing the ISF. Every freight forwarder is different. Some act as the Importer of Record for their clients, while others do not. It would be best to confirm with your freight forwarder who the Importer of Record for your shipment is.

  2. I’d purchased something off of Alibaba and I am looking to do a ISF custom Form today it would be greatly appreciated if you could contact me. Thank you

    1. Hi Dan,

      We’ll be happy to help you with this. One of our customs experts will reach out to you right away!

  3. If I’m just ordering a few samples and a few gifts, do I need to file any forms? I ordered some things in different orders from aliexpress. The cost of the orders were very low. All under 20$.

    1. Hi Melinda,

      This will depend on what Incoterms the seller uses for your shipments. In some cases, the seller takes care of the necessary customs forms, while in other situations, this is the buyer’s responsibility. Someone from our team will reach out to you confirm the Incoterms of your shipment to help you determine if you’ll need to submit any forms. We look forward to helping you!

  4. I’d purchased something off of Alibaba express and I am looking to do a ISF custom Form today it would be greatly appreciated if you could contact me thank you again

    1. Hi Robert,

      We’ll be happy to assist you with your ISF Filing. One of our customs experts will reach out to you right away. We look forward to helping you!

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