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ISF Filing: Requirements and How to Submit to CBP

A cargo ship full of containers docks at a cargo port
Importers must submit ISF filings for any shipments imported to the U.S. by ocean vessel. Learn how to file this documentation correctly to avoid thousands of dollars in fees and shipping delays.
By
Josh Kimble
April 15, 2022
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Last Modified: September 22, 2022

Submitting an ISF filing is one of the most important steps in the importation process. ISFs are mandatory for many U.S. imports and can result in thousands of dollars in penalties if not submitted correctly.

According to Customs and Border Protection (CBP), an ISF (Importer Security Filing) is required for all shipments entering the U.S. by ocean vessel and contains essential information about the importer/supplier and the carrier of those goods. An ISF filing is not required for goods transported via other modes of transportation.

Our guide below provides you with an in-depth understanding of ISF filings. We explain why this documentation is so important to the import process, what information must be included, and the deadline to submit yours to CBP. 

What is an ISF?

ISF Filing - a person fills out a document on a clipboard

An Importer Security Filing (ISF), also known as a 10+2, is documentation that must be submitted to CBP in order to import goods to the U.S. by ocean vessel. It includes all of the important information pertaining to both the importer/supplier of the goods entering the U.S., as well as the carrier delivering those goods.

ISFs give CBP more visibility into the goods being entered into the country and whether or not they qualify as high-risk shipments.

Who is Responsible for Filing an ISF?

CBP considers the ‘ISF Importer’ to be the individual responsible for filing the ISF. This is typically the owner, purchaser, or consignee of the goods. An individual may file an ISF themselves as long as they are a U.S. citizen and have a legal U.S. address.

Alternatively, you can hire a customs broker to file an ISF on your behalf. Customs brokers are well-versed in all aspects of the import process and can help you fill out and submit an ISF form correctly.

Do You Need Assistance Submitting Your ISF Filing?

Get the assurance that this crucial step is done right by speaking with one of our Licensed Customs Brokers

Is a POA Required for an ISF Filing?

A Power of Attorney (POA) is required if a customs broker is submitting the ISF on an importer’s behalf. If the importer has already given a broker POA, CBP does not require a new or special POA in order to submit the ISF.

It’s important to note that as the importer, you are responsible for your documentation being filed accurately and on time. Any potential penalties that are assessed will be passed onto you, regardless of whether or not another party filed the ISF on your behalf.

It’s critical that you work with a CBP-licensed customs broker so you can have peace of mind that your ISF and any other import documents you have will be submitted in an accurate and timely manner.

What Information is Required on an ISF Form?

A far away view of a cargo port

An ISF is referred to as a 10+2 because of the data elements that are required: 10 from the importer/supplier and 2 from the carrier. 

According to CBP, the 10 data elements that must be included by the importer are the:

  1. Seller
  2. Buyer
  3. Importer of Record Number (or FTZ Applicant Identification Number)
  4. Consignee Number(s)
  5. Manufacturer (or Supplier)
  6. Ship to Party
  7. Country of Origin
  8. Harmonized Tariff Schedule (HTS) Code
  9. Container Stuffing Location
  10. Consolidator

The first eight pieces of data must be sent no later than 24 hours before the cargo is loaded onto a U.S.-bound ship. The latter two - container stuffing location and consolidator - should be submitted as early as possible, but no later than 24 hours prior to the ship's arrival at a U.S. port.

The two pieces of information required by the carrier are the: 

  1. Vessel Stow Plan
  2. Container Status Messages

What’s the Difference Between an ISF 10 and ISF 5?

Unlike an ISF 10, an ISF 5 is not used for goods delivered to the U.S. Instead, this documentation is used for transit cargo passing through the U.S.

ISF 5+2

An ISF 5+2 is used for goods that make a stop in the U.S. during their transit but are not being delivered to the U.S. These types of goods are designated:

  • Foreign Cargo Remaining on Board (FROB)
  • Immediate Exportation (IE)
  • Transportation and Exportation (T&E)

An ISF must still be filed for these goods, but the information included is different than a 10+2. Instead, the data elements required are the:

  1. Booking Party
  2. Foreign Port of Unlading
  3. Place of Delivery
  4. Ship to Party
  5. HTSUS Code

ISF 10+2

An ISF 10+2 is the type of ISF typically used when transporting goods to the U.S. by ocean vessel. You can find more information about an ISF 10 listed above.

How to Submit ISF to CBP

Two dock workers open up a shipping container

Once you’re ready to 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 penalties for incorrect information.

Step 1: Gather All of the Required Information

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

That includes information about both the buyer and the seller of the goods in question, each product’s HTS code, country of origin, and more. You can find all of the 10+2 data elements required listed above.

Step 2: Create an ACE Portal Account

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

  • File ISFs
  • 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.

This can be done 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 of the required information and submit the ISF. If you’re using a customs broker, they can submit the ISF online for you.

Do You Need Assistance Submitting Your ISF Filing?

Get the assurance that this crucial step is done right by speaking with one of our Licensed Customs Brokers

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. 

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 in your shipment.

It’s crucial to work with a licensed professional to ensure that every aspect of your ISF is accurate and submitted on time in order to avoid these ISF penalties.

Can an ISF be Amended?

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?

A miniature cargo ship sits on a stack of papers

An ISF filing fee by itself will typically range 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.

Do I Need an ISF Bond?

An ISF bond (Activity Code 15) is a type of customs bond required for ocean shipments imported to the U.S. This is a single-use bond and is only good for one ISF filing.

Additionally, an importer will have to purchase an import bond (Activity Code 1) in order to import a shipment valued at $2,500 or more. If the importer purchases a single transaction bond, the ISF bond will have to be purchased in addition to the import bond.

However, if an importer purchases a continuous customs bond, the import bond will cover the ISF bond requirement for the shipment.

ISF bonds typically cost $125. Oftentimes, a customs broker will tie the cost of the ISF bond and the ISF filing fee together as one price.

What’s the Deadline to File an ISF?

The deadline to submit an ISF is 24 hours prior to the cargo being loaded onto a ship that is bound for the U.S. Some carrier information included with an ISF can be submitted up to 24 hours until it arrives in the U.S., but it is recommended that all aspects of an ISF are filed as early as possible.

If an ISF is not submitted on time, an importer will be charged up to $5,000 per violation. Additionally, their shipment may be subject to delays and inspection.

Do You Need Assistance Submitting Your ISF Filing?

Get the assurance that this crucial step is done right by speaking with one of our Licensed Customs Brokers

Submit Your ISF Correctly with USA Customs Clearance

At USA Customs Clearance, we understand how important it is that your imports are performed correctly, every time. That means ensuring that all documentation is accurate and accounted for, that it’s submitted on time, and that you have peace of mind that your imports will be free of any fines or delays.

An ISF filing is just one small part of the import process, but it’s also one of the most important. Don’t leave such a crucial step to chance. Work with a CBP-licensed customs broker to make sure that it’s taken care of correctly.

If you’re new to importing, we can help you in other ways as well. You can purchase a continuous customs bond - good for one year from the date it’s purchased and able to cover your ISF bond requirement.

We can also get you set up with importer of record registration, answer any questions you may have during our 1-on-1, personalized consulting sessions, and help you create a custom-tailored import compliance manual for your business. We even offer all of these services and more packaged together for one low price in our new importer bundles!

Work with USA Customs Clearance today to ensure the safe arrival of your imports and to avoid unnecessary fines and delays. Call us at (855) 912-0406 or click on any of the links above to get started.

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