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What is a PAPS Number for Trucking?

what is a paps number for trucking
When shipping goods across the US border from either Canada or Mexico by truck, a Pre-Arrival Processing System (PAPS) number is required. The PAPS number is vital for clearing commercial freight faster. Shippers get ready to comply with PAPS numbers.
USA Customs Clearance
July 16, 2019
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Last Modified: July 16, 2021

Are you moving items into the United States on a truck? If so, you’ll need a PAPS number. What is a PAPS number for trucking? Learn more about these mandatory digits and start planning your next cross-border commercial shipment today.

What is a PAPS number for trucking? PAPS numbers are for shipments crossing into the U.S. on a truck at either the northern or southern border. PAPS stands for pre-arrival processing system. All shipments that require pre-arrival clearance are required to have a PAPS number. 

What is a Shipment Control Number?

A PAPS number is a kind of Shipment Control Number (SCN). An SCN is a unique code that is assigned to a shipment of goods coming into the U.S. It helps Customs and Border Protection (CBP) tell shipments apart and identify the carrier moving the goods. Some type of SCN is mandatory for all shipments entering the U.S. on a truck. 

A PAPS number is the most common kind of SCN. 

What is PAPS?

PAPS is a shipment type required for items and imported goods to pass through Customs and Border Protection (CBP). PAPS is generally the default option when you are bringing in commercial goods by highway carrier or truck. This means that all goods shipped into the U.S. by highway carriers must clear CBP under PAPS unless they qualify for an exemption or different shipment type. 

PAPS was put in place to help speed up the release of commercial import shipments.  PAPS still allows each load to be processed by CBP mandates and rules. 

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 is a PAPS Number?

A PAPS number is a kind of Shipment Control Number (SCN). The carrier assigns a PAPS number or PAPS barcode to a shipment that requires pre-arrival clearance. The first four digits of a PAPS number are the Standard Carrier Alpha Code (SCAC). The SCAC is a special code used to identify carriers and transportation companies. Customs and Border Protection requires all carriers and transportation companies crossing the border into the U.S. to have a SCAC number.

PAPS numbers can be reused every 3 years. Many carriers use sequential PAPS numbers to prevent numbers from being reused. 

How Does PAPS Work?

The PAPS process is fairly simple. It starts when the carrier acquires the shipment. At pickup, the carrier gives the shipment its own PAPS number. They label with shipment with PAPS stickers. They also makes sure the Customs Broker gets the number. From there, the Customs Broker works with CBP to prepare the shipment for entry and customs clearance. 

The carrier also has a role in the PAPS process. The carrier must ensure that an ACE eManifest is complete with the PAPS number. After the CBP accepts the Broker’s entry information and the carrier’s ACE eManifest , the goods can cross the border. The PAPS number is the common denominator between the broker’s border-crossing information and the carrier’s ACE eManifest submission. This allows the CBP to connect the two documents when the shipment arrives at the border. Delays can occur if the PAPS number doesn’t match on the eManifest and the Customs Broker’s information. The PAPS number makes it easy for the CBP to refer the shipment of goods entering the country for inspection or release them.

Go ahead and buy a customs bond today

and get your freight on the way around the globe.

What is eManifest?

Completing an ACE eManifest is part of the PAPS process. An ACE eManifest is designed to make the details of each shipment of imports clear to CBP. If you’re a carrier entering the U.S., you are required to complete an ACE eManifest. This electronic form allows imports to enter the country. Without a complete eManifest, the imports must turn around and go back. This can cause delays and cost money.

The U.S. system to complete the eManifest is called ACE. ACE is a three-letter acronym for Automated Commercial Environment. It is mandatory for all carriers crossing into the U.S. by land. 

CBP’s goal in requiring an ACE eManifest is to improve and boost the security, flow and compliance of international trade. Because it allows CBP to assess cargo in advance of arrival, it makes it easier for officials at the border to flag high-risk shipments of imports. This helps facilitate the movement of products and correct administrative issues. 

ACE eManifest Entry Requirements

ACE eManifest Entry Requirements

When you’re making a PAPS shipment, it’s important that the ACE eManifest -- complete with the PAPS number -- is on file with CBP at least one hour before the driver arrives at the border. If you don’t have the eManifest on file on time, your shipment could be delayed or refused entry. 

When the shipment arrives at the border, the driver is required to present all the customs paperwork. The required customs paperwork can include a commercial invoice, customs invoice or Bill of Lading. The customs paperwork must include a SCN. A PAPS sticker or a barcoded ACE eManifest can speed up the processing time at the border. 

The CBP official will double-check the information on the manifest. From there, the shipment might be referred for a secondary inspection. A signed proof of delivery document will prove that the shipment was released by CBP.

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.

PAPS Number and ACE eManifest

It is required that all PAPS shipments coming with a manifest. The carrier needs to indicate that the shipment is a PAPS shipment on the ACE eManifest. This PAPS number and eManifest must be submitted to CBP before the shipment gets to the border:

  • Regular PAPS shipments require one one hour notice before reaching the border
  • FAST PAPS shipments require at least 30 minutes’ notice before reaching the border

Additionally, the carrier needs to make sure the PAPS number on the ACE eManifest form perfectly matches the PAPS number on the shipment. Even a one character difference can cause serious problems and delays. The ACE eManifest also requires formal entry submitted by the Licensed Customs Broker working with the carrier and importer on the shipment. The Broker’s number must be on the eManifest with the PAPS shipment is cleared. These documents need to be completed before the carrier arrives at the border. 

Benefits of Using ACE and PAPS

Using an ACE eManifest speeds up processes at the border. It also helps CBP assess risk, protect the border and identify suspect shipments. 

Other benefits of using ACE and PAPS systems include:

  • Simple compliance: ACE and PAPS make it easy to comply with shipping laws and regulations. These simple systems eliminate the need to work with multiple agencies for cargo clearance.
  • Fewer forms and less paperwork: ACE eManifests are submitted electronically. You can even do it through an app. ACE lets carriers submit documents to the CBP and other agencies as image files and more.
  • Easy data availability: ACE and PAPS allow information to easily flow between carriers and government agencies. This makes it easier to identify cargo, including high-risk shipments.
  • Increased visibility: It’s easy to see where your shipment is when using PAPS and ACE. Customs and Border Protection can send notifications electronically. It’s easy to find out the status of your shipment. This information can be shared with carrier drivers so they know exactly when they can cross the border.
  • Lower processing costs: Paper systems can cost money. Electronic systems like ACE and PAPS simplify the exchange of information and keep processing costs down.

Go ahead and buy a customs bond today

and get your freight on the way around the globe.

What Documents Do I Need to Import Goods?

Do I Need a Customs Bond When Using a PAPS Number

A PAPS number and ACE eManifest aren’t the only documentation you’ll need when importing goods. Your Licensed Customs Broker can help you determine what you’ll need. Required documents for a PAPS shipment include:

  • Power of Attorney form
  • Commercial invoice
  • Truck waybill
  • Packing list
  • HTS code
  • Port at border crossing
  • Tax ID number
  • USMCA Certificate (if it applies to your shipment)

Shipments heading to a warehouse under an Immediate Transportation arrangement might expect delays and fees for IT handling. It is also important to know that products made in Canada or Mexico might be duty-free. However, in this case, the vendor must indicate the country of origin on the shipment. A NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement) Certificate of Origin is also required.

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.

Do I Need a Customs Bond When Using a PAPS Number?

According to information from CBP, all imports must be accompanied by a customs bond. A bond makes sure that all fees, duties and taxes are paid on the imports. This means that even shipments sent with a PAPS number require a customs bond. 

A customs bond is an agreement between CBP, the surety company and the importer. A bond is a contract the ensures that the importer will follow CBP rules and that all associated fees will be paid. Sometimes customs bonds are called import bonds.

A customs bond means the following 8 conditions will be met while importing goods into the United States:

  1. Agrees to fulfill any fees, taxes and duties
  2. Agrees to that the goods being imported will finish entry into the country
  3. Agrees that all required documents and proof of shipment will be provided
  4. Agrees to send the merchandise again if needed
  5. Agrees to fix any issues regarding qualifications for admission
  6. Agrees to allow any required inspection of goods
  7. Agrees to pay for any necessary handling, inspection or storage
  8. Agrees to meet all rules associated with duty-free shipments

You can choose between two types of customs bonds. How often do you plan to import goods? Knowing the answer to this question will help you determine the type of bond you need. Types of customs bonds are:

  • Single-entry bond: If you only plan on importing goods once or twice a year, you might choose to use a single entry bond. A single-entry bond covers one shipment.
  • Continuous bond: A continuous or annual bond is the most cost-effective option if you plan to import multiple shipments throughout the year. 

You can purchase a bond through a Licensed Customs Broker or a U.S. surety company. 

Go ahead and buy a customs bond today

and get your freight on the way around the globe.

CBP Shipment Types

PAPS is the default shipment type for all goods entering the U.S. by truck or highway carrier. It is important that importers understand how PAPS works. Your Customs Broker can guide you through the PAPS process.

However, PAPS isn’t the only shipment type for imports crossing the border on trucks. Shipment types for goods entering the U.S. on a highway carrier include:

  • Instruments of International Traffic: This shipment type is used for empty trucks and containers coming into the U.S.
  • Section 321: Allows importers to bring in goods that cost less than $800
  • ACE In-bond: Accepts shipments that aren’t yet released by CBP in the ACE eManifest
  • QP In-bond: Grants broker clearance the movement of shipments that haven’t yet been released by CBP
  • ATA Carnet: Lets an importer temporarily bring goods into the U.S.
  • Personal Shipment: Allows personal goods to come into the U.S. via highway carrier
  • Goods Astray: Accepts goods into the country that have been refused or are otherwise undeliverable in Canada or Mexico
  • BRASS: Pre-clearance for FAST-approved drivers
  • Free of Duty: Duty-free shipments worth less than $2,000 can be considered a Free of Duty shipment

PAPS Shipments from Canada and Mexico

PAPS Shipments from Canada and Mexico

Canada and Mexico are the country’s two largest trade partners. A PAPS number is especially important when importing goods from Canada or Mexico. 

You’ll find that trade with Canada is big business. According to information from the Office of the United States Trade Representative, U.S. services and goods trade with Canada topped $714 billion in 2018. Trade with Mexico was almost as big, with U.S. services and goods trade reaching $671 billion in 2018. 

The top imports coming into the U.S. from Canada in 2018 were:

  • Mineral fuels
  • Vehicles
  • Machinery
  • Plastics

The top imports coming into the U.S. from Mexico in 2018 were:

  • Vehicles
  • Electrical machinery
  • Mineral fuels
  • Optical and medical instruments

No matter what you’re bringing in from Canada or Mexico, you’ll need a PAPS number if your goods are traveling by trucks over the highway.  Now that you understand what is a PAPS number for trucking, it’s time to start preparing for your imports. We can help you learn about importing everything from light fixtures to importing art.  The Pre-arrival Processing System (PAPS) will make your shipment simple and easy. Need more help with your imports? Consider working a customs broker. Learn more about our customs brokerage services and how they can help you by contacting us today.

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6 comments on “What is a PAPS Number for Trucking?”

  1. Picking up ICF block. 4 bundles for personal use building our home. Will be driving F-350 with light utility trailer. Does PAPS apply?

  2. Hello, I have picked up a phamacutical load in Canada going back to the US. Where do I put the PAPS barcode sticker? On the bill of lading?



    1. Hi Craig,

      The PAPS label is actually placed on the commercial invoice before it is then sent to the U.S. based Customs Brokers for futher processing.

  3. Hello my name is Jonathan Heiland, I am one of the Customs Specialists with USA Customs Clearance. We will gladly assist you with your import but we will need more information about your shipment. For immediate attention please reach out to We look forward to working with you!

  4. I will be driving a truck with a 35ft gooseneck trailer from Omaha to Canada in January to pick up a greenhouse I purchased for my farm here in the Omaha area. The greenhouse will be disassembled and loaded on the trailer for the return trip. What documentation and compliance do I need.

    1. Hello, I replied to your inquiry by email. Please let me know if you have more questions.

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