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Customs Brokerage 101

Customs_BrokerageLogistics Plus recently issued an announcement that its Customs Broker Solutions division had obtained Remote Location Filing (RLF) status from the U.S. Customs & Border Protection (CBP) agency.  RLF status allows Logistics Plus to file customs clearance information at all ports in the United States from a centralized location (i.e., from our global headquarters in Erie, PA). If you’re new to the world of importing and exporting, here’s a quick primer on what customs brokerage means and how Logistics Plus Customs Broker Solutions can help.

What is Customs Brokerage?

Customs brokerage is the process by which goods are cleared through customs barriers for imports or exporters. The people who facilitate customs clearance are typically called “customs brokers” and, in the United States, they must be licensed by the U.S. CBP to be able to assist with imported goods. Customs brokers analyze the commercial shipping documents for regulatory requirements prior to electronic submissions to customs. They also must classify the product correctly to determine the amount of accessed duties and taxes, and they facilitate communication between the importer and governmental authorities.

Customs brokers in the U.S. are third-party agents who process and submit documentation to notify or obtain clearance from government agencies such as the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the Department of Agriculture (USDA), and many others. Customs brokers are not government employees but rather a liaison between importers and the appropriate government customs agents. Licensed customs brokers are well versed with tariff schedules that outline duty rates set by the government for specific items and regulations governing imports. Knowing the requirements of each type of import can avoid costly delays, fines, seizure of merchandise, and other penalties.

How do Customs Brokers become licensed? 

As mentioned earlier, customs brokers in the U.S. must be licensed by the U.S. CBP. There are approximately 11,000 active licensed customs brokers in the Unites States today.  Freight forwarders and third-party logistics providers (3PLs) must have a broker license to transact customs business. Each business must have at least one individually licensed broker to qualify for the company’s overall license (Logistics Plus has two fully-licensed U.S. customs brokers on its corporate staff in Erie, PA). Failure to have a qualifying broker for more than 120 days will result in the revocation of the broker license.

To become a licensed customs broker one must be at least 21 years old, not be a current Federal Government employee, and must possess good moral character. After extensive training, the candidate must successfully pass the Customs Broker License Examination. A candidate will also undergo a multi-agency background investigation and review, and an application can take from 8 to 12 months to process.

Why use a Customs Broker?    

Most companies do not have the people or financial resources to fully comprehend the complex regulatory and technological requirements of customs border control and homeland security. A customs broker’s job is to help companies move their shipments seamlessly across the border and reach their final destination on-time while adhering to customs laws and regulations. If there’s a problem, your customs broker will work to get it fixed so your shipment can be released from customs and back en-route to its final destination.  It’s particularly important to use a customs broker if you are importing items over $2,000 in value, if you’re importing a regulated items such as pharmaceuticals or biological products, or when time is important and you think there is a possibility that CBP may delay delivery of your shipment.

The Logistics Plus Customs Broker Solutions staff has the expertise and experience to assist you with the entire U.S. customs clearance process – no matter which port of entry through which you may be shipping. We also have agents around the world that can help with customs solutions in foreign countries. We even provide training workshops and company-specific training sessions to help companies better understand all aspects of global trade compliance. Simply put – we make importing easy.

Contact us if you’re interested in learning more about Logistics Plus Customs Broker Solutions or if you have any international shipments you’d like us to quote for you.

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