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Archive for the ‘Articles’ Category

Articles, US Customs

Choosing a Customs Attorney

Monday, November 12th, 2007

Choosing an attorney to represent you on matters of international trade can be a difficult decision. When choosing a lawyer to represent you, it can be difficult to subjectively rank them according to specific criteria. The following questions are designed to assist you in choosing an International Trade Attorney.


“How many years of experience do you have? Experience helps, but is not always crucial. An aggressive young lawyer may be more suited than an older lawyer exhausted by years of courtroom battle. On the other hand, you probably don’t want to hire somebody fresh out of law school on a complex matter. Be sure to look for an attorney that has some experience working with the specific government agency that is most applicable to your bussiness.

How many cases or transactions like this have you handled? Again, experience counts. You don’t want to be paying a young lawyer to learn at your expense. If the lawyer is unfamiliar with your type of problem, get a commitment for how long it will take for the lawyer to become conversant with the legal issues involved?

How much legal research do you expect to do on this case, and why? Doing legal research is a good thing, but not to learn the subject matter. A well-qualified lawyer can give you an estimate in your first conversation about what he or she thinks the legal issues are, and any lawyer who’s worth hiring will tell you what he or she doesn’t know. But if the issues aren’t that complex but the lawyer is expecting to do a lot of research, that may be an indication that this lawyer hasn’t handled enough of this kind of cases.

Would you be comfortable handling my case? Most lawyers want to handle whatever they can bring in if it interests them. Yet the lawyer may not have the right skills to handle this case. Don’t be afraid to ask this question.

Can you give me the names of a couple of clients who have had cases similar to mine? Most lawyers will want to check with prior clients to see if they would mind speaking with you (lawyers are, after all supposed to be discrete and expert at maintaining confidences, and you probably wouldn’t want to have your name given out without your permission). But a former client may give you lots more information about the lawyer than you can get yourself.

Can you give me the names of a couple of lawyers who represented other parties in cases like mine? Same as above, except the lawyers probably can evaluate the lawyer better than the client can. Neither is fool-proof, since the lawyer will be selecting what names he or she give you. But you may get some valuable information.

Have you written anything about any case similar to mine? Lawyers interviewing for law jobs are invariably asked for writing samples. Clients should as well. Good writing is often important, and the client should see early on whether the lawyer can write simply, directly, and persuasively.


What law school did you go to? Harvard may be the best school in the country, or it may not. It’s subjective. Someone from a “good” school who hasn’t been practicing for years probably is not as good as somebody who has practiced regularly and well since graduation from a “lesser” school. The ranking of schools is subjective, and anyway, you want a lawyer, not a pedigree. Graduation from a given law school simply does not insure that this lawyer can handle your legal matter.

How many cases have you won? Any lawyer who claims never to have lost a case simply hasn’t tried enough of them. This kind of statistic is meaningless unless you get deeply into the facts of each case. As a client, you don’t have time to do this.

What organizations do you belong to? Most lawyers belong to many organizations with highfalutin names. Why join an organization that sounds cheesy? But nearly all the organizations that a lawyer belongs do will accept as members anyone who can pay the membership fee, so membership doesn’t guarantee anything. A few organizations do, such as the American Board of Trial Advocates (ABOTA) or the California Academy of Appellate Lawyers. Yet requiring a lawyer to be members of these invitational bodies doesn’t solve the problem, either, because they usually require a greater amount of trial or appellate experience than most lawyers can get these days, and you may be shortchanging yourself.

What awards have you won? Many fine lawyers have never won an award because they’ve been too busy representing their clients and raising their families to devote the kind of networking necessary to win such awards. Many–not all, to be sure–are popularity contests. As a client, you don’t have the time to investigate the backgrounds of the awards to determine if they really mean anything.


CBP Thwarts Human Smuggling Attempt

Sunday, November 11th, 2007

BUFFALO, NY- U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Officers apprehended two Guyanese nationals as they attempted to enter the United States illegally as stowaways aboard an inbound commercial truck. CBP Officers using gamma-imaging technology discovered the two individuals hiding in a container of Styrofoam trays. On March 29, 2006, at 12:30 a.m., Mootilan Ramphal, a Trinidadian national with Landed Immigrant Status in Canada, applied for entry into the United States at the Peace Bridge Port of Entry. Ramphal presented a manifest and invoice for Styrofoam trays and window hardware. CBP officers selected the shipment for a secondary enforcement exam. During the course of the inspection, CBP officers utilized the Vehicle and Cargo Inspection System (VACIS), a passive, non-intrusive inspection (NII) device employing gamma-ray technology to produce a high-resolution image of the conveyance’s contents (see photo below). The scan produced anomalies consistent with that of stowaways in the nose of the container. A physical inspection of the container resulted in the discovery of two Guyanese nationals commingled within the legitimate freight. Both individuals were taken into custody without incident.

The two individuals were identified as Bramhadaut Prashad and Debra Appadu, both Guyanese nationals without proper documentation to enter or remain in the United States. Both subjects were arrested on federal charges of illegal entry and conspiracy. Ramphal was arrested on federal charges of alien smuggling. “All three individuals were turned over to agents from Immigration and Customs Enforcement for further investigation and prosecution by the United States Attorney’s office,” stated James Engleman, director, Field Operations for CBP Buffalo Field Office.

NII systems use advanced imaging and density-detecting technologies in the evaluation of the contents of trucks, containers, cargo, and passenger vehicles to determine the possible presence of many types of contraband. CBP in the Port of Buffalo, as well as many ports throughout the United States, utilize a wide variety of non-intrusive inspection systems. In addition to the mobile VACIS units, CBP Officers utilize rail gamma-imaging systems, radiation portal monitors and personal radiation detectors. “These technologically advanced tools assist CBP officers in executing their primary mission of ensuring terrorists and weapons of terror do not enter the United States,” stated Engleman.

Human Smuggling


FAST – Free and Secure Trade

Sunday, November 11th, 2007

The Free and Secure Trade (FAST) program is a Border Accord Initiative between the United States, Mexico, and Canada designed to ensure security and safety while enhancing the economic prosperity of each country. In developing this program, Mexico, Canada and the United States have agreed to coordinate, to the maximum extent possible, their commercial processes for clearance of commercial shipments at the border. This will promote free and secure trade by using common risk-management principles, supply chain security, industry partnership, and advanced technology to improve the efficiency of screening and clearing commercial traffic at our shared borders.

Eligibility for the FAST program requires participants (carrier, drivers, importers, and southern border manufacturers) to submit an application, agreement, and security profile depending on their role in the Customs and Trade Partnership Against terrorism (C-TPAT) and FAST programs. The FAST program allows known low risk participants to receive expedited border processing. This enables U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to re-direct security efforts and inspections where they are needed most – on commerce that is high risk, or unknown risk – while ensuring the movement of legitimate, low-risk commerce.

When decisions are made to elevate the national threat level, all CBP personnel must be cognizant of the heightened threat of terrorism as well a mandated increase in examinations of cargo and conveyances. Elevated alert levels should have no adverse impact on FAST processing. While other conveyances and cargo will be subject to a greater degree of inspection, FAST shipments are considered known low risk. As such, their processing should continue under normal guidelines during heightened alert levels.

Benefits of FAST

The FAST program is voluntary. The benefits for those that apply and are accepted into the FAST program include:

  • Dedicated lanes (where available) for greater speed and efficiency in the clearance of FAST Trans-border shipments;
  • Reduced number of examinations for continued compliance with Customs FAST requirements as well secondary priority processing;
  • A strong and ongoing partnership with the Canadian Partners in Protection (PIP) and Customs (C-TPAT) administrations;
  • Enhanced supply chain security and safety while protecting the economic prosperity of the United States, Mexico, and Canada; and,
  • For carrier participants, the knowledge that they are transporting shipments for a C-TPAT approved importer, and on the southern border, a C-TPAT manufacturer.

    Basic Participation Requirements

    FAST is a clearance process for known low-risk shipments, thus, any truck using FAST lane processing must be a C-TPAT approved carrier, carrying qualifying goods from a C-TPAT approved importer, and the driver in the possession of a valid FAST Commercial Driver Registration ID Card. Although FAST participation requirements along the northern and southern border are very similar, on the southern border there are two additional requirements. The manufacturer must be an approved C-TPAT participant, and they must also adhere to CBP high security seal requirements.

    C-TPAT is a joint government business initiative to build cooperative relationships that strengthen overall supply chain and border security. C-TPAT recognizes that CBP can provide the highest level of security only through close cooperation with the ultimate owners of the supply chain, importers, carriers, brokers, warehouse operators and manufacturers. Through this initiative, CBP asks businesses to ensure the integrity of their security practices and communicate their security guidelines to their business partners within the supply chain.

    1. Importer Registration: Importers must complete an application for C-TPAT participation with CBP. Importers authorized to use the FAST program for clearance into the United States will have a demonstrated history of complying with all relevant legislative and regulatory requirements, and will have made a commitment to security enhancing business practices as required by C-TPAT.

    2. Carrier Registration: Carriers must complete the FAST Highway Carrier Application Process requirements that include corporate information, a security profile, and a written Highway Carrier Agreement.

    Northern Border: In order to qualify for FAST Highway Carrier membership into the U.S. and Canada, two separate applications must be submitted to each country’s respective FAST Processing Centers. Each country will perform an independent risk assessment and each country will issue independent approvals for participation. For the United States, a FAST approved carrier will have met all aspects of C-TPAT through the FAST registration process.

    Southern Border: To qualify for the U.S./Mexico border highway carriers agreement, the carrier must have demonstrated a history of complying with all relevant legislative and regulatory requirements set forth by CBP. The applying carrier must have made a commitment to security-enhancing business practices as required by C-TPAT and use drivers that are in possession of a valid FAST commercial driver card when using FAST clearance.

    3. Commercial Driver Application: Two separate driver application processes exist for FAST, 1) Northern Border and 2) Southern Border. For northern border applicants, drivers must complete a FAST Commercial Driver Application for the United States and Canada. The application will first be risk assessed by a Canadian consortium of the Canada Border Service Agency (CBSA), Citizenship and Immigration Service for Canada (CIC), and Canada’s Agence de Revenu (ARC). Upon approval from Canada, CBP will conduct a full U.S. based risk assessment. Applicants identified as low risk will report to an enrollment center where they will be interviewed, have their original identification and citizenship documents reviewed, fingerprinted and have a digital photo taken. Low-risk applicants will then be issued a FAST Commercial Driver Card.

    The procedure for the southern border is similar however the FAST driver application is submitted to the Mellon Financial Corporation in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania prior to being forwarded to the CBP risk assessment center in St Albans, Vermont. Applicants identified as low risk will report to an enrollment center where they will be interviewed, have their original identification and citizenship documents reviewed, fingerprinted and have a digital photo taken. Low-risk applicants will then be issued a FAST – Commercial Driver Card.

    FAST Processing Availability
    The initial phase of FAST processing for U.S. bound commercial shipments began in December 2002 at the port of Detroit, Michigan. Today, CBP has implemented FAST processing at the following northern and southern border crossings:

    Northern Border
    Southern Border
    Alexandria Bay, New York
    Brownsville, Texas
    Blaine, Washington
    Calexico, California
    Buffalo, New York
    El Paso, Texas
    Champlain, New York
    Laredo, Texas
    Derby Line, Vermont
    Nogales, Arizona
    Detroit, Michigan
    Otay Mesa, California
    Houlton, Maine
    Pharr, Texas
    Pembina, North Dakota
    Port Huron, Michigan
    Portal, North Dakota
    Sweetgrass, Montana

    Future FAST expansion sites will include:
    Northern Border
    Southern Border
    Houlton, Maine
    Tecate, California
    Calais, Maine
    San Luis, Arizona
    Massena, New York
    Douglas, Arizona
    Ogdensburg, New York
    Santa Teresa, New, Mexico
    Sault Ste Marie, Michigan
    Eagle Pass, Texas
    International Falls, Minnesota
    Del Rio, Texas
    Oroville, Washington
    Rio Grande City, Texas

    CBP anticipates to have these indicated FAST expansion sites available for FAST processing by July 1, 2005.

    Cargo Release Method(s)

    The two cargo release methods for FAST eligible shipments are the Free and Secure Trade system formerly known as the National Customs Automated Prototype (NCAP), additionally the Pre-Arrival Processing System (PAPS) is also recognized as eligible method of cargo release processing for FAST.

    1. FAST: FAST is the first fully electronic and completely paperless cargo release mechanism put into place by CBP. Paperless processing is achieved through advanced electronic data transmissions and transponder technology. FAST is highly automated and allows for the expedited release of highly compliant cargo from major importers, reducing congestion at our land borders.

    2. Pre Arrival Processing System (PAPS) -The Pre-Arrival Processing System (PAPS) is a ACS (Automated Commercial System) border cargo release system that utilizes barcode technology to expedite the release of commercial shipments while still processing each shipment through Border Cargo Selectivity (BCS) and the Automated Targeting System (ATS).

    Each PAPS shipment requires a unique barcode label, which the carrier attaches to the invoice and the truck manifest while the merchandise is still in Canada or Mexico. The barcode consists of the Standard Carrier Alpha Code (SCAC) and Pro-Bill number or entry number. The licensed U.S. Customs broker in the United States must indicate this sequencing of SCAC code and unique number (Pro Bill, Entry number or unique set of numbers) in the BCS entry in ACS. Upon the truck’s arrival at the border, the CBP officer scans the barcode, which automatically retrieves the entry information from ACS. If no examination is required, the CBP officer then releases the truck from primary reducing the carrier’s wait time and easing congestion at the U.S. border.


Visa and Certification Exemption Requirements for Textiles

Sunday, November 11th, 2007

Export License and Textile Visa Requirements A textile visa is an approval in the form of a stamp on an invoice or export control license which is issued by a foreign government. It is used to restrict the exportation of textiles and textile products to the US and to prevent the unauthorized entry of the merchandise into this country.

A visa system is the most efficient way to prevent illegal trans-shipments and quota fraud. It ensures that both the foreign government and the US tally merchandise and charge quotas in a similar way so that overages, incorrect quota charges and country embargoes can be avoided. If a visa has an incorrect quantity, category, or other missing or incorrect data, or a shipment departs without a visa, the entry is rejected and the shipment is not released until the importer reports the error to the foreign government and receives a new visa or a waiver from the government.
By issuing a new visa or waiver the foreign government is acknowledging that it has been made aware of the category under which US Customs is classifying the shipment and charging the quota, if any, and/or the amount that is being charged.

However, a visa does not guarantee entry of the shipment into the US. If the quota is closed between the times the visa is issued in the foreign country and the merchandise arrives in the US the shipment will not be released to the importer until the quota opens again.

A visa may cover either non-quota or quota merchandise. Conversely, quota shipments may or may not require an import visa depending upon the country of origin. As of this date, the US has entered into visa agreements with many other countries but is enforcing quotas (administered by the US Customs Service) on merchandise from other countries with which the US has no visa agreements. Therefore, shipments from the countries without a visa agreement do not require a visa but are charged to the necessary quota.

Occasionally, when bilateral agreements end and quotas are not in effect, the visa agreement, which is a separate agreement that remains in force, requires that shipments continue to be accompanied by a formal visa.

Visa agreements are unique and most are comprehensive agreements. This means that all commercial shipments of textiles products or textiles of vegetable fibers, man-made fibers, wool and silk blends covered by a category number from a country with which the US has such an arrangement must travel with a visa in order to enter the US However, other agreements cover only a limited number of categories, (e.g., only cotton of categories 300-369). Also, some agreements have exemptions for shipments valued at $250.00 or less (note: this exemption is being phased out of all new or renegotiated agreements), or for traditional cottage industry products. Distinct differences are found in agreements which require a visa to show exact categories and quantities in the shipment while others do not.

To regulate these agreements, textile products are grouped under three digit category numbers. The category numbers were developed by the Committee for the Implementation of Textile Agreements (CITA), an interagency committee comprised of representatives from the Departments of State, Commerce, Labor, and the Treasury and the Office of the US Trade Representative. These category designations cover some several thousand 10-digit legal/statistical item numbers under which the merchandise is classified in the Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the US Annotated (HTSUSA).

The category system was developed to simplify the control of textile imports and to facilitate bilateral agreements by combining the thousands of HTSUS item numbers into only 167 categories.

This effort to simplify the system has been derailed by the fact that these 167 categories have been further divided by country into approximately 350-450 subcategories, sub-sub-categories and combined categories in order to establish quotas on a smaller range of products. Each of these subparts in itself has a separate quota. The narrow breakouts were made to protect different segments of the market for US domestic suppliers affected by the large volume of foreign imports.

When a shipment arrives at a port in the US, an import specialist reviews the visa documents for completeness and accuracy before release of the merchandise. The review requires that the category number, signature, date, quantity, and visa number are correct and match the merchandise involved. After this action is completed and the merchandise is charged to the quota (if required), the shipment is released to the importer.

Shipments – Personal Use:

Products imported for the personal use of the importer and not for resale (regardless of value and whether or not accompanying the traveler, excluding suits tailor made from Hong Kong) are exempt from visa, quotas, and exempt certification requirements.

For Hong Kong, tailor made suits of man-made fiber, wool, silk blend and vegetable fibers other than cotton, without regard to value, not accompanying the traveler, require visas (443/643/(1) or 444/644/(1)).

Personal use shipments are outline by chapter 98, subchapters IV, v, VI, vii, and xvi of the HTSUS, Code of Federal Regulations 143.21 and section 5.2 of the Customs inspector’s handbook. To be a personal shipment, the article must be for the household or personal use of the importer (including gifts) as well as not intended for resale or sale by commission.

Samples – Commercial:

Commercial sample shipments that have been properly marked and are valued at less than $800 from certain countries are not subject to quota and do not require a visa or exempt certification. Shipments may be entered under the informal entry procedures. The guidelines for “properly marked commercial samples” is found in paragraph 4a-h, dated February 28, 1986, of customs directive number 3500-07, or in telex #11061, dated august 3, 1988. The guidelines are below as follows:

A. The invoice for these shipments must contain the statement “marked sample – not for resale”.

B. The inside of the article must be indelibly stamped with the word “sample”. This stamping must be in contrasting color to the article, near the country of origin label, in one (1) inch or greater letters and physically placed on the article itself.

C. Articles which are transparent or incapable of being marked (such as briefs, bikinis, hosiery, blouses without collars, sheer or very thin scarves or garments, etc.) And for which the stamping of “sample” would render the article unsuitable for use as a trade sample, the following guidelines are provided:

1. Fabric labels, not smaller than 2 1/2″ by 1/2″ containing the words “sample-not to be sold”, must be conspicuously and permanently affixed to the article in close proximity to the country of origin label.

(Please note that paragraphs d, e and h of the directive are not pertinent to this section and have been omitted.)

F. The invoice must have been annotated with the notation required in paragraph 4a above and the article marked in accordance with the provisions of 4b and c above, prior to importation into the US The importer will not be allowed to do this after importation.

G. Although these “samples” may be entered under the informal entry procedures (and are exempt from quota, visa and exempt certification requirements) they do not qualify for entry under item 9811.00.60, HTSUS. Accordingly, they are subject to duty under the appropriate HTSUS item number.

Mutilated Samples – HTSUS 9811.00.60:

HTSUS classifications 9811.00.60 for samples are duty-free and do not require a visa or exempt certification. In addition, they are exempt from quota requirements. Reference telex #vbt-88-103 dated, January, 1988 for guidelines on mutilation.

Standard Visa Number:

Visa numbers are mandatory for all visas and export licenses. Most countries use a nine digit number (e.g., 9in123456) standard which is reported to the quota section. When a country is not on the standard system, do not report the visa number to the quota section.

The standard visa number is included in reports sent to foreign governments. A government can verify the categories and quantities authorized for export to the US against the quantities charged by US customs at the time of entry. This reduces re-verification of discrepancies to the specific shipments at rather than having to review individual entries covering a particular category.

Required Visa Number On CF 7501:

Under the authority of paragraph 34d of customs directive no. 3550 061, dated September 18, 1992, the visa number (whether it is the standard nine digit number or not) must be reported in column 34 on the CF-7501, entry summary, for shipments which require an export license or textile visa (including Hong Kong). The number must be shown for each line item covering individual category numbers. Failure to report this number will result in rejection of the entry summary and if it is a live entry (entry/entry summary) the shipment will not be released until the entry summary is in proper format.

The statistical copy of the CF 7501 or the statistical information reported by the broker under the Automate Broker Interface (ABI) program must include this number before transmittal of this information to the census bureau. Exempt certification numbers will not be reported on the CF 7501 or through ABI.

Only one visa number is applicable to a single line. If a line has more than one visa number, then individual lines must be provided for each visa number.

Date of Export/Country of Origin Required On CF 7501:

Under the authority of section 12.130 (i) of the customs regulations, and paragraph 14 of customs directive no. 3550 061, dated September 18, 1992, for visa, quota, or export license requirements, and statistical purposes, if the country of export differs from the country of origin, the export date from the country of origin must be reported on the CF 7501 in column 34, for all textiles and textile products classified in chapters 50 through 63, including chapters 42 an 94 of the harmonized tariff schedule of the US annotated (HTSUS), regardless of whether the merchandise requires a visa or is subject to quota restraints. As in the case of the visa number, a failure to report this date may result in rejection of the entry summary and will delay release of the shipment.

Folklore Products Designation “F” Required On CF 7501:

Shipments of fabric loomed by hand, hand-made articles and traditional folklore merchandise of the cottage industry, are exempted from visa and quota requirements if they are a produced in a country with which the US has both a visa agreement and a bilateral agreement which outlines exemptions for such products if the foreign government has issued a proper and correct certification for exemption. These agreements only waive the visa and quota requirements but do not waive the duty.

Merchandise must be reported in column thirty four of the CF-7501 by placing the symbol F as a prefix to the appropriate HTSUS item number in accordance with statistical head note (1) of section 11, HTSUS and paragraph thirty of customs directive 3550 061, dated September 18, 1992. With the exception of the HTSUS numbers for folklore products shown below in the discussion of Generalized System of Preference exemptions for certain wall and rug hangings, the numbers will be the normal HTSUS item numbers for those articles. As in the date of export and visa number requirements, failing to provide the folklore prefix may result in rejection of the entry.

Merged and Part Categories:

Because of numerous merged and part categories included in textile agreements signed over the past several years, it is now necessary to combine this information into a single document. This report includes the merged categories that are permitted, for both special access and visa program exempt certifications, as well as the category part designations required on visas from those countries that require accurate categories. Countries presently omitted have no merged or part categories for exempt certification or visa purposes.

More current agreements contain verbiage specifying that merged or part categories for purposed of quota are automatically applicable to visa purposes as well.

In the past, quota and visa agreements had been signed separately and at different times, so that merged and part categories for visas were not the same as those for quota. For countries other than those included in this report, along with visa book telegrams and other publications relating solely to visa requirements may be used to determine correct merged and part categories for visas.

Agreements have provided a “catchall” category (e.g. 659-o) for Harmonized Tariff Schedule numbers remaining after some part categories (e.g. 659-h) have been blocked off. However, in some agreements this was not the case. In those cases where a “catchall” category does not exist, only the basic category number (excluding any suffix) is required, even though there are suffixes for the specific parts in the category.

Some merged categories may apply to exempt certifications for special access programs. They are listed separately where needed.

Descriptive language appears in this guide, for ease of reference, but is not exhaustive. The Harmonized Tariff Schedule numbers alone completely represent the part categories.

There are visa stipulations for the following country not listed on the status report. This country is:

(RU) Russia category 435 – subject to visa requirements.

Articles, US Customs

Determining Admissibility/Customs Examination of Goods

Sunday, November 11th, 2007

In simple cases involving small shipments or certain classes of goods such as bulk shipments, examination may be made on the docks, at container stations, cargo terminals, or the importer’s premises. The goods are then released to the importer. In other shipments, sample packages of the merchandise may be retained by Customs for appraisal or classification purposes and the remainder of the shipment released. These sample packages will also be released to the importer after examination.

Examination of goods is necessary to determine:
The value of the goods for Customs purposes and their dutiable status.

Whether the goods are properly marked with the country of their origin. Special marking or labeling may apply. Generally, imported merchandise must be legibly marked in a conspicuous place and with the English name of the country of origin. Certain specific articles are exempt from this requirement. (For further information see Customs Publication No. 539 Marking of Country of Origin on U.S. Imports.)

  • Whether the goods have been correctly invoiced.
  • Whether the shipment contains prohibited articles.
  • Whether the requirements of other federal agencies have been met.
  • Whether the amount of goods listed on the invoice is correct, and no shortage or overage exists.

If necessary, goods may be analyzed by a Customs laboratory to determine proper classification and appraisal, to determine that the goods meet safety requirements, or to ensure that they are not counterfeit or otherwise in violation of U.S. laws.

If Customs determines that the goods are different from the entered descriptions in quantity or value, that the classification of the goods is incorrect, or that a different rate of duty than the one indicated by the importer applies, an increase in duties may be assessed. If Customs determines that the importer has deliberately failed to properly classify and value his goods, he may be liable for a fine, or other penalty.

When all the information has been acquired, including the report of the Customs import specialist as to the customs value of the goods, and the laboratory report, if required, a final determination of duty is made and the entry is liquidated. At this time, any overpayment of duty is returned or under-payments billed.

Articles, US Customs

CBP Air and Border

Sunday, November 11th, 2007


On October 1, 2005, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) integrated its aviation assets, programs and personnel to establish CBP Air. With over 500 pilots and 250 aircraft, CBP Air is the largest law enforcement air force in the world.

Border Patrol

The priority mission of the Border Patrol is preventing terrorists and terrorists weapons, including weapons of mass destruction, from entering the United States. Border Patrol Agents patrol nearly 7,000 miles of international land border with Canada and Mexico and nearly 2,000 miles of coastal border. Undaunted by scorching desert heat or freezing northern winters, they work tirelessly as vigilant protectors of our Nation’s borders.


Canadian Energy Exports

Sunday, November 11th, 2007


Canada is the United States’ most important trading partner, with an equivalent of over $1 billion a day in goods, services, and investment crossing the borders in each direction in 2001. Canada and the U.S. also enjoy a highly interdependent energy relationship, trading oil, and electricity. An example of this interdependence was an electric power outage on August 14, 2003, which left large portions of the Midwest and Northeast United States and Ontario, Canada without power.

After expanding 3.3% in 2002, Canada’s real gross domestic product (GDP) for 2003 grew 1.7%. A number of factors contributed to the slowdown of Canada’s economy, such as weak U.S. economic growth for most of the year; a strong appreciation of the Canadian dollar; the SARS outbreak in Toronto; and restrictions on exports of softwood lumber and beef (due to mad cow disease). However, the recovery of the U.S. economy, high oil and natural gas prices, and continued spending from the Canadian government are expected to boost Canada’s economy in 2004. The Canadian economy is forecast to grow 3.6% in 2004.

On December 12, 2003, Paul Martin was sworn in as Canada’s 21st prime minister, after the resignation of fellow Liberal party member Jean Chrétien. On taking office, Prime Minister Martin pledged to work on strengthening U.S. – Canada relations and to increase spending on defense, healthcare, and education, as well as to improve federal-provincial relations. Mr. Martin, the leader of the liberal Party, is expected to call national elections for spring 2004.


Canada was the fifth-largest energy producer in the world in 2001, behind the United States, Russia, China, and Saudi Arabia. Over the past two decades, Canada has become a significant net energy exporter. In 2001, about 31% of Canadian energy production was exported, with the United States its main customer. In the first three quarters of 2003, the United States imported more oil (including crude oil and petroleum products) from Canada than from any other country. During the same time period, the United States also imported about 2.5 trillion cubic feet (Tcf) of Canadian natural gas, representing 87% of total U.S. imports. In 2001, about 39% of Canada’s primary energy production was natural gas, followed by oil (25%), hydropower (20%), coal (11%), and nuclear power (5%). Alberta is Canada’s largest producer of energy. Along with being a major energy-producer, Canada also was a significant energy consumer in 2001, ranking eighth in the world.


According to Oil Journal, as of January 2004, Canada’s total proven crude oil reserves stood at 178.9 billion barrels. Canada currently trails only Saudi Arabia, which holds the most proven crude oil reserves in the world. Prior to 2002, Canada did not even rank in the top 20 of countries with the most proven crude oil reserves. The massive increase in reserves reflects the Journal’s inclusion of Alberta’s oil sands, which stood at 174.4 billion barrels as of January 2004, according to Alberta Energy and Utilities Board (EUB). In contrast, conventional crude oil and condensate stood at an estimated 4.5 billion barrels, as reported by Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP). Some analysts, however, have questioned the new assessment and whether it is accurate and appropriate to include oil sands.

Exploration and Production

Canada’s total oil production (including all liquids, bitumen and synthetic crude) averaged an estimated 3.1 million barrels per day (bbl/d) for 2003, an increase of 7% over 2002. The country’s oil production has been increasing since 1999, as new oil sands projects and production off the coast of Newfoundland have come onstream. Overall, oil sands production is expected to increase significantly and to offset the decline in conventional crude oil production, becoming Canada’s major source of oil supply.

Articles, Trade Notices

Arrival of Goods

Sunday, November 11th, 2007

Imported goods may not legally enter U.S. commerce until the shipment has arrived within the port of entry and Customs has authorized delivery of the merchandise. This is normally accomplished by filing the appropriate documents, either by the importer or by the importer’s agent. To expedite this process, Customs entry papers may be presented before the merchandise arrives, but entry will not take place until the merchandise arrives within the port limits.

The Customs Service does not notify the importer of the arrival of the shipment. The carrier of the goods usually makes notification of arrival. Arrangements should be made to ensure that the importer or their agent is informed immediately of arrival so that the entry can be filed and delays in obtaining the goods avoided.

The Customs Service defines “entry” not merely as the arrival of goods at a port, but as the process of presenting documentation for clearing goods through Customs. Imported merchandise not entered through Customs in a timely manner (within 15 calendar days of arrival) is sent by Customs to a general order warehouse to be held as unclaimed. The importer is responsible for paying storage charges while unclaimed merchandise is held at the warehouse. If it remains unclaimed at the end of six months, the merchandise is sold at auction.

Some type of Customs entry must be made at the first port of arrival. Ordinarily entry is made there for consumption, for entry into a bonded warehouse, or for transportation in bond to another port where a consumption or warehouse entry will be made. If an importer is unable to be there to prepare and file the entry, commercial brokers, known as customs brokers and licensed by the Customs Service, may act as an agent for the importer. These brokers charge a fee for their services. A list of customs brokers may be obtained from the local Customs office or found in the yellow pages of the local telephone directory.

In the case of a single noncommercial shipment, a relative or other individual may act as the importer’s agent for customs purposes. This person must know the facts pertaining to the shipment and must be authorized in writing to act for the importer.

The law prohibits Customs employees from performing these tasks for the importing public. However, they will advise and give information to importers about Customs requirements.


Anti-Smuggling in the Philippines

Sunday, November 11th, 2007

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Senators and business sectors are once again pushing for the revival of the anti-smuggling task force after its abolition. But PGMA has now turned over the tasks back to the Bureau of Customs giving it 60 days to solve smuggling activities and boost up its collections, or else she would revive the anti-smuggling task force. Will the newly appointed BOC Commissioner and officials be able to put together the Bureau in better shape in two-months time?

Through Executive Order No. 297 issued on March 10,2004 for the purpose of providing advice and recommendations to the President on violations of tax laws and to address the unabated smuggling of goods into the country, the anti-smuggling agency or the National Anti-Smuggling Task Force (NASTF) came to light. Department of Interior and local Government (DILG) Secretary Angelo Reyes immediately assumed the position as its task force chief. Thereafter, with the government s unwavering campaign against smuggling, Reyes and the NASTF agents thrived the waterfronts for six months, exercised the powers of search and seizure under the provisions of law (R.A. 1937) and consolidated effort to pre-empt, prevent and suppress smuggling activities including apprehension of smugglers and their accessories, as mandated by the Executive Order.

But immediately after the national elections, the NASTF was abolished. PGMA shifted the reigns of power and control over smuggling activities to the Bureau, under its new Commissioner George Jereos.

NASTF advocates Senators Mar Roxas and Juan Ponce Enrile are questioning the Palace for shelving the task force when it was supposedly winning the battle against smuggling.

Testimonies from business sectors intoned that NASTF is responsible for the reduction in smuggling, as statistics have shown in the recent months.

But PGMA has given the authority back to BOC and to ensure that BOC meets its two-month target, the President has even extended the Commissioner s jurisdiction by granting him the mandate to exercise the powers of the defunct Economic Intelligence and Investigations Bureau (EIIB).

The new officials should be given the chance to exercise their mandate, Sec. Reyes explained during an interview. However, failure on the Commissioner s part to accomplish the President s directive would mean revival of NASTF.

Amidst all these pressures are Customs employees and port workers who are pressed against these two skirmishing walls. An advocacy group called PWERSA or Port Workers, Employees and Representatives Solid Alliance a union of different associations representing various stakeholders transacting at BOC shares a different view.

Backtracking the days when military agents still rummaged around the ports, PWERSA has already made known to the government its determination to stamp out the anti-smuggling agency through unswerving protests and complaints claiming that the presence of such task force has only caused delay in trade facilitation, created disturbance and commotion among the customs employees and instilled fear in the people transacting business with BOC. Their meddling may only result to extortions from importers.

With senators and business sectors banding together for NASTF revival and with the president s 60-day ultimatum to BOC, it seems that PWERSA is once again on the lookout, ready to rise up in arms.

First and foremost, if they wanted to revive the functions of EIIB, bring back those that were laid-off, said PUWERSA chair Rommie Pagulayan. Customs has its own functions. The integration of EIIB with BOC is plain absurdity. How can the Commissioner derive powers from something that has been already deactivated?

EIIB was created during Corazon Aquino s term through EO 127 but was deactivated by Joseph Estrada after failing to perform its mandate to receive, gather, and evaluate illegal activities affecting the national economy resulting to a lateral attrition of 1,500 workers.

Now the burden of proof is with BOC, Pagulayan expressed, given that the country has been heavily relying on revenues generated from Customs and the Bureau of Internal Revenue. The anti-smuggling campaign is anchored by the country s acute fiscal deficit and its ballooning foreign debt. The government has been claiming that smuggling is the main reason for the decrease in its collections.

But Pagulayan averred that one of the culprits in the drastic drop of collections, particularly by the Bureau of Customs, is the country s accession to the common effective preferential tariff (CEPT) scheme of the Asean Free Trade Agreement, which is contrary to the Pure Transaction Value of WTO-GATT Agreement. Under the CEPT, the margin of preference offers a discount below GATT bound tariffs for ASEAN imported articles. As a consequence, goods can enter the country from an average of 30% rate of duty (based on WTO Transaction Value) to a very low 7% tariff (based on CEPT). Likewise, the government finds it difficult to determine whether the imported goods originated from the ASEAN country or were merely passed through the ASEAN to take advantage of the CEPT discounts.

Similarly, he explained that under the 11 Reform Program of the IMF-WB, a structural reform to combat smuggling, to increase the revenue and to protect the health and safety of the Filipino people was instituted. The two government agencies (BOC and BIR) subsequently embarked on a highly sophisticated computerization program and went into hiring the services of the Societe Generale de Sorvelance (SGS) a multinational Swiss-based firm with hopes to hit the collection targets. Implemented for 10 years, the government paid SGS an annual fee of P3B.

Yet BOC s collection remained negative. The government had to lower down its target so that BOC can hit it. And it did, for at least a couple of years, he explained.

To put it straight forward, even if an anti-smuggling task force is re-constituted, it can never be a factor in combating smuggling activities nor increasing the country s revenue collections stated Pagulayan. NASTF only duplicates the Customs job but it lacks technical knowledge of the whole Customs operation. What it has is merely the police power.

When ask about NASTF s abolishment, the PWERSA chair could only say It has outlived its usefulness.

As an alternative to the revival of NASTF, the government should support and strengthen the structure of BOC instead; increase the salaries (P3000 across the board); bring back employees benefits such as hazard and amelioration pays; put government counterpart to our existing provident funds; professionalize Customs personnel by insulating them from political patronage; improve our port facilities; and band shipping and forwarding companies from transacting business with Customs, Pagulayan implored.

Articles, Import, US Customs

10 Country of Origin Marking Procedures to Avoid Seizure by US Customs

Sunday, November 11th, 2007

Properly marking imported goods with the appropriate country of origin is the law. All imported goods must be marked in accordance with Customs regulations in a visible, permanent, and indelible manner. Failure to do so can result in:

  • Delayed shipments due to Customs examinations,
  • Fines and penalties for failure to abide by Customs regulations,
  • Loss of import privileges,
  • Additional costs to rework and remark goods before they are allowed to enter the US,
  • Permanent seizure of your goods by US Customs.

Points to consider when marking your good for import

  1. Markings must be permanent. Stickers, rub-ons, and pen/pencil marks are generally unacceptable. Markings should be etched into glass, die stamped into metal, dyed or sewn onto fabrics, etc.
  2. Markings must be legible. They should be easy for an inspector to find. If a stranger can’t locate it without help in a few seconds, it’s not marked clearly enough. Hiding your country of origin markings where they can not be seen without removing pieces or disassembling merchandise is unacceptable.
  3. Country of origin markings are intended for the ultimate consumer. The regulation is enforced at the borders and ports, but the goal is that the ultimate consumer understand where their product was made.
  4. Country of origin refers to the country where the item was manufactured or underwent the most significant manufacturing process. For agricultural products, the country of origin is the country where the commodity was grown or raised. For manufactured goods, it is the country where the goods were underwent their most significant manufacturing process.
  5. Special trade programs that reduce duty based on country of origin are very stringent about properly declaring an item’s origin.
  6. Country of origin markings must be in English or an acceptable English abbreviation. When in doubt, use the full English name of the originating country
  7. Some items are exempt from marking requirements. Exempt items include:
    • Items that can not be marked (sugar, oil, or other crude substances),
    • Items for use solely by the importer,
    • Items that would be damaged by any marking process,
    • Items for which its container marking will suffice,
    • Items produced 20 years or more prior to their importation,
    • Items produced in the United States, exported, and then returned.
  8. Some goods require a specific type of marking set forth in the regulations. Examples include:
    • Knives, forks, spoons and other tableware
    • Dental and medical instruments
    • Watches, clock, and timing mechanisms
    • Native American style jewelry
  9. Marking must unmistakably convey the origin of the goods if expressed as an adjective. For example, “Brazil Nuts” does not convey the country of origin because the term may refer either to the country of origin or the type of nut.
  10. If any other identifier exists that might confuse the ultimate use as to the country of origin of the good (such as a trade name “American Eagle Clothing”) it must also display a conspicuous declaration of its country of origin preceded by “Made in” or “Product of.”

Final Note

If imported items are found lacking proper country of origin marking, they must be exported, destroyed, or modified at the importer’s expense and under the supervision of US Customs.