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FAST – Free and Secure Trade

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.

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