7 Steps to File ISF for Your Ocean Shipment
If you are importing goods to the U.S. by ocean vessel, you need to submit an Importer Security Filing (ISF) to the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) before your cargo is loaded on the ship. This is a mandatory requirement that helps CBP identify high-risk shipments and prevent smuggling, terrorism, and other illegal activities. Failing to file ISF correctly and on time can result in delays, fines, and even seizure of your goods. Here are seven steps to file ISF for your ocean shipment.
1. Identify the ISF importer
The ISF importer is the party responsible for filing the ISF. This can be the owner, purchaser, or consignee of the goods, or their agent. If you are not a U.S. citizen or do not have a legal U.S. address, you need to hire a licensed customs broker to file ISF on your behalf.
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2. Determine the type of ISF
There are two types of ISF: ISF 10+2 and ISF 5. ISF 10+2 is for shipments that are destined to enter the U.S. customs territory, including foreign trade zones (FTZs) and in-transit shipments (ITs). ISF 5 is for shipments that are transiting through the U.S., such as foreign cargo remaining on board (FROB), immediate exportation (IE), and transportation and exportation (T&E).
3. Gather the required information
Depending on the type of ISF, you need to provide different data elements to CBP. For ISF 10+2, you need to provide 10 data elements from the importer side and 2 data elements from the carrier side. For ISF 5, you need to provide 5 data elements from both sides. The data elements include information such as seller, buyer, importer of record number, consignee number, manufacturer, ship to party, country of origin, commodity HTSUS number, container stuffing location, consolidator, booking party, foreign port of unlading, place of delivery, etc.
4. Create an ACE portal account
To submit ISF electronically, you need to create an account on the Automated Commercial Environment (ACE) portal, which is CBP’s online system for trade data and transactions. You can register for an account here: https://ace.cbp.dhs.gov/
5. Submit ISF online
Once you have an account on ACE, you can use the Automated Broker Interface (ABI) or a CBP-approved third-party software to submit your ISF online. You need to enter all of the required information accurately and completely, and make sure you receive a confirmation message from CBP that your ISF has been accepted.
6. Monitor the status of your ISF
After submitting your ISF, you need to monitor its status and make sure there are no errors or discrepancies that could cause delays or penalties. You can use ACE to check the status of your ISF and see if there are any holds or exams on your shipment. You can also use ACE to amend your ISF if there are any changes in the information before the arrival of your cargo.
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How to File ISF: A Guide for Importers
If you are importing goods to the U.S. by ocean vessel, you need to submit an Importer Security Filing (ISF) to the Customs and Border Protection (CBP). This is a mandatory requirement that helps CBP identify high-risk shipments and prevent smuggling, terrorism, and other illegal activities. Failing to file an ISF correctly or on time can result in delays, fines, or even seizure of your cargo. Here are some tips on how to file ISF properly and avoid any problems.
What is an ISF?
An ISF is a document that contains 10 or 5 data elements (depending on the type of shipment) about the importer, the supplier, the carrier, and the goods being imported. It provides CBP with information about the origin, destination, and contents of the cargo before it arrives at a U.S. port. An ISF must be filed electronically through either the Automated Broker Interface (ABI) or the Automated Commercial Environment (ACE), which are online platforms that allow importers or their agents to communicate with CBP.
Who is Responsible for Filing an ISF?
The ISF importer is the party responsible for filing an ISF. This is usually the owner, purchaser, or consignee of the goods, or their agent (such as a customs broker). The ISF importer must have a legal U.S. address and a valid importer of record number or FTZ applicant identification number. If you hire a customs broker to file an ISF on your behalf, you need to give them a power of attorney (POA) to authorize them to act on your behalf.
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What Information is Required on an ISF?
The information required on an ISF depends on the type of shipment. There are two main types of ISFs: ISF 10+2 and ISF 5.
ISF 10+2 is for U.S.-bound cargo, including goods destined for foreign trade zones (FTZs) or transported under immediate transportation (IT) entries. It requires 10 data elements to be submitted no later than 24 hours before the cargo is loaded on the vessel, and 2 data elements to be submitted as early as possible, but no later than 24 hours before the vessel’s arrival at a U.S. port. The 10 data elements are:
- Seller: The name and address of the last known entity that sells the goods to the buyer.
- Buyer: The name and address of the last known entity that buys the goods from the seller.
- Importer of record number / FTZ applicant identification number: The IRS number, EIN, SSN, or CBP assigned number of the entity liable for payment of duties or operating or holding title to an FTZ.
- Consignee number(s): The IRS number, EIN, SSN, or CBP assigned number of the individual(s) or firm(s) in the U.S. on whose account the merchandise is shipped.
- Manufacturer (or supplier): The name and address of the entity that produces or supplies the goods.
- Ship to party: The name and address of the first deliver-to party scheduled to receive the goods in the U.S.
- Country of origin: The country where the goods are manufactured or produced.
- Commodity Harmonized Tariff Schedule (HTS) number: The HTS number at minimum six-digit level that identifies the goods being imported.
- Container stuffing location: The name and address of the physical location where the goods were loaded into the container.
- Consolidator: The name and address of the party who stuffed or arranged for stuffing of the container.
The 2 additional data elements are:
- Master bill of lading / house bill of lading: The master bill number issued by the vessel operator and/or house bill number issued by a non-vessel operating common carrier (NVOCC).
- Vessel stow plan: The vessel operator’s plan that identifies each container by its location on board.
ISF 5 is for transit cargo, including foreign cargo remaining on board (FROB), immediate exportation (IE), and transportation and exportation (T&E). It requires 5 data elements to be submitted no later than 24 hours before
the cargo is loaded on the vessel. The 5 data elements are:
- Booking party: The name and address of the party who initiates or requests transportation services for FROB cargo.
- Foreign port of unlading: The port code for where FROB cargo will be unloaded from arriving vessel.
- Place of delivery: The city code for where IE cargo will be delivered.
- Ship to party: The name and address of where T&E cargo will be delivered.
- Commodity HTS number: The HTS number at minimum six-digit level that identifies the goods being imported.
How to Submit ISF to CBP
To submit an ISF to CBP, you need to follow these steps:
Step 1: Gather all of the required information for either ISF 10+2 or ISF 5 as soon as possible
Refer to the section above for the complete list of data needed for either ISF format. Most of this should be readily available, but be prepared to contact the shipment’s owner or purchaser, the manufacturer or supplier, the carrier or consolidator, or the customs broker if needed.
Step 2: Create an ACE Portal account if you don’t have one already
This is where you can access the ABI or ACE interface to file your ISF. You can register for an account here: https://ace.cbp.dhs.gov/ You will need to provide some basic information about yourself and your business, such as your name, address, email, phone number, importer of record number, and bond information.
Step 3: Submit your ISF online using the ABI or ACE interface
You can either use a web-based form or upload a file with the required data elements. You will need to select the type of ISF (10+2 or 5), enter or upload the data elements, and review and confirm your submission. You will receive a confirmation message with a unique ISF transaction number that you should keep for your records.
Step 4: Monitor the status of your ISF and make any updates or corrections if needed
You can check the status of your ISF by logging into your ACE Portal account and viewing your ISF transactions. You can also receive status notifications by email or text message if you opt in for them. If you need to make any changes to your ISF, you can do so by submitting an amendment using the same interface as before. You should amend your ISF as soon as possible if you discover any errors or discrepancies in the data elements.
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