Importer Security Filing or ISF forms are required by United States Custom and Border Control when you’re importing products through a variety of channels. For example, ISF 10 is the form required when you’re shipping items on a cargo ship before sending them on to an American destination. ISF 5 is used when the item stays on the ship when it is docked in an American port. Here are a few tips on how to fill out the ISF form correctly.

Know What Paperwork You’ll Need Before You Start

Demand a copy of the bill of lading. Then you have not only the bill of lading number for your ISF 10 form but can verify the HS code they’re using to refer to your shipment. Get taxpayer-identification numbers and addresses of everyone involved.

Start as Soon As Possible

The ISF form must be filed at least 24 hours before the cargo ship departs. You can be hit with a fine for the form being late, even if you filed it a day or two in advance. This is because the form may take a while to reach the necessary authorities. In general, send the form to your import/export service at least 72 hours before the ship leaves. This gives everyone time to make corrections and resubmit if necessary.

Use Tools to Save Time without Sacrificing Quality

ISF forms require you to essentially trace the route of the cargo down to the space it occupied on the cargo ship. An ISF filing form tool like the one by Eezyimport allows you to copy and paste the information you should already have into the fields. You can save your address and use it in various fields. The forms are saved in their database, so you can print them out or re-send them as necessary. A side benefit of programs like this is that they give you a template to work off of.

Minimize Your Risk

You could be hit with a five thousand dollar fine if you leave off critical information. That is large of a fine as you’d see if you didn’t file at all. Take the time to double-check your work. Ask questions or seek expert guidance if necessary. On the other hand, you shouldn’t delete an ISF form that you find is incomplete or incorrect. File an amended one so that you can’t get in trouble for a late filing. You can update the submitted filing when the ship is in transit.

What if you’re afraid that your information is incorrect? What if the shipper may not provide necessary information for the ISF to be completed? You may want to take advantage of the Customs continuous bond. The bond is similar to an insurance policy. If you or your agent makes a mistake, the bond will cover the fine. Note that you’ll need separate bonds for each shipment since each is covered by their own ISF form.

Get Status Reports

The Automated Commercial Environment Portal should send monthly reports regarding the status of your shipment. Where is it located? When does it hit port? What items are stuck in customs? Ask for this to be forwarded to you, if you don’t file the ISF forms yourself.

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