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Licensed Custom Broker

What are Customs Brokers?

Customs brokers are private individuals, partnerships, associations or corporations licensed, regulated and empowered by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to assist importers and exporters in meeting Federal requirements governing imports and exports. Brokers submit necessary information and appropriate payments to CBP on behalf of their clients and charge them a fee for this service.

Brokers must have expertise in the entry procedures, admissibility requirements, classification, valuation, and the rates of duty and applicable taxes and fees for imported merchandise.


Why I need to hire a Customs Broker?

There is no legal requirement for you to hire a Customs Broker to clear your goods. However, many importers opt to do so for the convenience. Customs Brokers are licensed by U.S. Customs and Border Protection to conduct CBP business on behalf of importers. They take the burden of filling out paperwork and obtaining a CBP bond off of the importer's hands.

Some importations can be particularly complex, such as the importation of textile items for resale, because of quota or other special requirements governing the importation of the product.

The importer is always ultimately responsible for knowing CBP requirements and for ensuring their importation complies with all federal rules and regulations, but using a Customs Broker can save you from making costly mistakes.

Customs brokers assist with documentation (both offline and online), country specific rules and regulations, calculation of duties and related taxes, if any, and payments to the CBP. They ensure that your goods are cleared through customs in a timely, seamless and economical fashion. This service is provided for a reasonable fee.

These experts typically handle issues concerning entry procedures, classification issues such as the U.S. Harmonized Tariff Classification System, tariff treatments and trade agreements, compliance, valuation and classification of goods, assessment of duties, marking of imported goods, duty drawbacks and refunds, anti-dumping and countervailing duties, Foreign Trade Zones, and record keeping, if needed.

Their obligation is to comply with regulatory and statutory requirements on behalf of an importing client.

Not all brokers can process entries nationwide, meaning at any customs port of unloading, nor can all prepare and process the paperwork required by U.S. Customs, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). Be sure to inquire before making a hiring decision.

Finally, check whether you require a license, a permit to import certain goods or special additional paperwork. A customs broker can help you with this aspect of importing goods as well.


How can I be sure a Customs Broker is still licensed?

Check the port listing on the Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Web site. If the Custom Broker's name is there, they should be legitimate, as this list is updated on a regular basis.

You may also contact the CBP Broker Management Branch at (202) 863-6543.


Tips to Choose Customs Broker

  • Choose an Automated Customs Broker. It is important to choose a broker that is completely connected to the computer systems, portals and tracking sites that your operation will depend on. By choosing a broker that has the tech resources to expedite your shipments, your company gains a significant competitive advantage. Technology can make a lot of things easier when it comes to dealing with customs and reduces the amount of work required on your part in almost every case.
  • Choose a Broker With Positive References. Business is too fragile to invest in the wrong broker, so it’s best to learn from the mistakes and successes of the people around you. When choosing a customs broker, do your research and look beyond their marketing materials. Ask for testimonials from previous clients or ask an unbiased third party source for opinions and reviews. Contact the NCBFAA or the IFCBA – two associations that represent qualified and trustworthy customs brokers.
  • Confirm the Customs broker has a national permit. National permit will allow you to work with the same team of experts regardless of which area of the United States you import into
  • How responsive is the broker? See what it takes to get a live person on the phone and how quickly they respond to email. Shipping companies, CBP and other different players are all must come together when goods clear customs. There is no telling when a quick response to an issue might be needed.
  • Broker Phone Support - Call the brokers and make sure you can get access to a licensed broker on the phone. Many brokerages will have low-paid and less experienced “entry coordinators” dealing with importers, instead of the licensed broker of record. Make sure the broker takes the time to address your concerns.
  • Rapid E-Mail Response Times – When your shopping around for a customs brokerage, look for companies that respond quickly to your e-mail inquiries. If they aren’t responding quickly to a potential new customer, you can be pretty sure they’ll be too slow when it comes to day-to-day issues involved in clearing customs.
  • Remote Entry Filing – If you import goods into more than one U.S. Port, you’ll want to make sure that the customs brokerage you choose has registered for Remote Entry Filing with Customs and Border Protection. This will make it quick and easy for them to process your entries regardless of which port you choose.
  • Customs Drawback Services – If your company frequently exports goods overseas which were first imported into the U.S., then you need a broker with expertise in filing customs drawbacks. They should be able to speed up the process of getting your refund for any duties paid when the goods were first imported.
  • Status updates on the Web – Many brokers still require you to call in every time you want to find out if your shipment has cleared or if Customs is holding it for some reason. These phone calls can be a real time waster, so you should look for brokerages that have a web site sophisticated enough to do this online.
  • Live Web Chat – Sometimes phone calls just take too long. A broker that offers live online chat with through its Web site can save you lots of time when you just have a quick question.

Keep in mind that once you start working with your new broker, things may be a bit bumpy at the onset. Allow time for your company and the broker to get used to one another before making any rash assessments. Communication is the key to success along with patience and a positive outlook. If a month passes and delays and setbacks haven’t subsided, it might be worth putting yourself back on the market for a broker that is a better fit for your operation.


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