Why do I need a Customs Broker?

A customs broker such as Straight Forward Customs Broker is a company licensed by the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to legally represent importers in their dealings with Customs. 

Customs brokers play a vital role  in the importing process by ensuring that your goods are in compliance  with government regulations and legislation. Straight Forward Customs Broker begins to arrange  customs clearance for your shipments before they arrive at destination.  We also connect directly to U.S. Customs using ABI (Automated Broker  Interface).

What is a Customs Broker?

A Customs Broker is a highly trained import professional . Licensed by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, the customs broker must possess thorough knowledge of tariff schedules and Customs regulations and keep abreast of the amendments made through constant changes in the law and administrative regulations.

Licensing as a Customs Broker requires that the applicant must first pass a test conducted by U.S. Customs on the laws and regulations pertaining to the entry of goods into the United States. If the applicant successfully passes the test then he/she must undergo a comprehensive background investigation by U.S. Customs. After this, the applicant may be licensed as a Customs Broker. A Corporation, to be licensed as a Customs Broker, must have a licensed broker as a corporate officer.

A Customs Broker must be bonded and must file a bond with Customs as a requirement of being issued the Customs Brokers license. The Customs Broker's license is applicable on a nationwide basis but the Broker must secure a "Customhouse broker permit" for each Customs District he/she intends to operate in, before doing business. As a further requirement called "responsible supervision", each Customs Broker must have a licensed person located in each Customs District in order to be permitted in that District.

Most Customs Brokers maintain relationships with other "associate" Customs Brokers around the country that allow the Broker to clear cargo through Customs for a client at any port of entry. This does not result in additional costs for the client since the work, and the fees charged, are allocated to each broker on a shared basis.

What other services does a Customs Broker provide?

A Customs Broker can also arrange Local Trucking, Warehousing, Customs Bonds and Cargo Insurance. The broker can also provide Trade Consultants to handle more serious issues such as Trademark, ICR, and other Trade issues.

What are the advantages of using a Customs Broker?

At Straight Forward Customs Broker individual attention is ensured and our dedicated team will work out any duty and taxes and liaise with Customs to ascertain the speedy transit of your goods. It makes good business sense to hire a customs broker to help make certain that the goods are processed in an efficient and cost-effective manner.

Do other government agencies have import or export requirements?

Some goods are subject to other government department regulations and may require permits or certificates. It is important to determine these specifics prior to importation to ensure that your goods are compliant.

Clearance of my merchandise: What do I need?

Your Customs Broker requires the following, at a minimum, in order to prepare an entry:

  1. Commercial Invoice -
    Preferably in English, which describes the product, terms of sale, and  the purchase price FOB origin port. If the product originates in a  country other than the one you purchase from, the actual country of  origin of the merchandise should appear somewhere on the invoice. The  name of the seller and the buyer and the currency of purchase should be  clearly stated. Some importers think that they should include as little  information as possible in the invoices they provide to their Customs  Broker. This works against you! When we can't get enough information to  substantiate a lower duty classification on merchandise, we are required to use the higher classification. So, give your Customs Broker enough  information to do the job properly.

  2. Bill of lading or Air Waybill 
    This is the transport document that covered the movement from origin to the port of entry.

  3. Country of origin Marking
    One of the most common problems that will hold up an entry is when  the product or merchandise does not have any marking which indicates its origin. "Origin" does not necessarily mean where you bought it.  "Origin" should be discussed with your Customs Broker so that you  understand the term as it relates to U.S. Customs. Marking requirements  are clearly stated in the regulations and your broker can be a valuable  asset in determining what you must do.

  4. Other regulatory agencies
    Some products are also subject to approval by other agencies of the  U.S. Government before entry is approved. Among these are: Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Department of Agriculture (USDA), Department of  Transportation (DOT), Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and others. Discuss this with your Customs Broker. He will coordinate entry with  these agencies as part of his/her service.

  5. How long does it take? 
    After the first few entries, where Customs may take a little extra time to become familiar with your company and the products you import,  the usual time for clearance can be a short as a few hours up to 2-3  days. Perishables are usually cleared immediately.

  6. Your Cooperation 
    - The Customs Broker is a professional that wants to do the  best job for a Client. In order for this to happen, the client should  work closely with the Customs Broker in supplying needed information,  paying duties (import taxes) on time, and generally including the  Customs Broker as part of the Client's team. Remember, your Broker has  the right to rely upon the information you supply. If the information is erroneous or incomplete and a penalty is issued by Customs, YOU will be receiving that penalty.