Shipping items to the United States isn’t quite as simple as moving things around Europe. There are a whole host of additional rules and regulations you need to be aware of before you start importing or exporting to the USA.

Security is unsurprisingly tight at American ports, so if you don’t tick all the necessary boxes, there’s every chance your delivery will be seized and fail to arrive at its intended destination. You could even be liable for sizeable fines.

But don’t be put off – with a little guidance, you can navigate the rules and regulations of shipping to the USA. Here’s everything you need to be aware of as a shipper or consignee.

What are AMS and ISF and why are they important? 

First of all, you must know about the Automated Manifest System (AMS) and Importer Security Filing 10+2 (ISF). Introduced in 2004 and 2009 respectively, these processing systems are designed to clamp down on security threats to the USA.

The former relates to the process of reporting cargo to US customers before a vessel sets sail. The latter is supposed to be filed alongside the AMS, and requires more in-depth information on where and who the cargo is going to.

Both processing systems demand information on the shipper, consignee, manufacturer and final receiver. They also rely on details about the cargo, such as exact piece count (pallets are not a recognised piece count) and weight, along with a breakdown of the ports the vessel is calling at – especially the last port and first US port. 

All of the above information will be held by different parties – including shipper, carrier and consignee. This can cause challenges to both the shipper and consignee if they don’t anticipate them before the cargo goes to port.

Challenges of IMPORTING to the USA

As you can see, importing goods to the USA for the first time is complicated. Many people simply aren’t aware of the AMS and ISF systems. And because it’s the importer’s responsibility to file the ISF alongside the AMS, it’s easy to slip up when preparing for a shipment.

Failing to go through the correct channels results in fines and even blacklisting – meaning shipping to this part of the world suddenly becomes impossible. All parties can be held liable for the same violation, too, with fines of typically $5,000 per party involved in the mistake.

As a result, it’s wise to use a customs broker if you want to avoid fines, delays or future problems. A good customs broker will provide the necessary forms you need to send to all parties concerned, and liaise with third parties on your behalf to ensure smooth filing and shipment. 

Challenges of EXPORTING to the USA

Anyone shipping to the USA should check that the importer has a customs broker before proceeding. As outlined above, those that don’t have a broker risk making costly mistakes for everyone involved.  

Another benefit of ensuring your consignee has a customs broker is that it can fast-track your route into the USA. If you’re not registered with the US customs, obtaining a foreign bond can prove tricky. However, if the consignee has a bond already, they can sign a Power of Attorney that lets us quickly process the shipment.

This doesn’t dictate that they have to pay duties and taxes, especially if you’re shipping on a DDP (Delivered Duty Paid) basis. It simply means they can be listed as the ‘importer of record’ to speed up the process. 

An additional benefit of working with a customs broker is that it can overcome non-disclosure issues if you don’t want the consignee to know who the real manufacturer is. 

Forward planning is essential when importing or exporting to the USA for the first time, especially if you don’t have a bond and/or power of attorney already in place. Our advice, use a freight forwarder agent to get support on timings to ensure no delays occur, compliance every step of the way, and take care of everything on your behalf.

Allseas Global