Customs and Border Protection CBP

Customs and Border Protection (CBP): The Ultimate FAQ Guide

If you’re looking for any information about customs and border protection (CBP), you will find it right here.

In fact, if you’re importing from China to USA or exporting to the United States from any country, this is a-must-read guide for you.

Keep reading to learn more.

What CBP in International Shipping?

U.S. Customs and Border Protection is an agency of the American Department of Justice tasked with regulating international travel and trade into America.

CBP was formed in 2003.

figure 1 custom border protection

custom border and protection

What Does Customs and Border Protection Do?

  • CBP gathers all export and import data for the main purpose of collecting international trade statistics
  • CBP processes mail, cargo, luggage and people
  • It seizes contraband together with narcotics and illegal drugs.
  • They then arrest any person involved in any fraudulent or smuggling behavior with the drive to get around custom laws.
  • It also does customs exams.
  • CBP looks into the different paperwork like packing lists and commercial invoices.
  • They ensure that every import and export is legal and complies with the American regulations and rules.
  • CBP collects import duties associated with the enforcement of the above laws.
  • The laws that are enforced by CBP to prevent illegal trade practices mainly protect American intellectual property and businesses.
  • Some of the laws that CBP enforce deal with quality life such as health and pollution.
  • CBP protects the general security and welfare of America by enforcing export and import restrictions and prohibition. They protect from money laundering as well as export of data key to the production of mass weapons of warfare.

What is the Difference Between CBP and Border Patrol?

Border patrol is basically uniformed presence between the ports of entry while CBP has a uniformed presence at ports of entry.

As CBP does inspections at the border, Border Patrol detects and prevents illegal entry into the nation.

border patrol

 border patrol

Who are CBP Agents?

Customs Border Protection agents are the individuals working for the CBP agency at the points of entry.

What do CBP Agents Do?

CBP agents are responsible for the valuation, admissibility requirements, classification, entry procedures, and the applicable taxes, fees, and rates of duty for imported products.

They also process paperwork and inspect luggage at ports of entry such as airports.

They interact with other agencies, carriers, and other foreign agencies to provide guidance on admissibility and compliance as well as exchange information.

They take part in intelligence analysis, law enforcement and examination regarding the arrival as well as departure at entry ports of vehicles, people and products.

They enforce immigration, customs and agricultural regulations and laws at American ports of entry as well as preclearance locations globally.

custom boder protection agent

 custom border protection agent

What are CBP Agent’s Priority Trade Issues?

Typically, CBP agents are more concerned with Priority Trade Issues.

PTIs are high-risk places that can cause massive revenue loss to the American businesses.

This threatens the safety and health of the American people as well as harm the American economy.

The present PTIs are:

  • Trade Agreements
  • Agriculture and Quota
  • Import safety
  • Revenue
  • Antidumping and Countervailing Duty
  • Intellectual Property Rights
  • Wearing Apparel/Textiles

What Role do Customs Brokers Play when Dealing with CBP Agents?

If a customer decides to use custom brokers, they are the ones who work directly with the custom agents.

Custom brokers eliminate the stress involving dealing with custom officials.

They also learn shipping regulations hence customers focus their time on managing their businesses.

In general, custom brokers function as translators communicating with governments and agencies all through the shipping process.

As such, they ensure that all the right procedures are followed.

CBP agents educates import-export businesses on how to deal with streamlining enforcement processes, custom agents.

This improves collection of data and levering enforcement partnerships with organizations internationally.

They educate exporters and importers that there are same agents and agencies on the other side of the world.

 overview of custom brokers dealing with CBP agents

overview of custom brokers dealing with CBP agents

Do CBP Officers Chose Where they are Stationed?

It depends on a number of factors.

CBP officers are often stationed in areas based on mission need.

However, after a period of time a CBP officer can ask for a change in station.

A CBP officer can apply for a position in a specific point of entry, but they are assigned a station by the CBP body.

offices of custom border protection agents

offices of custom border protection  agents

 custom border protection agents station

Do CBP Agents Carry Guns?

CBP agents can carry guns at their stations to perform their duties and exercise authority.

They make seizures, conduct searches and make arrest, hence, they need guns to perform their roles.

custom border protection agents tactical team

custom border protection agents tactical team

What can you Not Bring Through US Customs?

There are restricted and prohibited products that you cannot bring through the US customs.

They majorly include counterfeit products, illegal products (considered illegal in America), and drug/medications (unless one has medical permission for its use).

Restricted products are:

i. Drug and Medications

FDA does not allow the importation of devices, narcotics or drugs that have not been approved for use in America.

Also, they cannot be imported unless they are approved for use by a doctor’s prescription.

Some of these non-traditional treatments are arthritis, AIDs, cancer treatments, and other medical diseases.

Even if you acquire these medications through a foreign doctors prescription, they are still confiscated.

ii. Plants or Plant Products

Each cutting, seed or plant has to be declared and presented for inspection no matter how pest-free or clean they are. While some require export/import permits, some are fully forbidden.

iii. Wildlife, Fish and Products Made from them

These products are subject to quarantine requirements, certificates, permits, export-import restrictions, prohibitions and state laws.

American Fish and Wildlife Service has to be made aware of products made out of endangered species and it has to issue permits to import them.

An ivory product made from a warthog can be imported as long as there is documentation/it is at least 100 years old.

Such items are dealt with specifically at some custom entry ports.

That said, you have to contact your CBP to give you a list of the products.

iv. Food Products

Some cheese and bakery products are allowed into America.

There are some American foods that are equally subject to requirements of the American FDA.

Note: American law also prohibits Americans from bringing in goods from nations on which travel restrictions have been enforced.

However, informational materials such as books, films, recordings or tapes are allowed even with travel restrictions.

What Must Be Declared at Customs?

At the customs, you have to declare every time you purchase and is carrying as you return to America.

These can be items you bought yourself or are gifts for other people.

They can be duty free items purchased abroad and all the merchandise you intend to use/sell in your business.

What are CBP Import Requirements?

CBP import requirements include:

Entry Documents

They have to be filed at specific places identified by the director of the port within 15 calendar days of the time a cargo gets to America.

Some of the documents include:

  • Packing lists, if right
  • Merchandise release forms needed by the director of the port such as application, special permit or entry manifest for Immediate Delivery.
  • Commercial invoice or a pro-forma invoice when the latter cannot function
  • Evidence showing shipment has a right to make entry
  • All documents needed to determine the admissibility of merchandise

Note: if you want to release your goods from CBP during the time of entry, you need to file an entry summary for consumption.

Following the entry of your shipment at the port of entry within 10 working days, you can deposit the approximated duties.

Entry Summary Documentation

Customs examines the shipment after presenting the entry.

This activity can be waived or not. Your shipments are released if no regulatory or legal violations are violated.

You file the entry documentation summary, followed by a deposit of the estimated duties within a period of 10 working days after the entry of the merchandise in a particular location.

Entry documentation summary entails:

  • Entry summary CBP Form 7501
  • Giving back of the entry package to the authorized agents, broker, or importer, following the permission to release products
  • Documents and invoices needed to collect statistics, examine duties, or determines that every import requirement has been fulfilled.


When entering the port of entry, you must show adequate evidence that you have paid a bond with CBP to cover possible taxes, charges and duties that can arise.

You can secure bonds through an American resident surety company.

First, you have to post it in the form of some American government obligations or United States currency.

When using a customs broker for making entry, the individual should allow bond use to avail the needed coverage.

Immediate Delivery

Using CBP Form 3461, you can apply for a special permit for the delivery before products’ arrival, if you want the immediate release of your merchandise upon shipment.

Carriers taking part in Automated Manifest System are capable of getting a conditional release authorization.

This is followed by the exit of a foreign nation and around 5 days before getting to America.

Upon the arrival of the merchandise together with the approval of application, the shipment is released very quickly.

As such, you have to file an entry summary in a good form electronically or on paper.

Also, you must deposit the approximate duties within 10 working days following release of shipment.

Only specific types of merchandise can use the immediate-delivery release by utilizing the Form 3451.


Times, when you have to file for the Electronic Export Information, are:

  • A validated export license is needed to export a product
  • The merchandise value under every schedule B number is more than $2500

While the carrier files the EEI at the American CBP via the AES direct and AES, an exporter prepares the EEI.

Before exporting, an exporter acquires the individual schedule B number for the export product.

In the AES there has to be a schedule B number to identify the products being exported.

You can alternatively collect the schedule B number from the Census Bureau at a specified number.

For instance, if an exporter is shipping containers and a luggage with household and individual goods valued more than $2500 abroad;

They then have to file the EEI or present an ITN to the carrier.

How Much is Customs Duty in the USA?

The customs duty in America is the amount you pay on goods moving from other countries via the American border.

If your goods are from API, an estimated $1600 in merchandise will be duty free under the personal exemption.

If your goods are from an Andean country or CBI, then around $800 in goods will be duty free.

If there is additional amount of $1000 in goods, it will be dutiable at a flat rate of 3%.

custom duty

custom duty

What Happens When You Don’t Declare at Customs?

If you don’t declare at customs, you are more likely to face serious consequences.

You may lose the products as CBP can seize them.

As a result, you either lose the products permanently or you are forced to pay a penalty to have them back.

How Much does CBP Make in a Year?

The average salary for a CBP officer in a year is around $85, 991.

How Long has the CBP Been Around?

CBP was created in 2003 and has been in operation for close to two decades.

However, the initial body the US Customs Service was created centuries ago.

What Does the CBP Investigate?

CBP investigates the following crimes/issues:

  • Commercial fraud
  • Exodus cases such as export of weapons system and technology as well as arms
  • Money laundering
  • Child pornography
  • Drug smuggling

What Does Duty Free Mean for CBP?

Duty free means exemption from paying custom duties.

When importing goods, businesses do not have to pay custom bodies.

duty free shop in customs

duty free shop in customs

What is CBP’s Criterion for Duty Exemption?

You are eligible for duty exemption if you meet the following criteria:

  • Merchandise is physically with your
  • You have never used your exemption or even a part of it in the last 30 days
  • Merchandise is for home or personal use
  • You are eligible for $200 duty exemption if you have been out of America for 2 days
  • You have declared every merchandise that you did not have when you left America even if you wore it

What Happens if You Violate CBP Laws?

If you violate CBP laws, the CBP agents will stop and detain then frisk you as well as your luggage.

You can get breaks if you fail to declare a product unknowingly.

 overview of custom border and protection laws

 overview of custom border protection laws

What is Export Customs Clearance?

Export customs clearance entails formalities and procedures that a business may comply with when exporting a specific merchandise from the nation exporting the said product.

It involves getting any export license or another formal authorization and handling the protocol required for goods export.

export custom clearance

export customs clearance

How Do You Complete CBP’s Export Customs Clearance?

Export customs clearance differ from product to product and nation to nation.

A basic export clearance process work flow should be as shown below:

  • Finishing product production, followed by their package in readiness for export.
  • Organization of shipping and this includes container booking
  • Use domestic carriage to transport the container to the factory.
  • From the factory the goods are loaded and then delivered to the port of loading or carrier’s warehouse.
  • They prepare the needed documents to align with the laws of the exporting nation
  • There is custom’s declaration of the shipment through accepted channel
  • You inspect both the goods and documents as it is key for the exporting nation’s customs office to carry out this activity
  • The time when an importer’s products leave the territory of the exporting nation
  • The export customs declaration closure

Which Other Agencies Does CBP Partner with to Regulate Imports/Exports?

CBP partners with several other agencies to regulate exports/imports.

Some of the agencies include:

  • National Highway Traffic Safety Administration
  • National Marine Fisheries Service
  • Fish and Wildlife Service
  • Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service
  • Food and Drug Administration

What is CBP Form 7501?

CBP Form 7501 is also referred to as entry summary.

It is a document that one has to file with entry of their goods into America.

CBP often uses Form 7501 to find important information on the imported good.

Who Fills out CBP Form 7501?

CBP Form 7501 is often filled by a customs broker although a business owner has to be familiar with the form.

What is the CBP Clearance Fee for Customs?

The CBP custom clearance fee is fees charged by the package carrier or the customs service for filling in the needed paperwork and the processing of the imported goods.

The CBP clearance fee for customs can range between 10 – 20 Euros per package.

It includes the storage costs, administrative fees, clearance fees and others.

Note: every shipping company uses different rates.

What Documents Do You Need for Customs Clearance?

Authorities are likely to ask for the below documents for customs clearance:

  • Commercial invoice
  • Packing list
  • Certificate of Origin
  • Letter of Credit
  • Airway Bill/Bill of Lading
  • Inspection certificates
  • Import and export licenses
  • Permits
  • Dangerous goods declarations

How Long Does it Take to Clear Customs with CBP?

Due to diversity in protocols and systems globally, it is impossible to predict the exact length of time to clear customs with CBP.

Even so, customs clearance can take place in less than 24 hours.

Import custom clearance begins when the shipment is on transit and before arrival in the destination country.

All these happen as long the necessary documents are in place.

In the event that there are concerns, authorities can take more days before clearing the products.

What is a CBP Entry Number?

CBP entry number is a seven-digit number typically assigned by a filer.

This number can be assigned in any way convenient as long as this one number is not assigned to over one CBP entry summary.

 sample of an entry form

sample of an entry number

Does CBP Allow Tracking of Customs Clearance?

Of course, yes.

CBP allows the tracking of customs clearance through a customs broker.

The customs broker keeps you informed of the status of your clearance whether there are delays or holdups.

There is real-time tracking of shipment on an online platform hence a client is aware of the shipment’s progress.

What is a CBP Form 5106?

CBP Form 5106 is a document utilized by importers to change or establish their address or number, surety bonds when filing a bond or custom brokers for clients.

CBP Form 5106 is equally used to establish the importer of record to CBP.

How do You File a CBP Form 5106?

You can file a CBP Form 5106 by including all the needed information regarding the merchandise and importer.

You then submit it to the physical office or to an Entry Team situated at the port of entry.


Self-filers and brokers can present Form 5106 electronically via the ACE Portal or Automated Broker Interface.

Does CBP Charge Duty for Pallets?

Of course, yes.

CBP charges duty for any pallets used by importers.

 duty for pallets

duty for pallets

How Long can CBP Hold Your International Shipments?

CBP can hold your international shipments for days, weeks or even months.

Some of the issues which can make CBP hold your international shipments are:

  • Wrongly declared goods
  • The shipment is more than value required
  • Improper paperwork
  • Custom fees outstanding
  • Prohibited items
  • Problems reaching the recipient

How long CBP holds your international shipments, therefore, depends on the issue.

For instance, if the shipment is more than the value allowed or there are custom fees outstanding then you will be contacted to clear the balance.

How Does CBP Calculate Import Duty?

The import duty varies according to the goods you are importing, the country they are from and where they were made.

CBP calculates duties owing based on the products/goods value in American funds.

Customs Duty Rate X Total Customs Value of Goods = Import Duty

CBP gives an import duty calculator to calculate this amount.

On the calculator, indicate exporting and importing country of your merchandise.

Identify your duty rate by keying in the products HS Cde.

Include the HTS Code of the merchandise then determine the duty applicable.

Multiply the applicable duty rate by the commercial value of the merchandise.

What is a CBP Filer Code?

A CBP filer code is a special identification number of allowed companies/persons used to file customs entries.

How do You get a CBP Filer Code?

First, you have to request for a filer code from CBP.

Secondly, you present a letter to CBP asking for participation in ABI.

The letter includes information such as importer number/federal tax ID, address and name of the company.

It also includes the information of the contact person, and the role of the entity looking for a filer code.

After CBP approves, they assign a filer code.

The entity whether an importer/exporter/carrier can then use this filer code whether exporting/importing/transporting goods from one port to the other.

What is Formal vs Informal Entry According to CBP?

Here are some of the aspects you need to know:


Formal entry is mainly for goods that have to be covered by a surety bond/entry bond as its summative total is more than $2000.

The bond ensures the compliance of the custom requirements and payment of duties.

Informal entry, on the other hand, are goods at the border entry that do not require entry bond since their value is below $2000.

These goods are often imported for personal consumption.

Custom Broker

There has to be a customs broker to clear this formal entry shipment.

If a consignee arrives at the port of entry to collect a shipment/if an exporter accompanies the shipment, then a broker is not required in informal entry.


Documentation for informal entry is very strict.

You have to fill certificate of origin, commercial invoice, importer ID, Bill of Lading, Entry Delivery, Entry Manifest, Harmonized System Tariff Classification and other license/permits.

In informal entry, you only need a commercial invoice and probably a Certificate of Origin.

Documentation is not strict in this case.

What is CBP Duty Deferral?

CBP duty deferral is when the agency allows an importer/business to import products without paying custom duties/taxes/fees.

It takes place only as long as the businesses plan to export the goods after importing them.

CBP has a 90-day duty deferral for importers.

What are the Components of CBPs Duty Deferral Program?

CBP duty deferral program has the following components:

  • Temporary importations under bond
  • Foreign trade zones
  • Bonded warehouses
  • Inward processing programs
  • Maquiladoras
  • Drawback program
  • Duty relief program

What are CBP Custom Penalties and Seizures?

CBP custom seizures is the acquisition of imported goods by CBP for individual or institution violation of custom laws or any other laws enforced by CBP.

False valuation of your shipment can lead to the seizure of the whole shipment.

Penalties, on the other hand, are the legal action and fines applied to importers by US CBP when goods imported into America violates the laws.

CBP levies penalties for negligence or fraud.

Note: you will not be penalized for omissions or clerical errors.

If you notice such errors, it is imperative to notify the CBP so they do not hold the shipment.

What are CBP Acceptable Payment Methods?

  • Credit card
  • Debit cards
  • Paypal
  • ACH Credit

With BanSar, you don’t have to worry about customs clearance process when importing from China to USA.

In fact, we can also connect you with our partners who will make the entire customs clearance process easy and simple.

In case you have any questions or inquiry about customs and border protection, BanSar can help – talk to us now.

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