• Trade Advice
    ISF Filing

    ISF Filing| How To File ISF To Import In The US

    One of the most crucial processes to execute an import is filing the necessary paperwork. If not done right, the US Customs and Border Protection Bureau (CBP) will not release the imported shipment. Importer Security Filing (ISF) is one such document that a US-based Importer must submit to the CBP to validate his import.

    What is ISF?

    Importer Security Filing and Additional Carrier Requirements, better known as ISF or 10+2, mandates importers/ agents to file an online form with CBP for goods imported via sea/ocean route. ISF should be filed 24 hours before the ocean vessel sails from the last port of origin. This regulation allows CBP and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to ensure cargo safety and helps them identify high-risk or illegal shipments to prevent smuggling.

    It is important to note that ISF is applicable only for shipments imported via ocean/ sea transport. If any other mode of transport is used, ISF is not applicable. It is also not mandated for bulk cargo shipment.

    With the introduction of ISF, the importer is also accountable for the goods shipped into the country. ISF regulation is not used to determine the entry of the shipment into the country, however, CBP will compare the data to assess the risk and verify the submitted documents.

    ISF or 10+2 was officially published as a regulation in 2008 and has been effective since 2009. Before this, The Security and Accountability for Every (SAFE) Port Act was enforced in 2006. According to the SAFE Act, importers were obliged to report and file advance cargo information even before the shipment was loaded in the vessel at the port.

    Why is ISF needed ?

    ISF helps CBP and the Department of Homeland Security effectively identify high-risk cargo to prevent the smuggling of substances or people inside the US border. It aids the CBP in maintaining cargo security and safety.

    When to file ISF?

    It is mandatory to file the ISF before the ocean vessel reaches the US shores. There are certain data elements (more information on that in the section covered next) that need to be filed no later than 24 hours before the loading of goods onto the vessel at any foreign port. For break-bulk cargo, ISF must be filed no later than 24 hours before the arrival of the vessel at the discharge port.

    Who is responsible for filing the ISF?

    Filing the ISF with the CBP is mandatory for every importer. As this document mentions the type of goods imported amongst other details, the importer is responsible for filing an accurate, timely, and duly filled ISF with all the 10 data points. The shipping line/carrier is responsible for providing details of the +2 data points. For FTZ shipments, the entity filing other customs and import documents is responsible for filing the ISF.

    Types of ISF filings

    ISF 10+2

    An ISF filing can be of two types, 10+2 or 5. A 10+2 filing covers 10 ISF data points and two Additional Carrier Requirement Data Points.

    Below are the data points that are covered by ISF 10+2:

    1. Seller Name and Address - Name, address, and contact details of the party selling the goods. A commercial invoice contains all of the seller’s information.

    2. Buyer's Name and Address - Name, address, and contact details of the purchaser or buyer. During transit, if the goods are sold, then the buyer's information must be amended in the ISF. Buyer information is available in the commercial invoice.

    3. Importer of Record EIN/IRS Number - This covers the EIN Number, IRS, Social Security Number, Customs assigned importer number of the party responsible for paying duties, taxes. For FTZ (Foreign Trade Zone) shipments, the entity filing the paperwork must report their IRS number. CBS will levy a penalty to the entity with an ISF bond if the Importer of Record (IOR) in the entry does not match with the importer that files the ISF.

    4. Ultimate Consignee EIN/IRS Number - This covers the EIN Number, IRS, Social Security Number, Customs assigned importer number of the US firm that has imported the merchandise.

    5. Manufacturer (or Supplier) Name & Address - Name, address and contact details of the party who is the final manufacturer, assembler, producer, or grower of the goods. It can also be the name and contact details of the entity supplying the finished goods.

    6. Ship to Name & Address - Name, address and contact details of the party responsible for physically receiving the goods after they have been released by the customs. This detail gives the CBP predictability for targeting. If this field is blank, the customs office can take custody of the goods and report them. If there are multiple goods hand-over, the first party is reported.

    7. Country of origin - The country of origin entry covers the country in which the product was manufactured or produced based on the regulations in the US. This is similar to the information mentioned in the customs entry.

    8. Harmonized Tariff Schedule (HTS) number - This point covers the CBPs need to pre-classify the goods. Through the HTS number, CBP can identify under which class the product is listed. US Customs usually accept an 8 or 10 digit long HTS number.

    9. Container stuffing location - Name, address and contact number of the location where the goods were loaded in the container. For shipments that are marked as ‘break-bulk’, the name and address information of the location where the shipment was made ‘shipping ready’ is to be noted down. It is mandatory to amend the ISF before the shipment’s arrival, once the actual loading location is known. For such cases, a scheduled loading location is acceptable. The container number need not be mentioned in the ISF by the customs broker.

    10. Consolidator Name & Address - Contact details of the entity responsible for container loading. For shipments that are marked as ‘break-bulk ', the name and address information of the entity responsible for making the goods ‘shipment ready’ needs to be mentioned.

    In addition to these 10 data points, below are the +2 data points that are the responsibility of the ocean line:

    A. Vessel stow plan - This outlines the plan of the vessel loaded with containers. This information makes it easy for the CBP to identify high-risk shipments or identify possible containers used for smuggling goods in the US.

    B. Container status messages - Exchanged by companies involved in container transport. Container Status messages or CSM are well-standardized notes which outline the events that have occurred concerning the container. It contains information about the current container location and its contents.

    Apart from these 10+2 data points, the customs broker must also submit the House Bill of Lading and Master Bill of Lading number to the CBP to secure the ISF with the manifest data and the entry.

    ISF 5

    ISF 5 filing is performed for Foreign Cargo remaining onboard (FROB), Immediate Export (I.E) and Transportation and Exportation (T&E) Cargo. ISF 5 has five data elements, namely:

    1. Booking party - Name, address and contact details of the entity responsible for booking the cargo space for the shipment.

    2. Foreign port of unlading - Name and Schedule K Code of the foreign port.

    3. Place of delivery - The name of the final port where the responsibility of the carrier ends and goods are handed to the customs/ importer agent.

    4. Ship to Party - Name, address and contact details of the party who is responsible for physically receiving the goods after they have been released by the customs.

    5. HTS Number - This point covers the CBPs need to pre-classify the goods. Through the HTS number, CBP can identify under which class is the article listed. US Customs usually accept an 8 or 10 digit long HTS number.

    How to file ISF Online?

    The US CBP has made it mandatory to file ISF information of the containerized cargo for security purposes. US-bound and transit cargo requires different data elements to be submitted majorly ISF 10+2 and ISF 5, respectively.

    Follow a 3 step method to submit your ISF filing online:

    How to file ISF Online?

    1) Prepare the required information

    All the information required to fill the form should be collected by the importers/agents in advance to avoid any hiccups. To file an ISF form, you must have access to the following information. 10 information items to be submitted for ISF-10 at least 24 hours before lading:

    • Manufacturer (name and address)
    • Seller (name and address)
    • Buyer (name and address)
    • Container stuffing location
    • Consolidator
    • Importer of record number / FTZ applicant identification number
    • Consignee number
    • Ship to the party (name and address)
    • Country of origin
    • Commodity Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States (HTSUS) Number

    Five information items to be submitted for ISF 5 at least 24 hours before lading:

    • Booking party (name/address)
    • Ship to party
    • Commodity HTS-6
    • Foreign port of unlading
    • Place of delivery
    • Two data elements to be submitted by the carrier within 48 hours of the departure:
    • Vessel stow plan
    • Container Status Messages

    For the Advanced Manifest System (AMS) reference purposes, all types of ISF must have the lowest bill of lading number.

    2) A certified partner to file ISF online

    After all the information is collected, it is time to submit relevant data through an online portal. ISF data must be transmitted electronically to CBP via the Automated Broker Interface (ABI) in the ACE Portal (Automated Commercial Environment). One can also do it through a CBP approved third-party service provider. In any case, the filer requires an identification code – a SCAC (ACE Portals) or ABI filer code (ABI filings). CBP will assign a four-character identifier to the filer if SCAC is not available.

    • The portal also serves the following purposes:
    • Users can manually edit the required information
    • Cross-checking if there is an error in the information
    • CBP logs and ISF status for tracking purposes

    You can also refer to our blog post about Automated Commercial Environment(ACE) portal to learn more about filing and registration process.

    3) Checking the Status of the filing

    Keep an eye on the ISF status after submitting the ISF. If the information on AMS and ISF matches, CBP will accept the ISF without any complications. However, if there is any error or inaccurate information while submitting the ISF, there are chances CBP will reject your ISF, resulting in a monetary penalty of US$5000, detention, inspection, and delay of cargo.

    ISF form template

    Here is an example of a ISF Form template: ISF Form template

    Things to keep in mind when filing ISF

    There are a few things you must keep in mind while filing the ISF:

    • For inaccurate, incomplete, or untimely filing of the ISF, CBP might issue a penalty of US$5000 per violation and go up to US$10000.

    • If goods arrive at the US border without ISF filing, CBP has the right to refuse the unloading of the merchandise and subject to seizure if unloaded without authorization.

    • In case you fire your agent while filing the ISF and you need to do it yourself. Get in touch with the CBP Client Representative and have the original filing canceled, and then you will be able to file the ISF again on your own.

    • CBP and other agencies have the right to inspect the cargo once it reaches a US port. Any ISF infractions will attract a fine.

    • The ‘Three strikes and out’ leniency method has been amended out of the regulation. The filings which are marked as ‘extra-innings’ will start incurring penalties.

    ISF FAQs

    What is an ISF Bond?

    The ISF bond is the guarantee from the surety company to the US government that the importer will abide by all the rules and regulations governing the merchandise imports into the commerce of the US in a faithful and timely manner. It does not intend to protect the importer(preferably it safeguards the people and government of the US) or relieve him from his obligations. The surety is assumed with the same duties and responsibilities as that of an importer by signing the bond and if an importer fails to perform its duties, the surety can be compelled for the same. An ISF bond is also a particular type of customs bond which is identified as an “Activity Code 16 – Importer Security Filing (ISF) Bond” by the U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

    How to check ISF Filing Status?

    After submitting your ISF, within 4-6 hours a CBP ISF filing confirmation receipt will be received. The receipt will contain the relevant information about the acceptance or the rejection of the ISF. Three ways you can know if your ISF is accepted:

    1. ISF transaction number: It is a unique number generated by the US Customs ACE ABI Interface, which confirms that ISF is in their system.

    2. AMS Match: The Master and House Bill of Lading number must be the same as what the carrier has submitted to CBP in their system. If it matches, the receipt will indicate it and that your ISF is accepted.

    3. Customs ABI Status Message: You will receive an email containing the CBP ABI status message indicating the information in their system. Letter "Y" appearing next to the "Importer Security Filing indicator" indicates ISF was successfully filed.

    What happens if ISF is not filed?

    If goods arrive at the US border without ISF filing, CBP has the right to refuse the unloading of the merchandise and subject to seizure if unloaded without authorization.

    How much does it cost to file ISF?

    ISF filing fee generally lies between US$30 and US$50. Most of the brokers combine this cost with that of the ISF bond, ranging the total cost between US$80 to US$120.

    Can we amend the bill of lading number on the ISF?

    The system will allow an ISF filer to update an existing ISF with a new bill of lading number. However, ultimately the ISF importer is fully responsible for the timely, accurate, and complete submission of the ISF.

    Changes to the ISF after arrival at the port of discharge is allowed or required?

    The requirement to update an ISF ends when the vessel arrives in the U.S. Although CBP will not restrict the updates outside of this window.

    Also Read

    Alexandra Ortiz
    Alexandra Ortiz
    Content and PR at Drip Capital
    13 min read