Does Air Freight Go Through Customs? A Comprehensive Guide

Shipping goods internationally can be a daunting task, especially if you don't have much experience in it. All products shipped across borders must pass through customs before they are allowed to enter or leave a country. This includes anything shipped by sea, air, or land. Once dispatched, the sender receives a document confirming that all customs duties have been paid and that the shipment of the goods can continue.

Generally speaking, most shipments will go through customs within a few days. However, there are cases where shipments can be delayed for weeks or even months. If you are importing products to the United States, it's important to know the potential delays that can occur during customs clearance. For an ocean shipment, it depends: the shipment will go through US Customs between 5 days before arrival and the time of cargo retrieval from the port. Customs clearance will take place between the pick-up in the US and so, no matter how your shipment travels, you might see a customs clearance message before your shipment even reaches the United States. Dispatching your goods before they arrive at the port helps ensure that any problems can be resolved and that your cargo is picked up as soon as the carrier makes it available.

Your shipment may still be removed for customs examination, and the type of customs examination will determine when your shipment will be dispatched. Flexport makes shipping your cargo transparent, reliable and affordable. Coming from another country can be intimidating, especially if you don't have much experience in it. Getting cargo through customs efficiently is important; a delay at the border can significantly delay your deadlines, making it difficult to develop trusting relationships with your customers. If you've ever had trouble dispatching cargo across the US in the past, at customs, this is probably because documents were not properly filed or because your customs agent did not give you adequate advice at all times. Honestly, importing cargo to the US shouldn't be a big deal once you're comfortable with it. That said, it's important to understand several segments of this process.

Anderson Trucking Service (ATS) helps companies import their cargo to the US. Whether it's a large project involving many pieces of fractional cargo or multiple loads of containerized cargo, our experience in this area covers many modes of transport. Your exact process for getting cargo to the US will vary depending on the type of cargo you are moving and the method of transport you have selected. Some products are shipped overseas by plane and sea vessel, while others enter overland by train or truck. Once the cargo to be imported soon reaches its place of export, whether it is a seaport, an airstrip or is picked up by a cross-border carrier, your operator will receive your bill of lading and approval upon arrival.

An electronic cargo declaration must be submitted using one of the CBP-approved electronic data interchange systems 24 hours before the cargo is loaded into its outbound mode of transport. With this information, CBP officials will determine if the cargo needs to undergo further examination upon arrival in the US. All incoming documentation must be submitted electronically to CBP using its Automated Trading Environment (ACE) portal within 15 days of the cargo's arrival in the US. The complete bill of lading for the cargo will be submitted to CBP along with other entry documents. While the type of Bill of Lading (BOL) of your cargo will vary depending on the mode of transport (there are several types of BOL), it must be included here. Form 3461 is CBP's official registration form and contains important information about all parties involved in transporting the merchandise, its origin and destination, who is the owner of the cargo, and other specific transit details. This form is critical for the US Customs clearance process, as it helps CBP determine if entry should be allowed or if further examination is necessary.

Form 7501 is another entry form that you and your customs agent will need to submit. This document serves as an input summary that provides context for CBP to use in classifications and assessments. Among other things, the 7501 form must include the description and Harmonized Tariff List (HTS) number of each piece of cargo. If you don't know the specific HTS of your product, the exporter must. If not, you can search for your number in the HTS database here. Form 7501 must be submitted within 10 business days of the date the cargo is cleared by customs.

The final document you'll want to file with CBP is your import customs bond. Without a current customs bond, no shipment can enter the US. Simply put, customs bonds serve as a contract between the main importer or shipper of a product, a bond company, and CBP. A line of credit issued by a bond company to the US government ensures that the party primarily responsible for paying taxes, duties and fees for a shipment does so. There are two types of customs bonds that importers can choose: single entry vouchers and continuous entry vouchers. As its name suggests, single entry customs bonds are valid for a single entry of cargo to the US Alternatively, continuous entry bonuses are still valid for a continuous period of time.

Typically continuous bonds are used when companies need to repeatedly and consistently liquidate items across US borders. Depending on your cargo requirements and how often you import them,the customs bond you submit will change. Once all entry documents have been submitted this action serves as a formalized request for customs and US clearance. At this point goods are authorized for entry or marked for further analysis. Should your cargo be authorized for entry duties and taxes as well as any other fees associated with importing goods into US territory must be paid before they can enter into circulation within US borders. How these documents protect CBP and US government in case duties and taxes are not paid.

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