Import Security Filing (ISF, 10+2)

Importer Security Filing (ISF, 10+2)

If you’re importing by ocean freight, the United States Customs and Border Protection (CBP) has made it mandatory to submit an Importer Security Filing. The ISF commonly known as the “10+2” initiative or “10 plus 2 customs”, is a rule that requires importers to submit to Customs extra information before a shipment can arrive into the United States. It’s the importer’s responsibility to file the ISF unless the shipment is passing through the United States to another country.  In that case, the responsibility for filing the ISF falls on whomever caused the freight’s arrival into the U.S. port.

The ISF filing requirement rule went into effect on January 26, 2009 and applies to vessel imported cargo arriving in the States. Those who don’t follow the rule could be subject to major fines, more inspections, and delay of cargo. ISF Information helps officials and their corresponding offices spot high-risk shipments more easily, preventing smuggling and ensuring cargo safety and security.

We at Cap International are very much involved in the ISF process. Under this new rule, as a licensed customs broker, we file electronically with CBP the required information on imported merchandise at least 24 hours prior to the vessel departing the foreign port when calling a U.S. port. The rule also requires that all ISF filings should be electronically submitted through the Automated Manifest System (AMS) or the Automated Broker Interface (ABI). There shouldn’t be any paper forms (e.g., CBP Form 3461 equivalent).

The rule exists so Customs can have prior knowledge of all ocean imported products. Along with the 24-Hour Advance Vessel Manifest Rule and the vessel stow plan, Customs can analyze the contents of all ocean shipments. Customs can then decide what action to take: whether to allow the freight to enter the U.S., not allow the freight to arrive, or take legal action on the owners of the freight, before the freight arrives on our shores.

So you might be asking yourself, “What exactly is the information Cap Intl has to submit to the CBP?” Well, as a licensed broker, we have to provide eight key pieces of information no later than 24 hours before the cargo is loaded on a vessel heading to the United States. Those pieces of information are:

  1. Seller
  2. Buyer
  3. Importer of record number / FTZ applicant identification number
  4. Consignee number(s)
  5. Manufacturer (or supplier)*
  6. Ship to party *
  7. Country of origin *
  8. Commodity Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States (HTSUS) number*

* There’s flexibility for ISF importers where these four pieces are concerned. These elements let importers give range acceptable information based on the facts available to the Importer at the time. However, any new information has to be updated as soon as it’s available. This updated filing has to be given no more than 24 hours prior to the ship’s arrival at a U.S. port.
Two more pieces of information have to be submitted as early as possible, and also no later than 24 hours prior to the ship’s arrival at a U.S. port. These pieces of information are:

  1. Container stuffing location
  2. Consolidator

Freight Passing Thru the US to Other Countries

Importer Security Filings for IE (Immediate Movement Exportation) and T&E (Transportation and Exportation) shipments must be submitted no later than 24 hours before the cargo is loaded on a United States-bound vessel, while FROB (Freight Remaining On Board) Importer Security Filings can be submitted any time before loading. Shipments with nothing but any of these and/or nothing but goods meant to be transported in-bond as an IE or T&E, the ISF needs five things:

  1. Booking party
  2. Foreign port of unlading
  3. Place of delivery
  4. Ship to party
  5. Commodity HTSUS number

How Will the Rule Be Enforced?

If your filing is inaccurate, late or incomplete in any way, at the strictest enforcement, the CBP could charge you as much as $5,000 for each violation. Sending goods without an ISF may result in the CBP withholding your cargo’s release all together, often called “ISF jail.” The CBP can also refuse to let the cargo be unloaded. If you try to unload merchandise without permission it could be subject to seizure. On top of that, other noncompliant cargo could be subject to “do not load” orders at origin or further inspection on arrival.

Best Practices

The U.S. Customs and Border Protection recommends four guidelines when following the ISF Rule:

  1. Know what you are importing before you import it
    • Identify the proper Harmonized Tariff Schedule (HTS) numbers early in the process
    • Consider a pre-classification system
  2. Decide who will transmit the ISF and how
    • Consider using the Unified Entry Option
  3. Know your supply chain partners
    • The Shipper has access to important information
  4. Require that the new “10+2” data be collected and provided early in the process
    • Add data fields to existing forms (e.g., purchase orders, advance shipping notices, commercial invoices, etc.)

Vessel Stow Plan Guidance Background

The Vessel Stow Plan is additional information importers and vessel-operating carriers give the Customs and Border Protection (CBP) in advance. It’s required for all vessels destined to the United States.

Carriers have to transmit the Stow Plan for vessels transporting containers so that CBP gets it no later than 48 hours after the carrier’s departure from the last foreign port. For voyages less than 48 hours long, the CBP has to receive the Stow Plan before the vessel’s arrival at the first United States port. Carriers’ vessels exclusively carrying bulk and break bulk cargo are exempt from this requirement.

Required Data Elements

With regard to the vessel:

(1) Vessel name (including international maritime organization (IMO) number)
(2) Vessel operator
(3) Voyage number

With regard to each container:

(1) Container operator
(2) Equipment number
(3) Equipment size and type
(4) Stow position
(5) Hazmat code (if applicable)
(6) Port of lading
(7) Port of discharge

We Make Filing an ISF Easy

All you have to do to file an ISF is download the ISF form from the forms tab. Just have the shipper or freight forwarder in the originating country fill it out. Once it is filled out, send it to us and we do the rest. Once it’s submitted to Customs, they’ll issue an ISF transaction number that’s unique to that shipment. We’ll then provide you and the freight forwarder with the ISF transaction number. Then you’re free to export the shipment without any danger of penalty. Have questions? Let us know how we can help. Call (832-649-4392) or email

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