When a cargo imported into the United States is under the Customs Clearance process, the Customs and Border Protection (CBP) will sometimes notify the Importer of Record that the cargo has been put on Customs Hold for some documental deficiency, which can be rectified within a few days by the Importer. However, sometimes the Importer of Record is notified that the cargo has been put on Customs Hold for Examination. Here is a good blog to help understand Customs Hold and Customs Examination.

For the importers into the United States, Customs Hold and Examination can be the worst news to spoil his day, but a professionally managed, customs broker can help reduce the chances of these distressing news. First thing to know is that Customs Hold does not always result in an Examination. Let us first describe Customs Hold and then take up Customs Examination, briefly.

Customs Hold

These holds could be of the following types:

  • ISF Hold for late importer security filing
  • Manifest Hold for deficient manifest of the importing carrier
  • Commercial Enforcement Hold for suspicions of shipment carrying illegal or contraband cargo
  • Statistical Validation Hold when the shipment’s weight and/or value are not according to the goods listed on the manifest
  • PGA Hold for shipments suspected to be breaching the regulations of US Government Agencies like United States Department of Agriculture, Federal Drugs Authority, Office of Foreign Assets Control, etc.

Once shipment gets flagged for Customs Hold, the importer of record (for definition of Importer of Record, click here) may have to get the deficiency rectified or the Cargo is tagged for Customs Examination depending on the nature of Hold. If Customs Hold does not lead to Examination, the cargo may remain stuck for a few days, costing the Importer of Record a few hundred dollars (different types of fees, including storage and container detention).

If the Customs Hold leads to an Examination, the Importer of Record must know what it means. So, here is a brief description.

Customs Examination

This Examination could be for any reason, suspected security, or commercial issues like counterfeit products, misdeclaration, observations by FDA, USDA, OFAC or other participating government agencies, etc. Or the cargo could be randomly selected by CBP. The following are the levels of Examination:

  • The X-Ray (VACIS) Exam: The Container is X-Ray examined at the Terminal, and depending on the findings, the container will either be released or tagged for an additional Examination.
  • The Tail-Gate Exam: At the pier, a designated Customs Officer breaks the seal and physically examines the contents. Depending on the findings, the container will either be released or tagged for Intensive Examination.
  • The Intensive Examination: An authorized Customs Agent completely empties the container at the Customs Exam Site (CES). A Customs Officer makes a detailed inspection of all the boxes.

Depending on the results of the Examination, the cargo may get released after a delay that can last a few weeks and cost the Importer of Record up to a few thousand dollars. Or even after this long delay and significant costs to the Importer of Record, the cargo’s entry to USA may be refused altogether, in which case either the Importer of Record is notified to reexport the cargo or (worst case scenario) the cargo is notified for destruction in US at the Importer of Record’s cost.

Having a competent customs broker and logistics partner on US importer’s side would be helpful in tackling the Customs Hold and Examination issues in appropriate manners that includes documentation and coordination with concerned agencies. If you want to know more details, or have specific queries, please contact TEU Global; import@teuinc.com or +1 732-515-9040. Let the expert guide you through the process.