If you’ve been importing merchandise from overseas without submitting a complete and accurate Import Security Filing (ISF), the party is about to end. The requirement to transmit detailed shipment information electronically from overseas prior to departure went into effect in 2009, but was subject to a “flexible enforcement” period during which fines were generally not imposed. But now, Customs and Border Protection (CBP) is expected to start rigorously scrutinizing ISF documents for accuracy.

So what happens if an importer’s ISF is inaccurate, incomplete or untimely?  Even for a first offense, CBP can impose a $5,000 fine per violation, withhold release or transfer of the cargo, refuse to grant a permit to unlade for the merchandise, and if such cargo is unladen without permission, seize the merchandise. Additionally, noncompliant cargo could be subject to “do not load” orders at origin or further inspection on arrival.

The more sophisticated importers and customs brokers are using specialized software and procedures to ensure that all the technical aspects of the ISF are correct well before the submission deadline. But surprisingly, even though the rule has been in effect for more than a year, many overseas suppliers are still struggling to fully comply with ISF requirements, potentially exposing importers to heavy  fines and delays.