How to Avoid Delays at Customs When Importing

How to Avoid Delays at Customs When Importing

For the most part, customs entry difficulties and sluggishness are due to a combination of new anti-terrorism rules and increased scrutiny at ports and border crossings. Fortunately, a little research, expert help, and careful planning can keep your merchandise moving and help you avoid delays at customs.

How to Avoid Delays at Customs

Some delays at customs are uncontrollable. Random inspections, weather, and a variety of other situations can cause your cargo to get held up. It’s important to understand what you can and should do when importing to the U.S. However, if you want to save yourself a headache and avoid delays at customs, follow these 5 steps:

Accurate Paperwork

More often than not, customs delays can be traced back to simple paperwork errors. Make sure to describe each item in the shipment accurately to avoid delays at customs. Vagaries will always raise suspicions with customs officials, and your cargo will likely get hung up at the border.

Importer Security Filing

ISF is a disclosure document, required at the dock at least 24 hours prior to loading international cargo. And with loading sometimes taking place days before departure, plan ahead. Forgotten or late filing can keep your shipment from making it onto the vessel and cause further delays. If you want to avoid delays at customs, we suggest that you have ISF (Importer Security Filing) documentation prepared well in advance.

If you don’t file ISF within the required timeframe, you can face some stiff penalties. Legal penalties may vary, but fines often hit upwards of $5,000 per error or violation. Hypothetically, you could reach $20,000 or more by reporting incorrect information on your ISF documentation.

There are 8 must-report elements in ISF filing. Accurately following that checklist should keep you out of harms way when it comes to import delays at customs and fines.


Official confirmation of what you’re shipping must be obtained from the U.S. Customs & Border Protection before your shipment arrives and confirms the product’s classification under the U.S. Harmonized Tariff System. This clarifies whether a product can legally cross the border. It also provides the necessary information to assess shipping duties. Work with a customs broker to ensure proper classification and to avoid delays at customs. There are different types of tariff rates that you may get hit with, so it’s important to understand what rates are associated with certain circumstances.

Proper Certification

If the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission regulates any product in your shipment, the law requires you to obtain a compliance certificate confirming it meets safety standards. Depending on the product, you may need one or more of three separate types of certificates.

Given the complexities surrounding import/export rules, consider consulting an expert. If you’d like to learn more on how to avoid delays at customs, clear customs, or need assistance importing or exporting goods, call our team at Interlog USA. We have years of experience in both domestic and international shipping.


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