Customs Exam vs. Intensive Customs Exam

Customs Exam vs. Intensive Customs Exam

Do you know the difference between a Customs Exam and an Intensive Customs Exam? These two phrases can cost shippers additional money above what has been budgeted for and can delay the release of your shipment.  We will explore these two different types of inspections to help demystify why Customs Exams happen, and things you can do to avoid these delays and costs in the future.

The first thing that comes to mind when you are told your shipment has been selected for a Customs Exam is, “Why us”.  Why is it that our shipment was selected for further inspection? I wish I could tell you why.  The fact is the Customs Border Patrol (CBP) utilizes unknown algorithms to evaluate the degrees of risk for each shipment entering and departing the United States which helps alert them to potential illegal activity.  While no one can say for certain how those algorithms work, we do know there are certain factors which are considered in the evaluation process.

Known factors are:

  • Shippers Identity (who is actually shipping those goods)
  • Are you a known shipper, or is this your first shipment
  • Shippers History (quantity/ frequency of shipments tendered)
  • Who managed and controlled the loading/packaging of the goods being shipped
  • What is the commodity (materials that have a history of inaccurate labeling, reporting, or valuing may be targeted for an exam)
  • Shipments originating from certain areas can trigger an exam (country, city, or geographic area were the goods shipped from)
  • Chain of Custody (who handled the goods from the time they were packed, shipped or stored. Were those involved “Known Shippers” or “Secure Supply Chain”?)
  • Were your goods consolidated with other shipments? If so, the container could be flagged for inspections because of other shipments in the same container. This can affect your shipment since those costs are shared by all parties regardless of who was flagged for inspection.

Vehicle and Cargo Inspection System

The most typical type of inspection is known as a Vehicle and Cargo Inspection System or (VACIS exam), which is a fancy name for an X-Ray Exam.  This type of inspection generally is less costly and less time consuming depending on the port your goods are entering or departing from.  The delay is generally depends on the number of shipments in the queue, but can be performed in a day or so of being flagged.  The cost of this inspection is $300.00 or so because it is less invasive: goods are placed into a unit which uses gamma ray technology to detect contraband such as drugs, weapons, or currency.  There are additional transportation fees as the shipment must be transported to the inspection site; those fees are in addition to the exam fees charged by CBP.  All fees must be paid prior to the shipment’s release. Household goods shipments are always categorized as unknown shipper, as such they are always going to be at risk for inspection.

Intensive Customs Exam

The more dreaded Intensive Customs Exam is usually ordered when something triggers a level of suspicion during a VACIS exam, which warrants a higher level inspection. This type of inspection means that the unit must be transported to a Customs Examination Station (CES) so that the seal can be broken and the shipment can be accessed by CBP officers for further inspection. This is costly not only because of the labor required to inspect it but also can result in additional detention and demurrage charges adding more costs to the shipper. This process, depending on the port, can take as long as a week or up to 30 days considering the number of shipments to be inspected in the queue. These costs can run into the thousands, depending of the size and commodity being examined. When household goods are sent to an Intensive Customs Exam it can be extremely costly as the inspection can take several days, and the unloading/reloading of those goods isn’t performed with the same care as given by the moving company. Unfortunately, this can result in damages to the shipment. The handling of the goods is done by a company contracted by U.S. Customs, they are not liable for damages caused during the inspection process, it is advised that these shipments have adequate coverage against transit or inspection related damages.

What Can You Do to Avoid Customs Exams?

There are many things shippers can do to avoid or minimize the chances for such exams. Here is just a couple of things to remember that could save you time and money before shipping your goods internationally.

  • Provide clear, accurate documents before your goods are shipped, and use a professional Freight Forwarder and a Customs Broker that understand the processes and documentations required by CBP. Our international staff insures that all documents are completed correctly and only use qualified customs brokers to insure that shipments are cleared on a timely basis.
  • If you can avoid co-loading your goods, it can help prevent unnecessary exposure to other shipments which might otherwise cause you to share in the cost of their inspection, not to mention delays. This may be a bit more costly, but it can save you time and aggravation in the long run. We recommend that shipments are not consolidated as this gives us more control over our shipment, and avoid unnecessary delays.
  • Get to be known by CBP by applying for a Continuous Entry Bond or (CEB). This will help expedite your shipments and reduce the risk of exams by showing customs you are a reliable shipper. At Dewitt Worldwide, we are a known shipper, with over 4,000 international shipments yearly we enjoy good working relationships with all our partners.
  • Make sure you hire reliable partners to handle your shipments. Proving to the CBP that you utilized a secure supply chain or known shippers will decrease your chances of being flagged for a Customs Exam. Our team is ready and able to become your professional partner for all your international shipping needs.  We stand ready to assist you with your next international shipment.

DeWitt Move Worldwide Can Help

Not having your shipments selected for Custom Exam must be your priority, and using only known partners is one of the best ways to reduce the chance of being flagged for exams.

For more information on how The Dewitt Companies can help you with your international shipments.