Clearing Customs: The Importation, Entry, and Liquidation Process

AuthorMatt Nakachi, Marisa Mar-Jones, George Tuttle, II, Jennifer Horvath
Clearing Customs: The Importation,
Entry, and Liquidation Process
All goods imported into the Customs territory of the United States must be
cleared or “entered” through U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP).2 CBP
requirements and procedures for merchandise imported into the United States
begin before the goods are loaded aboard the vessel or other means of transpor-
tation from the country of export, continue through arrival of the goods into
the United States, and do not conclude until long after the goods are released by
CBP. There are many potential pitfalls that may result in excess duties, exclusion
or denial of entr y of the merchandise, or penalty actions by CBP throughout the
process. Most steps in the process are time sensitive.
This chapter is divided into four sections: () pre-entry preparation and require-
ments, (2) entry process and requirements, (3) CBP examination, detention, and
release, and (4) post-entry procedures, finality, and correctability of entries.
Clearing goods through CBP occurs at one of over 325 local CBP ports of
entry located throughout the U.S. Customs territory.3 Numerous CBP officials
are involved in the clearing process, including entry and import specialists, who
review the paperwork or filings submitted by importers and customs brokers,4
and officers, who physically inspect goods before release. There are many differ-
ent methods used to clear goods through CBP, depending on the intent of the
importer. There are also special entry requirements for people, personal prop-
erty, and vessels arriving in the United States. This chapter focuses on the formal
importation and entry of commercial goods,5 and the most common type of
commercial transactions, namely imports for consumption in the United States.
Other topics concerning Customs clearance methods and processes for commer-
cial goods are discussed in Chapter 6, such as entry under programs to reduce
duties or avoid certain import requirements, including temporary imports for
immediate export, temporary imports for processing and export, and imports
into bonded warehouses or foreign trade zones.
To the extent possible, this review of the import and entr y process is orga-
nized in the sequence that the procedures of the entr y process occur. Because of
the complicated nature of these processes, and because of the existence of time
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deadlines throughout, we begin with a time-oriented flow chart, before examin-
ing the process in greater detail.
Even before importing goods into the United States there are a number of steps
and legal requirements that importers must follow: () the importer must ensure
that it has the legal right to import the goods; (2) certain documents must be filed
prior to importation; (3) the importer should consider obtaining the services of
a customs broker to assist with entry filing requirements; (4) the importer must
obtain a customs bond that secures import entry transactions; and (5) the importer
must ensure that it has the documents and information needed to provide CBP
Pre-Entry Preparation
and Requirements
(Before Shipment)
Right to make entry
Customs broker
Customs bond
Other agency
HTS classification,
valuation, origin
Support for prefer-
ence claims
Importer Security
Filing (ISF)—No less than
24 hours before vessel
departs foreign port.
merchandise arrives at port
(Sea) or in U.S. customs
territory (Other).
Time of Entr y—Entry must
be filed within 15 calendar
days after impor tation.
Entry Summary/Entr y Docu-
mentation—Must file entry
summary with duty payment
within ten working days after
entry if filed separately from
entry documentation.
reserved for high-risk
Liquidation—Occurs in a
cycle of 314 days after the
date of entry. By statute
and Customs regulations
one year from the date of
Post-Entry Procedures
Supplemental Informa-
tion Letters/Post-Entry
• Reconciliation
Detention or Release—Cus-
toms has five days to either
detain or release the
Extension of Time for Liq-
uidation—May be extended
up to one year at a time for
a total of four years from
the date of entry.
Suspension of Time for
Liquidation—After removal
of suspension entry must
be liquidated within six
months after receiving
notice of removal.
begins 180-day period for
filing a protest against the
decisions in the
Customs Entry Time Flow Chart
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