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ISF Filling

Jun 30, 2022Basics of Importing

Importer Security Filing (ISF)

As an importer, it’s important to be aware of the ISF Filing regulation. ISF or 10+2 was officially published as a regulation in 2008 and has been effective since 2009. According to the SAFE Act, importers were obliged to report and file advance cargo information even before the shipment was loaded in the vessel at the port.

ISF mandates importers/ agents to file an online form with CBP for goods imported via sea/ocean route. ISF should be filed 24 hours before the ocean vessel sails from the last port of origin. This regulation allows CBP and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to ensure cargo safety and helps them identify high-risk or illegal shipments to prevent smuggling.

It’s important to note that ISF is applicable only for shipments imported via ocean/ sea transport. If any other mode of transport is used, ISF is not applicable. It is also not mandated for bulk cargo shipment.

ISF Filing is required by the US Customs and Border Protection in order to help ensure that high-risk cargo is effectively identified and prevented from being smuggled into the country. This helps maintain cargo security and safety within the United States. ISF filing provides the CBP with essential information about incoming shipments, which allows them to better target their resources and protect the US border.

When to file ISF

It is mandatory to file the ISF before the ocean vessel reaches the US shores. There are certain data elements (more information on that in the section covered next) that need to be filed no later than 24 hours before the loading of goods onto the vessel at any foreign port. For break-bulk cargo, ISF must be filed no later than 24 hours before the arrival of the vessel at the discharge port.

This is to ensure that the ISF is filed in a timely manner and that US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) has all the information they need in order to properly process and clear your shipment. Filing late or not at all can result in delays, penalties, and even the refusal of your shipment.

Who files the ISF

The ISF (Importer Security Filing) is a document that is required to be filed by every importer with the CBP (Customs and Border Protection). This document contains details about the type of goods being imported, and as such, it is the responsibility of the importer to make sure that the ISF is filed accurately and on time.

ISF Bond

An ISF bond is a type of customs bond that guarantees the importer will follow all rules and regulations governing merchandise imports into the United States. The surety company that issues the bond assumes the same duties and responsibilities as the importer, and can be held liable if the importer fails to perform its duties. ISF bonds are typically required for high-value shipments, and must be obtained before goods are shipped to the United States.

Cost to file ISF

ISF filing is required for all importers shipping to the United States. ISF filing fee generally lies between US$30 and US$50. Most of the brokers combine this cost with that of the ISF bond, ranging the total cost between US$80 to US$120. ISF bonds are a type of customs bond that guarantees payment of import duties and taxes to the US government. ISF bonds are typically valid for one year from the date of issuance.

Types of ISF filings

ISF 10+2

There are 10+2 data points that must be reported in an ISF Filing. These include things like the Harmonized Tariff Schedule (HTS) number, container stuffing location, and consolidator name and address. It is the responsibility of the customs broker to make sure that all of this information is accurate and up-to-date.

You’ll need to include the following information in your ISF:

  1. Importer of Record Number/IRS Number – The IRS number of the entity filing the paperwork. CBS will levy a penalty if the Importer of Record (IOR) in the entry does not match the importer who files the ISF.
  2. Consignee Number – The CBP assigned number of the entity who will be taking possession of the goods after they clear customs.
  3. Manufacturer Name & Address – The name and address of the entity that manufactured the goods being imported.
  4. Seller Name & Address – The name and address of the entity selling the goods being imported. If there is more than one seller, only the first seller needs to be listed.
  5. Buyer Name & Address – The name and address of the entity buying the goods being imported. If there is more than one buyer, only the first buyer needs to be listed.
  6. Ship to Name & Address – The name, address, and contact information of the party responsible for receiving the goods after they have been released by customs. This is typically the same as the consignee.
  7. Country of Origin – The country where the goods were manufactured.
  8. Harmonized Tariff Schedule (HTS) Number – The HTS number is used by CBP to classify the goods being imported and determine the appropriate duty rate. Goods imported without a proper HTS classification may be subject to delays or additional scrutiny.
  9. Container Stuffing Location – The name, address, and contact information of the location where the goods were loaded into the container. For shipments that are marked as “break-bulk,” the name and address of the location where the shipment was made “shipping ready” should be noted. If the actual loading location is not known at the time of ISF filing, an estimate may be provided.
  10. Consolidator Name & Address – The contact information for the entity responsible for loading the container. For shipments that are marked as “break-bulk,” the name and address of the entity responsible for making the goods “shipping ready” should be noted.

In addition to these 10 data points, the CBP also requires two additional pieces of information: the vessel stow plan and container status messages.

  1. The vessel stow plan outlines the plan of the vessel loaded with containers and helps the CBP identify high-risk shipments or possible containers used for smuggling goods into the US.
  2. Container status messages are exchanged by companies involved in container transport and provide information about the current location of


ISF 5 is required for Foreign Cargo remaining onboard (FROB), Immediate Export (I.E) and Transportation and Exportation (T&E) Cargo.

The ISF 5 form has five data elements:

  1. Booking party: The name, address and contact details of the entity responsible for booking the cargo space for the shipment.
  2. Foreign port of unlading: The name and Schedule K Code of the foreign port.
  3. Place of delivery: The name of the final port where the responsibility of the carrier ends and goods are handed to the customs/ importer agent.
  4. Ship to Party: The name, address and contact details of the party who is responsible for physically receiving the goods after they have been released by the customs.
  5. HTS Number: This point covers the CBPs need to pre-classify the goods. Through the HTS number, CBP can identify under which class is the article listed. US Customs usually accept an 8 or 10 digit long HTS number.

Providing accurate information on your ISF 5 form is crucial – if any of the data elements are incorrect, it could result in delays or other issues with your shipment. So be sure to double check all the information before you submit your form.

How to file ISF Online?

For security reasons, the US CBP has compelled containerized freight to submit ISF information. Different data components must be provided by cargo bound for the United States and passing through its borders, particularly ISF 10+2 and IS F 5, respectively.

Follow these steps to submit your ISF filing online:

1. Prepare the required information

All the information required to fill the form should be collected by the importers/agents in advance to avoid any hiccups. To file an ISF form, you must have access to the following information:

  • Manufacturer (name and address)
  • Seller (name and address)
  • Buyer (name and address)
  • Container stuffing location
  • Consolidator
  • Importer of record number / FTZ applicant identification number
  • Consignee number
  • Ship to the party (name and address)
  • Country of origin
  • Commodity Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States (HTSUS) Number.

For ISF-10, you need 10 information items to be submitted at least 24 hours before lading. For ISF 5, you need five information items to be submitted at least 24 hours before lading. These are:

  • Booking party (name/address)
  • Ship to party
  • Commodity HTS-6
  • Foreign port of unlading
  • Place of delivery
  • Two data elements to be submitted by the carrier within 48 hours of the departure:
  • Vessel stow plan
  • Container Status Messages

ISF-10 must have the lowest bill of lading number.

2. A certified partner to file ISF online

After all the information is collected, it is time to submit relevant data through an online portal. ISF data must be transmitted electronically to CBP via the Automated Broker Interface (ABI) in the ACE Portal (Automated Commercial Environment). One can also do it through a CBP approved third-party service provider. In any case, the filer requires an identification code – a SCAC (ACE Portals) or ABI filer code (ABI filings). CBP will assign a four-character identifier to the filer if SCAC is not available.

The portal also serves the following purposes:

  • Users can manually edit the required information
  • Cross-checking if there is an error in the information
  • CBP logs and ISF status for tracking purposes

You can also refer to our blog post about Automated Commercial Environment(ACE) portal to learn more about filing and registration process.

3. Checking the Status of the filing

Keep an eye on the ISF status after submitting the ISF. If the information on AMS and ISF matches, CBP will accept the ISF without any complications. However, if there is any error or inaccurate information while submitting the ISF, there are chances CBP will reject your ISF, resulting in a monetary penalty of US$5000, detention, inspection, and delay of cargo.

So, these were the steps involved in ISF filing. Make sure to follow them carefully to avoid any penalties or delays in shipment.

Things to keep in mind when filing ISF

When it comes to ISF filing, there are a few key points to keep in mind. First and foremost, inaccurate, incomplete, or untimely filing of ISF can result in a penalty of US$5000 per violation from CBP. Additionally, if goods arrive at the US border without ISF filing, CBP has the right to refuse unloading of the merchandise and seize the goods if they are unloaded without authorization.

If you find yourself in the situation where you need to file ISF on your own (e.g. you fire your agent), get in touch with a CBP Client Representative and have the original filing canceled. Once that’s taken care of, you’ll be able to file ISF again on your own.

It’s also important to note that CBP and other agencies have the right to inspect cargo once it reaches a US port. Any ISF infractions discovered during inspection will result in a fine.

Lastly, it’s worth mentioning that the ‘Three strikes and out’ leniency method has been amended out of the regulation. This means that filings marked as ‘extra-innings’ will start incurring penalties.


How to check ISF Filing Status

Once you’ve submitted your ISF, you should receive a CBP ISF filing confirmation receipt within 4-6 hours. This receipt will contain information about whether or not your ISF was accepted. There are three ways to check the status of your ISF:

  • ISF transaction number: This number is generated by the US Customs ACE ABI Interface and confirms that your ISF is in their system.
  • AMS Match: The Master and House Bill of Lading number must match the number that the carrier submitted to CBP. If they match, it will say so on the receipt and your ISF will be accepted.
  • Customs ABI Status Message: You should receive an email telling you the status of your CBP ABI. The letter “Y” next to the “Importer Security Filing indicator” means that your ISF was filed successfully.

What happens if ISF is not filed?

If ISF is not filed, CBP has the right to refuse unloading the merchandise and it may be subject to seizure if unloaded without authorization. ISF filing must be completed for all shipments entering the US in order to avoid any penalties or fees. ISF filing is a requirement for all ocean carriers, freight forwarders, and importers.

Can I change the BOL number on the ISF?

If you need to update the bill of lading number on your ISF, you can do so in the system. However, it is important to remember that as the ISF importer, you are responsible for ensuring that the ISF is submitted accurately and on time. Incomplete or inaccurate submissions can result in delays and penalties, so it is important to make sure that all information is up to date and correct.

Can I make changes to the ISF after arrival at the port of discharge?

It’s important to get your ISF filing right the first time, because once the vessel arrives in the U.S., you won’t be able to make any changes. Although CBP won’t technically stop you from making updates outside of this window, it’s best to avoid doing so if possible. Getting your ISF right from the start will help ensure a smooth and hassle-free importing process.


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