First of all, what even is customs?
In the wake of the terrorist attack on September 11, 2001, Border Patrol, Immigration and Naturalization Service, Department of Agriculture, and the U.S. Customs Service joined forces and became what we now know as the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), Homeland Security’s largest and most complex organization.
CBP is one of the largest law enforcement organizations in the world. Their main responsibility is to protect the United States from dangerous people and materials while promoting economic growth and global competitiveness by supporting lawful trade and travel. To this end, the CBP is responsible for border supervision and control through managing customs, immigration, border security, and agricultural protection.
As such, the mission of CBP, when it comes to trade, is to protect the United States border and ports of entry from terrorism, smuggling, illegal immigration, and agricultural pests, while promoting the movement of legitimate goods. To accomplish this goal the CBP monitors all cargo coming in and out of the U.S.
Customs cargo inspectors have a variety of tools and equipment at their disposal to determine if a shipment is a potential risk. For example, most overseas and domestic ports utilize gamma scanning technology to detect signs of radiation.
With these tools, inspectors use a targeting system that generates a score for every shipment. If a shipment gains a score over a certain threshold, inspectors are alerted to give the shipment further review or possibly an exam.
Where does the criteria for this score come from? While customs does not publicly disclose the specifics, they likely take into account how often the shipper imports, the kind of commodity being imported, and the country of origin. This information is gathered from documents submitted by your forwarder, carriers, and broker.
If the cargo gains a score that alerts the CBP, your shipment may be placed under a customs hold and possibly be subject to an examination as well. We break down the kinds of exams and holds, below, as well as how to avoid them in the first place.