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What is Exam Charges?


Import / Customs



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Exam Charges

What is a customs exam charge?  

A customs exam charge or fee is incurred if a shipment is pulled for a customs examination. The importer is liable for any customs fees, including exams charges on shipments that are brought into the U.S. under their name. 

How much does a customs exam cost? 

The price of these exams varies from $80 to over $1,000 depending on the type of inspection that was performed. These fees only apply if CBP examines the shipment in origin or in the United States. 

How are custom exam charges indicated?

Custom exam charges vary, depending on the severity of the exam. The lowest intensity exams are non-intrusive or X-Ray exams. Some containers, however, are moved into examination facilities and unloaded. Some of the rare cases result in the collection of product samples, which later get reviewed in laboratories. For Less Container Load (LCL) shipments, the charge can be as little as $25. A small shipment of 1-2 cubic meters (CBM) may, in some extreme cases cost as much as $100-200. Larger shipments may cost more, but all of this depends on the cost of the full container, as they are generally pro-rated.

How does customs decide what shipments to examine?

The U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) chooses shipments to examine by looking in their targeting system that applies a score to each shipment that comes in. If the score is above a certain number, it prompts further review of the contents of the container. 

While the exact procedures are unknown, we know that CBP inspects newer importers at a higher frequency than they do with shippers who have more seniority.

What is CES? 

A Centralized Examination Station (CES) is a facility that is privately operated by CBP for the purpose of carrying out physical examinations of imported or exported cargo. 

What types of customs exams are there? 

There are three types of customs exams: 

1.  X-Ray Exam-  this is also known as non-intrusive inspection as it is the least intensive exam type of examination. If a CBP officer selects your container for an X-Ray exam, the container is driven through an X-Ray machine at the terminal. After reviewing the X-Ray images, CBP will either release it or examine it further in more intense exams.  

2. Tail Gate Exam- if your goods trigger further investigation during the X-ray exam, your container will go through a Tail Gate exam, which is the next step up from the X-ray exam. In this case, a CBP officer will break the seal of your container and examine the inside of your container. This usually takes 5-6 days. 

3.  Intensive Exam- this is the most thorough and intense customs exam that your cargo can be subjected to. If your container is selected for this exam, the container will be taken to a CES location, where CES officers will unload the container, thoroughly looking through its contents. This usually takes 5-7 days. 




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