What is Exam Charges?


Import / Customs



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Exam Charges

What is a Customs Exam Charge?  

A Customs Exam charge is the fee 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 country.  

How does Customs decide what shipments to examine?

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.  

The U.S. Customs selects shipments to examine with the help of their targeting system which applies a score to each shipment that comes in. If the score is above CBP’s standard, a further review of the shipment is conducted.  

How much does a Customs Exam cost?  

The prices of Customs Exams depend on the type of inspection and can range from $80 to over $1,000. These fees are applied if U.S. Customs examines the shipment in its country of origin or in the United States.  

How are Custom Exam Charges indicated?

Custom Exam Charges depend on the severity of the exam. The lowest intensity exams are non-intrusive or X-Ray exams. However, some containers are moved into examination facilities and unloaded to be thoroughly looked over. In rare cases, product samples are taken to laboratories for content review. 

For LCL shipments, the charge can be as little as $25. A small shipment of 1-2 cubic meters (CBM) may cost as much as $100-200. Larger shipments may cost more, but it all depends on the cost of the full container, as they are generally pro-rated.

What types of Customs Exams are there? 

There are three types of Customs Exams: 

1.  X-Ray Exam: This is the least intensive type of exam and is also known as non-intrusive inspection. 

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 through more intense exams. 

2. Tail Gate Exam: This is at the second level of investigation after the X-Ray exam. In this case, a CBP officer will break the seal of the container and examine the inside of the container. This usually takes 5-6 days. 

3.  Intensive Exam: This is the most thorough and intense Customs Exam that your cargo can go through. If selected for this exam, the container will be taken to a CES* location, where CES officers will unload its contents, thoroughly look, and take samples from the container. This usually takes 5-7 days. 

*** 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. 



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