isf filing


ISF stands for Import Security Filing. As the name suggests this term carries a lot of importance for the Importers. ISF Filing is basically a regulation that has been enacted by the US Customs and Border Protection for ocean shipments into the United States. Import Security filling carries a high weight for security clearance in the US. It is of great significance for the importers to understand what is ISF and why and when it is needed.

ISF in detail?

Filing ISF is an obligation for inbound ocean import shipments. It is a must to file either by the importer or by the customs broker that is hired by the importer. The data is filed electronically through CBP and it helps the CBP as well as the Department of Homeland Security to recognize the shipments with high risk. It serves as an alert for CBP to prevent smuggling by enhancing the cargo safety and security check.

ISF Filing – When it is required?

The ISF filing is not applicable to bulk cargo, it only influences the ocean vessel imports. Neither it is applicable to the shipments that are been imported from other modes of transport. The prime reason for implementing ISF is safety. It gives CBP leads of the high-risk shipments so that that CBP can remain vigilant on them for the safety and security of the US borders.


In ISF 10 digits are required to be submitted electronically with data elements that can be either 2 or 5 depending upon the type of shipment.

10+2 ISF: This regulation of CBP applies to the shipment being imported into the US. The 10 digits are to be filed by the importer before 24 hours of the board of cargo ship for delivery to the US. The Vessel operator is responsible for the +2 data elements. These data elements reflect the messages of stow plan and the container status. It is important to update them 24 hours prior to the arrival of the ship at the US port.

ISF 5: In case of I.E, T&E, and FROB only 5 data elements are required.

How to file ISF?

The ISF filing can be done electronically either by the importer or the Customs brokers. In case any corrections are required in ISF, it should be done before the shipment reach the port. The person who files the ISF is only authorized to do the changes.

What if you fail to file ISF?

It can cost really high to the importer if the ISF fails. From basic $5000 to $10000, any fine can be charged on the importer for the violation in the ISF filing citations.

Since its inception in 2009, ISF has undergone many changes like “three strikes and you’re out” method of leniency has been replaced by “extra innings” . ISF filing failing into the current method will be fine now. Similarly, there are many such changes that are must to be checked before filing. In short, it can be concluded that if an importer wants to ensure proper filing of documents according to CBP norms then the best way to ensure it is hiring Custom Broker.

Glenn L. Lobas – licensed customs clearing agent (30 years of experience), Maryland, USA

Call me: 443-912-3111 | 443-955-6556 

Mail: [email protected] 


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