On January 31, 2020, President Trump issued Executive Order 13904 (“EO”) entitled “Ensuring Safe & Lawful E-Commerce for U.S. Consumers, Businesses, Government Supply Chains, and Intellectual Property Rights.” It begins by stating that e-commerce is “being exploited by traffickers to introduce contraband into the United States, and by foreign exporters and United States importers to avoid applicable customs duties, taxes and fees.” The types of malfeasance cited are counterfeit goods, narcotics (specifically synthetic opioids, such as fentanyl), and other contraband, plus, of course, protection of the revenue. The focus of the EO is on express consignment operators, carriers, hub facilities, international posts, customs brokers and e-commerce platform operations (the “Regulated Parties”). Anyone who participates in the “introduction or attempted introduction” of parcels containing contraband can be held accountable with accountability taking the form of both civil and criminal consequences, as appropriate. The EO goes on to state that CBP’s suspension and debarment procedure will form the framework through which these actions will be carried out. Suspension and debarment apply in the context of doing business with the government, such as government contracts, subcontracts, grants, loans and other assistance programs.
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (“ICE”) has recently increased site visits for employers who employ F-1 students under STEM OPT (short for Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics Optional Practical Training) work authorization. While ICE has had this authority since the STEM regulations were passed in 2016, the agency only recently started conducting site visits to ensure that employers and F-1 students remain in compliance with the regulations governing F-1 STEM OPT work authorization.
What Is STEM OPT?
STEM OPT allows eligible F-1 visa students with STEM degrees from accredited U.S. colleges or universities to apply for an additional 24 months of Occupational Practical Training. This is in addition to the initial, one-year post-completion OPT granted to all non-STEM-degree F-1 students. In addition to the STEM degree requirements, the F-1 visa student must secure employment with a bona fide employer, work a minimum of 20 hours per week for that employer, and the employer must provide a formal, practical training and learning program within the STEM field which is related to the F-1 student’s degree. Details of the training program are outlined by the employer on Form I-983, which is submitted to and approved by the Designated School Official at the F-1 student’s academic institution.
Putting all the hyperbole and posturing to one side, the recent agreement between Mexico and the U.S. which averted the tariffs can be found in the U.S. – Mexico Joint Statement released June 7, 2019. It consists of a few broad policy statements:
Mexico will deploy its National Guard throughout Mexico, giving priority to its southern border – meaning the border with Guatemala;
Mexico will take “decisive” action to dismantle human smuggling and trafficking organizations and their illicit financial and transportation networks;
The U.S. and Mexico will strengthen bilateral cooperation, including information sharing and coordinated actions to better “protect” and “secure” their common border;
The U.S. will immediately expand the existing Migrant Protection Protocols so that those crossing into the U.S. to seek asylum will be “rapidly” returned to Mexico where they “may” await adjudication of their asylum claims;
Mexico agrees to “authorize” the entrance of those individuals for humanitarian reasons, in compliance with its international obligations, while they await adjudication of their claims;
Mexico will offer jobs, healthcare and education to those individuals according to its principles; and
The U.S. commits to “work to accelerate” the adjudication of asylum claims and “conclude removal proceedings as expeditiously as possible.”
In yesterday’s “Talking Trade” Periscope broadcast, we made the point that the wording in the China 301 tariff notice left confusion which needed to be cleared up, and now, it has been. As is common knowledge, the 10% tariff on the goods on List 3 or Traunch 3 went up to 25% at 12:01 a.m. on May 10, 2019. How this applies is, however, a bit more nuanced. The Federal Register Notice reads: “Effective with respect to goods (i) entered for consumption, or withdrawn from warehouse for consumption, on or after 12:01 a.m. eastern daylight time on May 10, 2019, and (ii) exported to the United States on or after May 10, 2019…” (more…)
In off the record comments on March 28, 2018, an official of the Dept. of Commerce provided some clarification as to how the product exemption process will work relative to steel and aluminum tariffs. Of course, the starting point is: if your product is subject to the steel or aluminum tariffs and is not from an exempted country, the 25% or 10%, respectively, will have to be paid. After that, things get trickier.
If you decide to seek exemption for your product, the first step obviously is to gather the needed details and file your exemption request. The way the process is intended to work is once the exemption request is uploaded to regulations.gov, the Bureau of Industry and Security (“BIS”) will review it for completeness. If not complete, the application will be rejected. If complete, it will be officially posted on the regulations.gov website. That date is key. Because, if your exemption request is later granted, while not official until five days after it is published, you will be able to seek refunds on any entries filed between the date the exemption request is posted and when it is granted. (more…)
Some events rather significant to international traders occurred in the last few days. First, on Friday, March 23, 2018, President Trump signed the latest spending bill. It includes a provision to renew Generalized System of Preferences (“GSP”) benefits retroactive to December 31, 2017, when the program last expired. GSP is now authorized through December 31, 2020.
With history as a guide, we should expect Customs and Border Protection to shortly publish a message advising when its programming is updated, the deadline by which to file refunds and similar details. In the past, so long as the entry was filed with an “A” or similar indicator, refunds were routinely issued, but importers would still be wise to make sure their list of eligible entries is current, and then to track their refunds. Since the bill was signed into law on Friday, the deadline to file refund requests will be 180 days later, which works out to September 18, 2018. (more…)
Earlier this month, MSK attorneys David Rugendorf and Frida Glucoft published an Alert summarizing the latest directive issued by Customs and Border Protection (CBP) regarding the search of electronic devices. A copy of their original article can be found here – Hold That Call International Travelers. Given the increasing likelihood of any traveler’s electronic devices being subjected to a search, whether arriving or departing the U.S. by air, ocean or land, these recent changes warrant a deeper dive.
First, for those who want to read the actual document, it is CBP Directive 3340-049A. As the earlier Alert noted, CBP has the broad rights to search any individuals, luggage, and cargo entering and leaving the U.S. Searches of cargo are governed by other laws and regulations. This directive deals only with arriving and departing travelers and their devices. (more…)
Many international travelers express surprise when, after arriving at LAX, JFK or other US airports or land borders, the US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officer directs them to hand over their smartphone, laptop or related electronics device for a search. As disconcerting and invasive as it may be to have a uniformed total stranger work his or her way through one’s e-mails, photos and hard drive, one should be aware that it is generally within the authority of immigration and customs officials to conduct such searches. Just as one’s person and luggage is subject to search upon arrival to the US, so are one’s electronic devices. International travelers should be forewarned that these types of searches may become more commonplace than they already are. CBP reports that in 2017, it conducted more than 30,000 electronics device searches at airports and land borders, almost double the amount of searches it conducted in 2016. Now with a fresh policy in place, it is safe to expect this upward trend to continue. (more…)
In the September 18, 2017 Federal Register notice (see 82 FR 43556) , U.S. Citizenship and Immigration made clear it will now routinely require those applying to enter the U.S. to provide social media handles. As such, the obvious starting point for these tips must be a reminder that Customs and Border Protection (“CBP”) officers may require arriving travelers to provide the unlock code to their electronic devices and user names/passwords to gain access to programs, including social media accounts, so make sure all your programs are closed when you cross the border! The contents on your devices can be examined, and that is true whether or not you are a U.S. citizen, and regardless of your profession. If you are selected for such an inspection, you can expect this two page summary may be handed to you.
The national security concerns of protecting the homeland allow CBP officers to inspect passengers and their belongings without meeting the Fourth Amendment protections against unreasonable search and seizure. A CBP officer is not required to articulate why he or she directs you to secondary or why you or a particular device is of interest. (more…)
With the ever-increasing scrutiny being brought to compliance and the payment of duties on imported goods by Customs and Border Protection (CBP), it is worth commenting that any duties which are due when an entry liquidates may, in fact, end up having to be paid even if the related protest remains pending due to the legal and contractual relationship between the importer and his surety company. Simply put, if a surety insists on receiving payment of any amounts demanded by CBP upon liquidation, the importer does not have any solid grounds to object. Why would the surety do so if a protest is pending? Because the surety is looking to mitigate its risk. If the importer does not pay, the surety will have to do so, at least up to the face amount of any bonds it has written, and sureties try their best not to be put in that position. (more…)