Customs

Steel/Aluminum Tariffs Exemptions Clarified

Industrial Welder With Torch

Photo credit: iStock.com/Kerkez

By Susan Kohn Ross

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…)

Trade Trifecta!

USA and Chinese flags on mountain signpost.

Photo credit: iStock.com/Darwel

By Susan Kohn Ross

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…)

Border Searches of Electronic Devices

Men dress up lifestyle hold smartphone screen shows the key in the Security online world. the display and technology advances in communications. The concept of advancement in living in the future.

Photo credit: iStock.com/Sitthiphong

By Susan Kohn Ross

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…)

Hold That Call International Travelers: CBP Doubles Down on Airport Searches of Electronic Devices

Man Checking Mobile Is Charged At Airport Security Check

Photo credit: iStock.com/monkeybusinessimages

By David S. Rugendorf and Frida P. Glucoft

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…)

Tips for Traveling with Electronic Devices

Woman using her mobile phone , city skyline night light background

Photo credit: iStock.com/LDProd

By Susan Kohn Ross

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…)

Due Your Duty

By Susan Kohn Ross

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…)

Appraising Produce

By Susan Kohn Ross

In July 2016, the Houston Regulatory Audit office sent a letter to a number of large importers cautioning them to be sure their value declarations were correct, underscoring CBP’s position by pointing recipients to a long list of CBP informed compliance publications, and touting the advantages of correcting any errors by way of a prior disclosure.

Now we see Round 2. In early October 2016, the Agriculture and Prepared Products Center for Excellence and Expertise (“Center”) sent a letter to many fruit and vegetable importers asking more value questions. Specifically, the Center wanted to know:

  1. Was the importer purchasing his goods or receiving them on consignment?
  2. Are the parties related?
  3. From which suppliers is the importer purchasing?
  4. From which suppliers are the goods received on consignment?
  5. If on consignment, how are the goods being valued at time of entry?
  6. Is reconciliation filed?  If not, what actions does the company take to determine if the actual cost of goods is more or less than the value declared at time of entry?

It is this last question that ties right into the revenue collection role of Customs and Border Protection (CBP). Is CBP collecting the right amount at time of entry? If the value is too low at time of entry, it must be corrected. Similarly, if it is too high, it should also be corrected. (more…)

ACE Allows for Stricter Customs Enforcement

By Susan Kohn Ross

First published by Journal of Commerce, August 2016

In the face of its recent reorganization and enhanced computer system, it was really only a matter of time before the trade community started to see Customs and Border Protection (“CBP”) better organize its enforcement efforts, and now the first tangible step has been publicly disclosed.

When the concept for the Centers for Excellence and Expertise was rolled out, it was logical to expect that CBP would combine the enhanced computer capabilities of the Automated Commercial Environment with information developed from the industry focused CEEs. That meant, we would eventually see CBP relying on computer analytics and internal expertise to help the agency pinpoint where to focus its enforcement efforts. Over the years, we had seen those with the most experience retire. CBP and Immigration and Customs Enforcement seemed to lose their ability to make serious fraud cases. Yes, criminal cases for trade fraud, involving for example for antidumping and export license violations, continued to be brought, but it has been a long time since we have heard about a really significant civil penalty. Sure, some smaller fish got caught, and many of them did some really dumb things. Others who got caught just plain cheated. Now, however, CBP has launched a round of “informed compliance” letters, which are really warning letters to the trade community. (more…)