Understand U.S. Customs and Border Protection

US Border Patrol office

Learn compliance best practices from Maria Luisa Boyce, Senior Advisor for Private and Trade Sector Engagement at the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), which aims to make it easier for small businesses to do business internationally.

How it helps

The CBP doesn’t just deal with importing and checking your passport when you return to the country. The organization plays a vital role in exporting as well. For example, the CBP has recently adopted the Automated Export System (AES) to streamline its data collection process.

Think of the CBP as an export enabler, actively reaching Mutual Recognition Arrangements with Customs Administrations in other low-risk countries. These agreements mean the two organizations acknowledge that both of their internal verification processes follow the Customs-Trade Partnership Against Terrorism (C-TPAT) program.

"These arrangements reduce the number of validations and verifications required by foreign countries for U.S. goods, reducing the ship-to-shelf times," Boyce explains. Countries the U.S. currently has these arrangements with include:

  • The European Union
  • New Zealand
  • Canada
  • Japan
  • Singapore
  • Mexico

Compliance tips from the people who enforce it

  1. Do your homework. “We realize that there are a lot of small businesses made up of one or two people wearing multiple hats,” Boyce says. “But, as an exporter, you have to read up on the basics of exporting.
  2. Accuracy is key. “One of the biggest mistakes new exporters make is putting the wrong data on the forms, which could result in delays,” explains Boyce. The good news? You don’t have to figure it all out on your own. Take advantage of international document assistance.
  3. Estimate transit times. “Before you commit to your customer, map out how much time it takes to get through the various checkpoints,” Boyce advises. Remember to take inspections and in-country processes into account, so your customers’ expectations are realistic.
  4. Screen buyers. Always verify that your customer is a legitimate business. “You are the first point of defense,” says Boyce. “Know that if you follow the rules and do your due diligence up front, you’ll be well-represented on the other end.” It’s important to have a compliance plan in place that includes checking your orders against the Consolidated Screening List.
  5. Give us your feedback. Boyce and her team are improving the CBP website to make it easier for new exporters to find the information they need. "I really encourage the small business owners reading this piece to contact us with their input — what information they need that they can’t find, or any ideas they might have," she says. If you have input, you can email it to Boyce and her team at traderelations@cbp.dhs.gov. They’re looking forward to hearing your suggestions.

"We know that exporting provides a huge opportunity to U.S. small businesses, and we’re here to facilitate lawful international trade while keeping our country safe," Boyce says.   

Note: The information provided in this website does not constitute legal, tax, finance, accounting or trade advice, but is designed to provide general information relating to business and commerce. FedEx® Small Business Center content, information and services are not a substitute for obtaining the advice of a competent professional, for example a licensed attorney, law firm, accountant or financial adviser.

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