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ISF shipment tracking: How Do You Know Where You Stand?

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You’ve done the paperwork, paid the fees, and filed your ISF form and CBP Entry. Great! But now what? How do you track your ISF status? Moreover, if you’ve sent the additional forms required – particularly the HBL and MBL, how do you validate that all is good and well and that your merchandise is passing peacefully through customs? Let’s answer some questions.

ISF Requirements

Firstly, it’s important to understand that filing an ISF form applies to ocean freight imports only and is a separate transaction and doesn’t replace the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Entry Summary (7501 form mandated for all imported shipments for all shipping methods). ISF filing identifies to US Customs the importer, shipper, and shipment. The ISF must be filed electronically with the CBP 24 hours before the vessel leaves the last port of origin. The CBP uses an online platform called the Automated Manifest System (AMS) for submitting documents they require for processing shipments coming into the U.S.

The CBP also requires that any imported goods whose value exceeds $2,500, require a bond. The primary choice is between a Single-Transaction Bond (STB) and a Continuous Bond. Essentially, the bond is a financial guarantee that the CBP (the Obligee) will receive all duties and taxes from the Importer of Record (IOR; the Principal), and if not, from the surety company (insurance).

ISF Confirmation

After filing the ISF, the filer receives a CBP transaction number. The transaction number is the unique identifier of the specific filing.

Both the HBL and MBL must contain precise and accurate information about cargo (number of containers, seal numbers, measurements, weight, etc.). Note that the only details that will differ are the shipper, consignee, and notify party.

When the ISF filing is passed to the CBP, the MBL and HBL numbers and carrier’s number must match exactly. If they do, and the ISF was successfully submitted to their system, it will be indicated by the letter “Y” (accepted and the carrier can send your shipment). If the details do not match, the ISF receives an “N” indicating that the filing has not been successful (rejected), has not yet been received (“No Bill on File”), or is in pending status (“pending bill match”) and as such, the goods have not been cleared by customs.

More detailed and quicker tracking of your ISF transactions and status can be done by opening an account with the CBP’s ACE Secure Data Portal. Another way is to use eezyimport’s up-to-the-minute online dashboard that not only allows you to track your filing status but enables you to become a self-filer.

Also, when an ISF does not match the bill, eezyimport’s system generates messages at predetermined intervals:

∙ Immediately after the ISF is filed.

∙ Five days after the original ISF file date.

∙ Twenty days after the original ISF file date.

∙ Thirty days after the original file date.

By cutting out the middleman, such as a broker or brokerage company, you save time and money!​

About the author


Samantha Waites