types of custom exams

X-Ray – Tailgate – Intensive

Got a customs hold on your shipment? Subject to an exam? Let’s see what happens next! This is never fun, but at least we can fill you in on what the various exam types consist of.

What is the VACIS Exam?

The system was introduced for importing goods by U.S Customs Service, Office of National Drug Control Policy and Department Defense to inspect the cargo through law radio graphic images.

vacis examThe X-Ray – Non-Intrusive Inspection (NII) – VACIS Exam

Customs and Border Protection (CBP) orders the container to go through the X-Ray machine at the ocean port terminal and examines the pictures.

If it looks fine, the container gets released. If not, it can be escalated to a tailgate or intensive exam.

The fees: $150 to $350 per container – Depending on the port and the size of the container.

The Tailgate Exam

tailgate examThe process is fairly simple, since the CBP officer would break the seal on the container, open the doors and look inside. If it looks fine from there, the container would get released.

If not, it would get escalated to an intensive examination. Get ready.

The fees: $150 to $350 per container – Depending on the port and the size of the container.

The Intensive Exam Customsintensive exam customs

The intensive exam is not a misnomer, so this one will hit hard not only economically, but with the time it is with the CBP. The whole container is trucked to a Customs Exam Site (CES).

A CES is a private company that is authorized by Customs to offload the contain, segregate the parcels, open designated boxes and prepare the cargo for a Customs officer to view and possibly take samples of.

The fees: $1,000 to $2,500 – Depending on the port and the size of the container.
Image Source: CES, Mercer Warehouse

Who pays for these exams?

You do! There is not much you can do other than declare the goods correctly and sending the required paperwork in on time. Some shipments are targeted for specific reasons, and some are just part of a routine random check.

Demurrage? Per Diem? Chassis?

A cargo examination is no excuse, and it’s just part of the deal. Keep these in mind when importing, and have some funds ready to cover these additional fees.

Exam is done, why is this container still on hold?

CBP is just one agency that does the initial work, and there may be a need or a request for another agency that regulates the product being imported to examine further. This could include the Food and Drug administration (FDA), U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) or another governmental agency. They could sample products for additional review or tests.

What is the U.S. Customs Container Inspection Fee?

The U.S Customs Container Inspection Fee is the fee incurred by the importer if a shipment is pulled for a customs exam. These fees vary, and can range from $80 to over $1,000. The importer has liability for any of these custom fees incurred on shipments to the United States.

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