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ISF Filing & Entry Filing Done Easy!

Track Cargo Ships OnlineSo about a month or two ago I started the process of buying the product for this project from a supplier in China on Alibaba.    I had never shipped anything from China before via a cargo ship and I’ll tell you right now, it’s a WAY bigger pain than shipping via air.   When you ship via DHL or FedEx or whatever, you simply order and it arrives at your door for the most part.   Every now and then we’d have to talk to someone to help it clear customs, but for the most part it’s not that big a deal.   Since for this project what we’re shipping is pretty bulky  & I was ordering 600 lbs worth of product, it made more sense to do it via cargo ship.   There was about a $2,000 USD difference in cost shipping wise.   However since I didn’t know all the in’s and outs and was soon in over my head a little bit; hopefully this post helps you out a little bit so you can save some aggravation and find a  better way to do it.

The first sign of me having no clue what I was doing was this email from my supplier the day after I sent payment and he arranged the shipment out:
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Dear Dave,
Have a nice day!
The attached is the ISF information for you to make declaration to USA Customs.
Please find a reliable forwarder to help you make the ISF declaration to USA Customs before Jan 27, 2014.
Or else, you will get the penality of USD 5000 at least by USA government.
And after finishing the ISF declaration to USA Customs, please tell me the ISF number from the USA Customs.
Should you have any question, please let me know it.
Thanks & Best Regards
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My first thoughts were…

Ummm ISF What?    $5,000 Fine!?   Is that even possible? The goods I’m shipping are only 2 grand.  What the heck is going on?

So after some Googling I find out that the ISF Declaration went into effect back in 2010 and is pretty routine business when shipping in via cargo.   So I figured no big deal, and if you Google around for “How To File ISF Declaration” a few companies pop up.   I contacted one of the companies which seemed legit, they said it would be $95 to file it. which didn’t seem like that much money.   So I went ahead and and moved forward.

Next day they said I’d also need to pay a ISF Bond Fee as well of $109.32.   I’m still not 100% sure what that is, but I wanted to get this over with said & said that’s fine, lets just get this going.    They needed the money wired since I was close to the deadline, so after all was said and done I paid $222.32, which seemed steep, but whatever my stuff was on the way and we could move on.

I paid a couple hundred more bucks than I thought I had to but my shipment was on the way, only another 30 days and it would be here!

So let’s fast forward a month and I get another email; this time from the company that filed the ISF for me.  Which basically says OK your shipment is about to arrive at port in NYC, now we need to do the customs clearing process.  They wanted me to sign a Power Of Attorney to complete the paper work, so I write back asking if this is included in the fee I already paid.   But nope, here’s the email I got back:

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You paid for the ISF filing and single ISF bond.  The ISF is the first of the two filing requirements for ocean shipments.
 
Our clearance fees are below:
 
$175 Entry Filing/Service Fee
$189.76 Single Entry Bond
 

I will provide the estimated duty/taxes due.  Please describe the following items on the commercial invoice:

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I could understand the first $200, but now it’s getting crazy.  Especially for only a $2,000 shipment.  So I called up a buddy of mine who does a lot of importing and he said that I needed to find a local Customs Broker; the ISF alone should have only been like $75.   At this point I know I’m getting hosed so searched for a customs broker near me.  Sure enough I found one 15 minutes away who was WAY more helpful and was able to do the remaining part for only $150 total.

The woman who I dealt with at this customs brokerage was extremely helpful and as of now we are all good to go.  The shipment is set to arrive in a few days on March 14th.   Luckily my buddy pointed me in the right direction towards the end and at least saved me a hundred bucks or so.

So Here’s How to do ISF Filing & Entry Filing The Right Way!
Don’t pick the first thing that pops up!   I was in a rush to get it done and ended up with a crappy company the first time.   Search for “Your City + Customs Broker” and try to find someone near you.  If not right in your city, look for the next major city near you. From what I’ve heard you should be looking at around $50-$75 for the ISF Declaration.   I’m sure you can do it yourself, but with a $5k fine looming I didn’t want to risk it.
Beyond the ISF you’re probably looking at another $100-200 for the Entry Filing.   Then there are some bonds involved & depending on what you’re importing.  I’m still by no means an expert at any of this but do your due diligence.   From what I’m hearing it’s a pretty standard operation and you can find a fair price if you call around and get quotes.
At least we’re finally rocking and rolling, the cargo should be here by Friday.  I’m planning on driving to the port to pick it up myself to document what the whole process is like!

4 Comments ISF Filing & Entry Filing Done Easy!

  1. Jennifer

    Thank you for this advice! I have a similar situation in which I just received the request for the ISF. Your post likely saved me hundreds of dollars!

    Reply
  2. Coty

    Found this post on Google, and glad I did. To be honest, I’m right where you were. I found a product I feel really confident about, but am unsure of how to get it shipped. It’s a smaller order, less than 20lbs I believe, so I’m leaning towards going with DHL or some similar service. However, if it takes off, I really want to make sure that I get the best possible deal on shipping. I will keep this in mind moving forward. Thanks!

    Reply
    1. Dave B

      Awesome, glad it helped! I need to do another post about Duty, on another shipment we ended up having to pay a little bit extra because of the material the product was. Always an adventure with importing stuff =]

      Reply

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