Character Counts

Congratulations to all who passed the May 2024 Customs Broker License Exam! You are now eligible to go through the application process, background check, and fingerprinting to obtain your license.

It may come as a surprise that it can take up to a year before your license is issued. In addition to a passing grade on the CBLE, eligibility to become a customs broker requires applicants to be a US citizen at least 21 years of age, not be a current Federal Government employee, and possess good moral character.

Character is determined by an extensive background investigation. From the CBP website:

“Each Broker license applicant must undergo a background investigation that includes a fingerprint analysis and review of character references, credit reports, and arrest records.  Arrests and convictions do not necessarily preclude the issuance of a license.  In partnership, association, or corporation applications, individuals identified as principals with controlling interest, officers, partners, or members will also undergo a background investigation.”

Licensed Customs Brokers, via their entry filings, are responsible for the assessment of revenue for the United States in the form of duties and taxes. They must also ensure that they, and their clients, comply with the laws and regulations in all transactions. So the background check is more than a mere formality. Be patient applicants!

Are You Appealing?

I recently posted about CBLE (Customs Broker License Exam) results including a link for appealing specific questions.

From the CBP website: The applicant must submit a compelling argument why his or her answer is correct or why the appealed question has no possible correct answer.

We are well within the 60 day period for first appeals, but let me suggest a different strategy. If you are considering an appeal you are most likely very close to a passing grade and hoping to gain a reversal on a small number of incorrect answers.

In fact it is very difficult to gain additional points upon appeal, and preparing a compelling argument is time consuming. I know many brokers who have passed the exam on a second attempt. So, since you came close to passing the exam on May 1st, a better use of your time would be to begin preparing to pass the October exam instead of appealing your recent score.

I’m happy to discuss exam strategies. Contact

CARM Update

If you are a Canadian importer or NRI (Non-Resident Importer) you will want to keep up to date on CARM . Many US exporters act as Non-Resident Importers in Canada. A Non-Resident Importer is a business located outside of Canada that ships goods to customers in Canada and assumes responsibility for customs clearance and other import-related requirements.

The launch date for CARM has been pushed back to October 21, 2024. To register contact your Canadian Customs Broker or access the Client Portal on the CBSA website.

As a reminder, the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) Assessment and Revenue Management (CARM) project is a multi-year digital initiative that will change how CBSA collects duties and taxes for goods imported into Canada. Through CARM, the CBSA will modernize and streamline the process of importing commercial goods.

The Government of Canada has amended the Order that brings into force the final legislative changes for the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) Assessment and Revenue Management (CARM) digital initiative. These legislative amendments, and associated regulations, will now come into force on October 21, 2024. On this day, CARM will be made available to trade chain partners as it will become the official system for the collection of duties and taxes for goods imported into Canada.

Compliance Geeks

Geek: “a person who has excessive enthusiasm for and some expertise about a specialized subject or activity”. Many compliance folks proudly refer to themselves as Geeks.

Demand for compliance professionals has never been higher, as LinkedIn users can readily see. Companies of all sizes and in all industries realize that being in compliance means fewer supply chain disruptions. At the very least compliance is good risk management. Think of it as insurance.

You may be looking to add a logistics or compliance pro to your staff and, understandably, want to make a good selection. In the meantime, let me suggest training your shippers in some export compliance basics. I have always warned that compliance should not be left to a busy shipping department; the factors are complex and need to begin early in the order cycle. However, a few hours of training is a good investment, enabling shippers to spot possible export violations before shipments leave your dock. It will also allow your new professional to focus on more strategic matters and hit the ground running.

Our copyrighted presentation “Exporting for Smart People” will provide your staff with upgraded skills and knowledge.

Contact for more info.

Interactive EAR

In January I posted about the BIS website re-design and noted the difficulty in reading and interpreting the CCL.

This month I am updating parts lists for a couple of clients and finding that the new interactive EAR does make it easier to navigate the CCL. The links to ECCN categories in the CCL and CCL Index are a time saver. The paragraph format for each ECCN is an improvement over the old chart style.

The EAR, like all regulations, will never be interesting reading. However, I see the new format as an improvement. BIS has a button on the lower right of their homepage asking what can be improved. Don’t be shy!

CBLE Results

The May 1, 2024 CBLE (Customs Broker License Exam) resulted in a 13% pass rate prior to appeal decisions. Previous pass rate information is listed below. The exam and answer key are posted on the CBP website.

Congratulations to all who passed! You are now eligible to go through the application process, background check, and fingerprinting to obtain your license. The process can be lengthy, so be patient.

Many brokers have needed more than one try, so don’t be discouraged if you came up short. If you want to challenge any of the questions here is the link explaining how to appeal.

Pass Rate Information

The May 1, 2024 CBLE resulted in a 13% pass rate prior to appeal decisions.

The October 25, 2023 CBLE resulted in a 34% pass rate prior to appeal decisions.

The April 26, 2023 CBLE resulted in a 5.5% pass rate prior to appeal decisions. 

The October 26, 2022 CBLE resulted in a 11.1% pass rate prior to appeal decisions. 

Checked Your Boilerplate Lately?

In the 19th Century boilerplate meant rolled steel templates used to make boilers and the printed matter on the plates.

Today, the term boilerplate refers to standardized text, copy, documents, methods, or procedures that may be used over again without making major changes to the original. Boilerplate is commonly used for efficiency and to increase standardization in the structure and language of written or digital documents.

Traders when was the last time you reviewed your Commercial Invoice for accuracy or updates? Chances are it has been quite a while, given the more immediate challenges in logistics today. The same question applies to documents produced by your freight forwarder. Checking your CIs for accuracy is a best practice and can help reduce customs delays. Reviewers with “fresh eyes” are an even better idea.

While there is no universal standard format for commercial invoices, including the following key elements will help reduce customs delays and entry mistakes:

Description of goods – Vague or incomplete descriptions are the most common cause of customs delays. Avoid trade names, brand names, jargon. What is it? What is it made of? What is it used for?

Recipient or Importer of Record contact info- customs delays are often prolonged by slow communication between CBP and importers or between exporters and customs agencies in other countries. Make sure phone and e mail info is spelled out on the CI.

Invoice Number, Page Numbers – Avoids confusion for entries with multiple CIs or CIs with multiple pages.

Country of Origin– Best to use ISO country codes.

Related/Not Related parties

Incoterms and currency- these are elements of the sales contract. Indicate version of Incoterms (2010, 2020) as all parties may not be aware of updates.

Harmonized tariff code to the 6 digit level– if unsure best not to include this info.

Summary of Value- must include IV Invoice Value. Can also include NDC Non Dutiable Charge (subtractions), AMMV Add to Make Market Value (additions), NEV Net Entered Value (bottom line- dutiable).

Signature and Date

For immediate assistance contact

CBLE Relief and Anxiety

To all who sat for the May 1st CBLE (Customs Broker License Exam) you may now have your weekends back. I know from experience that you are feeling both relief that the exam is over and anxiety about your results. CBP advises that you will be notified of your score in 2-3 weeks. The pass rate for the previous two exams was 34% for October 2023 and 5.5% for April 2023.

I sometimes advise prospective candidates and would be interested in hearing your impressions of the May 1st exam.

International Logistics Consulting; Licensed Customs Brokers