All imports into the United States are subject to the control of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and, as the case may be, other government agencies.
CBP requires all carriers transporting goods to the United States to transmit information on the shipment 24 hours before the cargo is loaded on a vessel. This so-called cargo declaration must be filed electronically in the Automated Commercial Environment (ACE). Based on the cargo declaration, CBP decides whether further examination of the shipment is necessary upon arrival at the port of entry.
When the shipment arrives, CBP notifies the importer with details for the collection of the goods. From the time of their entry into the customs territory of the United States until the import procedure has been duly completed, the goods are under CBP custody. For the most part, imported goods are entered for consumption. They may, however, also be entered for warehouse at the port of arrival or transported in-bond to another port of entry. Alternatively, the goods may be transferred duty unpaid to a foreign-trade zone.
If the goods are to be entered for consumption, the importer requests their customs release by filing an entry within 15 days of arrival at the port of entry. U.S. customs law provides for two types of entry:
Informal entry (for goods valued less than USD 2,500)
Formal entry (for goods valued at USD 2,500 or more)
The procedure of a consumption entry consists of two steps:
Filing an entry (cargo release) together with commercial documents, such as air waybill or bill of lading, invoice, and packing list
Filing an entry summary including an estimation of the duties to be paid
If the importer does not have sufficient information on classification and/or value of the goods at the time the entry summary is filed, he may flag it for reconciliation. This flag alerts CBP that the entry summary is subject to later update or correction. The reconciliation containing the missing or updated information required for the final assessment of the import duties is filed electronically in ACE.