How to Become a Customs Broker

The very first step in finding out how to get into the customs broking industry is to find out who they are and what they do.  Customs brokers are essentially partnerships, private individuals, corporations or associations empowered, regulated and licensed by CBP or the United States Customs and Border Protection, to help exporters and importers to meet Federal requirements that govern exports and imports. Brokers submit appropriate payments and required information to CBP on their clients’ behalf, so that they can get custom clearance; they charge a fee for their service.  A customs broker is required to be knowledgeable about admissibility requirements, entry procedures, valuation, classification, applicable taxes, rates of duty as well as fees for imported products.
Who is Suitable to Become a Customs Broker?
In order to become eligible as a customs broker, the following criteria are required:

  • You must be a citizen of the United States and be 21 years or older.
  • You must not currently be a Federal Government employee.
  • You must have a good character.

How to Become a Customs Broker
To begin the process of becoming a customs broker, you must:

  • Successfully sit the License Examination.
  • Submit an application for a broker license with the correct fees.
  • Get your application approved by the CBP.

Customs Broker License Examination
This is a four-hour long, open test or open book exam, which has eighty multiple-choice questions that are based on assigned editions of:

  • Specified Customs Directives
  • HTSUS or the Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States
  • Code of Federal Regulations, Title 19
  • Document of CATAIR or the Customs and Trade Automated Interface Requirements

Typically, the examination takes place in April, on the first Monday of the month and again in October, on the first Monday at the Ports, which is the CBP services ports.  In the event that the first Monday is a holiday, specifically a religious holiday, the exam will be administered on the Tuesday that follows.  There is a $200 fee that is attached to the exam and that along with the examination application must be given to the CBP port director, a minimum of 30 days prior to the sitting of the exam.
On the day of the exam, you will be required to take the recommended reference material, a picture identification card and proof or registration.  In order to pass the exam, you will need to score at least 75 percent.  In the event that you fail, you can re-sit the exam until you pass it.  In addition, you can submit an appeal of the exam score to Customs and Border Patrol.
Customs Brokers License 
Subsequent to passing the exam, you can apply for a Customs Brokers License and this must be done within 3 years of the date of the notification letter that you receive, informing you that you have passed.  The application fee for the license is $200 plus an additional processing fee.  You will also be subjected to a fingerprint check.  The application should be sent to the port at which you would like to work as a customs broker.
Every individual who applies for a customs brokers license will be subjected to a background investigation, which includes an analysis of his or her finger fingerprints and the reviewing of credit reports, character references and arrest record, if any.  It is important to note that convictions and arrests do not automatically prevent a license from being issued.
The process of applying for an license does not have a set amount of time to complete.  The length of time varies depending on a number of factors; some of which include the number of locations in which the individual who is applying has lived, the threat level of national security and the workload of the individual who is carrying out the background investigation.  The application process could take between 8 and 12 months.  In the event that your application for a license is denied, you have the option of filing an appeal.
The process of becoming a customs broker may not be as easy as other career paths; however, with all the awesome responsibilities that the job entails, the lengthy process can be justified.

This is a guest post by Ali Syed, marketing representative for Bay City Brokers – Canada’s value added custom broker.

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