What is it?
Importer Self-Assessment is a U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) program that offers qualified U.S. importers exemptions from certain security inspections and comprehensive audits, as well as expedited cargo release services.
Started in 2002, the ISA program is based on the premise that importers with strong internal controls achieve the highest level of compliance with Customs laws and regulations. The ISA program provides a means to recognize and support such importers, while allowing U.S. Customs to direct their efforts to high-risk and unknown importers.
The ISA allows qualified importers to assess their own compliance with U.S. Customs laws and regulations. Participation in the ISA is voluntary and is open to all importers who are participating members in the Customs-Trade Partnership Against Terrorism (C-TPAT).
How do I get in?
In order to participate in the ISA program, an importer must:
- Become a member with full benefits of the C-TPAT.
- Be a resident importer in the United States with a minimum two years’ importing experience.
- Agree to comply with all applicable Customs laws and regulations.
- Have and maintain a system of business records that demonstrates the accuracy of Customs transactions.
- Complete an ISA questionnaire and sign an ISA MOU (memorandum of understanding) under which the importer agrees to:
- Establish, document, and implement internal controls;
- Perform periodic testing of the system based on risk;
- Make appropriate adjustments to internal controls;
- Inform Customs through appropriate disclosures of material errors identified through company reviews;
- Maintain an audit trail from financial records to Customs declarations;
- Maintain results of testing for five years and make test information available to Customs on request; and
- Submit an annual written notification to Customs to confirm the identity of the importer’s ISA contact, and confirm the importer continues to meet the requirements of the ISA program as specifically listed here and in the MOU.
- Have the ability to connect to the Internet.
What are the benefits?
Once accepted into the ISA program, an importer becomes eligible for benefits such as:
- Improved access to entry summary trade data and other Customs support.
- Consultation, guidance, and training provided by Customs (for compliance assistance, risk assessments, internal controls, Customs audit trails, etc.).
- An opportunity to apply for coverage of multiple business units.
- Exemption from comprehensive compliance audits.
- Access to key officials in CBP’s Regulatory Audit Division.
- An ISA-specific process for filing a prior disclosure.
- In the event that civil penalties or liquidated damages are assessed against an importer, the importer’s participation in ISA will be considered in the disposition of the case.
- Access to a Customs team (consisting of an account manager, an auditor and a trade analyst) assigned specifically to service ISA participants.
- Additional industry-specific benefits may also be available by mutual agreement.
Further information concerning the ISA program can be found on CBP's website.
We can help
Getting approved for ISA can take significant time and resources – things you may not have in abundant supply. At Cole, we have experienced consultants who are dedicated to helping our clients have the smoothest possible import experience. Email us today to find out how we can help facilitate your ISA application process.
Information provided by: U.S. Customs Consulting Dept. - Cole International