October 09, 2012

Automatic Importer Self-Assessment Program Access Given to Importers that Successfully Complete a Focused Assessment Audit

By: Nicolas Guzman

U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) has enabled greater access to the Importer Self-Assessment (ISA) program by allowing importers that successfully complete a Focused Assessment (FA) audit, and are thereby deemed an acceptable risk, to enter ISA without further CBP review. 

Effective October 5, 2012, importers who have been deemed an acceptable risk at the conclusion of an FA will have 12 months from the date that the Office of Regulatory Audit issues its final FA report to take advantage of the facilitated access to ISA.

The ISA program is a joint government-business initiative designed to build cooperative relationships that strengthen trade compliance.  It is based on the premise that companies with strong internal controls achieve the highest level of compliance with customs laws and regulations.  Upon acceptance into ISA, companies can receive importing benefits such as:

  • Receipt of a written notice from CBP if CBP becomes aware of an error in which there is an indication of a violation of 19 U.S.C. §§1592 or 1593(a).  CBP will allow 30 days from the date of the notification for the company to assess and, if determined necessary, to file a prior disclosure pursuant to 19 C.F.R. §162.74.
  • Removal from Regulatory Audit’s audit pool established for Focused Assessment (FA).
  • Expedited cargo release.
  • Expedited internal advice/consultation from Regulations & Rulings, Office of International Trade.
  • Consultation, guidance, and training by CBP if requested and as resources permit (for compliance, risk assessments, internal controls, CBP audit trails, etc.).
  • Consideration of the company’s participation in the ISA program in the disposition of a case involving civil penalties or liquidated damages assessed against the company. 
  • Assignment of a National Account Manager (NAM), who will ensure that issues, questions, and concerns are addressed in a timely fashion and are directed to the appropriate area.
  • Additional benefits based on industry needs. 

While the benefits of ISA are attractive, importers should be aware that in addition to qualification for the program (either by successfully completing an FA, or the traditional application method), an importer must also be a U.S. or Canadian resident importer, must obtain Customs-Trade Partnership Against Terrorism (C–TPAT) program membership, must develop a risk-based self-testing plan, and must agree to meet all of the ISA program requirements.

Because the FA audit process is a more rigorous review process than what is usually undertaken during an ISA application review meeting, the agency has granted this expedited access. 

Drinker Biddle will continue to monitor the application of expedited access into ISA and update this alert if there any notable changes.  If you have any questions regarding this change in policy, or about application to ISA in general, please do not hesitate to contact Nick Guzman at Nicolas.Guzman@faegredrinker.com or (312) 569-1101, or any other member of Drinker Biddle’s Customs & International Trade Team.

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