Archives For U.S. Customs and Border Protection

mobile-passport-control-app-by-cbpU.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) today announced the launch of the first authorized app to expedite a traveler’s entry process into the United States. Mobile Passport Control (MPC) will allow eligible travelers to submit their passport information and customs declaration form via a smartphone or tablet prior to CBP inspection. This first-of-its-kind app was developed by Airside Mobile and Airports Council International-North America (ACI-NA) in partnership with CBP as part of a pilot program at the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport. IPhone and iPad users can download the app for free from Apple’s App Store.

Eligible travelers arriving at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport will be able to use the app beginning Aug. 13. MPC is expected to expand to more airports later this year and to Android smartphone users in the future.

“CBP continues to transform the international arrivals experience for travelers by offering new and innovative ways to expedite entry into the United States, while maintaining the highest standards of security” said CBP Commissioner R. Gil Kerlikowske. “By offering this app to passengers, we hope to build upon the success we have already experienced with Automated Passport Control, which has resulted in decreases in wait times as much as 25-40 percent, even with continued growth in international arrivals.”

MPC currently offers U.S. citizens and Canadian visitors a more efficient and secure in-person inspection between the CBP officer and the traveler upon arrival in the United States. Much like Automated Passport Control, the app does not require pre-approval, is free-to-use and does not collect any new information on travelers. As a result, travelers will experience shorter wait times, less congestion and faster processing.

“Mobile Passport exemplifies the forward-thinking commitment CBP and airports have to improving the passenger experience when entering the United States,” said ACI-NA President and CEO Kevin M. Burke. “This partnership between CBP and ACI-NA also represents an outstanding example of industry and government working together to find smart, cost-effective solutions. We look forward to continuing our collaboration with CBP as Mobile Passport begins its roll-out at U.S. airports later this year.”

There are five easy steps to MPC:

  • Download the Mobile Passport Control App from the Apple App Store prior to arriving
  • Create a profile with your passport information
  • Complete the “New Trip” section upon arrival in the United States
  • Submit your customs declaration form through the app to receive an electronic receipt with an Encrypted Quick Response (QR) code. This receipt will expire four hours after being issued
  • Bring your passport and smartphone or tablet with your digital bar-coded receipt to a CBP officer

ACI-NA contracted with Airside Mobile in MPC’s technical development. Information about Mobile Passport, including how to download, user eligibility and other frequently asked questions, is available on the Travel section of the CBP.gov website and the Airside Mobile website.

MPC is just one part of CBP’s resource optimization strategy which is transforming the way CBP does business in land, air and sea environments. As part of its commitment to innovation, CBP last year rolled out Automated Passport Control, which is now available in 22 locations, and automated the I-94 form. CBP has also enrolled more than two million travelers in trusted traveler programs such as Global Entry, NEXUS and SENTRI. These programs allow CBP officers to process travelers safely and efficiently while enhancing security and reducing operational costs. Source: USCBP

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kenya-usa-flagThe U.S. signed a Customs Mutual Assistance Agreement (CMAA) with Kenya marking a significant milestone in collaboration on security and trade facilitation between the two countries. U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Deputy Commissioner (Acting) Kevin McAleenan signed the agreement on behalf of CBP and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Minister of the Treasury Henry Rotich signed the agreement on behalf of Kenya.

“Customs Mutual Assistance Agreements are valuable tools in the enforcement of our laws as they facilitate information sharing between international partners,” said Deputy Commissioner (Acting) Kevin McAleenan. “This agreement will expand our efforts to combat illicit cross-border activities and will enable us to continue our work to prevent, detect and investigate customs offenses.”

“Today’s signing represents the United States and Republic of Kenya’s joint commitment to elevate cooperation to safeguard our borders through the exchange of information and mutual assistance to combat customs law violations,” said ICE Principal Deputy Assistant Director Thomas S. Winkowski. “U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, together with our partners at CBP, looks forward to future cooperative enforcement efforts with the Kenya Revenue Authority.”

The U.S. has now signed 71 CMAAs with other customs administrations across the world. CMAAs are bilateral agreements between countries and enforced by their respective customs administrations. They provide the legal framework for the exchange of information and evidence to assist countries in the enforcement of customs laws, including duty evasion, trafficking, proliferation, money laundering, and terrorism-related activities. CMAAs also serve as foundational documents for subsequent information sharing arrangements, including mutual recognition arrangements on authorized economic operator programs.

The U.S. – Kenya CMAA was signed at CBP headquarters as part of the U.S. – Africa Leadership Summit in Washington, D.C. The Summit included meetings between President Obama and 51 African heads of state. Source: GSN Magazine

US Customs CSI Inspection in the Port of Durban, South Africa

US Customs CSI Inspection in the Port of Durban, South Africa

Customs and Border Protection (CBP) has not assessed risks at select foreign ports with U.S.-bound shipments since 2005, part of a string of failures that has left key ports without a CBP presence, the Government Accountability Office says. (Hmm, never mind the impact caused to Customs administration in the host countries……)

In examining CBP’s Container Security Initiative program, GAO found that the agency developed a model for ranking additional seaports according to risk in 2009, but never implemented it because of budget cuts, according to the report.

GAO applied that risk model to 2012 cargo shipment data and found that the CSI program had no presence at about half the ports CSP found high risk. Meanwhile, 20 percent of existing CSI program ports were at lower-risk locations, according to the findings (.pdf).

Although GAO acknowledged host countries are not always willing to accommodate a CSI presence, and that removal of a CSI presence can negatively affect diplomatic relations, auditors said periodic assessments of cargo shipped from foreign ports could help CBP better guard against terror-related shipments.

Although there have been no known incidents of cargo containers being used to transport WMD, the maritime supply chain remains vulnerable to attacks. We recognize that it may not be possible to include all of the higher-risk ports in CSI because CSI requires the cooperation of sovereign foreign governments.

To better ensure the effectiveness of the CSI program, GAO recommends that the Secretary of Homeland Security direct the Commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection to periodically assess the supply chain security risks from all foreign ports that ship cargo to the United States and use the results of these risk assessments to (1) inform any future expansion of CSI to additional locations and (2) determine whether changes need to be made to existing CSI ports and make adjustments as appropriate and feasible.

Such assessments “would help ensure that CBP is allocating its resources to provide the greatest possible coverage of high-risk cargo to best mitigate the risk of importing weapons of mass destruction or other terrorist contraband into the United States through the maritime supply chain,” GAO said.

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) concurred with the recommendation and said CBP would complete its first assessment by Aug. 12, 2014. To access or download the GAO Report on CSI, Click Here! Source: US Government Accounting Office

Foreign Ports That CBP Coordinates with Regarding Maritime Container Shipment Examinations, as of July 2013

Foreign Ports That CBP Coordinates with Regarding Maritime Container Shipment Examinations, as of July 2013 (Table: GAO)

 

ACE_image_csonLast week, the National Customs Brokers & Forwarders Association of America, Inc. (NCBFAA) hosted a conference in Baltimore, MD targeting software developers interested in obtaining more information about US Customs and Border Protection’s (CBP’s) Automated Commercial Environment (ACE) and upcoming technical changes related to the PGA Message Set, Entry Summary Edits, Automated Corrections/Cancellations and AES Re-Engineering/Manifest Baseline development. During the conference, CBP made two important announcements which were heard and noted first hand from an Integration Point representative. These two announcements included:

  • CBP announced that it plans to mandate the use of manifest and cargo release in ACE by December 31, 2015 and mandate the use of ACE by December 31, 2016. CBP also provided a tentative release schedule for seven deployments that will lead up to this mandate.  Each deployment will consist of one or two increments, and each increment will span over a period of twelve to thirteen weeks. On this road map, CBP announced some exciting functionalities to be released in the near future such as automated cancellation and/or correction of entries, integration of simplified entry with other modes of transport and certifying simplified entry through summary. In addition to the enhanced simplified entry process, CBP also gradually plans to include the validations that were not initially included in ACE entry summaries.
  • CBP is also working on the reengineering of AES and pilot programs of entry data collection for various Participating Government Agencies such as the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and US Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) and CBP plans to deploy this later on in 2013 and early in 2014.

Now there is relevance in all of this. It reinforces the growing importance of Customs’ focus on “cargo management”.  Far too much emphasis is placed on the goods declaration alone. This is not only short-sighted but demonstrates an ignorance of the global supply chain. Without the ‘cargo report’ (manifest) the goods declaration is little more than a testament of what is purported to have been imported and exported.

confidentialAn interesting and pertinent issue has been raised in the social media area on the ‘confidentiality’ of carrier information submitted to Customs. In this particular regard it relates to the practice of the US Customs and Border Protection Agency. One blogger commented “It’s kind of ironic in the U.S. for example that importers/consignees are required to submit a request to customs to opt-in to keep manifest information confidential.”

CustomsNow, a direct filing solution for US traders relates “As a common practice, importers and consignees may submit a request to US Customs, pursuant to 19 CFR 103.31, to keep manifest information confidential.  Our previous blog post on this topic  includes several tips to ensure these requests result in the broadest degree of confidentiality.”

Recently, importers and consignees who have submitted confidentiality requests have complained to CBP that confidential shipping data — party/shipper/consignee name and address — for ocean freight have nevertheless been disclosed to the public.  After reviewing the matter, Customs has determined that “improper data entry” was the cause.  To avoid this, CBP advises in a recent CSMS publication, when filing e-Manifests in ACE, “the commercial party name fields must ONLY contain commercial party name data.”  Otherwise, “…the name of the party stored in the ACE database is corrupted because it includes address data. This inaccurate party name data fails the confidentiality edits resulting in confidential business information being shared publicly. This inadvertent disclosure is tied directly to the way in which data is transmitted by users.” Additional information can be found in CBP’s CSMS #13-000064.

In South Africa, and I’m sure a great many other countries too, one just has to accept that the Customs authorities will secure such information, because they say its safe. Read the link below – cause for concern.

 

The article below has been doing the rounds over various social media the last few days. The ‘standout’ issue for me is the fact that such an alleged crime occurred in the USA. With the focus of the customs world nowadays so much on the anti-terror campaign, could it be that one of the single biggest enforcement agencies in the world is not as sharp on traditional customs fraud activities? With the boundless focus on ‘safety and security’ it often seems as though the traditional customs crimes have given way to ‘globally networked syndicates’ using every means of technology to by-pass sovereign authorities. Yet, when you read the brief below, it all boils down to the human factor. To what extent the outcome of this case will attest to the Customs and Border Protection Agency’s risk management capability and moreover the extent to which such campaigns as CT-PAT really give the agency the edge in better ‘knowing’ its customers remains to be seen. A successful border agency must still do the basic things right, as dated as they may seem in the modern world. This case therefore proves how important it is for any national customs and border management agencies to invest in customs-skills training with lesser emphasis on the technology side of things. It is so unfortunate that most countries see Customs Capacity Building as an investment in technology. At this rate with no investment in customs technique, who is going to be able to properly interpret risk indicators if all the agency employs are statisticians and university post-graduates?

SAN DIEGO, CA – A complaint charging eight individuals and three corporations with operating a ring that illegally imported hundreds of millions of dollars in foreign goods into the United States though the Long Beach Port-of-Entry and evaded millions of dollars in import taxes was unsealed today, announced United States Attorney for the Southern District of California Laura E. Duffy.

According to the complaint, the defendants’ scheme focused on purchasing large, commercial quantities of foreign-made goods and importing them without paying import taxes or A Customs duties. As alleged in the charging documents, wholesalers in the United States would procure commercial shipments of, among other things, Chinese-made apparel and Indian-made cigarettes, and arrange for them to be shipped by ocean container to the Port of Long Beach, California. Before the goods entered   States, the defendants generated paperwork and database entries indicating that the goods were not intended to enter the commerce of the United States, but instead would be transshipped “in-bond” to another country, such as Mexico.

As noted in the complaint, this in-bond process is a routine feature of international trade. Goods that travel in-bond through the territory of the United States do not formally enter the commerce of the United States, and so are not subject to Customs duties.By claiming that the goods would be transshipped in-bond to another country, the defendants falsely represented that no Customs duties applied.

According to the complaint, instead of completing the in-bond transshipment, the defendants would hire truck drivers to haul the shipments to warehouses throughout Southern California. After generating the false paperwork and database entries, the goods would then be diverted back to Los Angeles and other destinations for shipment throughout the United States. As the conspirators had now effectively imported the goods tax-free, they could in turn sell more merchandise at cheaper prices and reap greater profits than their law-abiding competitors, including domestic American manufacturers of the same goods.

The complaint alleges that in addition to harming lawful domestic businesses, the defendants deprived the United States of the Customs duties that it was owed on these diverted shipments. To date, the government has already identified more than 90 commercial shipments of Chinese-made apparel, foreign-made cigarettes and other goods that were illegally imported in this manner. Altogether, these shipments were worth at least $100 million and resulted in more than $10 million in lost Customs duties, taxes and other revenue.

According to United States Attorney Duffy, “The charges announced today underscores our commitment to ensure that no one exploits the import process for personal gain. Not only does such illegal conduct present a significant danger to the American people, but it deprives law-abiding companies of a level playing field resulting in the potential loss ofbillions of dollars in revenue.”

“This investigation pulled back the curtain on a potentially costly fraud scheme operating in one of the world’sbusiest commercial centers,” said ICE Director John Morton. “Instead, HSI, aided by our law enforcement partners, exposed and dismantled this criminal ring and now those responsible will be held accountable.”
“Every day, U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials work to protect the U.S. and interdict fraudulent goods from entering the country. I commend the work of our officers for their instinct and diligence, and recognize the seamless coordination across government agencies,” said David V. Aguilar, Acting Commissioner, U.S. Customs and Border Protection. “Joint efforts such as this are crucial to maintaining our nation’seconomic security and competitiveness.”

“The FDA-Office of Criminal Investigations is fully committed to investigating and supporting the prosecution of those who may endanger the public’s health and safety by importing unsafe and potentially life-threatening products. We commend the U.S.Attorney’s Office in the Southern District of California for their diligence,”said Lisa Malinowski, Acting Special Agent in Charge, U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s Office of Criminal Investigations, Los Angeles Field Office. As alleged in the complaint,defendant Gerardo Chavez is President of the San Diego Customs Brokers Association and a licensed Customs broker. Using his Customs license, Chavez, his employees and his companies—including defendants Tecate Logistics, LLC and International Trade Consultants, LLC—generated the fraudulent Customs paperwork that was integral to the scheme. Similarly, Chavez and his companies would make false entries into Customs databases, in order to create the false appearance that in-bond shipments of foreign-made goods had been lawfully transshipped to Mexico. As part of this effort, Chavez, Joel Varela and others would also forge official Customs markings to make it appear as if a United States Customs official had certified various shipments as having been transshipped to Mexico.

Charging documents also allege that Chavez had several dedicated customers who were part of the conspiracy. For example, defendant Sunil Mirwani, a citizen of the United Kingdom, received dozens of shipments of illegally imported Chinese-made apparel at warehouses throughout the Los Angeles area. Mirwani marketed and sold the apparel using hiscompany, defendant M Trade Inc. Similarly, defendant Rene Trahin and other co-conspirators distributed various shipments of illegally imported “gray market” cigarettes ranging from Indian-made to German-made brands to warehouses, self-storage areas and a residence in San Diego, Los Angeles and parts between.

The complaint alleges that the defendants also imported produce infected by Salmonella Agona. Often called simply “Salmonella,” this pathogen is a potentially life-threatening infectious bacteria. On one occasion, after a shipment of nopal cactus (also known as prickly pear) tested positive for Salmonella,co-conspirator changed the description of the nopal cactus’ grower for subsequent shipments, for the purpose of evading future Food and Drug Administration (“FDA”) inspections. Similarly, defendant Elizabeth Sandoval and Varela conspired to import Mexican snack foods that were mislabeled and adulterated with a prohibited dye. The remaining defendants named in the complaint are employees and agents of Customs brokers, wholesalers and transport companies who are alleged to have knowingly aided the conspiracy.

This case is being prosecuted in federal court in San Diego by Assistant United States Attorney Timothy C. Perry and is being investigated by the Department of Homeland Security, Immigration and Customs Enforcement Homeland Security Investigations, and United States Customs and Border Protection, the Internal Revenue Service, the Food and Drug Administration, and the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau. A complaint is a formal charging document and defendants are presumed innocent until the Government meets its burden in court of proving guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. Source: US Department of Justice