What Information Is Included In The ISF?

So you’re wondering what exactly is included in the ISF? Well, the ISF, which stands for Importer Security Filing, is a crucial document that must be submitted to U.S. Customs and Border Protection prior to the arrival of your goods. It contains important information about your shipment, such as the shipper and buyer’s details, the origin and destination of the goods, packaging details, and even a description of the commodities being imported. This detailed information allows customs officials to assess any potential security risks associated with the shipment.

What Information Is Included In The ISF?

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In the world of international trade, the ISF, which stands for Importer Security Filing, plays a crucial role. If you’re involved in importing goods into the United States, it’s important to understand what the ISF is and how it works. This comprehensive article will guide you through everything you need to know about the ISF, from its definition and purpose to the legal requirements surrounding it. We’ll also provide detailed information on who is responsible for filing, when and how to file, and the specific information that is required. Additionally, we’ll cover important topics such as vessel information, cargo information, bond information, and the potential penalties and consequences for non-compliance. Finally, we’ll touch on certain exceptions and exemptions that may apply in certain scenarios.

What is the ISF?


The ISF, or Importer Security Filing, is a requirement implemented by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) in order to enhance cargo security and facilitate trade. It is an electronic filing system that collects and processes information about imported goods before they are shipped to the United States.


The primary purpose of the ISF is to improve the CBP’s ability to identify high-risk shipments and prevent security threats from entering the country. By gathering important information about shipments in advance, the CBP can make more informed decisions regarding the level of scrutiny each shipment deserves.

Legal Requirement

The ISF is a legal requirement for all ocean shipments bound for the United States. It applies to both non-containerized cargo and cargo shipped in containers. Failure to comply with the ISF requirements can result in penalties and delays in the clearance process.

ISF Filing

Who is responsible?

As an importer, it is ultimately your responsibility to ensure that the ISF is filed accurately and on time. However, you may choose to delegate this task to a licensed customs broker or freight forwarder who has the expertise and experience in navigating the complexities of the filing process.

When to file

The ISF must be filed at least 24 hours before the cargo is loaded onto the vessel bound for the United States. For shipments with a transit time of fewer than 24 hours, the ISF must be filed as soon as possible but no later than the time of departure from the foreign port.

How to file

The ISF must be filed electronically through the Automated Broker Interface (ABI) system or any other CBP-approved Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) system. The required data elements must be submitted accurately and in a timely manner to ensure compliance with the ISF regulations.

What Information Is Included In The ISF?

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Information Required

Importer Information

The ISF requires various pieces of information related to the importer, including their name, address, and Internal Revenue Service (IRS) number or CBP assigned importer number. This information is necessary for the CBP to identify and communicate with the importer throughout the importing process.

Seller Information

The ISF also requires information about the seller, including their name and address. This helps the CBP establish a reliable chain of custody and traceability for the imported goods.

Manufacturer Information

The ISF includes details about the manufacturer of the imported goods, such as their name and address. This information assists the CBP in determining the origin of the goods and assessing any potential risks associated with certain manufacturers or countries.

Vessel Information

Vessel Name

The ISF must provide the name of the vessel that will be transporting the imported goods to the United States. This information is necessary for the CBP to track and identify the specific vessel associated with each shipment.

Vessel Operator

The ISF also requires the name and address of the vessel operator. This helps the CBP establish contact with the operator in case of any security or compliance concerns regarding the shipment.

Voyage Number

The ISF includes the voyage number, which is a unique identifier assigned to each voyage of a vessel. This information assists the CBP in tracking and monitoring the progress of each shipment.

Cargo Information

Description of Goods

The ISF requires a detailed description of the imported goods, including their quantity, value, and any applicable unit of measure. This description should be as accurate and specific as possible to ensure proper identification and classification of the goods.

Harmonized System Code

Each type of goods imported into the United States is assigned a specific Harmonized System (HS) code, which is an internationally recognized coding system for classifying products. The ISF requires the inclusion of the HS code for the imported goods to facilitate proper classification and assessment of duties and taxes.

Weight and Measurement

The ISF also requires the accurate weight and measurement of the imported goods. This information helps the CBP assess the physical characteristics of the cargo and ensure compliance with weight and load restrictions.

Customs Bond Application

Additional Information

Country of Origin

The ISF must include the country of origin of the imported goods. This information is critical for determining eligibility for duty preferences, assessing risks associated with specific countries, and enforcing trade agreements.

Container Stuffing Location

For containerized shipments, the ISF requires the precise location where the cargo was stuffed into the container. This information helps the CBP ensure that proper security measures were followed during the handling and consolidation of the goods.

Bond Information

Bond Type

The ISF may require the identification of the type of bond associated with the imported goods. A bond is a financial guarantee that ensures compliance with all customs laws and regulations. Different types of bonds may be required depending on the nature of the goods and the parties involved in the transaction.

Bond Number

If a bond is necessary for the shipment, the ISF must include the bond number. This number serves as a unique identifier for the bond and facilitates communication and verification between the CBP and the importer or their representative.

Penalties and Consequences

Late Filing

Failure to file the ISF within the specified timeframe can result in penalties imposed by the CBP. These penalties can range from monetary fines to delays in the clearance process and increased scrutiny of future shipments.

Inaccurate Information

Providing inaccurate or incomplete information in the ISF can also lead to penalties. It is essential to ensure the information submitted is correct and up to date to avoid potential consequences.


Non-compliance with ISF requirements can result in the denial of entry for the imported goods or even the refusal to load the goods onto the vessel. Additionally, repeated non-compliance can lead to increased scrutiny of future shipments and potentially impact business relationships.

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Exceptions and Exemptions

Low-Value Shipments

Certain low-value shipments may be exempt from the full ISF requirements. The CBP provides specific guidelines for determining the eligibility of low-value shipments for exemption or reduced filing requirements.

Certain Commodities

Certain commodities, such as perishable goods or goods with limited shelf life, may qualify for exceptions or modified filing requirements. The CBP provides specific guidelines for each eligible commodity.

In-Bond Shipments

In-bond shipments, which are goods temporarily entering the United States under bond for subsequent export or entry into another U.S. port, may have different filing requirements. The CBP provides guidelines on the specific ISF requirements for in-bond shipments.

In conclusion, the ISF is a crucial part of the importing process, helping to enhance security while promoting efficient trade. By understanding the ISF requirements and fulfilling them accurately and on time, you can ensure a smooth and compliant importing process. Remember to stay informed about any updates or changes made to the ISF regulations and consult with a licensed customs broker or freight forwarder for expert guidance.

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