The most common shipment type or method of transportation for commercial goods crossing the United States is the Pre-Arrival Processing System (PAPS) cargo release option. It is the default shipment type for most commercial goods transported by highway carriers. The Trade Act of 2002 made PAPS mandatory for truck carriers at land border entry points with the goal of expediting the release of shipments while U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) evaluates the risk level of each shipment using automated targeting systems. PAPS is the U.S. counterpart of the Canadian Pre-Arrival Review System (PARS) shipment type, but the two are not interchangeable.
What is a PAPS Number?
A PAPS Number is a type of Shipment Control Number (SCN) assigned to all shipments requiring pre-arrival clearance. All PAPS shipments have a unique barcoded label or PAPS number that the carrier attaches to the truck eManifest and shipping invoice. A PAPS number contains the carrier’s Standard Carrier Alpha Code (SCAC), followed by the Pro-Bill number (Northern border) or filer code, and entry number (Southern border). The SCAC and Pro-Bill must be less than 16 characters; the SCAC number and check digit must be continuous without space or dashes.
The PAPS number is the common element in the customs broker’s entry and the carrier’s eManifest filing. It is usually the importer or their customs broker that selects the shipment type when preparing a formal entry in the Automated Broker Interface (ABI). The carrier then prepares an Automated Commercial Environment (ACE) electronic manifest (eManifest) using the same PAPS number for the shipment based on the information provided by the importer or broker.
CBP officers refer to the PAPS number when making the decision to release the shipment or refer it for secondary processing. A PAPS number is unique and cannot be reused for at least three years. Carriers may create their own stickers or use commercial printers. PAPS stickers are often printed sequentially to avoid accidental reuse. Before PAPS transactions can be processed at the border, the carriers must test a sample of the PAPS barcode at the ports of entry to ensure compatibility with CBP’s technology.
How to Use PAPS
Importers should inform their broker when using PAPS and acquire the broker/filer code. After picking up the shipment, the carrier assigns a unique PAPS number to it. The carrier will attach a PAPS sticker to the commercial invoice and inward manifest form (or write it on the paper) provided by the shipper and fax it to the broker to advise them of the PAPS number that was used for the shipment.
The broker will then include the PAPS number in the ABI entry requesting the release of goods by CBP. The carrier will prepare and submit the pre-arrival ACE eManifest for the shipment, referencing the same PAPS number. Once CBP approves the entry and eManifest, the carrier can cross the border.
At the border, the driver must present the ACE eManifest cover sheet (with the PAPS/ACE SCN printed on the sheet) to the customs officer. The commercial invoice and other documents are NOT required unless the officer requests it. The officer will retrieve the shipment information and release the shipment at the primary booth if no examination is required. The fast release of PAPS shipments reduces carrier wait time and eases congestion at the border.
Declaring a PAPS Shipment in ACE eManifest
All PAPS shipments must be manifested. The carrier must designate the shipment as PAPS in the ACE eManifest submitted to CBP at least one hour for regular shipments (or at least 30 minutes for FAST shipments) before the goods arrive at the border. Highway carriers can report PAPS shipments in ACE via the ACE Portal, EDI connection, or CBP-approved third-party software like CrimsonLogic’s GeTS ACE eManifest solution.
The carrier must ensure that the PAPS number entered in the ACE form exactly matches the PAPS number provided to the customs broker—even a one character mismatch can lead to delays at the border. In addition to the carrier’s eManifest submission, the PAPS shipment also requires a formal entry submitted by the broker. The broker’s entry number will be displayed on the eManifest once the broker has cleared the PAPS shipment. This must be done before the carrier arrives at the border.
How to Import from Canada into the U.S.
Canada is the second largest supplier of U.S.-bound goods, with Canadian imports accounting for 14.6 percent of all U.S. imports in 2013. Canadian imports are still subject to CBP requirements, and importers must understand the customs process to ensure timely delivery of shipments.
Imports by Air
If you are importing goods from Canada by air, the process is similar to importing from any other country. Provide your broker with the commercial invoice and arrival notice so they can file an entry upon arrival at the destination airport. Once released by CBP, the shipment can be picked up or delivered to the consignee.
Imports by Truck
U.S-bound goods transported by trucks or highway carriers have specific requirements. Importers must understand how the PAPS release option works and establish communication guidelines with their customs brokers. PAPS is the default shipment type for most commercial goods entering the U.S., except for:
· Regulated goods and those that are subject to agencies like the Food and Drug Administration (FDA)
· Goods with transportation bond (T&E)
· Goods for immediate transportation
· Sec. 321 (valued at $200 or less)
· Instruments of International Traffic (ITT)
· Line Release shipments
It is the carrier that assigns a unique PAPS number with the SCAC, Pro-Bill Number, or filer code and entry number to each PAPS shipment. When the carrier picks up the shipment, the importer or supplier should request the PAPS number and other required documents. The importer will send the PAPS number and the following to the customs broker: Power of Attorney (POA), commercial invoice, packing list, truck waybill, HTS code, tax ID number, port at border crossing, and NAFTA certificate (if applicable).
The carrier also sends the PAPS number to the broker so the broker can create a formal entry referencing the same PAPS number. This must be done before the truck arrives at the border. At least an hour before arriving at the border, the carrier prepares and submits an eManifest in ACE with the PAPS number. After CBP approves the filing, the driver can cross the border.
For shipments that will be transported to a warehouse under an Immediate Transportation (IT) arrangement, expect delivery delays and fees for IT filing and handling. Goods made entirely in Canada may be duty-free, but the vendor must mark the shipment with the country of origin and provide a NAFTA Certificate of Origin.
Track Your U.S. Bound Shipment
Tracking your U.S.-bound shipments is easy with third party software from CrimsonLogic’s Global eTrade Services (GeTS). GeTS is a CBP-approved service provider offering best-in-class ACE and ACI eManifest solutions that save time, reduce errors, streamline processing, and ensure compliance with CBP requirements.
The GeTS Mobile App provides real-time status updates of PAPS shipments and other key shipment notifications wherever you are. To get started, download the GeTS Mobile App from the Google Play store or iTunes. No login required—simply enter the Cargo Control Number (CCN) and immediately view the clearance status of your PARS and PAPS shipments. Visit our website to learn more or to register for 30-day FREE TRIAL. You may also send us a message through the online form on the Contact Us page.