Skip to main content

Job Scam Alert: 

This is to notify you that we have been alerted of job scams misusing the name of Global eTrade Services (GeTS). We would like to emphasize that there is no active, ongoing recruitment under the brand name of GeTS as we now operate under our parent company, CrimsonLogic. Please read the full disclaimer here.

  • 19 Jun 2020
  • Canada
  • USA
  • Importer Security Filing
  • ISF
  • CBP
  • Cargo
  • Shipment
  • eCommerce
  • Trade
  • eTrade

How to File ISF for your Inbound Cargo


Table of Contents:

What is the Importer Security Filing (ISF)?

Filing ISF for your Inbound Cargo: Required Data Elements

ISF Transmission

GeTS ISF and Freight Management Solutions

The Importer Security Filing (ISF) rule has been mandatory since January 2009. U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) developed the program to expand security all the way back to the cargo loading point. CBP has fine-tuned Importer Security Filing over the years. Find out more about CBP’s required additional data elements and how to File ISF for your inbound cargo.


While CBP compares ISF data with the entry and eManifest information, the ISF is meant for targeting and risk assessment only, not for determining admissibility. ISF means better targeting for high risk cargo and less scrutiny for low risk shipments, ultimately facilitating the flow of legitimate trade.


What is the Importer Security Filing (ISF)?


The Importer Security Filing (ISF) is a set of data about inbound cargo in the marine mode of transport. Importers and carriers must submit ISF data to CBP in advance of the ship’s arrival. CBP officers use the information in the ISF to improve targeting of high-risk cargo, prevent smuggling, expedite the release of low-risk shipments, and ensure safety and security of the supply chain.


Most marine shipments require an ISF, including containerized shipments, break bulk cargo, FROB (Freight Remaining on Board), IE (Immediate Exportation) and T&E (Transportation and Exportation) shipments. Exemptions to the rule include bulk cargo, air freight, and cross-border shipments. Noncompliance can lead to heavy fines, increased audits, and cargo delays.


Parties Responsible


The importer is responsible for the accuracy and timeliness of ISFs. This is true whether it was the ISF importer, a licensed customs broker, or another intermediary who submitted the filing. In 2018, CBP expanded the definition of ISF importer and placed the responsibility for filing the ISF-5 with the party causing the goods to enter the limits of a port in the U.S. This is the party most likely to have the required ISF data.


Typically, the ISF Importer is the owner/purchaser of the goods, consignee, or agent such as a customs broker. For FROB, the ISF Importer is the carrier. For IE, T&E in-bond shipments, and shipments destined for an FTZ, the ISF Importer is the party filing the IE, T&E, or FTZ documentation.


ISF-5 does not change who actually files the information to CBP, and importers and carriers/NVOCCs can still use brokers and third-party providers to file on their behalf. However, the importer ISF must provide

its own bond for the shipment transaction.


ISF 10+2


The ISF 10+2 rule applies to ocean shipments destined for the U.S. or for a foreign trade zone. The rule includes carrier requirements. Under the 10+2 rule, the importer (or their licensed customs broker) must electronically submit to CBP 10 data elements while the carrier must transmit 2 additional data elements before marine shipments can be imported.


The ISF must be submitted in advance of the vessel’s actual arrival at a port in the United States. For containerized ocean cargo, the first eight data elements must be submitted 24 hours before the shipment is loaded onto the vessel at the foreign port. The second two data elements must be submitted 24 hours before the ship arrives in the U.S.




The ISF-5 rule applies to shipments made up entirely of FROB cargo or IE and T&E in-bond shipments. The importer must electronically submit five data elements to CBP no later than 24 hours before the cargo is loaded onto the vessel at the foreign port or any time before loading for FROB shipments.


CBP started enforcing the ISF-5 rule in early 2019. On March 15, 2019, CBP started issuing liquidated damage claims for violations of ISF-5 rules and ended the delayed enforcement for violations. Enforcement delays were necessary to ensure trade participants had enough time to get their systems, processes and compliance up to speed before issuing monetary and non-monetary penalties.


Penalties for noncompliance are applicable to ISF-5 rules only, as ISF 10+2 has been in place for more than a decade and compliance is already very high. Trade participants impacted by ISF-5 include importers, carriers, NVOCCs, authorized agents, and other filers in the marine mode of transport.


Filing ISF for your Inbound Cargo: Required Data Elements


ISF 10+2




Ship to Name and Address

Importer of Record Number/FTZ Applicant Identification Number

Consignee Number

6-digit Commodity Number

Manufacturer Name and Address

Seller Name and Address

Buyer Name and Address

Consolidator Name and Address

Container Stuffing Location

Country of Origin of Goods




Vessel Stow Plan

Container Status Message




For FROB, IE, and T&E shipments, the importer, agent or FTZ operator must submit five (5) data elements to CBP:


Booking party

Foreign port of unlading

Place of delivery

Ship to party

Commodity HTSUS number


ISF filers also need the bill of lading number/s to match the ISF with the manifest filing:


MBL Number and SCAC



The ISF must be submitted at the lowest bill of lading level (house bill or regular bill) that is transmitted into ACE. If the carrier sends a regular bill of lading number on behalf of a non-automated NVOCC or freight forwarder, the ISF filer must submit the regular bill of lading number that was transmitted into ACE as part of the ISF.


Without the BOL number, the ISF cannot be matched to a customs manifest. The BOL number is already required to be submitted in the ocean eManifest 24 hours before cargo is loaded onto the vessel at the foreign port.


ISF Transmission

ISF Transmission

Filers must transmit ISF data electronically to CBP via the Automated Broker Interface (ABI) in the Automated Commercial Environment (ACE), the ACE Portal, or through a CBP-approved third party service provider. Regardless of transmission method, the filer needs a filer identification code, either a SCAC (for ACE Portal filings) or an ABI filer code (for ABI filings). If the SCAC is not available, CBP will assign a four-character identifier to the filer.


ACE Portal


CBP has allowed the ACE Secure Data Portal to accept ISF filings. However, the Portal is very limited in scope and allows no more than 12 filings per year. Importers must register an ACE Portal account before they can submit ISF data. Registration requires the importer ID number and can be done at the local port of entry or via customs broker through CBP Form 5106.




Importer and customs brokers already use ABI in ACE to file entries, entry summaries, and unified filings (entries with ISF). Filers connect to ABI in ACE via Electronic Data Interchange (EDI), a system to system connection governed by messaging standards.


Third Party Filing


A third-party provider approved by CBP can file ISF 10+2 and ISF-5 data on behalf of filers. This is usually the most cost-effective option for small and medium sizes enterprises (SMEs) who lack the capital to invest in in-house EDI connectivity and systems.


GeTS ISF and Freight Management Solutions

How to File ISF for your Inbound Cargo: GeTS ISF and Freight Management Solutions

GeTS is a CBP-approved service provider offering advanced and flexible ISF filing, ACE Ocean, CALISTA Freight eXchange, and other freight management solutions for traders in the marine mode of transport. All solutions (web-based app, advanced integration, or direct filing) are flexible and can be tailored to business needs


GeTS CALISTA Freight eXchange is a complete end-to-end online module that facilitates RFQ, booking, invoice management and verification, and online payments. It connects carriers, freight forwarders and shippers/retailers for easy matching of loads with vehicles and services. Clients can reach out to more customers and sell more carrier space


To learn more, visit our ISF (Importer Security Filing) page or contact us today.




Related Pages:

CBP Entry Type 86 Clearance for eCommerce Shipments

What Importers Need to Know About Section 321 Entry Type 86

Importer Security Filing (ISF)

ACE Ocean for eCommerce Shipments

New CBP Penalties for Cross Border Trucks

CBP Begins ISF-5 (Importer Security Filing) Enforcement


ACE Export Manifest

ACE Highway



ACE Marine

Logistics Assistant

Avoid Penalties! Here are the 10+2 ISF Time Frames to Remember

US Electronic Manifest 10 + 2 ISF (Importer Security Filing)

ACE Ocean

Trade Compliance