Importing goods is a complex process, and small businesses often find themselves grappling with various forms and regulations. One crucial document in this realm is the Importer Security Filing (ISF) form. Ensuring that your ISF filing is accurate is essential for smooth customs clearance. In this guide, we’ll break down the key steps for small importing businesses to successfully complete the ISF form.

Understanding the Importance of the ISF Form

The ISF form, also known as the 10+2 form, is a critical component of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) security measures. Its primary purpose is to enhance the security of maritime cargo entering the United States. By providing detailed information about the cargo before it arrives, the CBP can assess potential risks and take necessary precautions.

Gathering Essential Information

Before diving into the form, ensure you have all the necessary information at your fingertips. This includes details about the importer, seller, buyer, and other entities involved in the transaction. Additionally, you’ll need accurate information about the goods being imported, such as the Harmonized System (HS) code, quantity, weight, and packaging.

Accessing the ISF Form

The ISF form is typically submitted electronically through the Automated Broker Interface (ABI) or the Automated Commercial Environment (ACE). Small businesses can use the services of a licensed customs broker or file the form themselves through the CBP’s online portal.

Entering Basic Information

Start by entering the basic information required on the form. This includes details about the importer, such as the company name, address, and Employer Identification Number (EIN). Make sure this information matches the details on other shipping documents to avoid discrepancies.

Providing Details about the Goods

The heart of the ISF form lies in the detailed information about the goods being imported. Include the HS code for each item, a precise description, the quantity, weight, and packaging type. Accuracy is crucial, as discrepancies may lead to delays and fines.

Documenting the Bill of Lading and Container Numbers

Include the Bill of Lading (BOL) and container numbers on the ISF form. These numbers help customs authorities track the movement of the cargo. Double-check these details against the actual shipping documents to ensure consistency.

Indicating the Country of Origin and Manufacturer

Specify the country of origin for each item and provide information about the manufacturer. This step is crucial for customs authorities to assess any potential risks associated with specific regions or manufacturers.

Ensuring Timely Submission

The ISF form must be submitted to the CBP no later than 24 hours before the cargo is loaded onto the vessel overseas. Small businesses should establish a reliable process to ensure timely submissions, avoiding penalties for late filing.

Verifying Accuracy Before Submission

Before hitting the submit button, thoroughly review the information on the ISF form. Check for any errors or omissions, ensuring that all details align with the accompanying shipping documents. A careful review can prevent unnecessary delays and complications during customs clearance.

Seeking Professional Assistance

For small importing businesses navigating the complexities of international trade, seeking the assistance of a licensed customs broker can be invaluable. These professionals are well-versed in customs regulations and can guide businesses through the process, ensuring compliance with all requirements.


Filling out the ISF form is a crucial step for small importing businesses engaged in international trade. By understanding the process and following these steps meticulously, businesses can streamline customs clearance, avoid penalties, and contribute to the overall security of maritime cargo entering the United States.

By Eddy

Eddy is the editorial columnist in Business Fundas, and oversees partner relationships. He posts articles of partners on various topics related to strategy, marketing, supply chain, technology management, social media, e-business, finance, economics and operations management. The articles posted are copyrighted under a Creative Commons unported license 4.0. To contact him, please direct your emails to [email protected].