Monthly Archives

November 2009

Best PracticesU.S.Customs

As a Subscriber, You Are Invited to This Thursday’s Holiday Party

posted by Customs & International Trade Law Blog November 29, 2009 0 comments

With the overwhelmingly positive response to my new Customs and International Trade Blog, I am inviting each of you to the Customs and International Trade Department’s Holiday Party, this Thursday, December 3, from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. at my Coral Gables, Florida, office.

Where:  121 Alhambra Plaza, 10th Floor (parking provided in the building)

The following link contains a Map to Coral Gables Office.

Plenty of food and drink provided, so just bring your holiday cheer.

RSVP required to Jennifer Diaz at or 305-260-1053.


Everything You Need to Know About Exporting

posted by Customs & International Trade Law Blog November 16, 2009 0 comments

In the next few weeks, I am giving lectures and doing a webinar on the general topic of export compliance.  In my legal practice over the past 20 years as a Customs and International Trade attorney, I am increasingly involved with clients on export compliance and penalty matters.  The laws and regulations have changed dramatically over the past few years, as has the name and number of Federal agencies enforcing them, plus the penalties for non-compliance are much higher now.

Please call (305) 260-1053 with any questions regarding the below seminar/webinar (or compliance generally).

(1) On Wednesday, November 18, from 9 to 12 noon at the Doubletree Miami Mart, on behalf of the Florida Customs Brokers and Forwarders Association, I am lecturing on complying with the Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS) requirements.  The seminar is entitled “Export Controls Compliance and Best Business Practices,” and it will cover everything from identifying the correct ECCN (Export Commodity Classification Number) in the Export Administration Regulations (EAR), to submitting an export license, to  the decrementing of the license by U.S. Customs and Border Protection, to interacting with Special Agents of the BIS’s Office of Export Enforcement conducting an investigation, to negotiating a favorable resolution after a Notice of Proposed Penalty has been issued against the company for an export violation.  I will also cover the various trade embargoes and sanctions with countries and foreign nationals and foreign organizations enforced by the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC).  That means everything from Cuba to Zimbabwe and from Specially Designated Nationals (SDN) to narco-traffickers.   Violations of BIS and OFAC regulations may result in severe criminal punishment or monetary penalties in the millions of dollars, plus individuals have personal liability.

(2) This Thursday, November 19, from 6:30-8:15 p.m, at the University of Phoenix, 11410 NW 20th Street, Miami, on behalf of the South Florida Chapter of the National Association of Purchasing Management (NAPM), I will discuss “Export Controls Compliance and Penalties”. 

(3) On December 3, 2009, I will be a speaker in an “AES Compliance Webinar” from 12 noon to 1:30 p.m.  It is sponsored by the National Customs Brokers and Forwarders Association of America (NCBFAA) Educational Institute. To participate, simply go to and select “AES Compliance Webinar” under “Upcoming Events.” The webinar answers the questions of how, when, and why to file the required Electronic Export Information (EEI) using AESDirect.  U.S. Customs is now regularly issuing penalties against exporters or freight forwarders for not properly filing the EEI.  If you are wondering what happened to the old Shipper’s Export Declaration (SED) form, you should participate in this webinar that I am doing in cooperation with the U.S. Census Bureau.




FDA IssuesFoodImport

I am Not Worried That My Food Is “Safe”, Are You?

posted by Customs & International Trade Law Blog November 10, 2009 2 Comments

The United States Congress is considering legislation to make the food we eat, especially imported food, “safe and secure”.  In my opinion, even if our food needs protecting, the proposed legislation only adds to the current Federal bureaucracy.  The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) already has a comprehensive regulatory procedure to stop, examine, and refuse imported food which it considers adulterated or misbranded, or otherwise not fit for human (or animal) consumption.  The current FDA system is working very well, and  the only achievement of the proposed legislation will be to increase the price of food.  We need enforcement of the current laws, not a bunch of new laws.

Granted, there are numerous instances of imported food making people sick, and even causing death.  15% of the food we eat is imported. Nevertheless, the overwhelming number of Americans who get sick or die from consuming food had nothing to do with imported food.  You may get sick at your local restaurant with food poisoning because of the poor handling of the food at the restaurant, not because the food came from overseas.

Currently, for any food to enter the United States, the importer must submit an electronic entry to both U.S. Customs and Border Protection and the FDA.  The entry information includes the name of the importer, a description of the imported food, the name of its manufacturer, the country of origin, the value, the buyer of the food, and where the food is to be delivered.  The requirements of the Bio-terrorism Act of 2002 require “prior notice” which means that the importer must advise U.S. Customs and the FDA far in advance of the arrival of the food at a border crossing of the United States. The U.S. General Accountability Office just issued a thorough Food Safety Report which has an excellent graphic at page 58-59 describing the imported food procedures.  The Report did state that our food supply is safe, but that U.S. Customs and FDA could do better. 

The Government made significant changes already regarding the traceability of food in the Bioterrorism Act which went into effect in December 2003. It required all foreign companies involved in the manufacturing, processing, packing, or holding food that enters the United States to first register with the FDA so that the food may be traced all the way back from the retailer to its source overseas.  Companies may register on-line at   

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U.S. Customs Seized My Merchandise: Now What?

posted by Customs & International Trade Law Blog November 3, 2009 46 Comments

cbp-inspection-at-dhlEvery day, U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers at the airports, seaports, and other border crossings, stop, examine, detain, and seize merchandise from both travelers and commercial cargo importers and exporters.  The process of getting back your property can be a harrowing one fraught with bureaucratic delays.  There is, fortunately, a set of rules that U.S. Customs must follow, and knowing those rules will give you an advantage.

Customs officers may examine cargo to look for illegal drugs, counterfeit merchandise, merchandise from a country with which the U.S. has an embargo, food or medical devices not approved by the FDA, or motorcycles not approved by the EPA, just to name a few examples. 

While the cargo is being held by U.S. Customs, it is transferred to a Centralized Examination Station (CES) where the cargo is separated and intensively examined by Customs officers.  U.S. Customs has 35 days from the date of arrival of the cargo in the United States to detain the merchandise for examination.  See 19 CFR 151.16.  During that period of time, it is the obligation of U.S. Customs to advise the importer, its customs broker, and/or customs attorney with an explanation for the detention.  A written Detention Notice stating the specific reason for the detention should be issued by the U.S. Customs officer.

After 35 days, the Customs Regulations require that the cargo must be seized or released.   Unfortunately, this is too often ignored.  The problem is that U.S. Customs must rely upon other Federal agencies to give it advice whether a violation has occurred. For example, if a shipment of  motorcycles is imported from China, but Customs suspects that they may not satisfy the Environmental Protection Administration (EPA) safety requirements, digital photographs and paperwork must be sent to EPA officials in Washington, D.C. for review and recommendation.  The communication is not directly from the front line U.S. Customs officer to the EPA attorney.  Instead, it will go through the chain of command which typically involves 5 sets of eyes and hands going up the chain and then down the chain.  35 days pass quickly with so many people handing off to each other.  Hence, despite the 35 day requirement, a determination to release or seize may not be made for 60 or more days after being detained by Customs.  Getting frustrated with or repeatedly calling a particular U.S. Customs officer may not be helpful as s/he may also be waiting for an answer from someone else.  Knowing who to call and when is the key to successfully getting cargo released.

The customs attorney hired to assist the importer needs to know the internal procedures of U.S. Customs as well as the laws and regulations it enforces to identify who and when to speak to a Customs officer or other U.S. Government official.  Getting involved early in the detention process is one of the best ways to assist Customs in identifying whether or not there is a violation, and avoiding a seizure or other negative action by U.S. Customs.   For example, if the product is a suspected counterfeit, showing an Import Specialist the license from Bluetooth or Apple could avoid a lengthy, expensive, and totally unnecessary seizure process with U.S. Customs.   Getting a Licensing Officer from the Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS) of the U.S. Department of Commerce in Washington, D.C. to speak directly with the U.S. Customs officer on the Anti-Terrorism Trade Enforcement Team (AT-TET) to clarify any suspected discrepancy in the terms of the export license could avoid an unnecessary seizure.

If a violation does occur, the merchandise will be seized by U.S. Customs. The merchandise is then transported by U.S. Customs from the CES to a Seized Property warehouse.  The merchandise will remain in the warehouse until it is authorized to be released by Customs, and the warehouse is paid its storage fees.

Once the merchandise is seized, the file is forwarded by the U.S. Customs officer to the Fines, Penalties, and Forfeitures Office (FP&F).  The FP&F paralegal reviews the file and prepares a formal, written Seizure Notice. The Seizure Notice is mailed to the alleged violator.  My standard operating procedure is to notify FP&F of my representation of an importer or exporter whose goods have been seized by Customs so that the Seizure Notice is forwarded to me directly. The Seizure Notice will identify what and where the cargo was seized, as well as the legal basis for the seizure. See 19 CFR 162.31(b)

Once a Seizure Notice is received, the “violator” is provided 30 days to file a Petition with Customs.  The Petition is the means by which the owner of the cargo may seek to persuade U.S. Customs to release the seized shipment.  The Petition may argue that a violation did not really occur, or that there was a violation, however, there were mitigating factors in favor of releasing the cargo.  The Petition should follow the guidelines set forth by U.S. Customs in 19 CFR Part 171.  U.S. Customs also published a very helpful handbook about seizure case processing.

Eventually, U.S. Customs will either grant and release the seized merchandise, or deny the Petition and not release the seized merchandise.  A Supplemental Petition or Offer in Compromise may then be submitted to U.S. Customs.

In summary, the administrative petition process with U.S. Customs can be a long one, however, there are a few key points to keep in mind:

1) Be as careful as possible to be sure imported merchandise complies with all relevant laws and regulations applicable to the particular product;

2) If U.S. Customs detains your products, contact a knowledgeable customs attorney or customs broker to actively demonstrate that there is no violation;  and

3) If U.S. Customs seizes your products, make sure your customs attorney knows the policies, procedures, and practices of U.S. Customs to pursue the release of the merchandise.

For more information about the seizure process, a video describing the process, and a REAL copy of a SEIZURE NOTICE, click HERE.

Contact us at today to discuss your specific case.