Monthly Archives

April 2013

Best PracticesExportInternational TravelOFAC

Ready to Travel to Cuba? OFAC Simplifies Process

posted by Jennifer Diaz April 29, 2013 1 Comment

On April 18, 2013, the Office of Foreign Assets Control ("OFAC") announced its effort to streamline license processing procedures by accepting requests for licenses, license amendments, and interpretive guidance electronically. This will not only simplify the process for those that wish to travel to Cuba, this new electronic application program can also be used for applications to request the release of blocked funds and much more.

 

For those that are more "old school" – you still have the opportunity to submit applications by snail mail pursuant to 31 C.F.R. § 501.801.

 

The new electronic OFAC License Application Page will allow users to apply:

  1. to travel to Cuba (for many, though not all, categories of travel to Cuba);
  2. to export agricultural commodities, medicine, or medical devices to Sudan or Iran pursuant to the Trade Sanctions Reform and Export Enhancement Act of 2000;
  3. for the release of a wire transfer blocked at a U.S. financial institution; and
  4. for a license or interpretive guidance in all other circumstances (referred to generally as Transactional).

For those wishing to travel to Cuba in a jiffy, you must first consult an expert to review and assure you understand the Comprehensive Guidelines for License Applications to Engage in Travel-Related Transactions Involving Cuba.  Once you know that you can apply to OFAC for your specific category of travel – the next step is reviewing the online application page.

Thus far, the electronic form may be used to apply for licenses to travel to Cuba in the following categories of travel, which are not generally authorized pursuant to 31 C.F.R. 515:   

  • Journalistic Activities
  • Professional Research and Professional Meetings
  • Religious Activities
  • Support for the Cuban People
  • Humanitarian Projects Activities of Private Foundations  
  • Research or Educational Institutes Exportation
  • Importation
  • Transmission of Information or Informational Materials
  • Licensed Exportations

The OFAC has stated that they intend to update the online application system in the future so that all the categories of travel (including family visits, educational activities, public performances, clinics, workshops, competitions, and exhibitions) may be applied for using this streamlined online process.

 

If you want to travel to Cuba, want to export agricultural commodities, medicine, or medical devices to Sudan or Iran, have funds blocked by OFAC, or want interpretive guidance from OFAC, assure you consult a regulatory expert so you have the best chance for success with OFAC.

Best PracticesCBPDepartment of Homeland SecurityImport

Do You Keep Your Manifest Information CONFIDENTIAL?

posted by Jennifer Diaz April 15, 2013 0 comments

Did you know importers and consignees can request that U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) keep your manifest information confidential?

If you are currently letting your competitors know your source, read on, and learn how to keep your private data private!

Pursuant to the privacy statute, 19 C.F.R. § 103.31 (d) the public is allowed to collect manifest data (e.g., bills of lading) at every port of entry. This information is limited to vessel manifests. Air, rail, and truck manifests are not available to the general public in any form.

 

Websites such as panjiva.com, datamyne.com and importgenius.com (to name a few) collect and publish the names of importers, suppliers, and manufacturers from vessel manifest data. This can be troubling for some, as your competitors are able to access information related to the sourcing and/ or manufacturing of your products. However, an importer/shipper may make a request to CBP for confidentiality. The confidential protection is valid for 2 years, thereafter, you have to renew your request.

 

The public may obtain manifest data at every port of entry. However, Section 103.31 states that

Only the name and address of the shipper, general characteristics of the cargo, number of packages, gross weight, name of the vessel, port of exit, port of destination, and country of destination may be copied and published.

The regulation also states that

An importer or consignee may request confidential treatment of its name and address contained in inward manifests, to include identifying marks and numbers. In addition, an importer or consignee may request confidential treatment of the name and address of the shipper or shippers to such importer or consignee.

It is essential that you send in renewal requests 60 days prior to the expiration of the 2 year confidentiality period.  The importer will receive a response when the confidentiality request has been granted and it will state the effective time period.

 

CBP sent a message to trade on Feburary 7, 2013 (CSMS #13-000064), titled "improperly formatted ACE ocean manifest data resulting in release of confidential data."  CBP made it clear that after an importer requests confidentiality, and its granted by CBP, the importer must be sure the commercial party names submitted to CBP always match – CBP will not grant confidentiality if you use any variation of the name originally requested. One incorrect keystroke by an individual who is processing the information can result in a new variation of company information that is not covered by the grant of confidentiality. CBP has stated that the release of confidential data is strictly the result of improper data entry by users and not by CBP programming or system errors. 

 

To assure you send an effective request for confidentiality and so your competitors don’t have access to your private data, contact me today!

CBP

Seizure Averted – Why a Customs Lawyer is Essential at Detention

posted by Jennifer Diaz April 1, 2013 0 comments

Sitting with your head down moping about U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) holding your goods is never the right answer!

Two days ago, a potential client called and explained that a valuable shipment was detained by CBP. The potential client asked if I could help recoup the goods from CBP, during this detention phase, or if they should wait.

When I get this question, I always want to scream, NOW!!  This is the most essential time an importer has.  Here’s the real question – do you want an expert in Customs law to assist you before your goods are guaranteed to be stuck in CBP for months, or work on getting them back for you NOW?!

I always request pertinent information about the commodity and the supposed rationale for the detention (if you don’t have this information yet, I help you get it). In this case, the potential client adamantly stated that the goods were legitimate, gray market goods; however, CBP was skeptical.

I advised the potential client that obtaining my services at this point would be the BEST option so I could clearly determine and explain to CBP the legitimacy of the merchandise and demand the release. After being hired, I immediately began working on the case due to the exigency of the circumstances. My tasks were to understand the basics of the commodity, learn the history of the product, and prove the legitimacy of the goods before CBP made a decision to seize them.

The consequences of not taking these immediate actions would be the potential seizure of the goods. More importantly, if the goods are seized by CBP, it could take several months (sometimes years) before they may be released.  The great news is within 1 business day I was able to convince CBP that the goods were in fact legitimate gray market goods, and they were released.  Waiting an extra week to get me involved would have been the difference between a detention by CBP (and release of the goods) or CBP’s seizure of the goods, and many months (or years) before the goods were released (with storage fees to pay!).

Thereafter, I worked with this client and discussed pre-compliance – which is especially important to understand why the detention occurred in the first place and how to avoid a similar situation from re-occurring. 

Hiring an expert in CBP laws, prior to the seizure of the merchandise saved this client much time and a considerable amount of expenses. If your business is going through a similar issue with CBP, contact me during the detention phase, preferably before the seizure notice is issued!