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A customs broker is a private individual, partnership, association or corporation that is licensed, regulated and empowered by the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to assist exporters and importers to meet federal requirements. Brokers, on behalf of their clients, submit the required information and payments to CBP. They have expertise in entry procedures, admissibility requirements, classification techniques, valuation and rates of duty, taxes and fees. There are currently approximately 11,000 licensed customs brokers in the U.S.
The Customs Broker License Examination
The Customs Broker License examination is an open book/open test consisting of 80 multiple-choice questions. The test is based on the Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States (HTSUS), Title 19 (Code of Federal Regulations), specific customs directives and the Customs and Trade Automated Interface Requirements document (CATAIR). The exam must be completed within four hours.
The HTSUS provides duty rates for almost every item that exists that can be imported and exported. It is a reference manual consisting of over 3,000 pages and weighing about 20 pounds. It is published by the U.S. government every January. The 19CFR governs customs brokers. It is published in April of each year; it often has a delayed release date, so there are times in which it is not released until as late as August.
The Customs Broker Examination is given at CBP service ports the first Monday in April and the first Monday in October. (If that Monday falls on a holiday, the exam is given the following Tuesday.) The CBP port director must receive the examination application and a $200 fee at least thirty days prior to the scheduled examination date.
Each applicant must have, in his or her possession, proof of registration, a picture ID and the materials required to take the exam. A passing grade of 75 percent or higher is required; the exam can be taken as many times as it is required to pass. After passing the exam, the applicant is eligible to submit a broker license application, along with the appropriate fees. Each application must be approved by the CBP.
It is recommended that you take a customs broker training course. Reading the appropriate materials and books is often not enough to prepare you for the examination. There are numerous online courses and seminars available all over the country. One of the best prep courses in the country is given by Logistic Training Systems (URL in reference section). Customs Review, which calls itself "the nation's leader in custom broker training," also provides a training course.
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