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Customs Broker Frequently Asked Questions

General Information
Becoming a Customs Broker

What is a Customs Broker?

There are two types of customs brokers - private individuals and organizational brokerages.  Organizational brokerages consist of corporations, partnerships, LLCs, or associations. 

All brokers are regulated and empowered by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to assist importers and exporters in meeting Federal requirements governing imports and exports.  Brokers submit necessary information and appropriate payments to CBP on behalf of their clients and charge them a fee for this service.

Brokers must have expertise in the entry procedures, admissibility requirements, classification, valuation, and the rates of duty and applicable taxes and fees for imported merchandise. There are approximately 16,170 active licensed Customs brokers in the United States.

What are the requirements for becoming an individual customs broker?

An individual must be a citizen of the United States, but not an officer or employee of the U.S. Government, be of good moral character, have attained 21 years of age prior to submission of the application and have passed a Customs Broker exam within 3 years of the submission of the application.

Assuming I am eligible, how do I become a Customs broker?

First, you must pass the Customs Broker License Examination.  Second, you must submit a broker license application package with the appropriate fees. Finally, your application must be approved by CBP.

What are some general requirements to be an organization customs broker?

Corporations, partnerships and associations must obtain a broker license to transact Customs business. Each of these businesses must have at least one individually licensed officer, partner or associate to qualify the company's broker license. Failure to have a qualifying officer or member (of a partnership) for more than 120 days will result in the revocation of the broker license.

How does an organization apply for a customs broker license?

The organization must submit a customs broker license application package and appropriate fees to their local port.  The application must be approved by CBP.

Where can I get more information on applying for an individual or organization license?

You may contact the Broker Management Officer at the port where you want to transact Customs business as a broker.

Customs Broker License Examination

Where do I register for the Broker Exam?

All Broker Exam applicants will register using the eCBP Portal at https://e.cbp.dhs.gov and will sign in using Login.gov.  A Login.gov account may be created during the registration process.

What browser should I use when logging in to register for the customs broker license exam?

CBP recommends using the Google Chrome browser, latest version.

eCBP will function in Internet Explorer (IE) or Microsoft EDGE browsers with the recommended configuration adjustments below.  Google Chrome does not require adjustments to the browser’s configuration.

For adjustments to IE or EDGE, simply add a special link (https://idp.int.identitysandbox.gov [1]) to the trusted site using the steps below:

  • Open the Control Panel
  • Click or double-click the Internet Options icon
  • In the Internet Properties windows, click the Security tab
  • Select the Trusted Sites entry and click the Sites button
  • Enter https://idp.int.identitysandbox.gov [1] for the trusted websites in the Add this website to the zone text field
  • Click the Add button and then click OK to save the URL.
  • Then IE or EDGE should function properly when logging in to register.

If additional assistance is needed, visit CBP Information Center or call 1-877-227-5511.

Are instructions available to help me complete the Broker Exam registration online form?

The Broker Exam Registration User Guide and Quick Reference Guide are available at User/Quick Reference Guides.

What if I need additional assistance registering for the Broker Examination?

Visit CBP Information Center or contact 1-877-227-5511 for additional assistance.

Are cookies used to capture and store personal information when logging in to eCBP?

eCBP uses cookies during the log in process to pass login information from login.gov to eCBP. 

What is the purpose of the CBP Broker License examination?

The purpose of the examination is to “determine the individual’s knowledge of Customs and related laws, regulations and procedures, bookkeeping, accounting, and all other appropriate matters, necessary to render valuable service to importers and exporters.” (19 CFR 111.13(a)).

What are the requirements to take the examination?

To be eligible to take the examination the applicant must be a U.S. citizen, age 18 or older, and they cannot be employed by the federal government at the time of the examination date. An individual who intends to take the examination must complete the electronic application at least 30 calendar days prior to the scheduled examination date and the applicant must remit the $390 examination fee prescribed in 111.96(a) at that time.

What are the costs involved?

The examination fee is $390 as prescribed in 111.96(a).  Information regarding all Customs Brokers fees is available at CBP Customs Broker Fees.

What type of payments are accepted?

Payment of the examination fee must be made online via the examination application, and may be made by credit card, by debit card that can be used as a credit card, PayPal or Amazon payment.

When is the examination given?

The examination is given twice annually on the fourth Wednesday in April and October, unless the agency publishes in the Federal Register an appropriate notice of a change in the examination date.

Where are the examinations given?

Examinations will be given at authorized testing sites as needed. Examinees self-select their examination site.

How do I self-select my examination site?

Within a week after exam registration closes, registrants will receive an email with exam site self-selection instructions at the email address provided in the examination application.  Those who do not self-select will be placed in the closest available examination site following registration.  Each registrant will be emailed an examination admission notice identifying the location of their examination.

How may I request ADA accommodation?

Applicants requesting ADA accommodations must indicate on the registration form and submit supporting documentation by deadline indicated to brokermanagement@cbp.dhs.gov with ADA REQUEST-Broker Examination in the email subject line.  Additional information is available at CBP Customs Broker License Examination.

What form of identification do I need to bring to the examination?

Examinees must bring their proof of registration, proof of identification AND proof of citizenship. 

Approved forms of identification are: original government issued photo identification such as U.S. Driver’s License, U.S. State issued ID Card, U.S. Passport, U.S. Passport Card, U.S. Military ID, U.S Government Issued Visa, U.S. Territory ID (Puerto Rico, Guam, etc.).  Photocopies or electronic copies are NOT permissible.  Expired IDs are NOT acceptable.

Approved forms of citizenship are: U.S. Passport, U.S. Passport Card, Birth Certificate, Certificate of Naturalization, or Certificate of U.S. Citizenship.  Photocopies or electronic copies are NOT permitted. Expired documents (passport/passport card) are NOT acceptable.

What examination materials may I bring?

Examinees may bring appropriate Harmonized Tariff Schedule, Appropriate Title 19, Code of Federal Regulations, CBP Form 7501 Instructions, Right to Make Entry Directive 3530-002 and ACE Entry Summary Business Process. Examinees may bring their own pencil and scratch paper to the examination. 

Cell phones, laptops, pagers, smart watches and other communication devices may not be used in the examination room.

What is the format of the examination?

The examination is electronic, consists of 80 multiple choice questions, and is open book.  A score of 75 percent is required to pass. Examinees are allowed 4.5 hours to complete the examination. 

What topics are covered on the examination?

Examination topics typically include: Entry, Classification, Trade Agreements, Valuation, Broker Compliance, Power of Attorney, Marking, Drawback, Bonds, Foreign Trade Zones/Bonded Warehouse, Warehouse Entries, Intellectual Property Rights, Fines, Penalties and Forfeitures, and other subjects pertinent to a broker’s duties.

Where can examination study materials be located?

The Harmonized Tariff Schedule and the Code of Federal Regulations may be found at GPO Bookstore.

The electronic version of the Harmonized Tariff Schedule may be found at Harmonized Tariff Schedule for self-printing. Beginning with the April 2020 examination, an electronic and searchable HTS will be provided during the exam.

The electronic version of the Code of Federal Regulations may be found at Code of Federal Regulations for self-printing.

CBP Form 7501 Instructions may be found at CBP Form 7501 Instructions.

The Right to Make Entry Directive 3530-002 may be found at CBP Directives and Handbooks.

The ACE Entry Summary Business Process may be found at CBP ACE Entry Summary Business Process.

Examinees may only bring paper reference materials to the examination room.  Examinees are not allowed to bring in electronic reference materials on any device.

Is a sample electronic examination available?

A link to a sample electronic examination is available at CBP Customs Broker License Examination Sample Exam.

The link may be accessed an unlimited number of times and may be useful in familiarizing examination applicants with the electronic examination process. This sample examination will not evaluate answers.

Are previous examinations questions and their answers published?

CBP maintains actual examination questions and their answer keys at CBP Customs Broker License Examinations & Answer Keys.

May I make changes to my application after submission and payment?

No changes may be made to a Broker Examination application after submission and payment.  Names and addresses on identification documents provided at the time of the examination must match the application.

May I withdraw from the examination and receive a refund?

Any applicant who wishes to withdraw from the examination must submit a written notice of withdrawal to the CBP Broker Management Branch via email to brokermanagement@cbp.dhs.gov no later than 11:59 PM (your local time).  You have two business days prior to the examination date to do so.

Applicants withdrawing from the examination should include the Receipt number, Pay.gov Tracking ID, and Agency Tracking ID from the receipt in the withdrawal request.  Refunds for timely examination withdrawals of registrants will generally be processed within 60 days after the scheduled examination is scored.

Where may I get a copy of my receipt?

Receipts are available in the Payment Summary displayed after payment; and electronic receipts will be emailed to the email address provided in the exam application.  Receipts can be retrieved by logging in to your eCBP account at eCBP Broker Home and clicking the License Exam link.  A link will then display to retrieve exam application(s)/receipt(s).

What if I cannot view the electronic examination receipt on my phone?

Some phones such as iPhone may not support PDF viewing in the native email app and may require a browser to view the receipts.

When do I receive my exam answer sheet?

The examinee answer sheet is provided upon exiting the exam room on exam day.  The answer sheet will need to be included with the appeal package if submitting an appeal.

When and how will I find out if I passed the examination?

Examinees will be notified of the examination results by email within 3-weeks of the examination date.  The email address provided in the examination application will be used for notification of the examination results.

When will the most recent examination questions and their answers be available?

CBP will make every effort to post a copy of the actual examination at CBP Customs Broker License Examinations & Answer Keys within 3 business days following the examination.  The answers undergo a vetting process and will typically be available within 10 business days of the examination.  

May I update information displayed in my application that needs to be changed/corrected including a name change?

Updates should be made when completing the exam registration form. Names and addresses on identification documents provided at the time of the examination must match the application.

Whom do I contact if I received my notice of passing the examination but never received the Broker License application packet?

If an application packet is not received within 60 days of the passing grade notification, you may contact the Broker Management Officer at the Port of Affiliation indicated on your registration form.

What if I can’t view the attachment in the exam results email on my phone?

Some phones such as iPhone may not support PDF viewing in the native email app and may require a browser to view the attachment.

How long after receiving my notice of passing the examination do I have to apply for a Broker License?

You may apply for a broker license up to 3 years from the date of receiving the passing examination notification.

What if I fail the examination?

You may retake the examination when it is offered again by re-applying and paying the examination fee.  You are also entitled to submit an appeal of your examination score to CBP in accordance with 19 CFR 111.13(f).

Can I view or retrieve my incomplete/unpaid application after the exam registration period is closed?

Draft exam application will not be active and not available to view after the exam registration period is closed.

Where can I find additional information about the Broker Exam?

More information about the Broker Exam may be found at CBP Customs Broker License Examination/Notification.

Customs Broker License

When may I apply for a Customs Broker License?

Assuming you are eligible, you may apply after you pass the Customs Broker License Examination.

Where may I apply for a Customs Broker License?

Apply to the port where you want to transact Customs business as a broker.

What are the fees for a broker license application?

There is a $200 application fee (plus a fingerprint check and processing fee).

Who reviews Broker License applications?

There are three levels of review. First is a multi-agency background investigation. Second, the CBP Center Director reviews the background investigation results and any other pertinent information before s/he forwards a recommendation to CBP Headquarters in Washington, D.C.  Finally, CBP HQ will carefully evaluate each application, and the Executive Assistant Commissioner, Office of Trade, will advise the applicant on whether his or her application is approved.

What does the background investigation include?

Each Broker license applicant must undergo a background investigation that includes a fingerprint analysis and review of character references, credit reports, and arrest records.  Arrests and convictions do not necessarily preclude the issuance of a license.  In partnership, association, or corporation applications, individuals identified as principals with controlling interest, officers, partners, or members will also undergo a background investigation.

What happens when a license applicant is investigated?

The Center Director will refer an application for an individual, partnership, association, or corporation license to the special agent in charge or other entity designated by Headquarters for investigation and report.  An investigation under this section will ascertain facts relevant to the question of whether the applicant is qualified and will cover, but need not be limited to: The accuracy of the statements made in the application; The business integrity of the applicant; and, When the applicant is an individual (including a member of a partnership or an officer of an association or corporation), the character and reputation of the applicant. The Center Director will forward the application and the report of investigation to the Executive Assistant Commissioner, Office of Trade. The Center Director will also submit his recommendation for action on the application.

How long does the application process take to obtain a Customs Broker License?

The length of time it takes to complete the license application process can vary depending on multiple factors. Some of the factors include, but are not limited to, the completeness of the application and the number of different locations where the applicant has lived.  CBP processing time upon receipt of a complete application averages 3-6 months.  Incomplete applications take considerably more time.

Can an applicant withdraw their application?

An applicant for a Broker's License may withdraw the application at any time prior to issuance of the license by providing written notice of the withdrawal to the Center Director.  However, withdrawal of the application does not entitle the applicant to receive a refund of the $200 application fee.

Can an application be rejected?

The Center Director may reject an application as improperly filed if the application, on its face, demonstrates that one or more of the basic requirements for a license have not been met at the same time of filing, in which case the application and fee will be returned to the filer without further action.

Is there an appeal if a broker license application is denied by CBP?

Yes. Appeal procedures are outlined in 19 CFR 111.17.

How long after receiving my notice of passing the examination do I have to apply for a Customs Broker License?

You may apply for a broker license up to 3 years from the date of receiving the passing examination notification.

How can I obtain a replacement license if mine was lost or misplaced?

Replacement requests may be directed to the port through which your license was obtained or via email to brokermanagement@cbp.dhs.gov with "license replacement request for license #####” in the subject line.

Where do I send my license name change request?

Name change request letters may be mailed to the BMO at your license registered port or emailed to brokermanagement@cbp.dhs.gov with supporting legal documentation and “license name change request” in the subject line.

Customs Broker Triennial Status Report

Who is required to submit a triennial status report and pay the corresponding fee?

A status report and fee must be submitted to U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) for every license that has not been previously revoked, suspended or canceled, whether it may be a license for a corporation, limited liability company, partnership, association, or individual. Some brokers who have had their licenses suspended may be required to submit a status report and fee depending upon the conditions of the Suspension Agreement enacted between CBP and the individually licensed broker.

An individually licensed Customs broker who forms a corporation, limited liability company, partnership, or association, that is subsequently licensed as a Customs broker, will be required to submit two reports and fees along with each report that is filed - one for the individual license, and one for the license for the organization.

When is the status report due to Customs?

The federal regulations specify that the triennial status report is due by February, every three years, starting from 1985.  Based on this information, one can calculate in which years future triennial status reports will be due: 2021, 2024, 2027, and so on.

A report that is filed during the month of February in the year in which reporting is due, and which is filed for the current reporting cycle, is considered to be filed timely. CBP offices will begin accepting the status report and the corresponding fee on December 15, 2020.  Filing for year 2021, for example, can therefore be made between December 15, 2020 and February 28, 2021.

Where should I submit the report and fee?

The report and fee submissions may be submitted online, where credit, debit and digital wallet (PayPal, Amazon Pay, etc) are accepted*. The status report can be completed electronically, and the employee list can be attached and uploaded, as applicable.

A link to the Triennial Status Reporting will be available on our webpage when the next triennial report is due. The reporting timeframe is expected to open in December 2020 for the February 2021  triennial status report.

In no instance should reports be submitted directly to CBP headquarters. Submission of triennial reports directly to headquarters will not be considered to have satisfied reporting requirements.

*Note: There are no additional fees for paying online using any means.

How much is the corresponding fee?

The corresponding fee of $100.00 (one hundred dollars) should accompany each status report that is submitted to CBP.  Payment by credit, debt and digital wallet (PayPal, Amazon Pay, etc.) are accepted.

*Note: There are no additional fees for paying online using any means.

What is the format for the report?

The required elements of the report are prescribed in 19 CFR 111.30(d). There is no required format for the report; however, the electronic submission contains all data elements required to be provided in the Triennial Status Report.

Please be reminded, licensed Customs Brokers with active permit(s) must submit an employee list, if applicable, along with the status report in accordance with 19 CFR 111.28(b). The electronic submission allows a PDF document upload of the employee list.

In addition, each individually licensed broker must indicate whether or not he/she still meets the applicable requirements of 19 CFR 111.11 and 111.19 and has not engaged in any conduct that could constitute grounds for suspension or revocation under section 111.53.

For purposes of completing the report, how does CBP define a person who is "actively engaged" in transacting Customs business?

Individuals are considered to be  "actively engaged" in transacting Customs business when they are currently transacting or have recently transacted Customs business on behalf of others as a sole proprietor, or when they are employed by a licensed Customs broker which is currently transacting or has recently transacted Customs business on behalf of others.  Those who work for another broker and are not directly involved in any activities that fall under the scope of the definition of Customs business may report that they are not actively engaged in Customs business.

Partnerships, corporations, and associations must also report to Customs in a status report whether or not they are actively engaged in Customs business.  An organization which currently transacts or recently transacted Customs business on behalf of others should report that they are "actively engaged" in Customs business.

How do I record my name on the status report if I legally changed my name since my license was issued?

Brokers should record their name on the status report that will be submitted to CBP as it appears on their Customs broker license.  Any broker who has undergone a legal name change and has not had his/her/its license reissued so that the name on the license agrees with the new legal name, must provide the port director with evidence of their right to use the new legal name and separately request that the license be reissued in the new name.

What happens if I fail to submit a status report by the end of February of any given reporting year?

All valid licenses for which no report has been submitted will be suspended by operation of law on March 1 of any given reporting year.  When a license is so suspended, the port/Center director will transmit written notice of the suspension to the broker in March of that same reporting year.  The notice will be mailed to the last known address reflected in CBP records.  Note that if the broker has failed to provide the port/center director with a current and accurate address, the suspension notice will, as a result, be mailed to an incorrect address.

The broker may tender a status report and fees online via the Pay.gov website [18] within the 60 day notice period and MUST notify the appropriate port/center director of the electronic filing. If the status report and fee is submitted within 60 days of notice of suspension, the license will be reinstated.

If the broker does not tender the relevant status report and fees to the port/center director, pursuant to 19 CFR 111.30(d), the broker’s license will be revoked by operation of law.

What happens if I fail to submit a status report by the end of the 60-day suspension period?

Unfortunately, failure to submit a status report and the corresponding fees to CBP during the 60-day period will result in the license being revoked.  Such licenses are revoked by operation of law without prejudice to the filing of a new application for a license.  This means that, while a license which is revoked by operation of law cannot be reinstated, the affected individual may file a new application for a license. However, unless the individual has passed the customs broker license exam within the three years prior to submitting that new application, the individual will need to retake the exam.

Can I submit my triennial status report in paper form?

We encourage you to submit your triennial status report and payment electronically via pay.gov; however, a paper triennial status report and payment in the form of a check or money order payable to U.S. Customs and Border Protection may be submitted to the port that originally delivered the license to the broker. A report and/or fee submitted to a port other than the delivered through port may be rejected, returned, misplaced or denied which may result in the revocation of the license.

In no instance should reports be submitted directly to CBP headquarters. Submission of triennial reports directly to headquarters will not be considered to have satisfied reporting requirements.

Trade Names and Corporations

I have an individual Customs Broker license, and I want to start a corporation that will engage in "Customs business." May I transfer my individual license to the corporation for purposes of engaging in "Customs business" as a corporation?

No. Customs Broker licenses are issued to individuals, associations, corporations, or partnerships. These licenses are restricted to the person or entity to which they are issued, and are not transferable from that license holder to any other individual or entity, regardless of the relationship.  For example, an individual licensee may not use his or her license for the purpose of a corporation to engage in "Customs business" - even if the licensee is sole owner of that corporation. The corporation would need to obtain its own Customs Broker license.

Note that, upon that corporation's receipt of its license, the licensed individual could qualify it to engage in "Customs business."  In such a case, the licensee would be required to be an officer of that corporation.

I am a licensed individual who wishes to operate under a different name. After receiving approval from the relevant state/local authority, what is the next step?

If the broker wishes to operate under a different name, the broker can change his, her, or its name, or can utilize a fictitious name i.e., DBA, or "Doing Business As". Pursuant to 19 CFR § 111.30(c), a broker who wishes to change names, or proposes to operate under a trade or fictitious name, must obtain approval from U.S. Customs and Border Protection prior to using that new name.

In the case of a trade or fictitious name, the broker must affix his, her, or its own name in conjunction with the approved trade name when signing customs documents. For example, should Customs broker "ABC, Inc." be granted approval to use the fictitious name of "XYZ," that Customs broker must sign customs documents as "ABC, Inc. dba XYZ."

To request use of a trade name, please submit to U.S. Customs and Border Protection, Broker Management Branch, the following:

  1. A written request for use of the trade name.  Include your name, physical mailing and email address, phone number, port name and port code, and license number.
  2. A copy of approval to use the trade name from the relevant local authority (e.g., state or county).  If the relevant local authority does not review trade name usage requests, please note this in your request to the Broker Management Branch.

My individual license was revoked for failure to file my triennial status report, and I am the licensed qualifying broker for the corporation. Does this affect the corporation?

Yes. A licensed individual and a licensed corporation, association, or partnership, each have an obligation to file their own triennial status reports. If the business entity files its status report timely but the individual licensee qualifying the business does not file his or her own status report timely, pursuant to 19 CFR 111.30(d), that individual's license may be revoked by operation of law.

An individual licensed qualifier for a corporation, association, or partnership, who loses his or her license, subjects that business entity's license to possible revocation.  Pursuant to 19 CFR 111.45(a), if, during any continuous period of 120 days, the corporation, association, or partnership brokerage firm fails to have at least once officer who holds a valid individual broker's license, that business entity's license and all of its permits will be revoked by operation of law.

I am a licensed broker, and I have formed a company. Should I notify U.S. Customs and Border Protection of that formation?

It depends.  For a company to engage in "Customs business," that company must generally become its own licensed entity. If the company engages in "Customs business" without a license, as specified in 19 CFR 111.11, the company may be subject to penalties. 19 U.S.C. 1641(b)(6) dictates, for example, that each intentional transaction of customs business without a license creates liability for a monetary penalty of up to $10,000.

Should the company not engage in customs business, however, then it is not necessary to disclose the entity's formation to U.S. Customs & Border Protection.  Nevertheless, other rules and regulations still apply.  For example, if the individual broker outsources ancillary services to the corporation, the corporation must have no access to or involvement in the actual customs business work of the licensed broker. In addition, pursuant to 19 CFR 111.24, broker clients record, and the information contained in those records, must generally not be disclosed to third parties. Third parties include the broker's company, so long as it is its own distinct legal entity, irrespective of ownership structure.

May a filer code be transferred between entities, such as from a broker to his or her newly licensed company?

No. Filer codes, which are unique and dedicated, are assigned to individuals, corporations, partnerships, or associations. As such, an individual who later obtains a corporate license to engage in "Customs business" and intends to conduct "Customs business" as a corporation would need to obtain a separate corporate filer code.  The manner of requesting the filer code for the company remains the same as requesting the filer code for the individual.

Last modified: 
Wednesday, February 5, 2020 - 10:10
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