CBP defines forced labor, in accordance with the provisions of 19 U.S.C. 1307, as “all work or service which is exacted from any person under the menace of any penalty for its nonperformance and for which the worker does not offer himself voluntarily.” Indentured labor is defined as work or service performed pursuant to a contract, the enforcement of which can be accomplished by process or penalties. The terms “forced labor and indentured labor” include forced or indentured child labor.
Allegations of forced labor should be submitted via CBP's eAllegations website. Please reference the Allegation Submission Checklist and Recommended Guidelines for Supporting Documentation, described below, when submitting forced labor allegations.
- Allegation Submission Checklist: outlines what types of information are most useful to U.S. Customs and Border Protection for processing forced labor allegations.
- Recommended Guidelines for Supporting Documentation: provides suggested guidance to streamline supporting document submissions for U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) forced labor allegation petitions and Withhold Release Order/Finding modification requests. The guidelines provide a standardized approach for petitioners to efficiently organize their supporting documents and clearly tie them to the forced labor allegation or remediation efforts.
Under 19 CFR 12.42(b), allegations shall include: “(1) a full statement of the reasons for the belief; (2) a detailed description or sample of the merchandise; and (3) all pertinent facts obtainable as to the production of the merchandise abroad.”
CBP reviews all allegations and high-risk areas related to trade enforcement issues. Forced Labor allegations are referred to CBP’s Forced Labor Division for investigation. CBP acts on information received from a number of sources and evaluates information identifying specific industries, commodities, manufacturers, exporters, or merchandise - on a case by case basis.
Although CBP accepts both anonymous and non-anonymous allegations, the correspondence options for each are different. Specifically, CBP may engage with non-anonymous allegers to seek additional information or clarification on forced labor claims. In contrast, this course of action is not available for anonymous filings. Non-anonymous allegers may receive updates from CBP but the agency is unable to provide anonymous allegers with further notifications.
Individuals may seek an update from CBP’s Forced Labor Division, but CBP may be limited in what it can share concerning its investigation into the allegation. If the allegation is not sufficient to take specific action, CBP will promptly notify the party and explain the deficiency in the allegation.
CBP utilizes requests for information to determine whether importers are able to demonstrate the goods in question are admissible. Under 19 U.S.C. 1484 all importers are required to enter merchandise using reasonable care and to provide sufficient documentation to allow CBP to determine admissibility. CBP will utilize the requests for information to seek information on high-risk imports within high risk industries to determine the level of risk each importer presents to the agency.
CBP meets with agencies across the United States Government (USG), Non-Governmental Organizations (NGO), the trade, and foreign governments seeking information on forced labor within supply chains. CBP will act upon information provided from any of the aforementioned sources.
WROs are issued, by the Commissioner, when information reasonably, but not conclusively, indicates that merchandise produced by forced labor, as defined under 19 U.S.C. 1307, is being, or is likely to be, imported in to the United States. 19 CFR 12.42(e).
A Finding is a determination made by the Commissioner that merchandise is produced by forced labor, as defined under 19 U.S.C. 1307, and is subject to the provisions of 19 U.S.C. 1307 and 19 CFR 12.42(f).
Findings are published in the Customs Bulletin and Federal Register. In addition, WROs and Findings are posted to the forced labor page on cbp.gov, at https://www.cbp.gov/trade/programs-administration/forced-labor. The page is regularly updated with current and relevant forced labor information. Individuals can subscribe to CBP’s RSS feed at https://www.cbp.gov/rss/trade/forced-labor to receive notification of new information added to the site.
Shipments of merchandise subject to WROs will be detained. Importers have the opportunity to either re-export the detained shipments at any time or to submit information to CBP demonstrating that the goods are not in violation of 19 U.S.C. 1307. Shipments subject to Findings shall be seized, unless the importer establishes by satisfactory evidence that the merchandise is admissible.
Importers must exercise reasonable care over their supply chains and understand where and how their products are manufactured or produced, in whole or in part. The Department of Labor (DOL) produces reports on forced labor and its Comply Chain application outlines critical elements of a social compliance program. Additionally, importers may monitor CBP’s website, which lists all foreign entities and respective commodities subject to an active WRO or Finding. Further, the Office of Trade has identified interrelated sound business practices that can serve as the foundation of an effective forced labor / corporate social responsibility program. For more information, please visit CBP’s Forced Labor web page at https://www.cbp.gov/trade/programs-administration/forced-labor.
CBP has a team of auditors who routinely meet with and audit books and records of importers. CBP has utilized this team to examine the risk within industries and will continue to use this authority to determine the risk presented by importers within industries.