For many types of commodities, an endorsement by a foreign government or its representative is required to signify that the shipments are authorized for export to the United States. This endorsement, often in the form of an export certificate, certificate of eligibility, or license, serves to describe the type and quantity of merchandise, certifies the country of origin and authorizes the shipment to be charged against any applicable quota. The merchandise covered could be textiles/apparel related to a Tariff Preference Level (TPL) or agricultural commodities such as beef or dairy products.
Foreign countries participating in the Electronic Certification System, eCERT, can now transmit export license/certificate data electronically. After transmissions are accepted by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), results are returned to the country of origin electronically. It should be noted that users of eCERT data that need information specific to the Message Implementation Guidelines (MIG) may go directly to the Technical Guidelines section of this site.
The Electronic Certification System (eCERT) is a system developed by CBP that uses electronic data transmissions of information normally associated with a required export document such as a license or certificate to facilitate the administration of quotas and ensure that the proper restraint levels are charged without being exceeded.
Foreign countries participating in eCERT transmit information via a global network service provider. This allows connectivity to the CBP Automated Commercial Environment (ACE). When making entry, specific data elements transmitted to CBP by the importer/broker must match eCERT data from the foreign country before any applicable quota is reported. The ability to have government-to-government transmission decreases the potential for circumvention of quotas resulting from counterfeit documents.
Although the release of the shipment is not precluded by the absence of certificate information, no claims for a preferential duty rate will be considered unless the information transmitted by the filer matches the information transmitted by the foreign government. Once this information is processed through ACE, information regarding certificate/license usage is made available to the participating country upon request.
- eCERT DATA MOVES ELECTRONICALLY BETWEEN GOVERNMENT SYSTEMS. Safeguards are in place to protect the integrity and confidentiality of the information.
- REDUCED CERTIFICATE/LICENSE FRAUD. There is an immediate reduction in the chance that counterfeit paper documents will be used because the information provided by the importer/broker must match the information transmitted by the foreign government. Paper documents are more susceptible to tampering.
- IMPROVED COMPLIANCE. There is a decrease in data discrepancies since the importer’s/broker’s entry data must match the foreign government’s export information.
- IMPROVED MONITORING. Statistical reporting and tracking of certificates/licenses is improved. eCERT allows the participating governments to monitor certificate/license utilization by electronically requesting a Document Activity Report (DAR)/Visa Activity Report (VAR).
- TIMELESS PROCESSING. eCERT participants are authorized to transmit an electronic request to register a certificate/license at any time, seven days a week, 24 hours a day.
Any country requiring a certificate (i.e., an export license/certificate, certificate of eligibility, etc.) for importation into the United States of specific commodities as a requirement to qualify for in-quota or tariff preference rates of duty is eligible to participate in eCERT.
Data transmission costs depend on volume of transactions, software, choice of network, terms of contract with the authorized service provider. CBP may not be held liable for costs incurred for sending or receiving electronic data.
Minimal Data Requirements
Participating eCERT countries will be required to transmit eCERT information in compliance with UN/EDIFACT syntax requirements. Listed below are the mandatory data elements that must be transmitted.
- UNIQUE CERTIFICATE NUMBER. The certificate number will consist of nine characters. The first position will be numeric, the second and third positions will be alpha (ISO country code), the fourth through the ninth position can be any combination of alpha/numeric characters.
- DATE OF ISSUANCE. The date of issuance shall be the day, month, and year on which the license/certificate was issued.
- HARMONIZED TARIFF NUMBER (HTS). The HTS will consist of 6 digits provided for in Chapters 1 - 97 of the Harmonized Tariff Schedule.
- QUANTITY. A numeric value given in whole numbers only. Decimals and fractional values are not accepted.
- UNIT OF MEASURE (UOM). The weight, length, area, volume or other unit of measure must be expressed as reflected in the Harmonized Tariff Schedule.
- MANUFACTURER IDENTIFICATION (MID), NAME, and ADDRESS. The CBP identification number, name and address for the official manufacturer, buyer or consignee associated with the certificate or license.
- IMPORTER OF RECORD (IOR) NUMBER, NAME, and ADDRESS. The CBP identification number, name and address for the official importer associated with the certificate or license.
Foreign governments wishing to participate in the eCERT program must submit a written request to U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP).
This information should be mailed to the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), Executive Director, Trade Policy and Programs, Office of Trade, 1400 L Street, N.W., 12th Floor, Washington, D.C. 20229-1155. Once the request is received and reviewed, CBP will notify the requesting party whether testing may commence.
When testing is ready to commence, communication technicians at the CBP Data Center - the CBP Cargo Systems Program Directorate (CSPD) and Enterprise Data Management & Engineering Directorate (EDMED)- will coordinate the establishment of the link between CBP and the Network Service Provider (NSP). Once communication is successfully established to the satisfaction of both the country and CBP, application testing can begin.
Application testing involves the receipt of the EDI message in eCERT, validation of the UN/EDIFACT syntax based on the Message Implementation Guidelines, successful processing of the message based on compliance with established business rules, and receipt of the response generated by processing the input. The response could reflect either acceptance of the input or rejection, in which case error codes will be provided. If the response is a rejection of the input, the country will be expected to address the errors and retransmit the message.
The eCERT test environment is available - with few exceptions - seven days a week, 24 hour a day. CBP makes every effort to complete testing as quickly as possible by providing as much technical assistance as necessary. All efforts to complete the certification process and the migration to eCERT production must be coordinated with CBP eCERT support team (CSPD/EDMED).
Information concerning technical specifications like UN/EDIFACT message sets can be found in the Technical Guidelines section of this site.
Post Production Evaluation
- The name of the approved Network Service Provider (NSP) contracted to provide connectivity to CBP, a copy of a signed agreement executed between the government and the provider appointed by them. Alternatively, the government may provide proof of having the technical capability to connect directly to a network that is pre-certified by CBP.
- The name and contact information for the person(s) responsible for oversight of the eCERT program.
- After successful completion of application testing, CBP will publish a general notice in the Federal Register notifying the public that testing has been completed and that the foreign government will commence transmitting electronic certificates on a specified effective date.
- During the first 30 days in production, CBP will monitor the foreign government's compliance with the data reporting requirements and its responsiveness to error messages. The foreign country may request a meeting at any time to address operational policies and procedures. Prior to meeting with a foreign country, CBP may request that the country furnish CBP with an advance list of questions and concerns about eCERT.
For further information on the eCERT program, you may contact the Quota and Agriculture Branch within the Office of Trade, Trade Policy and Programs Division.
A country interested in participating in the eCERT program should contact an in-country communications provider. That provider will be aware of the services available through the global Network Service Providers (NSP) servicing that country. That NSP will then be able to contact the Technical Support group at CBP.
For a list of service providers, see the "Value Added Networks (VANs)".
Specific Message Implementation Guidelines are provided below, in the order of use, to identify the electronic messages required to register a visa or to request an activity report. Messages comply with UN/EDIFACT version D99A.
- CTLSET SERVICE MESSAGE. Identifies the UNB/UNZ Interchange Header/Trailer segment syntax rules applied when exchanging UN/EDIFACT messages with the CBP electronic certificate program, eCERT.
- SANCRT INTERNATIONAL MOVEMENT OF GOODS GOVERNMENT REGULATORY MESSAGE. Message used to transmit certificate information to the eCERT application of Customs.
- CUSRES RESPONSE MESSAGE. Message used by CBP to communicate acceptance or rejection of a SANCRT message. CUSRES message set is also used to reflect Document Activity Report (DAR)/Visa Activity Report (VAR) information in response to REQDOC received by eCERT application of CBP.
- REQDOC REQUEST OF DOCUMENT MESSAGE. Requests a Document Activity Report (DAR)/Visa Activity Report (VAR).
- CUSRES RESPONSE MESSAGE. Message used by CBP to communicate acceptance or rejection of a Document Activity Report request (REQDOC) or to provide details of a Document Activity Report (DAR)/Visa Activity Report (VAR).
- DOCUMENT STATUS CODES. Message generated in response to processing a request to register a document.
- DOCUMENT REGISTRATION ERROR RESPONSE CODES. Message generated if errors are detected when processing an application to register a document.
- DOCUMENT CONDITION CODES. Codes used to limit scope of a Document Activity Report to request documents in a specific condition.
- DOCUMENT ACTIVITY REPORT REQUEST ERROR CODES. Message generated if errors are detected when processing a request for a Document Activity Report (DAR)/Visa Activity Report (VAR).