U.S. CUSTOMS MEASURES DURING THE COVID-19 CRISIS

The border remains open for business

Commercial cargo continues to move across the Canada-U.S. border. Even though the cross-border travel of people is restricted, cargo is still moving. Meanwhile, customers may experience delays and price fluctuations depending on the mode of transport and country of origin.  

While various provincial, state and federal governments have ordered the shutdown of non-essential businesses, we currently have not received any notifications on whether the flow of goods across the border has been interrupted. Both Canada and the United States consider customs brokers and carriers essential services.

W2C and its American partners remain open and fully staffed to clear your shipments into the U.S. We are committed to deliver value and support to the trade community during this unprecedented time. 

Importer Contact Information

U.S. Customs & Border Protection (CBP) and other participating government agencies (e.g. FDA, USDA, etc.) are processing import transactions on an electronic basis. Most, if not all, paper-based processes and notifications have been temporarily suspended by the various agencies. Therefore, it is vital that your service providers (e.g. broker and carriers), the CBP and other government departments are able to contact the importer, if necessary.

To minimize entry processing delays, all customs documentation transmitted to W2C and its subagents in the U.S. should include importer contact information, such as the name of contact person(s), email address, as well as telephone and mobile numbers.

Given that many of our clients are working remotely from home, you should ensure that W2C has your most up-to-date contact information for issues relating to customs processing, carriers and accounts payable.

Duties and Taxes

Despite the CBP’s March 20th announcement on allowing the deferment of payment of duties and taxes on imported goods (see CSMS #42097586), this deferment program was cancelled within a few days on March 26 (see CSMS #42161666 and CSMS #42179313).

All single payments, daily statements and periodic monthly statement payments of estimated duties, taxes and fees due to the CBP must be made in accordance with normal business practices. 

Customs brokers and surety companies (who underwrite importer bonds) continue to manage an increased financial risk with the trade community during the COVID-19 crisis. However, for customs transactions involving significant disbursements of duties, MPF and other levies, brokers may request the importer to pay these outlays prior to customs clearance.

To the greatest extent possible, the CBP and customs brokers are encouraging importers to take advantage of the Automated Clearinghouse (ACH) program for electronic payment directly to the CBP.

Imports of COVID-19 Pandemic Relief Materials

The CBP and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have provided updates through multiple CSMS notifications (see below) for instructions to the import community regarding the submission of entry information for Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and certain other medical devices. Following the instructions in these CSMS messages will help facilitate the import process for products related to the COVID-19 emergency.

The following CSMS notifications relating to the “Information for Filing PPE and Medical Devices During COVID-19” are listed from most recent to oldest:

April 5 – CSMS #42272898

March 26 – CSMS #42168200

March 23 – CSMS #42124872

Additional information is available from the FDA at:

COVID-19-Related Guidance Documents for Industry, FDA Staff, and Other Stakeholders

The CBP also encourages importers and their customs brokers to provide it with advanced notification when they are shipping pandemic relief materials to the border (for example: pharmaceutical products, personal protective equipment, building supplies, or other items).

For all shipments, especially the materials listed above, W2C recommends that clients send us their clearance documentation as soon as possible, so that we may work with our U.S. partners, the CBP and other agencies to make it easier to import their goods into the U.S.

CBP Notifications and Bulletins

Canadian exporters, particularly those who act as non-resident importers of record for their goods shipped to the U.S., should regularly monitor the CBP’s Cargo Systems Messaging Service as well as CBP COVID-19 Updates and Announcements.

For more information on U.S. customs clearance, please do not hesitate to contact your W2C representative.


Please note that all information on this blog is subject to change. All blog articles are for information purposes only. We are always available to answer in detail any questions our clients may have regarding the information in this blog.

share this article


About the author
With over 25 years of experience in customs brokerage, transportation and logistics, Marc has acquired a solid expertise in improving logistics and customs performance for Canadian importers and exporters.