What is an importer security file (ISF)?

What is an importer security file (ISF)?

Before goods arriving on board a ship can be imported, the “Importer of Security Documents (ISF)” or their agent (for example, a licensed customs broker) must electronically submit some preliminary cargo information to the Customs and Border Control Service in the form registration paper of the importer. This requirement applies only to cargo arriving by ship; it does not apply to goods arriving by other means of transport or to bulk cargo.


When transporting any goods, a list of certain documents is required to be provided to the customs service. Failure to comply with the rules can ultimately lead to fines, an increase in the number of inspections and delayed cargo.

What should be served?
Deliveries consisting of goods intended for import and goods intended for delivery from a foreign trade zone or its agent must provide data no later than 24 hours before the cargo is loaded onto the ship. These elements include:

  • Seller (sender)
  • Buyer (Receiving Party)
  • Applicant Identification Number
  • Recipient Number (s)
  • Manufacturer (or supplier)
  • Country of Origin
  • TN FEA (Commodity Nomenclature of Foreign Economic Activity)

Two additional data items must be submitted as early as possible, but no later than 24 hours before the ship arrives at the port.
These data items are:

  • Departure point
  • Consolidator

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