Customs Trade Partnership Against Terrorism (C-TPAT) Resource Center

What is C-TPAT: Updated Information for the U.S. Customs and Border Protection C-TPAT Voluntary Trade Partnership Program

This resource center includes information regarding the U.S. C-TPAT requirements and how importers can reduce the number of CBP examinations and benefit from front-of-the-line inspections. We encourage you to bookmark this page and to check back for updated information.

What is C-TPAT?

Customs-Trade Partnership Against Terrorism (C-TPAT) is a U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) voluntary trade partnership program in which CBP and members of the trade community work together to facilitate the movement and security of international trade. 

How does C-TPAT work?

When a business joins C-TPAT, an agreement is made to work with CBP to protect the supply chain, identify security gaps, and implement specific security measures and best practices. In general, there are three steps to C-TPAT certification:

Risk Assessment
The C-TPAT candidate conducts and fully documents a security risk assessment
The company then submits a basic application via the C-TPAT portal system
Security Profile
The third step is for the company to complete a security profile explaining how they are meeting C-TPAT criteria

What are the potential benefits of the C-TPAT program?

C-TPAT helps CBP increase supply chain visibility and better focus resources on higher risk shipments and supply chain participants. The benefits of C-TPAT certification to participants includes the potential to increase freight processing speed and reduce fees. These benefits are assisted by:

  • Access to the Free and Secure Trade (FAST) lanes at land borders
  • The ability to move to the front of inspection lines
  • A lesser potential of CBP examinations and an exemption from Stratified Exams (SEs)
  • Shorter wait times at the border
  • Access to the C-TPAT Status Verification Interface (SVI)
  • A CBP Supply Chain Security Specialist (SCSS) assigned to the company
  • Eligibility for other U.S. Government pilot programs such as the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Secure Supply Chain (SSC) program
  • The potential to participate in the Importer Self-Assessment (ISA) program

Who is eligible for C-TPAT certification?

The program has historically focused on imports into the United States. Air carriers, consolidators, cross-border highway carriers, marine port authorities, ocean carriers, rail carriers, terminal operators, third party logistics (3PLs) providers, customs brokers, and importers are eligible for C-TPAT certification in the United States.

3PLs that do not own some of their own warehousing facilities, vehicles, aircraft, or other transportation assets cannot be C-TPAT certified. 3PLs must be licensed and/or bonded by the Federal Maritime Commission (FMC), Transportation Security Administration (TSA), CBP or the Department of Transportation (DOT) and have an office staffed in the United States.

C-TPAT for Exporters

In recent years, due in part to Just-in-Time (JIT) industry practices, exporters have also requested C-TPAT certification. CBP has now responded to those requests and, as part of the National Export Initiative, U.S. exporters can now apply to participate in C-TPAT and benefit from prioritized processing of exports and a streamlined process to vet outbound supply chains.

Additionally, CBP has developed mutual recognition arrangements with other countries including New Zealand, South Korea, Japan, Jordan, Canada, the EU, Taiwan, Israel, Mexico, and Singapore. Certified C-TPAT exporters should receive expedited processes when exporting goods to those countries. The exporter eligibility requirements are:

  • Be an active U.S. exporter with a documentable Employee Identification Number (EIN), or Dun & Bradstreet (DUNS) number
  • Have a business office staffed in the U.S.
  • Have a documented export security program and a designated officer or manager who will act as the C-TPAT program main point of contact
  • Commit to maintaining the C-TPAT supply chain security criteria as outlined in the C-TPAT exporter agreement
  • Create and provide CBP with a C-TPAT supply chain security profile which identifies how the exporter will meet, maintain, and enhance internal policy to meet the C-TPAT exporter security criteria
  • Have an acceptable level of compliance for export reporting for the latest 12-month period and be in good standing with U.S. Regulatory bodies such as Department of Commerce, Department of State, Department of Treasury, Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Drug Enforcement Administration, and Department of Defense

All exporters, regardless of C-TPAT certification, must also comply fully with all applicable licensing requirements and restrictions under U.S. export control regulations, including, but not limited to, the Commerce Department’s Export Administration Regulations, the State Department’s International Traffic in Arms Regulations, and the Census Bureau’s Foreign Trade Regulations, including accurate and timely filing of electronic export information (EEI).

How does C-TPAT validation differ from a CBP audit?

It is important to note that a C-TPAT validation is not a CBP audit. Although U.S. customs performs standard audits in areas such as trade compliance and the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) assessments, C-TPAT validations focus on voluntarily and exemplary standards beyond basic compliance.

How Descartes Can Help?

Descartes has created a wide range of solutions to assist companies looking for C-TPAT certification, offering importers and shippers the ability to better manage shipments, comply with regulatory mandates, audit and report on performance, and improve overall productivity across import/export operations.

Have questions or need more details?

Additional Resources & Helpful Links

C-TPAT: Customs Trade Partnership Against Terrorism
Applying for C-TPAT
C-TPAT’s Five Step Risk Assessment
C-TPAT Web Portal
Resource Center
U.S. Automated Commercial Environment (ACE)

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