Global Trade Compliance

There’s nothing more important than taking advantage of faster import processing with a secure supply chain. Right? Right.

That’s why Customs-Trade Partnership Against Terrorism (C-TPAT), a volunteer United States government business initiative formed to establish cooperative relationships for importers, is so important. Licensed Customs Brokers can help you maximize C-TPAT benefits. Here’s how.

C-TPAT: The Background

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C-TPAT was formed in November 2001 to help protect the world’s growing trade industry from terrorists.

Shortly after the 9/11 terrorist attacks on U.S. soil, C-TPAT was formed in November 2001 to help protect the world’s growing trade industry from terrorists. The agreement’s primary goal is to maintain the health of the U.S. trade industry and its trade partners. When the partnership was formed in 2001, it had seven partners. Today, C-TPAT has more than 10,000 partners in the trade community that range from importers, Licensed Customs Brokers, freight consolidators and rail and sea carriers.

The Benefits of C-TPAT

What are the benefits? The partnership:

  • Builds relationships that improve the global supply chain
  • Improves and bolsters U.S. border security by seeking to protect the trade industry from terrorists
  • Allows importers to take advantage of faster import processing
  • Creates a secure supply chain
  • Reduces customs inspections
  • Improves the security of importer cargo

How C-TPAT Works

When joining C-TPAT, companies sign an agreement committing to work with the U.S Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to protect the trade supply chain, identify security issues and

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C-TPAT’s primary goal is to maintain the health of the U.S. trade industry and its trade partners.

implement specific security measures. Partners also provide the CBP with an individual company security game plan. Since C-TPAT members adhere to security measures overseen by the CBP, those members are considered a low-risk security threat. That means C-TPAT importers can speed through the import process with less scrutiny.

Gaining Acceptance Into C-TPAT

There are certain security criteria and guidelines set by the CBP as an importer to take advantage of C-TPAT. To be eligible, you must:

  • Be an active importer into the U.S. with an active U.S. importer of record ID
  • Have a business office in the U.S.
  • Have a registered continuous import bond with CBP
  • Have a designated company officer that will be the primary cargo security officer responsible for C-TPAT
importer cargo ship
C-TPAT allows importers to take advantage of faster import processing.

Since 2014, C-TPAT validation and documentation is handled primarily through an online Portal. As the central database for all C-TPAT participants, the Portal serves as an entry point into the program for potential applicants, as well as a repository of documents for current partners looking to revalidate their membership. The Portal may also be used by trade entities looking to view participation in multiple partnership programs or differentiate between C-TPAT accounts holding different security tiers.


To revalidate with C-TPAT, an annual security profile review is conducted with all partners with a review window set 90 days prior to the partner’s anniversary date. For most partners, this will take place entirely within the Portal, beginning with a supply chain risk assessment. Known as the Five Step Risk Assessment, the process embraces the following standards:

  • Mapping cargo/data flow and control, along with identifying business partners
  • Administering a threat assessment
  • Conducting a vulnerability assessment using C-TPAT minimum security criteria
  • Preparing a written action plan to address vulnerabilities
  • Documenting the procedure for how risk assessments are conducted, to include periodically reviewing and revising the procedure

Businesses are encouraged to update their security profile any time their procedures change. However, only changes made in the 90 days before the company’s anniversary date are accepted during the annual review.

The addition of forced labor prevention measures is one of the latest updates to C-TPAT’s minimum security criterion. As a result, the initiative has introduced six program requirements for partners in order to maintain trade compliance.

  • Risk-Based Business Mapping: Importers must analyze their supply chains and conduct an assessment of regions or providers at-risk of engaging in forced labor practices. CBP may request proof of supply chain mapping to aid in determining the likelihood of a forced labor scenario.
  • Code of Conduct: A statement representing the company’s adherence to eliminating forced labor goods and service from their supply chain is required. In addition, partners must demonstrate evidence of policies in place to meet this standard.
  • Evidence of Implementation: CBP requires evidence each partner has implemented a social compliance program which may include audits of high-risk supply chains or the success of internal training programs, among other potential articles of evidence.
  • Due Diligence and Training: Each company employee is required to undergo the necessary training to recognize forced labor in a supply chain, as well as following the procedures in every partner’s Code of Conduct.
  • Remediation Plan: A key component is having the means to disclose incidents of forced labor to CBP in the event a partner identifies a source. The plan also must include all necessary steps for the supplier to resolve this issue in their supply chain.
  • Shared Best Practices and Path Forward: A commitment to share best practices that have a proven success with C-TPAT in an effort to achieve a common goal of reducing forced labor.

For each program requirement, partners must be prepared to provide updated documentation to CBP upon request, although only the Code of Conduct and Evidence of Implementation are required as uploads to the C-TPAT Portal. Successfully meeting the compliance standards confers several benefits to partners. These include front-of-the-line admissibility reviews, redelivery holds of goods at partner facilities suspected of potential forced labor violations, and preliminary notification of a potential UFLPA Hold. The preliminary notification benefits have recently expanded to include Findings of Forced Labor and Withhold Release Orders as well.

C-TPAT allows importers to take advantage of faster import processing. There’s an easy way to take advantage of C-TPAT benefits. Licensed Customs Brokers that are C-TPAT participants can make sure you’re taking advantage of all C-TPAT has to offer. AFC International is a C-TPAT participant, which means cargo is more secure and works its way through the import process faster when working with an AFC Licensed Customs Broker. If your business needs help joining C-TPAT, uploading documentation to the Portal, preparing for on-site inspections or help with revalidation, we’re here to help. Call us at 800.274.2329 or get a quote today to get started!

AFC International is an affiliate of R+L Global Logistics, part of the R+L Carriers family of companies.