Today’s customs broker is a federally licensed, highly regulated professional who offers many services to the international trade community. This was not always the case.
By the mid 1850’s, a “customhouse broker” filed the entry documents after an importer endorsed the bill of lading over to them. These brokers were unregulated. They made entry in their own names, and not in the name of the importer. This led to many problems.
The Customs Regulation of 1857, Article 194 addressed this issue saying “Entry must be made by the owner or consignee, who alone is authorized, under our revenue system, to take the prescribed oath, give the requisite bond, and pay the duties; and in cases where, from either of the causes averted to in the act [absence or sickness], the owner or consignee may be unable to attend personally at the custom-house, he will be required to be represented by a duly constituted agent or attorney, whose power must be lodged with the collector, who will make entry and perform all the necessary acts in the owners name, giving bond for the due production of his oath.”
And yet, the growing business of customshouse brokers continued basically unregulated. Trade expanded, but not every broker was honest. Thus, the necessity of government licensing and regulation of the industry became apparent.
The Act of August 27, 1894, Section 23 provided “That the collector or chief officer of the customs at any port of entry or delivery shall issue a license to any reputable and competent person desiring to transact business as a custom-house broker.” The Act of June 10, 1910 (36 Stat. 464). changed the standard from “any reputable and competent person” to “any person of good moral character.”
A change in title from customhouse broker to customs broker came during the Trade and Tariff Act of 1984. Also changed was the requirement of separate licenses in each district to a single national license and permit.
The Tariff Act of 1930 said a person much hold a valid customs broker’s license and so they may transact customs business on behalf of others.
Today’s Customs Broker Must:
- Be a United States citizen by the date of submission of their application.
- Not be an officer or employee of the US government
- Be 21 years or older
- Be of good moral character
- Attain a passing (75% or higher) grade on the written examination taken within 3 years of application
Recently, the CBP published the Broker Continuing Education Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) 86 FR 50794 in the Federal Register. This proposed mandatory continuing education for individual licensed brokers would be a key step in raising the credibility and value of the broker’s license and profession.
The CBP provides Broker information on their website https://www.cbp.gov/contact/find-broker-by-port.