The ACE (Automated Commercial Environment) is a commercial trade processing system developed by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to facilitate the movement of legitimate trade while strengthening border security. The ACE initiative requires carriers in all modes of transport to submit electronic cargo and conveyance information to CBP via ACE before arriving at the first point of entry.
In Canada, the counterpart of ACE is ACI (Advance Commercial Information). The ACI program aims to modernize Canada’s cross-border trade processes. With ACI eManifest, Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) can better identify threats to health, safety and security before the shipment arrives in Canada. Pre-arrival data also helps CBSA officers facilitate the movement of low-risk, legitimate goods.
Customs Clearance and Paperwork: What Happens at Border Crossing
Border crossing eManifest lead sheet or cover sheet must be presented to the CBSA or CBP customs officer at the primary inspection lane. Drivers can print the ACI or ACE cover sheet using an eManifest software (in-house application or an application provided by a CBP-approved IT service provider). For ACE eManifest, carriers need to enter the company name, name and phone number of the contact person, arrival date and time, port of arrival, number of shipments in the trip, and the Standard Carrier Alpha Code (SCAC) registered with CBP that corresponds with the company.
Some service providers upload the data to CBP and send the cover sheet to the carrier via email or fax. The carrier and customs broker must enter the exact same Shipment Control Number (SCN) or PAPS number. If there is a mismatch by even one character, this could lead to potential delays at the border and penalties.
At the border, the carrier’s first point of contact involves a primary inspection. The driver presents the ACE cover sheet to the customs officer along with required documents (passport, ID card, etc.), and the officer pulls up the information to match the entries. If your eManifest filing is in order with an “Accepted” status, you will be released at the primary inspection lane. However, if there is something amiss with the eManifest or with the paperwork, you must see a customs broker or proceed to Secondary Inspection if you are selected for examination.
To facilitate clearance and pass through primary inspection quickly, drivers must ensure that all paperwork is complete and correct before arriving at border crossing. Personal identification documents (photo ID/driver’s license and birth certificate or passport) must be up to date and ready to be presented to the customs official. Looking around in the truck for your ID adds to the processing and wait time. To make it easy for the officer to inspect the vehicle, turn on interior lights and open blinds or drapes.
Drivers who are not U.S. or Canadian citizens must present a passport and visa and complete an I-94 card, even if they qualify under the Visa Waiver Program. I-94 cards are available only at
border crossings into the U.S. If you have been cleared at primary inspection, you will need to report to immigration to complete the I-94 card and receive verbal clearance from an immigration officer to proceed into the U.S. If you have not been cleared at primary inspection, you must go to immigration first to complete the I-94 card before showing paperwork for customs clearance at Secondary Inspection.
About 20 percent of trucks that pass through primary inspection are referred to secondary due to problems with customs paperwork. This slows down the clearance processing time. To speed up the process, make sure that customs paperwork is in order and ready to be presented to the customs officer. In addition to cargo, conveyance and crew information in the border crossing eManifest, drivers must also present proof of current inspection for the vehicle or trailer.
Carriers are required to report to secondary inspection for various reasons. The most common is an error in the eManifest or other paperwork. If the customs paperwork is not in order, the driver must see a customs broker. If you are selected for examination, follow the signs to truck inspection. Your vehicle may be directed to the exam dock, secondary counter, or X-ray.
Border Crossing eManifest: ACE Pre-Arrival Processing System (PAPS)
Pre-Arrival Processing System (PAPS) is the most common shipment type for commercial goods entering the U.S. by truck. PAPS is the counterpart of the Canadian Pre-Arrival Review System (PARS). It is designed to expedite the release of shipments while CBP is still processing each shipment through automated risking systems. PAPS is the default shipment type for most commercial goods; all goods transported by highway carriers must clear under PAPS unless they qualify for another shipment type. Carriers must prepare an ACE eManifest listing the same PAPS number for the shipment.
PAPS allows fast clearance of legitimate shipments by providing CBP with information about goods entering the country before the carrier arrives at the border. Shipments entering the U.S. must use PAPS, the Border Release and Selectivity System (BRASS), or the FST-National Customs Automation Program (FAST-NCAP) process.
The carrier requests a PAPS release by sending shipment information in the ACE system and faxing the required customs documentation to a customs broker. At the border, the driver presents the ACE eManifest cover sheet to the officer at primary inspection. The officer will enter the data from the cover sheet and match the trip details previously provided by the carrier. The carrier is released at primary if there are no problems with the paperwork.
eManifest Border Crossing: Best Practices for Truck Drivers
ACE and ACI eManifest aim to facilitate the movement of legitimate goods, but many carriers are still held up at the border due to problems with eManifest information. To expedite customs clearance processing at border crossing and avoid penalties/denial of entry, truck drivers should examine all customs and personal documents and make sure they are ready to be presented to the customs officer.
Documents include ACE eManifest cover sheets, invoices, passports, identification and visa (if applicable). For drivers entering the U.S. from Canada, find out if any forms require you to stop at Canada customs before crossing into the U.S. For drivers entering Canada from the U.S., determine if any forms require you to stop at U.S. customs before crossing into Canada. Sending the necessary paperwork to the customs broker at least two hours before arriving at the customs office can speed up the clearance process by up to 30 minutes.
Note that all commercial highway carriers must submit the ACE eManifest to CBP one hour before arriving at the primary lane for non-FAST carriers and 30 minutes before arriving for FAST carriers. All carriers must use the appropriate lanes at border crossing; for example, Line Release vehicles must use their designated lanes.
Drivers should enter a Port of Arrival that is capable of processing electronic manifests and inform their customs broker. Most CBP ports can process commercial loads, but some cannot. If the shipment needs to go through secondary inspection for X-ray or analysis, it’s best to use a larger port to be sure.
GeTS ACE ACI eManifest Border Crossing Solutions
Global eTrade Services (GeTS) is logistics and IT service provider approved by the CBSA and CBP. Being CBP-approved means that GeTS has successfully tested its systems and applications with both agencies.
GETS has over 25 years of expertise in global trade facilitation. The company offers a comprehensive suite of services to help the trading community comply with regulatory requirements and accelerate customs clearance processing.
GeTS provides innovative, best-in-class ACE and ACI solutions for shippers, carriers, freight forwarders, importers, exporters and customs brokers. ACE and ACI eManifest solutions aim to reduce the amount of paperwork and speed up the clearance of shipments crossing U.S. and Canadian borders. Border crossing eManifest solutions are ideal for businesses of all sizes that process high-volume shipments and eManifests every month.
GeTS eManifest solutions feature a secure corporate account for enterprise users, 24/7 customer support (including expert assistance on customs compliance issues), streamlined and easy-to-use application that reduces data entry, report generation capabilities for tracking cargo movements, advanced integration, and multiple plans and connectivity options.
The web option allows convenient access anywhere there is an Internet connection, while the fax/email option allows clients to process eManifest requests via fax or email, with confirmation of acceptance from CBSA and CBP by phone, email or SMS. Another option is to integrate the GeTS ACE/ACI eManifest software with existing in-house systems. This supports partial data transfer to a web portal account for eManifest completion and submission.
It’s easy to get started with GeTS ACE and ACI eManifest software. The first step for carriers is to create profiles for drivers and conveyances that cross the border. Data will be used to populate the mandatory fields in the eManifest forms to save time and reduce errors due to manual entry. Carriers should enter data ahead of time for driver, passenger and conveyance profiles. After registering to use GeTS ACE/ACI software and creating profiles, clients can create and send eManifests to customs.