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C-TPAT FAQ's

With the inception of the C-TPAT program, Customs and Border Protection recognized that the country had entered a new era that required the assistance of private industry to ensure increased vigilance throughout the supply chain. Just as CBP protects the trade and our borders, businesses must ensure that their brands, employees, and customers are protected to the best of their abilities. By acting in partnership the business community and CBP have made a commitment toward the common goal of creating a more secure and efficient supply chain.

We have listed some common questions and answers that CBP has addressed so that you, as a business partner, can become more familiar with the specifics of the program.


What does participation in C-TPAT require?

Businesses must apply to participate in C-TPAT. Participants will sign an agreement that commits them to the following actions:

  • Conduct a comprehensive self-assessment of supply chain security using the C-TPAT security guidelines jointly developed by Customs and the trade community. These guidelines, which are available for review on the Customs Web Site, encompass the following areas: Procedural Security, Physical Security, Personnel Security, Education and Training, Access Controls, Manifest Procedures, and Conveyance Security
  • Submit a supply chain security profile questionnaire to Customs.
  • Develop and implement a program to enhance security throughout the supply chain in accordance with C-TPAT guidelines.
  • Communicate C-TPAT guidelines to other companies in the supply chain and work toward building the guidelines into relationships with these companies.

What are the benefits of participation in C-TPAT?

C-TPAT offers businesses an opportunity to play an active role in the war against terrorism. By participating in this first worldwide supply chain security initiative, companies will ensure a more secure supply chain for their employees, suppliers and customers. Beyond these essential security benefits, CBP will offer potential benefits to C-TPAT members, including

  • A reduced number of inspections (reduced border times)
  • An assigned account manager (if one is not already assigned)
  • Access to the C-TPAT membership list
  • Eligibility for account-based processes (bimonthly/monthly payments, e. g.)
  • An emphasis on self-policing, not CBP verifications

When will benefits begin?

Benefits will begin once CBP has completed an evaluation of the importer's C-TPAT application package and notified the importer of our findings. CBP aims to complete these evaluations within 30-60 days after the supply chain security questionnaire has been submitted.

How will the partnership work on an ongoing basis?

Account managers will contact participants to begin joint work on establishing or updating account action plans to reflect C-TPAT commitments. Action plans will track participants' progress in making security improvements, communicating C-TPAT guidelines to business partners, and establishing improved security relationships with other companies. Failure to meet C-TPAT commitments will result in suspension of C-TPAT benefits. Benefits will be reinstated upon correcting identified deficiencies in compliance and/or security.

If this is an evolving program, shouldn't we wait until Customs develops more details?

Although C-TPAT is a work in progress, Customs has provided a matrix of standards and will continue to develop the methodology over time in reaction to various situations that occur. Therefore, there is no benefit to taking a wait and see attitude. In this world of just-in-time inventories, companies can't afford to experience supply chain disruptions and the unpredictability that is caused by increased intensive inspections. Not only do border delays cost money, but they also create negative customer perception. ITTI can help get you started on the way toward C-TPAT compliance, while ensuring that your management is kept up-to-date on the latest regulatory updates.

What happens if a company fails to meet the C-TPAT minimum security criteria or guidelines?

Failure to meet C-TPAT commitments will result in suspension or removal of C-TPAT certification status and associated benefits. Benefits may be reinstated upon correcting identified deficiencies in compliance and/or security.

Will the information our company provides to C-TPAT be confidential?

All information on supply chain security submitted by companies applying for the C-TPAT program will be confidential. CBP will not disclose a company's participation in C-TPAT.

What exactly are CBP expectations for the C-TPAT participant?

To make a commitment toward the common goal of creating a more secure and efficient supply chain through partnership. CBP understands that it has entered a new era and requires the assistance of private industry to ensure increased vigilance throughout the supply chain. CBP recognizes that just as it protects the trade and our borders, businesses must ensure that their brands, employees, and customers are protected to the best of their abilities.

When will benefits begin?

Benefits will begin once CBP has completed an evaluation of the importer's C-TPAT application package and notified the importer of our findings. CBP aims to complete these evaluations within 30-60 days after the supply chain security questionnaire has been submitted.

How will the partnership work on an ongoing basis?

Account managers will contact participants to begin joint work on establishing or updating account action plans to reflect C-TPAT commitments Action plans will track participants' progress in making security improvements, communicating C-TPAT guidelines to business partners, and establishing improved security relationships with other companies Failure to meet C-TPAT commitments will result in suspension of C-TPAT benefits. Benefits will be reinstated upon correcting identified deficiencies in compliance and/or security.

We use a business partner that is already C-TPAT certified and validated. We have requested and obtained Status Verification Interface number(s) and/or Web Portal ID tokens to confirm their C-TPAT status. Is there anything else we must do to ensure this business partner is C-TPAT compliant?

No. If a business partner has been certified and validated in C-TPAT, you do not need to obtain further information from that partner in terms of their compliance with C-TPAT security criteria or guidelines. CBP will work directly with that business partner on its supply chain security improvement plan by means of their confidential Supply Chain Security Profile on file with CBP. You should monitor your business partner’s on-going status within C-TPAT to ensure it continues to be certified.

What is a C-TPAT validation?

A C-TPAT validation is a process through which the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) C-TPAT program meets with company representatives and visits selected domestic and foreign sites to verify supply chain security measures contained in the C-TPAT participant’s security profile are accurate and are being followed.

Is a C-TPAT validation an audit?

No. A validation is not an audit. Whereas CBP routinely performs audits in a variety of operational and regulatory areas (e.g. trade compliance, NAFTA), C-TPAT validations do not measure a company’s adherence to existing government rules and regulations. Instead, the validation is focused on the verification of supply chain security processes and procedures that a company voluntarily agrees to verify or perform under the auspices of the C-TPAT program.

How long will it take to complete a C-TPAT validation?

Validations are focused and concise. Although they may extend beyond two weeks on some occasions due to CBP planning and travel, they will not involve more than ten working days of a company’s time.

How will validations be scheduled?

The order in which a C-TPAT participant’s profile will be selected for validation will be based on risk management principles. Validations may be initiated based on import volume, security related anomalies, strategic threat posed by geographic regions, or other risk related information. Alternatively, a validation may be performed as a matter of routine program oversight. CBP Headquarters will provide C-TPAT participants with approximately (30) thirty days advance notice prior to the beginning of any validation. The C-TPAT SCSS will work with the company’s C-TPAT point of contact to schedule all validation visits.

How will validation findings impact a company’s participation in C-TPAT?

If the validation findings are satisfactory, the results will increase the level of benefits provided to importer participants. If the validation findings reveal significant weaknesses in the company’s application of C-TPAT guidelines or criteria, some or all of the participant’s C-TPAT benefits may be suspended or removed until corrective action is implemented and verified.

The Self-Assessments section of the Best Practices Catalog mentions conducting periodic security audits and holding foreign business partners accountable by various means such as conducting unannounced security inspections, hiring a third-party firm to inspect suppliers and conducting risk-based audits. Does this apply to C-TPAT certified and validated business partners?

CBP encourages all business partners to conduct self-assessments. However, where a business partner has already been validated by CBP, it is not a requirement that a C-TPAT member share the results of its self-assessments with other business partners, or complete assessment questionnaires prepared by another C-TPAT business partner. In addition, the Best Practices Catalog is not designed as a master check-list of security practices which must be adopted to achieve tiered-benefit status. From its inception, C-TPAT has recognized the need for flexibility in the adoption of security practices, based on customization to the C-TPAT participant’s business model and based on risk. As such, it is difficult, if not impossible, to reduce the C-TPAT criteria to a checklist of "yes/no" requirements that would apply to all participants in all locations all of the time. Most criteria will logically require a qualified assessment reflecting a layered approach to security, based on risk, in keeping with each C-TPAT member’s Supply Chain Security Profile and continuous improvement plan. C-TPAT members should foster an open dialogue with all business partners, C-TPAT certified and non-certified alike, on ways to enhance supply chain security.

What is the Free and Secure Trade Program (FAST)

The FAST program is a bilateral initiative between the United States/Canada and United States/Mexico designed to ensure security and safety while enhancing the economic prosperity of all countries. In developing this program, Canada, Mexico and the United States have agreed to harmonize, to the maximum extent possible, their commercial processes for clearance of commercial shipments at the border. This will promote free and secure trade by using common risk-management principles, supply chain security, industry partnership, and advanced technology to improve the efficiency of screening and clearing commercial traffic at our shared border.

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Securing the Global Supply Chain

Customs-Trade Partnership Against Terrorism (C-TPAT) Strategic Plan - As the border agency of the United States, CBP's priority mission is preventing terrorists and terrorist weapons, including weapons of mass destruction, from entering the United States.

 

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