Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Customs Broker Exam Study Tip 2: Time Management

Now that your study materials and workspace are organized, it is time to discuss time management. Students often feel overwhelmed by the amount of information to be learned in order to pass the exam. Some people feel like they do not have enough time to do all they want to do, so finding additional time to study for the Customs Broker Exam seems like an impossible task.

Have you ever noticed how some people seem to have a natural ability to get things done without appearing stressed out, while others are often late in completing tasks and appear to be rushed all of the time? Have you ever thought that certain people accomplish more because they don’t have to work full time, or they don’t have children or they have more money? Even if those reasons were true, it doesn’t change the fact that everyone has the same amount of time each day. The difference is in how you choose to use your time. Time cannot be bought or saved. Once time is gone, you cannot get it back. Your ability to pass the exam as well as accomplish other goals begins with how you manage your time.

What are some of the causes of time management problems? Three of the most important causes of problems related to time management are procrastination, poor planning and wasting time.

Procrastination is a tendency to avoid a harder or less pleasant task in favor of doing an easier one. Procrastination often results in added stress due to missed deadlines or last minute preparation to meet a deadline. No one needs or wants additional stress and stress is not good for our health. Visualize what will happen if you procrastinate by putting of studying for the exam. Do you see success or failure? Procrastination is not an option when you visualize success!

Poor planning is another culprit that sabotages achievement of success. You must prioritize and create schedules to accomplish the tasks necessary to accomplish your goals. Once you make up our mind to take the exam, you must create a study plan and make it a priority. Of course, most aspiring brokers have full time jobs and personal obligations; however, by creating a plan and schedule that allots specific time for study, you can ensure success by following that schedule. You can’t expect to pass the exam unless you make the effort.

Wasting time is one of the biggest problems exam students face. When too much time is spent doing things that are unproductive, you rob yourself of valuable time that could be spent studying for the exam. It may not be the activity itself that is unproductive, but the amount of time spent doing the activity that creates the problem. If you like watching television, watching one favorite show is not unproductive because it provides relaxation and a sense of well-being. However, watching several hours of television to avoid studying is unproductive. Playing a game on the computer for 15 minutes is not necessarily unproductive because it provides a break from the routine that gives your mind a rest. However, playing computer games for hours robs you of time that could have been spent studying.

What can you do to improve time management in order to pass the Customs Broker’s Exam?
The tools and methods adopted to manage time wisely will largely depend on the amount of individual’s experience with issues covered on the exam, learning styles, ability to grasp and retain new information, work schedule and other personal issues. We have provided a few suggestions below. At the end of this article, you can comment on these and provide some ideas of your own.

· Create a Calendar
Your calendar should allocate time for work, study, exercise, meals, family and personal time. Set a regular time for study. You may want to check off the items completed each day and keep track of time spent on each task.

· Identify Priorities
Prioritize tasks and create a “To Do” List. Compete the most important tasks first. If not all tasks are completed, putting off the least unimportant task isn't procrastination, it's probably good prioritization.

· Learn to Say “NO”
Explain to people that you must study to pass the test and you will be available in a few weeks. Six to eight weeks of intense study is a small commitment of time when you think about the rewards of passing the exam and the amount of free time you will have when you no longer need to study.

· Make Time For Family
Set aside special time for family each week. Remember, quality over quantity. Your family will appreciate the time you spend with them and be more understanding of your need to study when you devote special time for them.

· Set Aside Time for Exercise
Regular exercise reduces stress and promotes good health. Exercise can provide a welcome break from your studies by giving your mind a chance to relax and think of something else. Your choice of exercise can be anything from gardening, walking around the block to a game of softball or a workout at the gym.

· Limit Unproductive Activities
Reduce the amount of time spent on the phone, watching television, reading email, playing computer games, etc. There will be plenty of time for these activities when you finish the exam. Take the necessary phone calls, but do not use the phone as an excuse for not studying.

· Make Good Use of Unproductive Time

1. Waiting
At one time or another, you will find yourself waiting for something. The wait may be at the doctor’s office or at an airport. Anticipate circumstances that are likely to create unavoidable delays and be sure to have your notes handy. You can make great use of that time to study. Instead of being upset because you were stuck in the airport for two hours because your plane was late, you can be excited that you were able to devote two more hours to your studies.

2. Commute
Whether it’s by train or car, most people have some type of commute to work. Use the commute time to listen tothe audio lectures on CD. Turn that hour spent in a traffic jam into productive study time.

3. Lunch
Do you really need an hour to eat lunch? Consider devoting three of your lunch breaks each week to study. Treat yourself to a nice lunch out at the end of the week.

· Reward Yourself
Set daily, weekly and monthly goals. When you have achieved a goal, reward yourself. It may be as small as allowing yourself 30 minutes of television or spending 30 minutes playing a video game to something more significant such as a vacation or cruise after receiving news you passed the exam.

We welcome your comments on these suggestions and encourage you to add your own ideas to this forum so that other students studying for the exam can benefit from your experiences.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Customs Broker Exam Study Tip 1: Organization

Now that you have made the decision to take the April Customs Broker Exam, it’s important to develop a study plan that guarantees your chances of success. Boskage wants to help you achieve your goal of passing the exam; therefore, we are starting a series of articles to support you on your journey to success! Our first topic focuses on organization.

Some people are naturally good at organization; everything has a neat orderly place. Have you ever noticed your colleague’s desks or your neighbor’s garage? All of the books are stacked on bookshelves, all of the papers are filed away or neatly stacked, the tools are hung on a pegboard and two cars actually fit into the garage. On the other hand, you wonder how another colleague can find anything since his or her desk is covered with so many papers, books and other junk that you can’t even see a desk. The same may be said of your neighbor’s garage that may look like it is being used as a storage facility since there is no room for one car, much less two. What is organization, why is it important and what can you do to become organized for the exam?

What is organization?
Organization is the systematic arrangement or assembly of objects in an orderly manner.

Why is organization important?

For the purposes of the studying for the exam, organizing your materials helps improve time management and increases your comprehension and memory. If your materials are organized, you will not waste time looking for a book or document that you need later on. Obtaining and organizing all of your materials will allow you easily access information as you need it. This organization will save time on the day of the test.

What can you do to become organized for the exam?

Obtain Required Materials - The first step in your organization plan should be acquiring the required materials. CBP has furnished a complete list of materials necessary to take the exam. You should obtain all of these resources now.

Organize Required Materials - Once you have obtained the required materials, you should organize them. You will want to be able to access each one quickly during the exam. Organizing the CBP Regulations and the HTSUS is easy because they can be placed in binders so that you have two rather large books. What remains is the stack of directives and other supplementary documents required for the exam. If you haven’t purchased these materials already bound, then you may consider placing them together in a separate binder. You can include additional materials to that third binder later. It will be much easier to find information relating to the supplemental materials if they are placed together in one binder instead of having to shuffle through all of those documents stacked in a pile. In addition, placing those documents in a binder reduces the risk of one of them getting lost.

Label Required Materials – Consider using “tabs” to identify the chapters of the HTSUS. If you are looking for Chapter 61 and know that it's in the middle of the book, having a tab with the chapter number listed may help you to locate the exact chapter faster. Time is very important on the exam. We also suggest that you use “tabs” to mark each part of the regulations. Colored tabs can be used to indicate more important or frequently tested parts. Tabbing also makes certain parts easier to find and will save you time. Finally, you should consider using tabs on the supplemental materials you placed in the binder. As you add notes and other materials to the third binder, you will want to organize your notes so that you can easily locate them. Organizing our materials not only saves time, but it can also increase your comprehension and memory of large amounts of information.

Even though you may use electronic versions of the HTSUS and CFR in your business, you must use the paper versions for the exam. It is a good idea to study using the paper versions to get used to looking up the information the same way you will on exam day.

Arrange Your Study Area – Remember the example of the colleague with the desk that looked like a disaster area? If that example sounds like your desk or study area, now is the time to clean it up. Don’t waste valuable study time digging through piles of paper. Get rid of the clutter in your study area and your office. If you have a desk or designated study area at home, create a special place for your study materials. If you study at the office, create a special place for your materials there too. If possible, create a study area that is comfortable and attractive. A bright cheery comfortable atmosphere will be more inviting for study than the dreaded cold gray metal desk with the uncomfortable wooden chair. Don’t get too comfortable; studying in the bed may result in sleep instead of productive study time.

Create a Study Schedule - Your schedule will depend on your experience and learning style. Someone who is new to importing may need to devote more time than someone who has more experience. Some students may need study that is more individual while others may prefer some group or interactive activities. Regardless of your preferences, you will be required to do a great deal of reading. Some people require more structure so that reading, tests and other assignments are provided on a regular basis. Others may prefer to create schedules that suit their schedules. Just remember that it is important to allow plenty of time for reading and taking practice tests. If you work full time and wait until two weeks before the exam to start reading the regulations, you may find yourself burned out and struggling on exam day. We’ve provided a few examples that may help you when creating your schedule:

· Consider how many weeks you plan to devote to study. If you have 16 weeks to study, then you will not need to read as much each week; however, if you only have eight weeks to study, you will need to read a little more each week.
· Divide the reading into manageable sections. You may consider reading similar sections together. For example, you might want to read and study the requirements for brokers and entry in one week. This would include Parts 111, 141 and 142. You may want to devote another week to the various types of entries and alternatives to entries.
· Determine how many practice tests you want to take and designate dates and times to take them. Students should take at least one complete 4-hour test and are encouraged to take more than one.

Now that you have placed the required exam materials in binders with tabs, arranged your study space and created a schedule, you are ready to begin your studies. Our next study tip will cover “Time Management”.

Check the Boskage Trade News regularly for more helpful hints on studying for the Customs Broker Exam and other useful news for international trade professionals!

Boskage has many resources and study aides that can help you pass the exam. Click here for more info.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Second Phase of Government Travel Initiative Effective January 31, 2008

On January 23, 2007, citizens of the United States, Canada, Mexico and Bermuda traveling by air between the U.S. and Canada, Mexico, Central and South America, the Caribbean, and Bermuda were required to present a valid passport to enter or depart the U.S.

Effective January 31, 2008, U.S. and Canadian citizens 19 years and older who enter the U.S. at land and sea ports of entry from within the Western Hemisphere must present government-issued photo ID, such as a driver’s license as proof of identity, AND proof of citizenship, such as a birth certificate or naturalization certificate, or a passport.

All children 18 and under must present a passport when entering the United States airports. Children age 18 and under must present a birth certificate, naturalization certificate or a passport to enter the U.S. by land or sea.

Single Document Option
U.S. and Canadian citizens arriving by land or sea may present one of the following documents to prove both identity and citizenship.

· U.S. or Canadian Passport
· U.S. Passport Card (Available spring 2008)
· Trusted Traveler Cards (NEXUS, SENTRI, or FAST)
· State or Provincial Issued Enhanced Driver’s License (EDLs) verifying identity and citizenship (Several states including Washington, Vermont, New York, and Arizona are working with DHS to develop EDLs for U.S. citizens. These documents denote both identity and U.S. citizenship. Several Canadian provinces are also considering production of EDLs for use by Canadian citizens.)
· Enhanced Tribal Cards (when available)
· U.S. Military Identification with Military Travel Orders
· U.S. Merchant Mariner Document
· Native American Tribal Photo Identification Card
· Form I-872 American Indian Card
· Indian and Northern Affairs Canada (INAC) Card

Two Document Option
U.S. and Canadian citizens arriving by land or sea who do not have one of the documents from the single document list must present BOTH an identification and citizenship document from each of the lists below. Identification documents must contain a photo, name and date of birth.

1. Identification Documents
· Driver’s license or identification card issued by a federal, state, provincial, county, territory, or municipal authority
· U.S. or Canadian military identification card

2. Citizenship Documents
· U.S. or Canadian birth certificate issued by a federal, state, provincial, county, territory or municipal authority
· U.S. Consular report of birth abroad
· U.S. Certificate of Naturalization
· U.S. Certificate of Citizenship
· U.S. Citizen Identification Card
· Canadian Citizenship Card
· Canadian certificate of citizenship without photo

Example 1
A U.S. citizen presenting a birth certificate as proof of citizenship must also provide a government-issued photo ID.

Example 2
A U.S. citizen presenting a U.S. Passport need not present additional documentation because the U.S. Passport provides both proof of citizenship and contains a government-issued photo ID.

These documentation requirements only apply to entry into the United States. When traveling to other countries, it is best to check with the country you are visiting to determine the appropriate document requirements. The U.S. Department of State provides additional information for persons traveling outside of the U.S.

Additional information about the document requirements and how to obtain them can be found on the CBP website.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

CBP Publishes C-TPAT Accomplishments for 2007

The Customs-Trade Partnership Against Terrorism (C-TPAT) initiative is designed to build cooperative government-business relationships that strengthen and improve the international supply chain and U.S. border security. Since its introduction in November 2001 with just seven importers, this program has seen significant growth to over 7000 members and has received widespread support throughout the trade community in the United States and our trading partners. With this support and the hiring of additional CBP officers and supply chain specialists, C-TPAT continues to achieve its mission, goals and objectives.

The following are some of the accomplishments of C-TPAT for 2007:

· Supply chain security specialists visited manufacturing and logistics facilities in 79 countries, representing some of the most terrorist prone and high-risk areas of the world.

· C-TPAT validated 3,011 supply chains, representing a 27 percent increase from 2006. Of the 3,011 validations conducted, 601 or 20 percent were revalidations. This was the first year that C-TPAT began re-verifying supply chains.

· C-TPAT certified 2,601 new members in accordance with SAFE Port Act requirements.

· C-TPAT Tier III status was granted to 17 companies as a result of the validation process.

· C-TPAT suspended or removed 112 companies from the program for security breeches or failure to meet C-TPAT's minimum-security criteria as revealed in the validation process. Of the 112 companies, 47 were either conditionally or fully reinstated in the C-TPAT program after they demonstrated to CBP's satisfaction that immediate and sustained corrective action had been taken.

· C-TPAT made progress on additional SAFE Port Act mandates including the development of a 3rd Party Validation pilot program.

· To enhance the supply chain security processes and procedures of its members, minimum-security criteria were issued for Mexican long haul carriers, U.S. and foreign-based marine port authority and terminal operators, foreign manufacturers and air carriers.

· C-TPAT signed a mutual recognition agreement with New Zealand’s Customs Service and established work plans with several other countries to achieve similar arrangements.

· C-TPAT participated in more than 100 conferences and seminars throughout the world.

· The University of Virginia conducted a survey on behalf of CBP to determine member's perceptions regarding the cost, benefits and motivations to join the program. The results demonstrated that C-TPAT has moved thousands of companies to provide closer scrutiny to the security of the goods they handle and to ensure that their overseas suppliers have implemented sound security practices.

As the new year begins, CBP continues its increased determination to prevent terrorists and terrorist weapons from entering the U.S. and strengthen the relationships with the trade community and our foreign trading partners. Working with the trade community and foreign partners, CBP will continue to pursue the achievement of the mission, goals and objectives of C-TPAT. CBP is committed to:

· Conducting more validations and revalidations.
· Providing training opportunities to C-TPAT members.
· Requesting additional funds for hiring new employees, improving facilities and upgrading and acquiring new equipment.
· Enhancing air, sea and land border security measures.
· Improving communication, understanding and mechanisms for prevention of terrorism.

Be a part of this successful government-industry team by continuing your participation, support and vigilance in C-TPAT!

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Update on 10+2 Security Filing

We are pleased to provide an update to our September article about complying with the 10+2 Security Filing Requirements. On January 2, U.S. Customs and Border Protection published a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking in the Federal Register proposing the requirement that importers and carriers submit additional information to CBP before cargo is imported into the United States by vessel. The Office of Management and Budget’s analysis of the rule’s economic impact predicts that shippers may need to add another day to their normal transit schedules to account for the information gathering and reporting during the first year. The delay should be reduced to 12 hours starting in the second year. The delays may add two or more days to the importers supply chains, which will ultimately increase inventory carrying costs. Importers also see the potential for increased costs to modify their data collection systems to capture the new data and may be required to pay fees to brokers or forwarders to transmit the information to CBP.

Under the proposed rule, importers or their agents would be required to submit an Importer Security Filing containing 10 data elements for shipments of goods intended to be entered into the United States or delivered to a foreign trade zone. The 10 data elements include:

· Manufacturer Name and Address
· Seller Name and Address
· Buyer Name and Address
· Ship to Name and Address
· Container Stuffing Location
· Consolidator Name and Address
· Importer of Record Number/Foreign Trade Zone Applicant Identification Number
· Consignee Number
· Country of Origin of the Goods
· Commodity Harmonized Tariff Schedule Number

The Importer Security Filing would have to be transmitted to CBP by the importer or their designated agent, no later than 24 hours before cargo is laden aboard a vessel destined to the United States.

CBP has invited written comments on the proposed rule on or before March 18, 2008. Comments may be submitted via the Federal eRulemaking portal or by mail to Border Security Regulations Branch, Office of Trade, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, 1300 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20229.

Click HERE to read the full text of the proposed rule.

Friday, February 1, 2008

CBP Posts Notice of Exam for April 2008

U.S. Customs and Border Protection has posted a notice to its web site announcing the April 2008 Customs Broker License Exam. The exam will be held on Monday, April 7, 2008 and applications (CBP 3124E) to take the exam must be received on or before Friday, March 7, 2008. A complete list of references necessary for the exam is found in the official notice; however, we have included some important information concerning the following references.

Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States (2007 version - no supplements)
Questions for the 2008 Exam were written using the 2007 HTSUS. It is important to use this edition since questions often require the determination of the correct HTS number, duty rate and applicability of Free Trade Agreements, all of which may change slightly from year to year.

The link provided to the HTSUS in the CBP Notice is tied to the 2006 HTSUS. Be sure to use the 2007 HTSUS!

Title 19, Code of Federal Regulations (revised as of April 1, 2007) (Parts 1 - 199)
Questions on the exam were written using the 2007 CBP Regulations. There shouldn’t be too much confusion here since the 2008 version will not be available prior to the exam. However, anybody with the 2006 Regulations can use that book if it contains the updates through April 2007 (5th update).

NEW: C-TPAT – Minimum Security Criteria for Customs Brokers (3-20-2007)
This is the first time since C-TPAT was implemented that CBP has included them on the exam. Since CBP has included them, it is very likely the exam will contain at least one question related to these criteria. Be sure to read through them and be familiar with the eight major categories and their corresponding requirements. Stay tune, we’ll post some helpful information about this publication in a future blog.

DELETED: Remote Location Filing: Eligibility Requirements
CBP deleted this document, so you can remove it from any materials you have collected.

BEWARE: Submission Changes for Supplemental Information Letters and Post Entry Amendments
Surprisingly this document was not deleted from the list, even after CBP awarded credit for all answers on the question related to SILs and the PEA from the October 2007 Exam. Even though most of the trade community is aware that the SIL is no longer a valid method of correcting entries, be aware that a question related to it may be included on the exam.

If you ordered the 2008 April Exam Reference Package from Boskage, all of the correct references were included.

It’s time to get ready for the next Customs Broker Exam! Click
HERE for a complete list of our study plans and products designed to help you study and pass the exam!

Don’t forget to visit the blog again for import/export news updates, articles about specific trade topics and helpful posts related the Customs Broker Exam!

2008 HTSUS Now Shipping!

Just like the U.S. Postal Service, “neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night” will prevent the release and shipment of the new 2008 Harmonized Tariff Schedule. January brings lots of snow and very cold weather here, but the staff at Boskage has been keeping warm by working hard to prepare the 2008 Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States for shipment. The books were shipped on January 24, 2008. For immediate shipment of the 2008 HTSUS, click HERE to order yours today!