Custom Bond

What is a Customs Bond and Why is it Needed?

Customs bonds play a vital role in international trade, particularly in the United States. They guarantee the government that importers and other parties involved in the importation process will comply with all customs regulations and fulfill their financial obligations.

In this article, we will explore the concept of customs bonds, why they are necessary, the steps involved in obtaining one, their significance, the implications of a bonded shipment, and the different types of customs bonds available. We will also touch upon the speed of acquiring a customs bond and the associated costs.

What is a Customs Bond?

A customs bond, also known as a surety bond or import bond, is a legal agreement between three parties: the importer (principal), the surety company (surety), and the Customs and Border Protection Agency (CBP) of the United States. The purpose of this bond is to ensure that the importer follows all customs laws, regulations, and procedures and fulfills any financial obligations associated with the importation process.

Why Do You Need a Customs Bond?

Importers in the United States must obtain a customs bond as part of the customs clearance process. The bond serves as a form of financial security for the government, protecting against potential losses due to non-compliance or financial default. It guarantees that the importer will pay any duties, taxes, fees, or penalties owed to the CBP.

The primary reason for requiring a customs bond is to ensure compliance with customs regulations. Importing goods involves numerous laws and regulations related to trade, security, health, and safety. A customs bond provides the government with an additional assurance that the importer will abide by these regulations.

How Much is a Customs Bond?

The cost of a customs bond varies depending on the bond amount, the type of bond, the importer’s creditworthiness, and the surety company issuing the bond.

Here are the charges associated with customs clearance and related services:

Bond Type
ISF Bond
Not applicable for any value of air shipments. Required for ocean shipments to provide financial security for the ISF filing requirements. Serves as a commitment to comply with customs regulations during the importation process.
Custom Single Bond
$8.50 per $1,000 (Minimum $85.00)
Cost calculated at $8.50 per $1,000 of cargo value for shipments requiring a single-entry bond. Minimum fee of $85.00.
Continuous Bond
$650.00 (Valid for 1 year only)
Required for importation, independent of value or volume. Valid for one year. Serves as a financial guarantee for compliance with customs regulations throughout the importation process.

Applicable Additional Charges

Additional charges may be applied depending upon the commodity type being imported. These charges are auxiliary or supporting in nature.

Here is a table summarizing the charges for custom-related services:

Fee Description
EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) Fee
If the shipment requires compliance with EPA regulations
EDA (Food and Drug Administration) Fee
If the shipment is subject to FDA regulations
MPF (Merchandise Processing Fee)
1% of the declared value
Applied as 1% of the declared value of the goods
HMF (Harbor Maintenance Fee)
1% of the declared value
Applicable for all shipments except for air shipments

What Are The Steps to Get a Customs Bond?

Typically, there are two main ways to obtain a customs bond:

Through an international freight forwarder

International freight forwarders can often assist with customs bond procurement as part of their comprehensive logistics services. They have established relationships with customs brokers and can help facilitate the process on behalf of their clients.

Through a customs broker

Engaging a licensed and reputable customs broker is a common and convenient method for obtaining a customs bond. Customs brokers specialize in customs procedures and regulations and have the knowledge and expertise to handle all the necessary paperwork and documentation for obtaining a bond.

Alternatively, if you prefer to obtain the bond independently, you can purchase one directly from a surety company licensed by the federal government. For instance, customs bonds can be acquired from the U.S. Treasury Department in the United States.

Or, you can just contact SFL Worldwide to obtain custom bonds with ease!

Why Is It Important to Have a Customs Bond?

Having a customs bond is of utmost importance for several reasons:

Compliance with Customs Regulations

A customs bond ensures that importers adhere to all customs laws, regulations, and procedures. It helps prevent potential violations that may result in penalties, fines, or legal consequences.

Facilitates Customs Clearance

Customs bonds expedite the clearance process by providing a financial guarantee to the CBP. This assurance allows importers to move their goods through customs smoothly and efficiently.

Protection Against Financial Loss

The bond protects the CBP from financial losses due to non-compliance or financial default by the importer. It ensures that any duties, taxes, fees, or penalties owed to the CBP will be paid.

Builds Trust with Trading Partners

Having a customs bond demonstrates to trading partners, both domestic and international, that the importer is a reliable and compliant business partner. It enhances the importer’s reputation and can lead to improved relationships and more favorable trading terms.

What Does It Mean if a Shipment is Bonded?

When a shipment is labeled as “bonded,” a customs bond has been filed with the CBP for that particular shipment. Bonded shipments undergo the same customs clearance process as non-bonded shipments, but a bond provides an additional layer of security for the government.

Bonded shipments may be subject to certain conditions or restrictions depending on the type of bond. For example, some bonds may require additional documentation or permits to be provided to the CBP. Importers must understand the specific requirements associated with bonded shipments to ensure compliance.

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What Types of Customs Bonds Are There?

Customs bonds can be categorized into two main types: single-transaction bonds, single-entry bonds (SEBs), and continuous bonds. Each type serves a specific purpose and provides coverage for different scenarios in the importation process.

Continuous Bonds

Continuous bonds, on the other hand, provide ongoing coverage for multiple importation entries for one year. These bonds are renewable and remain in effect until the one-year term expires. Continuous bonds are commonly utilized by importers who engage in regular or frequent importations, as they offer convenience and cost-effectiveness compared to obtaining separate single-entry bonds for each shipment.

Continuous bonds provide coverage at all ports of entry in the United States, allowing importers to streamline their customs clearance processes. They eliminate the need for separate bonds for each entry, saving time and administrative effort. By maintaining a continuous bond, importers can ensure compliance with customs regulations for their ongoing import activities throughout the year.

Single-Transaction Bonds (Single-Entry Bonds or SEBs)

As the name suggests, single-transaction bonds are designed to cover a one-time entry of goods into the United States. These bonds are typically used by importers who engage in infrequent importations or have specific shipments that require clearance.

Once the goods have been imported and the customs process is completed, the single-transaction bond is discharged and is no longer valid. Importers who do not frequently import goods may opt for single-entry bonds to fulfill their customs obligations for individual shipments.

Please Note:

If the goods have already been dispatched and you decide to purchase a bond, you will need to buy a one-year bond. However, if you only intend to ship a product once and want to purchase a single bond, you will need to buy it 24-48 hours before dispatching the specific product.

How Fast Can I Get a Customs Bond?

The speed at which you can obtain a customs bond depends on several factors, including the surety company’s processing time, the completeness of your application, and any additional requirements specific to your situation. Generally, the process can take a few days to a couple of weeks.

To expedite the process, it is recommended to ensure that your application is complete and accurate. Providing all the necessary supporting documents and information will help the surety company review and approve your application more efficiently.


Customs bonds are a crucial component of international trade in the United States. They ensure compliance with customs regulations, facilitate customs clearance, and provide financial security for the government.

Bonded shipments signify a customs bond and may have specific requirements associated with them. Different customs bonds cater to various importation scenarios, and the cost of a customs bond depends on factors such as the bond amount and the surety company.

Important Note: Please note that the provided document is for informational purposes only and is subject to change without prior notice.


The CBP requires a customs bond to ensure compliance with customs laws and fulfill financial obligations for duties, taxes, fees, and penalties.

Choose a single-transaction bond for infrequent shipments or a continuous bond for regular importations. Consult with a surety company or customs broker for guidance.

The time frame varies but can range from a few days to a couple of weeks, depending on processing time, application completeness, and specific requirements.

Custom bonds can be canceled or terminated, but the process and requirements vary. Review bond terms and consult with the surety company for specific procedures.

Non-compliance can result in penalties, fines, legal actions, delays in customs clearance, and harm to your business reputation. Adhering to customs laws is crucial.

No, customs bonds specifically apply to imports. Export-related activities may require other types of bonds, like export bonds or drawback bonds. Seek guidance for export-related bond requirements.

A bond in freight refers to a financial guarantee that ensures the fulfillment of certain obligations and requirements related to the transportation of goods.

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