Many professions require some form of continuing education for individuals to maintain licenses and certifications. U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) wants the nation’s estimated 11,000 licensed customs brokers to meet similar standards for professional growth.
CBP Deputy Commissioner Robert Perez announced Sept. 23 that the agency will form a “task force” to establish a continuing education framework for licensed customs brokers, which could become a regulatory requirement.
“In the ever faster-paced environment of international trade, members of the broker community have expressed a need for brokers to develop and maintain a continuing education requirement in order to stay apprised of the latest U.S. requirements for conducting customs business,” a CBP spokesman told American Shipper.
“With numerous special trade remedies being implemented on an almost monthly basis, the urgency of understanding importers’ compliance with these remedies has become even more pronounced,” he added.
To operate as a customs broker in the U.S., individuals must be tested, vetted and licensed by CBP. Licensed customs brokers work on behalf of importers to enter goods arriving in the U.S., as well as facilitate the payment of duties, taxes and fees to CBP.
CBP regulations require periodic fees to maintain a customs broker license and to conduct customs business, either as a sole broker, a brokerage house, or as part of a company that imports goods into the country. Continuing education requirements are currently not required.
CBP said the framework would address, but is not limited to:
- The legal foundation for requiring continuing education for customs brokers;
- Roles and responsibilities of the organization(s) administering the education profile;
- Roles and responsibilities of CBP employees;
- Roles and responsibilities of a licensed customs broker to obtain periodic education and how to document that learning;
- Possible consequences of not obtaining education on the status of an individual’s license;
- Possible mitigating factors on enforcement actions that obtaining periodic education might have.
CBP plans to develop the framework through a work group with participants from CBP, the customs broker industry, members of the Commercial Customs Operations Advisory Committee (COAC), and additional industry experts as needed. “Participants would meet periodically, in person or via conference call, for a minimum of three to six months,” the CBP spokesperson said.
“We’re supportive of this and look forward to working with CBP on developing a continuing education program,” said Mary Jo Muoio, chair of the National Customs Brokers and Forwarders Association of America’s Customs Committee. “We see it as an opportunity to maintain a high level of professionalism in our industry and we believe continuing education should be a part of that.”
“Being such an important partner with CBP in the field of International trade is something we take great pride in and makes us a great partner in shaping this program,” said Federico “Kiko” Zuniga, executive director of the NCBFAA Educational Institute (NEI). “We as an industry are already providing our members with this type of education and have had a program in place for 14 years. So, we have some experience with what could work.”
NEI offers a Certified Customs Specialist Program in which educates customs brokers by providing online courses, webinars, annual Global Trade Education conferences, and access to many trade-related educational partners dealing with International trade.
For CBP’s needs, it will be important to “come up with a flexible program that’s real world oriented,” Muoio said.