The Automated Broker Interface is a part of the ACS or the Automated Commercial System that permits qualified participants to file import data electronically with CBP (US Customs and Border Protection). ABI is a voluntary program available to brokers, importers, carriers, port authorities, and independent service centers.
In simple terms, ABI speeds up the process of the release of goods to the trade community. It is a primary system for processing entries and entry summaries. The ABI arranges for customs brokers, importers, and authorized agents with direct connectivity to CBP and other partner government agencies. ABI not only facilitates cargo clearance and streamlines processing for filers; it also helps track cargo movement and serves as a repository for shipment data.
ABI serves many purposes:
Users can not only use ABI to transmit, validate, edit and confirm entries and entry summaries, but also query trade data such as cargo release, entry summary status, and visa requirements along with processing payment for multiple entries with one transaction, and processing payment of customs duties, taxes, and fees through the Automated Clearinghouse (ACH).
Qualified participants can also authenticate duties, taxes, and fees, communicate with CBP, receive real-time status alerts, and receive reports and administrative messages like notices of liquidation, extension, and suspension. Additionally, they can look up tariff updates and generate error statistics reports.
Most participants prefer using either an in house ABI software or one that is provided by a third party. It is essential to use updated software due to continued evolvement and addition of functionalities to the software. Third-party software is usually more popular because of cost-effectiveness, provided that it is approved by CBP. Such software helps participants overcome changing requirements and streamline electronic paperwork.
All information exchange between ABI users and CBP is done through ACE(Automated Commercial Environment), CBP’s single window for communication. To expedite the process, ABI software connects directly to ACE with the submission of entries and other essential electronic data. CBP also provides a published list of approved vendors of ABI services and other IT services.
Before signing a contract with any vendor though, a company must evaluate their needs and frequency of filing, number of transactions, and number of users and then settle on software that fulfills their needs.
For example, for smaller businesses or brokerage firms, ABI software installed on their computer or a web-based application might be enough. Cloud-based ABI solutions are common because they allow users to access files and data on any device at any time. Cloud-based ABI software removes the need for costly installation and maintenance and gives users more control over their data.