US customs inspections

US Customs Inspections: What You Need to Know

Table of Contents

The most common types of US customs inspections we find: manifest hold, CET hold, PGA, and statistical validation Hold. These holds or verifications of the cargo can take place at the dispatch of the goods. 

The usual is for the customs United States agent to be notified first and later on the importer would be notified should any inconsistency arise. 

US Customs and Border Protection

The CBP or United States Customs and Border Protection is in charge of doing the US customs inspection. This is a US Government agency responsible for protecting the country against illegal activities like human trafficking, drug smuggling, and terrorism.

US customs inspections

A CBP officer also has tasks that have to do with regulation and facilitation of international commerce.

This is the reason US customs container inspection and other actions are taken. To protect agricultural interests, to stop the access of plagues, also to detect illegal drug smuggling, etc. 

US customs employ CBP officers, agriculture specialists, and K9 at the commercial ports and borders as well as the border patrol.

Customs and Border Protection has different departments:

  • Office of Field Operations
  • Office of Border Patrol
  • Office of Air & Marine
  • Office of International Trade
  • OIT
  • OA
  • OTD
  • IA

When looking to import or export goods, an analysis of the market is needed, as well as having good products. Moreover, it is vital to comply with the requirements for moving goods in and out of the United States, as well as the characteristics an SME must have. 

There are many important elements such as the legal establishment of the business, and having a customs agent that can conduct the needed customs processes. Additionally, companies are required to have their RFC and in some cases to register with the Padrón de Exportadores Sectorial as well. 

You’ll need your commercial invoice in hand, the instruction letter from the agent, the packing list, the origin certificate, and the transport document in handy. On top of these, you will also need the health and quality certificate along with the required permits.

At EP Logistics, we specialize in customs dispatch, with 20 years of experience backing our customs agent. We ensure smooth import or export transactions by resolving declarations, duties, and licenses, thereby preventing supply chain delays.

US Customs Inspections and Holds

There are different inspection holds, some take place when the goods enter customs and some information can’t be verified, paperwork is incomplete, or due to system errors.

This is when the CBP officer is responsible for taking the shipment to a secondary US customs inspection station, where necessary time to resolve the situation is taken so that the rest of the goods aren’t delayed. 

The most common US customs inspections are manifest hold, CET Hold (A-TCET), PGA/Commercial Enforcement Hold, and Statistical Validation Hold.

Manifest Hold

Once goods are ready to enter the United States, the CBP is notified, and they sometimes decide to verify the information along with the documents. CBP officers, customs agents, and importers work together to make the verification process as fast as possible.

It is expected for a physical examination of the goods to occur if anything suspicious is noted. The CBP might suspect due to different reasons, like the type of shipment or that a company is importing something that’s not the usual for their business.


(CET) Contraband Enforcement Team Hold has to do with the safety norms for some products meant for human consumption, as well as everything related to registered trademarks and copyrights. This is also an inspection that guarantees the correct classification of HTSUS and the valuation of the goods. This is where both information and physical verifications are conducted, especially when dealing with firearms and drugs.

PGA/Commercial Enforcement Hold

Participating Government Agencies (PGAs) conduct this retention, which means organizations such as the FDA, USDA, and CPSC, among others participate in it. These organizations can retain a container to verify its companies with all rules and regulations. 

Statistical Validation Hold

Another type of US customs inspection, termed Statistical Validation Hold, is employed during the verification process when discrepancies arise. These variations could involve discrepancies in container weight, whether exceeding or falling short of the stated amount, or any similar inconsistencies.

US customs inspections are useful for better control of the goods entering and leaving the country, This allows an increase in safety while doing international trade. Some are conducted just to verify information, and some others because an inconsistency was found. 

EP Logistics extends you an invitation for you to get a free estimate of our services so that we can better assist you in enhancing the speed and efficiency of your international shipments.  

FAQ’s about US Customs Inspections

1. What do they check at US Customs?

They make sure all paperwork is correct, that the information is truthful, and that everything is in order and matching the goods stated. Also, there’s nothing dangerous such as narcotics or firearms inside the shipment.

2. What do customs officers look for?

Customs officers look for smuggled goods that could represent a danger to the country.

3. What countries have US customs preclearance?

Countries like Dublin, Ireland, Aruba, Bermuda, Abu Dhabi, Bahamas, Calgary, and Canada have their US customs preclearance

Gabriela Uribe

Gabriela Uribe

Gabriela Uribe serves as the cornerstone of the sales support team at EP Logistics, leveraging over a decade of seasoned expertise to deliver exceptional service.