There are many considerations when a moving data center and IT equipment into the United States from Canada. Pair this with the multitude of moving parts when transporting computer equipment or a data center into the states. A company can’t simply just load servers or IT equipment into a truck and drive across the border.

Inventory & Commercial Invoice

The first step is inventory and is the most important. Difficulty executing will depend on your company size, organization level, and how many “things” that will need to cross the border. The next step in bringing any data center or computer equipment across the US border will be your company’s commercial invoice.

The commercial invoice should contain the following information:

  • Invoice date
  • Invoice number
  • The address in which the equipment is being shipped from with contact person/information
  • The address in which the equipment is being shipped to with contact person/information
  • Ultimate Consignee (name of consignee, contact information, tax ID, and if there is an alternate ship to address)
  • Tariff Heading/HS Code US
  • Country of destination
  • Piece Count / Weight
  • Dimensions
  • Packaging Information (how equipment is packaged)
  • Mode of Transportation
  • Carrier Name
  • Tracking number (if applicable)

Each inventoried item on the commercial invoice should have the following information provided:

  • Quantity
  • License (if applicable)
  • Description of item, HTS (US)
  • Country of Origin
  • Unit Price
  • Total Amount (in USD)
  • Freight sub-total
  • Insurance amount
  • Grand total

We always have the following on the bottom of our commercial invoices:

  1. “Contents of this package are not intended for sale or resale. Value declared for customs purposes only, based on acquisition and other related costs. These commodities, technology or software were exported from the United States in accordance with the Export Administration Regulations. Diversion contrary to U.S. law prohibited.”
  2. At the very bottom of the commercial invoice, you will want to have a company representative name, job title, signature, and date signed line. This commercial invoice will need to be filed with customs prior to entry.

NAFTA Certificate

Part of the paperwork process is completing a NAFTA certificate as well. According to the U.S. Customs and Border Protection, a NAFTA Certificate is a “trilaterally agreed upon form used by Canada, Mexico, and the United States to certify that goods qualify for the preferential tariff treatment accorded by NAFTA.” More can be read on the CBP website.

Duty Rates

The Harmonized Tariff System (HTS) provides duty rates for virtually every item in existence. More can be read on the CBP website.

You can access the U.S. International Trade Commission, Tariff Database by visiting their website.

Merchandise Processing Fee’s

According to the U.S. Customs and Border Protection “In addition to duty and possible excise tax, goods imported into the United States are subject to user fees. The user fee and amount collected by CBP depends on the type of entry and mode of transportation used to bring the goods into the United States. For instance, formal and informal entries are subject to a Merchandise Processing Fee (MPF).” More can be read on on the CBP website.

e-Manifest

When transporting, you must be bonded and registered with the government. An e-manifest will need to be completed and submitted to customs. This is also known as the ACE/ACi eManifest. It contains the following information will need to be completed:

  1. Transport carrier code
  2. CRN/Trip number
  3. Port of arrival
  4. Carrier name and address
  5. Estimated date & time of arrival
  6. Carrier phone number
  7. Carrier fax number
  8. Indication that the truck is full not empty (since we are bringing goods into the States)
  9. VIN number of the truck(s) crossing the border
  10. Vehicle license plate state/province and country
  11. Type of vehicle (semi tractor, box truck, etc… )
  12. Equipment/trailer license plate number

Crew & Driver information needed on e-Manifest:

  1. Drivers name
  2. Drivers DOB
  3. Driver Gender
  4. Citizenship status
  5. Driver’s license number, state issued, and country
  6. Second form of ID (passport number), country issued
  7. FAST program participant (yes or no) If yes, card number
  8. If there is a passenger with the driver, the following will same information as listed in lines 1 through 7 will be required.

Shipment & Cargo Information required on e-Manifest:

  1. PAR/PAPS SCN#
  2. TRIP/CRN number (**To ensure all your shipments are properly entered and attached to the correct Trip, please be sure to complete field 2 with the corresponding trip/CRN, and field 3 on page 2 with the number of shipments, ex 1 of 2, 2 of 2, etc.)
  3. Shipment count (i.e. one of one, or 1 of 5)
  4. Customs broker name
  5. Customs broker filer code
  6. Name & address of shipper/supplier
  7. Name & address of the consignee
  8. Description of goods
  9. Gross weight (of truck)
  10. Quantity and type of units (ex., boxes, bags, pieces, etc… )
  11. Shipment contains goods subject to FDA Prior Notice? (yes or no)
  12. Shipment contains hazardous materials? If yes, then you must include the insurance company, policy number, policy year, policy amount, type of hazmat, hazmat contact name, and hazmat contact phone number.

Custom Broker or Representative

Most companies do not have an internal customs representative. It is important to utilize a well-seasoned customs agent, so time delays and transport delays do not happen. Your customs agent typically double checks (or creates) the commercial invoice, so a second set of trained eyes will go a long way in these cases. Another benefit is that the customs broker usually holds/has power of attorney (POA), making it a bit easier. Power of Attorney (POA) is also required as a part of relocating equipment into the States, more can be read on the CBP website. (this is also an advantage of having a customs broker).

What to expect when you are at the Border Crossing

Expect to wait; there are typically lines depending on the timing of entry. A customs agent will greet you (be sure to power down your truck when you meet up with the agent, its good practice) and expecting your paperwork, driver’s license, passport, and usually a small fee. If you have completed all the necessary paperwork, it is in order and submitted, everything should move along at this point. After the customs agent reviews the paperwork, you will typically be directed to an x-ray area. You pull your truck into a designated area (paperwork in hand just in case), park your truck, and power it down. The customs agent will expect you to exit the vehicle and wait in a small waiting area (usually close to the truck). They will perform an x-ray of your truck, and if all looks “good” they will signal you to re-enter your vehicle. At this point you are free to travel forward and onto your final destination in the United States!