Details of the three cases of U.S. Customs inspection

Type of customs inspection #1:VACIS/NII EXAM

The Vehicle and Cargo Inspection System (VACIS) or Non-Intrusive Inspection (NII) is the most typical inspection you’ll encounter. Despite the fancy acronyms, the process is quite simple: Your container is X-rayed to give U.S Customs agents a chance to look for contraband items or cargo that doesn’t match the paperwork provided.


Because this inspection is relatively unobtrusive, it’s generally less costly and time-consuming. The inspection costs around $300. However, you may also be charged for transportation to and from the inspection site, also known as drayage. How long it takes depends on the amount of traffic in the port and the length of the queue, but you’re generally looking at 2-3 days.


If the VACIS/NII exam doesn’t yield anything surprising, your container will be released and sent on its way. However, if the exam raises suspicion, your shipment will be escalated to one of the two more thorough exams that follow.


Type of customs inspection #2:Tail Gate Exam

In a VACIS/NII exam, the seal on your container stays intact. However, a Tail Gate Exam represents the next step of the investigation. In this type of exam, a CBP officer will break the seal of your container and take a peek inside some of the shipments.


Because this exam is a little more intense than a scan, it may take 5-6 days, depending on port traffic. Costs can be up to $350, and, again, if the shipment has to be moved for inspection, you’ll pay any transportation costs.


If everything looks in order, the container may be released. However, if things don’t look right, your shipment may get upgraded to the third type of inspection.


Type of customs inspection #3:Intensive Customs Exam

Buyers and sellers often dread this particular type of examination, because it can result in delays that range from a week to 30 days, depending on how many other shipments are in the inspection queue.

For this exam, your shipment will be transported to a Customs Examination Station (CES), and, yes, you’ll pay the drayage costs for moving your goods to the CES. There, the shipment will be thoroughly inspected by CBP.


As you can probably guess, this type of inspection will be the most costly of the three. You’ll be charged for the labor to unload and reload the shipment, as well as detention costs for keeping your container longer than expected—and more. At the end of the day, this type of exam can cost you a couple of thousand dollars.


Finally, neither CBP nor the employees of the CES are responsible for any damage done during an inspection


They will also not repack the container with the same care it was originally shown. As a result, shipments subject to intensive customs exams may arrive damaged.

Post time: Apr-26-2023