Protests in the New ACE Single Window System

In an effort to streamline and automate the process of documenting the importing and exporting of goods, Customs and Border Protection (“CBP”) has stated its aim of shifting fully to using the Automated Commercial Environment (“ACE”) by the end of 2016. Under this process, ACE with become the “single window” through which the trade community will be able to report imports and exports and receive information regarding admissibility from the government. The entire process will eventually eliminate paper processing, allowing the trade community to comply with US laws more efficiently. Core ACE trade processing capabilities should be completed and deployed by December 2016.

One processing capability under development is the ACE module for filing protests. CBP recently hosted a webinar to review the current design of the ACE protest module, though it’s not yet finalized. CBP intends that ACE will provide an electronic mechanism for the submission of protests, thus reducing the need for the submission of paper, and this will allow for seamless processing by the agency. In order to submit a protest electronically through ACE, those wishing to file protests will be able to do so by creating an account. If already in possession of an ACE account, then ‘protest filer’ may be added to the list of business partners. Those without an ACE account will be able to obtain a ‘protest filer’ account (this is not yet available). In addition, attorneys will be able to have filer accounts, as well as corporate representatives.

Within the protest module, the data fields found on the traditional CBP Form 19 will be able to be populated. The lead entry number for the protest, once input, will auto-populate the importer identification number (“IIN”), port and team number for the protest based on that entry number. However, the assigned review team will be able to be overridden if it is known that a CEE or specific team should be assigned the protest. In other cases, CBP assigns the reviewing party based on the lead entry number. It will be possible for filers to see the protest history for an importer, but the history will only relate to protests submitted by that particular filer. For instance, a broker would be able to see protests that it filed but it wouldn’t be able to access the history of protests filed independently by an importer client. CBP is still developing certain processes within the module, such as the handling of samples, the submission of protests relating to situations without entry numbers, and the uploading of supplemental information. The protest module is currently designed to allow for additional arguments or amendments to be uploaded (“see attachment” can be noted in the reason field).

A few details still need to be worked out, since paper documents have not yet entirely been eliminated. For requests for accelerated disposition of the protest, the regulations specify that requests must be made by certified or registered mail. To handle this, CBP is asking that the filer input the protest in the module, and subsequently go into the protest record and request an “action” that specifies accelerated disposition. The filer will then still need to upload the proof that the request was mailed, the date, etc. As long as the regulations specify that accelerated disposition requests must be submitted by mail, extra steps will be required to designate accelerated disposition in ACE.

Since all the details on the ACE protest module have yet to be completely finalized and it has not yet been deployed, it is helpful to follow postings on its progress at CBP’s website.

Suzanne DeCuir