Customs Brokers: Giving Credit to Accreditors
U.S. Customs & Border Protection (CBP) published the Final Rule on continuing education for individual customs broker license holders in the Federal Register on June 23, 2023. This Final Rule made several changes to Part 111 of the Customs Regulations and imposed a continuing education requirement on individual license holders.
A good part of the background discussion in the Final Rule involved where to get the required educational hours and who is to provide them.
Part 111.103 of the new regulations contains the requirements for training to qualify towards the continuing education requirement. Any training offered by CBP – whether online or in person – will count. Training offered by other U.S. Government agencies may also count if it is relevant to Customs business. In the Federal Register notices, it was stated that “CBP will identify when a government offered training or educational activity is related to customs business and qualified continuing broker education.”
Thus, the Food & Drug Administration could offer training on the requirements for importing food products and that training would count toward the continuing education requirement if CBP identified it as qualifying.
All qualified training offered by U.S. Government agencies does not need to be accredited. This means it automatically qualifies and no further qualification is needed. Of course, the broker attending the training would need to keep records of the training received.
How about training offered by non-government entities? These could be individuals, firms, organizations and schools. Do they qualify? The answer is yes – providing the training is accredited for the continuing education requirement. How does it get accredited?
CBP probably doesn’t have the resources to provide accreditation. Instead, it will be outsourced to outside parties termed accreditors who will have the ability to accredit training for the continuing education requirement.
Applying to Become an Accreditor
In the FR Notice CBP stated that “CBP believes a public-private partnership is necessary to ensure the best qualified continuing broker education opportunities for individual brokers.” Private entities such as schools, associations, etc. could become qualified to offer training that counts toward the continuing education requirement. How does this happen? An accreditor would need to certify it as counting toward the continuing education requirement.
The regulations for becoming an accreditor appear in Part 111.103(c) and describe the basic requirements for becoming and operating as an accreditor.
These regulations state that the CBP Office of Trade will periodically send out Requests for Information (RFI) and Requests for Proposal (RFP) through an electronic system for award management approved by the US Government General Services Administration in accordance with the Federal Acquisition Regulations. The Office of Trade will periodically publish notices in the Federal Register “announcing the criteria that CBP will use to select an accreditor, the period during which CBP will accept applications by potential accreditors, and the period of award for a CBP-selected accreditor.”
This sounds a bit unsettled. It is the first time CBP has done something like this, so the agency is still working on the details of the process.
Per the Federal Register notice “Accrediting bodies interested in becoming designated accreditors for continuing broker education under the terms of the rule will need to apply to CBP during an open RFP period and then re-apply to confirm their status every three years.”
In a previous Proposed Rule on this subject CBP said that accreditors would need to meet several requirements, including:
- At least one key official with a customs broker license
- Knowledge of Customs and other related laws and regulations
- Professional references
- Resumes of key personnel
- Description of the process for receiving, processing and approving a request for accreditation
The Final Rule and regulations did not include these requirements; however, we expect that the criteria for selection as an accreditor will strongly resemble these requirements.
CBP is not planning to place a limit on the number of accreditors selected. CBP would not pay the accreditors selected but the accreditors could charge providers for accreditation services. Accreditors cannot self-certify their own training programs or materials. Example: ABC Company and XYZ Company are both accreditors. If ABC Company wanted to accredit its own materials or programs, it may have to go to XYZ Company for that accreditation.
Approval of training or programs by an accreditor is valid for one year and can be renewed through any CBP selected accreditor.
When will this start? The new regulations became effective on July 24, 2023. We expect that the accreditation selection process will begin before the end of the year.