(For imports or exports of animal materials or products)

For animal materials Form 3-177 and instructions are downloadable in Adobe Acrobat Reader (version 4.0 or higher). The Box 6 “Customs Document Number” refers to the “Entry Number” which must be used in Box 4 of the separate U.S. Customs Form 3461, as well as Box 2 of USDA/APHIS Form PPQ-505 (for importing only of plant materials) and others (see SECTION 5 and SECTION 6). Computing this number (your task) requires first requesting and being issued a 3-character “Entry Filer Code” from U.S. Customs – unfortunately not something that a small business is qualified to receive and which thus must be handled by a brokerage service (see SECTION 8).

Filling out a Form 3-177 will automatically incur an “inspection” fee for every shipment (regardless of size or value), currently $91.00 (2011) but which will be going up to $93.00 in 2012, $95.00 in 2013 and etc. This and other FWS fees can be viewed here.

It’s should also be realized that although Customs and FWS regulations, forms, instructions, and websites lead us to believe there’s only one acceptable and inflexible way to fill out paperwork and to get clearance on an import or export shipment, that’s not the way things actually work “on the ground”, as per the following two examples:

New York and a few other ports of entry have developed their own proprietary and eccentric demands as to how electronic and paperwork Forms submissions are handled, although these may be contrary to protocol published on their own agency’s federal websites. According to the government’s own “eDecs” site, any import shipment must have Forms 3-177 and 3461 filed electronically at its specific POE before the shipment arrives on U.S. soil, supposedly so that authorities will be ready for processing it as soon as it gets there – but the N.Y. inspectors are too busy to even look at any electronic submissions, instead requiring that you Next Day ship them paper copies of the Forms; only after receiving the paperwork will they bother to look at the electronic submission.

Baltimore has a reputation for being more lax than other ports of entry, such as allowing any old number or shipment “title” to be entered in the FWS Form 3-177 Box 6 even though the 11 digit number that’s supposedly required to go there is a very tightly controlled and specifically calculated one which should be based on a 3-digit Entry Filer Code issued by U.S. Customs to a broker or importer. Also, although most ports of entry require the U.S. Customs Form 3461 to be submitted for any import (and its Box 4 needs the same number entered as on 3-177’s Box 6), inspectors at Baltimore will clear a shipment without it. Thus, a few freight handling companies which are savvy to these processing idiosyncrasies know how to creatively (and it’s assumed, legally) fill out these Forms to make it appear that a shipment is clearing through Baltimore even though it never actually goes to that city, making clearance easier and faster! (From personal communication with the international shipping manager of an east coast company.) The only problem is that if this in any way involves falsifying the paperwork it becomes a federal offense and puts you at great risk – not something that can be recommended.

If it can be understood, it’s not finished yet. Paul Herbig

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