United States Customs & Border Protection (CBP) agency has introduced state of the art technologies to improve its border protection procedures. PAPS, which is an abbreviation for Prearrival Processing System, is one such technology. It helps carriers and security officials alike conduct cross-border trade. Traders willing to export their cargo from other parts of the world into the United States can reduce their clearance time at the port of entry using PAPS. If a carrier or freight provider has been approved by CBP to participate in the Prearrival Processing System (PAPS), they can submit their documents online before the driver arrives at the port of entry.

CBP does not charge any fees to its users as it helps the border patrol to review documents in advance and be prepared for the cargo before its arrival. This helps in reducing traffic and facilitating trade from the United States borders. PAPS has been facilitating thousands of shipments for many years through land, air or sea routes.

What is a PAPS Number?

The driver carrying the cargo at the port of entry needs to have a PAPS barcode printed on the cargo documents. A PAPS barcode comprises of the United States Standard Carrier Alpha Code (SCAC Code) and the pro-bill number.  Together the SCAC code and pro-bill number make up the Shipment Control Number (SCN).   This barcode is also known as the PAPS Number or “PAPS Sticker”. The PAPS number is simultaneously used by the customs broker to enter the commercial invoice details in the ABI (Automated Broker Interface) system. When the freight arrives at the border, border security officials scan the ACE (Automated Commerical Environment) Trip Number or the transponder in the truck brings up the ACE eManifest to see if the shipment requires any further checks. If they receive clearance from the system, the shipment is allowed to pass through the borders.

The use of the SCAC code is as per the United States Customs and Border Protection regulation which requires that this code is used in the ACE e-manifest system. The SCAC or Standard Carrier Alpha Code usually consists of four letters and identifies the transportation carrier organization.

How Does the PAPS System Work?

When a freight provider sends shipment details to ACE, it can generate a barcode for the cargo or order PAPS stickers from an approved vendor. Since the PAPS number is linked to the Customs Broker ABI entry, CBP and its partner government agencies, officials can use this barcode to perform checks before the cargo arrives at the border.

For the shipment to clear through the borders in a minimal amount of time, and to avoid delays, the shipment must be entered in ACE at least one hour before its arrival at the borders. For FAST shipments, the cargo details can be entered half an hour before it arrives at the port of entry.

One of the critical elements that determine whether the system will pass through the border quickly or not, is the consistency of information. Carriers must ensure the PAPS code is same across the board. The PAPS barcode entered by the broker should match with the one entered in the ACE portal and also with the one printed on cargo documents being carried by the driver.

Printing PAPS Barcode

CBP Prearrival Processing System’s (PAPS) barcodes can be generated by carriers themselves or through commercial printers. However, before using the barcode on their cargo documents, freight providers should confirm if they comply with CBP printing regulations. It is better to test a sample barcode at the port of entry before carrying your cargo at the border. It is always essential that importers establish a connection with a broker inside the country before they start importing into the USA.

One of the most significant benefits acquired through electronic submission of their documents is the online tracking of cargo. Online portals such as the ACE portal, provide automatic notifications to carriers about their shipment. These notifications can be used to avoid any surprises at the port of entry.

Concluding Thoughts

PAPS is one of the many technologies introduced by the United States government to facilitate trade from within and outside of the country. Integration between different online systems allows the government and its partner agencies to complete their cargo verification in a concise amount of time. Carriers should make the best use of this border protection feature to ensure timely delivery of goods to their suppliers.

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