Welcome to V. Alexander’s Importer Security Filing software training. Importer Security
Filing, or ISF, dramatically changes the flow and timing of documentation and information
in your global supply chain. The VNET ISF software gives importers and sellers a global
desktop with full visibility to the ISF process.
Before we begin talking about the software, let’s take just a minute to review some
key facts about ISF…
Beginning January 26, 2009 USA Importers are required by law to submit no
fewer than 10 data elements + bill of lading number to US Customs no later than 24
hours prior to the container loading on board a vessel at the foreign port.
This regulation ONLY applies to OCEAN shipments
This regulation ONLY applies to OCEAN shipments.
The importer may face penalties amounting to as much as $15,000.00 for each
late or inaccurate filing.
It is critical that the foreign sellers cooperate completely if they wish to continue
selling goods to the United States. Foreign sellers are required to enter some
shipment information into our VNET system NO LATER THAN 48 TO 72 HOURS
PRIOR TO THE CONTAINER LOADING ON BOARD THE VESSEL.
V. Alexander is providing this internet based software to allow for filing the
Importer Security Filing. This software is very easy to learn and use.
To access the VNET ISF Importer portal, you will need to login to the ISF control panel
either from the top of your VNET report by clicking the SWITCH PROGRAM button or at
valexander.com via the ISF LOGIN box.
The first thing you will need to do is enter your sellers into the address book. As you do the
system will send an account setup email to the seller with their login information and
password as well as instructions on using the system.
The seller is ready to begin entering ISF transactions into the system as soon as they
receive the account setup email. It is a good idea to also send an email directly from
yourself ahead of time letting them know that V. Alexander is your Customs Broker and will
be managing your ISF filing program and inform them that they should be expecting this
account setup email shortly.
Typically the seller will “initiate” an ISF transaction at least 72 hours prior to the container
loading on the vessel. For importers who do not want to allow a seller to access the system
loading on the vessel For importers who do not want to allow a seller to access the system
and wish to initiate the ISF themselves there is a way to do this. We will discuss this option
shortly. A graphical representation of the typical process is shown here.
Now that you have seen a broad overview of the process, let’s walk step by step through
each function and take a look at exactly how to use the system.
As we just saw in the overview, The first step is to access the VNET ISF Importer portal. To
do this you will need to login to the ISF control panel either from the top of your VNET
report by using the switch program button or at valexander.com via the ISF LOGIN box. We
currently support Internet Explorer version 7 or greater as well as Mozilla Firefox version 3
If you are using Internet Explorer 8 or higher be sure to run valexander.com in
Once you have logged in the first thing you will see is the CONTROL PANEL. The control
panel is where you will see all ISF activity as your sellers begin to input transactions. There
will be no ISF information showing on the control panel at this time since this is the first
time you have logged in.
The first thing you will want to do is enter your sellers into the system. It is a critical first
step because as you input the seller information, the system will email the seller all the
details they need to login and use the system.
Click on the ADDRESS BOOK button at the top right corner of your screen. Enter the contact
name and email address first, then complete the rest of the form. When you click SUBMIT
the system will automatically send an email with setup details to your seller.
Notice the checkbox below the contact name. If you check this box then the system will
NOT send the seller an account setup email and that seller will NOT have access to the
VNET system. This option applies to sellers where you, as the importer, intend to initiate
the ISF transmission yourself and will not want the seller to have any system interaction.
Remember though, if you choose this option you will still need to manually collect ISF
information, bill of lading number and documentation in time to initiate the ISF at least 48
to 72 hours prior to the container loading on the vessel at the foreign port.
In some cases the importer may not want the seller to see the ship to party information. By
default, no seller is allowed access to this information. If you want the seller to be able to
see or enter ship‐to parties then you will need to be sure to check the box allowing that
seller to enter and view these details.
As you add sellers to your account they will be listed here, on the address book page. From
here you can also EDIT and DELETE sellers as well as manage other parties and contacts.
Every party that you enter into the system can have one or more contacts added to it.
Contact information is optional for all parties with the exception of the seller.
The “other parties” tab allows you to enter additional ISF parties, such as manufacturers,
consolidators and container stuffing locations. Usually this information will be entered by
your seller. However, the “Buyer” and “Ship‐To” is information that you will probably want
to enter. Every seller record has its own “other parties” information which is specific to that
seller. In most cases, when entering ship‐to, buyer and other information you will want to
enter this only once.
If you check the “associate this party to all sellers” checkbox then that party will become
available to all filings for all sellers. By doing this you only need to enter that party one time
in the system.
The contacts tab allows you to enter contacts for any party. This information is
optional and is NOT required for the ISF filing. It is only meant to provide assistance
to V. Alexander entry staff in case they need to question or verify any information.
Importer and shipper contacts will receive all email correspondence regarding ISF
filings and system updates. Contacts for any other party will not receive system
From the contacts tab you can add contacts to the seller as well as SEND AN
ACCOUNT SETUP EMAIL in case you need to allow other users with the seller to add
information into the system. This is also useful if your seller says that they never
received the original setup email. Sometimes email may get caught in junk mail
filters. Be sure to let your seller know that our email will come from
Now that you have entered your sellers they can begin inputting shipment level
information. Unless you have setup sellers that will not have system access, you will only
need to “monitor” ISF activity. As soon as the seller initiates an ISF filing, you will see it on
your control panel. More importantly, V. Alexander entry staff are notified and from their
control panel will begin working the ISF transaction and submit it to Customs.
To help you get the big picture, let’s take a minute and look at what is happening on the
seller side of this process.
seller side of this process
At the same time you entered the seller into your address book they where sent an account
notification email. From there, the seller’s process begins with them logging into their
account at valexander.com. The first thing they will see is their control panel, which for now
is blank since they are new to the system. As soon as they have a shipment to enter they
will click the START HERE button to go the filing screen and initiate a new ISF filing.
Next, the seller will begin by either choosing a template saved from a previous filing or
starting a new, blank filing. First, they will select the importer they wish to file for; then
enter the bill of lading, vessel and estimated sail date.
The next part of the input screen requires the seller to select the ISF parties. These fields
will pull information from the address book so that each party’s information only has to be
The final step is very important and possibly the most challenging step for sellers. They
must either scan and upload the commercial invoice or complete the invoice summary
form that is available. V. Alexander must have this information to classify the invoice
accurately for customs. Tariff classification will be determined and input by a V. Alexander
entry specialist. Typically no seller would ever be expected to determine or enter the tariff
numbers for any commodity. It is very important that this information match the customs
Now that the seller has initiated the ISF, the shipment is shown on their control panel.
From here sellers can monitor filing status, file amendments, view attached document and
other functions. At the time the ISF was initiated, V. Alexander staff were notified and
began working on the final filing to US Customs. As soon as Customs accepts the filing the
seller will be notified by email and their control panel will indicate that the container is OK
It is important to also note that if any information changes prior to arrival at the U.S.A.
port, U.S. Customs requires that the ISF be amended or be subject to penalty. Another
important item to mention is that if a shipment that has an ISF already filed with U. S.
Customs is cancelled and does not ship Customs requires that the ISF be withdrawn. The
filing is, again, subject to a penalty if it is not withdrawn.
Now let’s take a look at the functions available to you as the importer. When you login, the
control panel will be displayed. It is from this screen that you will see all ISF activity from
each of your sellers.
Some of the options on your control panel include:
• Full search capability. To search for any current or old filing simply choose what
field you wish to search by and then enter your search criterion. You can also filter
this by the create date.
To view commercial documents, transaction summary and ISF summary
• To view commercial documents transaction summary and ISF summary
information click the icons at the left of the row.
• Shipments will fall off the control panel seven days after Customs acceptance. If
you want to remove an accepted shipment before the seven days have passed
simply click the gear icon and select “ARCHIVE”.
If you setup any sellers for “internal use” then you will be initiating the filing your self. This
will still require you to collect the necessary ISF information including bill of lading number
and commercial documents at least 48 to 72 hours prior to container loading. The system,
in fact, will allow an importer to file an ISF at any time, regardless of whether the seller has
system access or not. Also, at any time if you want to change a seller that previously was
marked as an “internal seller” to one that has their own account access with the ability to
initiate ISF filings just notify your account representative and we can assist with this.
We will quickly walk through the input of an ISF for those that will be initiating the filings
themselves. Let’s begin by clicking the START HERE button.
Step one for ISF filing starts by deciding if you would like to use a template. If you have
previously saved a transaction as a template you can select the template from the drop
down list, fill in the ETD Foreign Port, vessel name and bill of lading number. Please note
that if there is a house bill of lading then you must use this, otherwise use the master bill of
lading number. It is critically important that the bill of lading number be accurate. To insure
this, the system will force you to enter it twice. US Customs also requires accurate bill of
lading SCAC codes and the system will notify you if a bad code is used. The SCAC code is the
four character code that prefixes every bill of lading and represents the carrier. For example
four character code that prefixes every bill of lading and represents the carrier For example
you may have seen MAEU used for Maersk or OOLU used for OOCL.
In step two of the filing screen you will be selecting the ISF parties. If you have previously
setup these parties in your address book then just select them from the drop down list. If
not, no problem; just click the silhouette icon and add it here. If you need to remove the
party from the filing just click the red delete icon. This will only remove the party from that
filing, it will not remove the party from your address book.
In the final step you will be uploading commercial documents. V. Alexander entry staff will
classify and input the commodity details for you. It is also possible for an importer to enter
tariff and commodity information themselves. Let your account representative know if you
would like to explore this option. Remember that you can save this filing as a template for
future use by checking the save template box and entering a template name.
Now that you have initiated the ISF your V. Alexander entry team will complete the filing
and send it to U.S. Customs. As soon as Customs has accepted the ISF you will be notified
via email and the ISF status on your control panel will change to accepted. If you need to
amend the ISF at anytime prior to arrival at the first US port, you can do this by clicking the
gear icon. US Customs REQUIRES that filings be amended if any information changes prior
to arrival of the vessel at the first US port or the filing is subject to penalty.
V. Alexander is committed to making your ISF program a success. It will require the
complete cooperation of your seller and possibly a dramatic change in your information
and document flow. However, with careful attention it is certainly manageable.
Remember, the ISF must be filed no later than 48 to 72 hours prior to the container loading
on the vessel at the foreign port. This is the most important aspect of this rule. Even if all
information is not known at that time, you or your seller should file using best information
available and amend it later.
available and amend it later
Be sure to check valexander.com and look for the IMPORTER SECURITY FILING section for
the latest news and updates on this program. You can also download important documents
such as our ISF webinar, FAQ document and the final rule document from the Federal
Finally, THANK YOU for your continued support and trust in V. Alexander. We are very
pleased to be able to provide this solution. Your account team is ready for your call should
you have any questions or comments.