Need to get CTPAT certified? Read this guide.

Need to get a CTPAT license & certification but don’t know where to start? This article will walk you through the steps to get CTPAT certified.

What is CTPAT?

The Customs-Trade Partnership Against Terrorism (C-TPAT) is a certification that provides security procedures against terrorist threats when importing goods into the United States. It secures your supply chain with your foreign business partners. This certification allows for closer cooperation with U.S. Customs by demonstrating safe practices on the part of all participants.

What is PIP?

Partners in Protection (PIP) certification is similar to C-TPAT certification. It is designed to “accelerate border processes in Canada and make them more efficient for preapproved, low-risk businesses that are recognized as reliable traders.”

How are CTPAT and PIP related?

The Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) and the United States Customs and Border Protection (U.S. CBP) have committed to harmonizing the CBSA’s Partners in Protection (PIP) and U.S. CBP’s Customs Trade Partnership Against Terrorism (CTPAT) programs, with a focus on highway carriers. Harmonization aligns the membership requirements of both programs, to the greatest extent possible, for the benefit of applicants, members, and both customs organizations.

Harmonization enables eligible companies to apply to both programs using a single application process, undergo only one site validation, and have a single point of contact to administer their membership in both programs. Based on the location of the company’s corporate headquarters, either PIP or CTPAT will be designated as the host program to administer harmonized membership on behalf of both programs, thereby streamlining the requirements for maintaining membership status.

For information on eligibility requirements and applying for harmonized membership, visit the Trusted Trader Portal help page.

Who is eligible?

Only certain types of companies are eligible to become CTPAT certified. This includes:

  • US Importers of record
  • US exporters
  • US/Canada and US/Mexico cross-border highway carriers
  • Mexico long-haul highway carriers
  • Rail carriers
  • Sea carriers
  • Air carriers
  • US Marine port authority and terminal operators
  • Consolidators
  • Mexican manufacturers
  • Canadian manufacturers
  • Certain invited foreign manufacturers
  • Licensed US customs brokers
  • Third-party logistics providers

How CTPAT works

When an entity joins CTPAT, an agreement is made to work with CBP to protect the supply chain, identify security gaps, and implement specific security measures and best practices. Applicants must address a broad range of security topics and present security profiles that list action plans to align security throughout the supply chain. CTPAT members are considered to be of low risk, and are therefore less likely to be examined at a U.S. port of entry.

Switchboard automates CTPAT compliance

Drivers can easily perform trip inspections specifically for CTPAT right in the Switchboard app.

Benefits of getting a CTPAT certification

CTPAT Partners enjoy a variety of benefits, including taking an active role in working closer with the U.S. Government in its war against terrorism. As they do this, Partners are able to better identify their own security vulnerabilities and take corrective actions to mitigate risks. Some of the benefits of the program include:

  • A reduced number of border checks;
  • Access to the list of member companies of the program;
  • The possibility of using the FAST/EXPRESS LANE line to cross the border;
  • The establishment of a single contact;
  • Eligibility for various customs programs;
  • Recognition of your company by your business partners and increased security within your own company.

Steps to getting your CTPAT certification?

In general, there are three steps to C-TPAT certification:

  1. Risk assessment: The C-TPAT candidate conducts and fully documents a security risk assessment
  2. Application: The company then submits an application via the C-TPAT portal system.
  3. Security profile: The third step is for the company to complete a security profile explaining how they are meeting C-TPAT criteria
These steps can take anywhere from 

Risks of doing it yourself

Due to the extreme scrutiny that the CBP places on the security guidelines and documentation, it is important to have an expert internally or externally manage the application & certification maintenance process.

If at any point your carrier fails to meet the security requirements, you could lose your certification.

“Failure to meet C-TPAT commitments will result in suspension or removal of C-TPAT certification status and associated benefits. Benefits may be reinstated upon correcting identified deficiencies in compliance and/or security. ” – CBP official statement

Want help managing your CTPAT certification?

Our safety & compliance friends over at Frontline Safety & Compliance can help take care of the whole process for your carrier.

Comment on this FAQ