Mandatory Use of ACE

U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s long-awaited transition from the Automated Commercial System to the Automated Commercial Environment will begin May 1. However, customs brokers and self-filers should be especially focused on the Nov. 1 deadline for all entries and entry summaries to be filed in ACE.

First Phase.

Electronic manifest filing for cargo transported by truck, ocean and rail is already mandatory in ACE. The official date for filing electronic air manifests in ACE is May 1, but because the technical changes for air manifest data will take place May 2 to minimize operational impact during the normal work week, May 3 will be the first day on which electronic air import manifests will be processed in ACE. CBP also notes that air QX/WX ABI in-bond processing will cease on May 1 and that all air ABI in-bond processing will have to use the QP/WP application to file in-bonds for airway bills of lading.

Electronic export manifest functionality will be rolled out via mode-specific pilots according to the following tentative schedule: air, spring 2015; ocean, 2015; rail, 2015; truck, to be determined. Paper export manifest filing will still be available after May 1 but filers are encouraged to volunteer for filing electronic export manifests as soon as the Federal Register notices announcing these pilots are published. Current ocean export manifest pilots for the vessel transportation module in the Automated Export System and the Document Image System have been coded in ACE, and these pilots will continue for the time being after May 1.

Second Phase.

All electronic cargo release (formerly referred to as entry, CBP Form 3461, or simplified entry) and entry summary (formerly referred to as CBP form 7501) data submitted to CBP must be transmitted to ACE beginning Nov. 1. As of this date, electronic entries and related entry summaries will no longer be accepted in ACS. If the entry/entry summary is filed in ACS prior to Nov. 1, then its lifecycle will remain in ACS and follow-up processing will be done in ACS.

Filers who are not prepared to file entries/entry summaries in ACE on Nov. 1 will face significant delays in cargo processing that will affect therelease of goods at the border since entries/entry summaries not filed in ACE will be filed as paper transactions and CBP ports of entry are not currently prepared to handle an increase in the volume of paper transactions. CBP therefore continues to urge filers to prepare for this transition by ensuring their ABI software vendors have made the changes needed to allow transactions to be filed in ACE. CBP recently noted that only 3.9 percent of entries and 47.6 percent of entry summaries are currently being filed in ACE. While some in the trade community believe these statistics suggest that the Nov. 1 deadline may be pushed back, CBP officials have given no indication of any such delay.

Partner Government Agencies

PGA data required at the time of entry and/or entry summary, including supplemental data required to effect release, must also be submitted to ACE as of Nov. 1 (with some exceptions – see below). The following PGAs have been identified as having requirements at the time of entry/entry summary that must be accounted for in order to the meet the Nov. 1 filing deadline. A list of the PGA forms that will be required on Nov. 1 and the mechanism through which they must be submitted is now available here.

  • Department of Agriculture
  • Agricultural Marketing Service
  • Food Safety and Inspection Service
  • Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service
  • Department of Commerce
  • National Marine Fisheries Service
  • Enforcement and Compliance
  • Department of Defense
  • Defense Contracts Management Agency
  • Department of Health and Human Services
  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
  • Food and Drug Administration
  • Department of the Interior
  • Fish and Wildlife Service
  • Department of Justice
  • Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives
  • Drug Enforcement Administration
  • Department of State
  • Directorate of Defense Trade Controls
  • Department of Transportation
  • National Highway Traffic Safety Administration
  • Department of the Treasury
  • Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau
  • Independent Agencies
  • Environmental Protection Agency

CBP is working with the PGAs to pilot their capabilities and roll them out incrementally, with the understanding that all PGA data requirements at time of entry or entry summary must be in ACE by Nov. 1. CBP notes that currently entries and entry summaries with PGA data can only be filed in ACE if part of an existing PGA pilot (click here for list of PGA pilots, which is being expanded frequently.

There are four exceptions for filing PGA data electronically via ACE.

  • data provided by trade filers who are required or elect to file entirely in paper
  • data currently provided to agencies on paper forms when those agencies have received concurrence for the continued use of specific paper documents
  • data required by agencies that have not completed regulatory amendments to authorize the collection of data electronically
  • electronic submissions of supplemental information filed directly with a PGA until technical capabilities are available to file such information in ACE via the DIS or otherwise (no later than December 2016)

Hybrid submissions – those that are a combination of electronically submitted information via ACE and paper forms – will only be allowed for those PGAs who have received Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs approval to continue to request supplemental information via paper. For all other submissions, if the filer is not able to submit all information electronically, the entire submission, including entry, entry summary and PGA information, will have to be filed via paper.


Third Phase.

Effective Oct. 1, 2016, filers will need to ensure that all additional electronic cargo data (e.g., protest, reconciliation, NAFTA duty deferral and drawback) is being transmitted to ACE. Additionally, CBP will migrate the liquidation process to ACE during this phase.

Excerpt from Sandler, Travis, and Rosenberg |  April 14, 2015


Scarbrough International, Ltd. has been a proud test pilot for the ACE Program since 2009.  Our expertise on ACE extend beyond that of a typical broker.  Please don’t hesitate to contact us with any questions.  Email Adam Hill, Vice President of Operations, at