Docket No. USCBP-2020-0042
The following was submitted on behalf of the FCBF Membership on Dec 28, 2021:
The Florida Customs Brokers and Forwarders Association (FCBF), a not-for-profit entity founded in 1960, is an organization made up of over four hundred (400) member companies from the Florida freight forwarding, customs brokerage, and related trade community. Through its variety of committees of working professionals, the FCBF represents our industry in matters that directly affect international trade. We thank you for seeking comments from the trade and customs brokerage community prior to issuing the formal NPRM regarding the topic of continuing education requirements for licensed customs brokers. In preparation for our response, we consulted directly with our Customs Committee as well as our members, who are licensed customs brokers and would be most affected by this ANPRM, in order to provide you with an accurate consensus opinion.
FCBF supports CBP’s proposal requiring continuing education for licensed customs brokers. We opine that 40 hours over 3 years seems like an appropriate amount of training as this is in line with the number of hours our active members are already spending in training. Training provided by CBP, Partner Government Agencies (PGAs) and from trade associations, such as the National Customs Brokers and Forwarders Association Educational Institute (NEI) and FCBF, should be considered as qualifying coursework. Brokers should be allowed to choose which specific training to attend based on their specific needs and general business environment. We suggest that ample free and/or reasonably priced trainings be made available to the brokerage community so that cost should not be regarded as a limiting factor. We support a continuing education requirement because this is the best manner in which to ensure that brokers stay updated in our ever-changing regulatory environment and maintain our expertise in matters related to customs business.
In order to ensure a robust educational experience for licensed customs brokers, we recommend CBP adopt a clear set of guidelines as to what constitutes education and should include both practical case study and overarching trade topics. This should include options from a diverse list of aspects of professional development, as well as from all of the partner government agencies (PGAs). This list will also help any certifying entity to clearly evaluate the validity of any proposed CE credits. The education should be permitted in either a classroom setting or online, as long as such training is taught or overseen by a licensed customs broker, a trade attorney, an experienced consultant, or a qualified representative of CBP or any PGA.
In-person CE programs can range from standalone one-hour programs to multi-day programs with many sessions to sessions at trade association meetings. Live CE programs can be delivered via online webinar or teleconference, and on-demand offerings can take place as pre-recorded streaming audio or video presentations. Any qualifying CE program should be announced as such, and we recommend 60 minutes of instruction per credit hour as an acceptable national standard. For example, a 90-minute seminar would represent 1.5 CE credits. This is in line with other professional continuing education requirements in other industries.
With regards to the certification of continuing education, we recommend that, when necessary, credits be evaluated and approved by not-for-profit representative trade associations and educational associations, such as the National Customs Brokers and Forwarders Association of America (NCBFAA), NEI, FCBF, and the like. This ensures a non-biased approach to the qualification of CE credits, as well as facilitates the process of promulgating valuable opportunities for brokers around the country to remain at the forefront of safe and regulated trade. Sufficient effort should be made by such evaluating entities to ensure that content provided in qualifying seminars and programs be up-to-date and relevant.
Upon completion of training from approved sources, brokers should be provided with a training certificate (or an acceptable equivalent), which should be kept and submitted when necessary, as proof of training. The triennial reporting period is an appropriate time period for the collection of these records which will be produced for CBP audits. We favor a progressive enforcement approach whose main objective should be to solicit compliance from brokers rather than to discipline them. It seems reasonable to grant 120 days to brokers who need to take corrective action to obtain the necessary education credits if they have failed to meet minimum compliance requisites. We believe that a broker whose license has been suspended should not have to meet the CE requirements until such time as they desire to reinstate their license, at which time, it would be appropriate to require the completion of 15-20 hours of training in order to get reinstated regardless of the nature of the suspension.
Our members overwhelmingly indicated their support for the requirement of continuing education for licensed customs brokers. We strongly encourage steps be taken so that the program is designed in a manner that will add value to the relationship between customs brokers and CBP.