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CTPAT Audit and Requirements: Key Things You Need To Know

The Customs-Trade Partnership Against Terrorism (CTPAT) is a voluntary support program led by the US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) focused on improving the security of private companies’ supply chains via a CTPAT audit. All participants in this program pledge to protect their supply chain from the concealment of terrorist weapons, including those of mass destruction.

However, to comply with the CTPAT requirement and obtain a certificate you’ll need to be aware of the key rules. In this guide, we cover everything you need to know about CTPAT certification, regulations, and the overall process.

What Is C TPAT?

C TPAT was established in November 2001 in response to the September 11 terrorist attack in New York. It is a voluntary incentive-based program where partners work with members of the trade community to strengthen global supply chain security and prevent the supply chain from being compromised by terrorist organisations.

Many companies are eligible for C TPAT membership including importers, exporters, third-party logistics providers, consolidators, air carriers, cross-border highway carriers, marine port authorities, ocean carriers, rail carriers, terminal operators, and customs brokers.

What Are the C TPAT requirements?

The C-TPAT requirements are a set of guidelines that the US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agency has provided to the US Customs and Border Protection. They are designed to help companies understand what they need to do to comply with the CTPAT program.

C-TPAT Requirements Checklist

For an importer to be eligible to join CTPAT they must follow the following C TPAT compliance checklist.

  • Be an active importer or a non-resident Canadian importer that has imported goods into the US within the past 12 months.
  • Have an active US importer of Record (IOR) number.
  • Have a valid continuous bond registered with Customs and Border Control.
  • Operate a business office staffed in the US or Canada.
  • Designate a company officer who is the primary cargo officer responsible for C TPAT.
  • Commit to maintaining the C TPAT supply chain security criteria outlined in the C TPAT Importer Agreement.
  • Complete a supply chain security profile in the C TPAT portal and identify how it will develop.
  • Have no unpaid debt owed to CBP at the time of the application.


What Is C TPAT Compliance?

When it comes to CTPAT compliance, it is important your business have all the correct documents.

CTPAT Documentation for Personnel

You must have a contract with employment agencies that includes background screenings including DMV, FBI, and export control screenings. As proof of the screening process taking place at your company, you must keep a copy as evidence.

CTPAT Documentation for Business Partners

For business partners, you must review and screen your customer database, vendor/supplier database, transactional partners, and service providers. In addition, your foreign suppliers must complete and submit their CTPAT questionnaire to you and identify any weaknesses, have an improvement plan, and retain all such documents.

CTPAT Documentation for Carriers

For carriers, you must seek and retain the CTPAT certificate. This shows due diligence by keeping your own files and this is vital when validating your C TPAT status.

For IT and technology access, you can use your C TPAT manual alongside any technology control plans you may have for export control purposes. You must keep all documents, including a wide-aisle tour plan to avoid sharing any controlled technology with authorized people. Keeping proof of internal audits and reviews is a must to ensure all procedures are in place and being followed.

For physical access, you should keep card swipe records near to your CTPAT records, photos of security and barriers, copies of truck drivers’ licenses, videos of validation of those granted access to your facilities, and visitor procedures, and these records should be sealed in containers.

What Are the CTPAT Benefits?

As mentioned previously, the CTPAT program is a voluntary support program. But there are many benefits of joining this program, and these benefits can help your business overcome a range of challenges.

The benefits of the CTPAT program include:

  • Playing an active role in the war against terrorism.
  • A reduced number of CBP inspections.
  • Priority processing for CBP inspections.
  • Eligibility to attend C TPAT training lectures.
  • Prerequisite for participation in the importer self-assessment program.
  • Penalty mitigation under certain circumstances.
  • Assigned a security consultant and a supply chain specialist.
  • Tier III importers allowed block designation application to DHS Safety Act.
  • Exporters who allow CBP to share information with other customer agencies gain reduced inspections upon arrival in certain countries.
  • Access to Free and Secure Trade (FAST) lanes at various land borders (Michigan, New York, Washington, and at southern border ports from California to Texas).


How Does My Business Get CTPAT Certified?

C TPAT is voluntary and there are no costs associated with joining this program and getting. Also, a company does not need an intermediary in order to apply to the program and work with CBP. 

The application and CTPAT certification process is easy and can be completed online. Firstly, a company needs to review the C TPAT Minimum Security Criteria to ensure their business is eligible for the program. Secondly, the company should submit the application via the C TPAT Portal and agree to participate.

Thirdly, the company must complete a supply chain security profile, and this explains how the company is currently meeting C TPAT’s security criteria. Therefore, a risk assessment is also necessary. Lastly, the C TPAT program has up to 90 days to certify the company into the program or to reject the application. Once certified, the company will be validated within a year of certification. The CTPAT certification means that your business has been approved and meets CTPAT’s minimum security criteria.

What Is a CTPAT Audit?

CTPAT audit is a risk-based assessment of your current level of supply chain security. The audit will help you improve the security of your supply chain, and verify whether or not you are CTPAT compliant. It typically consists of the major aspects that make up supply chain security, such as:

  • Vital Items
  • Container Security
  • Physical Security
  • Information Technology
  • Conveyance Security
  • Physical Access Controls
  • Procedural Security
  • Security Training and Threat Awareness


Once the audit of your supply chain is complete, you will receive a final report from the third party that will provide you with an in-depth understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of your supply chain security. This report includes a way to address any weaknesses, as well as a corrective action plan.

Conclusion: C TPAT Audit and Requirements: Key Things You Need To Know

The CTPAT is a voluntary support program led by the US Customs and Border Protection (CBP). It was established in response to the September 11 terrorist attacks and focuses on strengthening global supply chain security.

The CTPAT requires both your employees and business partners to comply with a series of requirements. It is often the most effective method to hire an objective third-party for CTPAT audits to conduct a risk assessment of your supply chain. At HQTS we have over 25 years of experience in quality assurance and can help your company become C TPAT compliant. Do you need help assessing your supply chain and getting a corrective action plan? Contact HQTS today.

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