Anyone who takes the US Customs Broker License Exam and fails to obtain a passing score has the right to file an appeal within 60 days of receiving their scores. CBP’s instructions state that an applicant who files an appeal must submit a compelling argument why his or her answer is better than the official answer for a specific question, or why the appealed question has no possible correct answer. If the CBP decision on the appeal affirms the result of the examination, the examinee may request review of the decision on the appeal within 60 calendar days after receiving notice of the first appeal decision.

However, in the second round, you can only re-appeal those questions which you had already appealed in the first round, but were not granted credit on first appeal. You cannot appeal new questions in the second round, so your first appeal needs to be complete and exhaustive.

The question that arises is when should you consider filing an appeal? In general, the answer is depends on how many answers you got wrong on the exam. There are 80 questions on the exam and the passing score is 75% which that means you need to obtain at least 60 correct answers out of a possible 80 to pass the exam. In other words, this means that you can get up to 20 answers wrong and still pass the Customs Broker exam.

On average, it is observed that the CBP generally tends to award credit for around 4 questions on first appeal. It is also often observed that they tend to award credit for a similar number of additional questions in the second round of appeal. It appears that the number of questions for which credit is granted on appeal (including second appeal) may be around 8 on each exam. But it is not necessary that all these questions are the same as the ones that you got incorrect. However, it is likely that if a question had errors, more examinees would have got it incorrect.

Obviously the lower the number of questions you need to get accepted, the better are your chances of passing by appeal. I have been helping examinees prepare grounds for appealing their Customs Broker Exam results over many years. From my experience, it appears that if you need to get 4 or less answers accepted as correct on appeal, then you may have a good chance of passing on appeal. If you need to get between 4 to 6 questions accepted as correct on appeal, then you may have a moderate chance of passing in appeal.  But if you need to obtain more than 6 answers as correct on appeal, then you may have a very low chance of passing by appealing your results. These are generalizations based on past experience but in an unusual situation, where the exam has more than the usual number of errors, obviously these generalizations may not apply and it does not hurt to file an appeal, especially if you can find compelling grounds to do so.

The common reasons for filing an appeal are generally found to be the following:

  1. Incomplete or missing information to answer the question correctly.
  2. Incorrect or confusing drafting of the question leading to multiple interpretations
  3. More than one correct answer for the question
  4. None of the answer choices are correct
  5. Other miscellaneous errors in the question or answer choices

Here are two examples of appealable questions from the October 2012 Customs Broker License Exam to illustrate two types of errors on the Customs Broker Exam that can result in appealable questions:

Question 6

A shipment of bicycles is presented through a CBP Form 3461 (Entry/Immediate Delivery) for Import Specialist review. The bicycles (non-motorized) are invoiced as having an outer circumference of 53.34 cm.  What is the correct classification of the bicycles?

A. 8712.00.1510
B. 8712.00.1520
C. 8712.00.1550
D. 8712.00.2500
E. 8712.00.3500

CBP answer is B. 8712.00.1520 HTSUS GRI 1 and Chapter 87, Additional U.S. Note 2.

The relevant section of the HSN Tariff reads as follows:

8712.00 Bicycles and other cycles (including delivery tricycles), not motorized:

8712.00.15           Bicycles having both wheels not exceeding 63.5 cm in diameter

10                           Having both wheels not exceeding 50 cm in diameter

20                           Having both wheels exceeding 50 cm but not exceeding 55 cm in diameter

30                           Having both wheels exceeding 55 cm but not exceeding 63.5 cm in diameter

CBP’s answer 8712.00.1520 is for bicycles having both wheels exceeding 50 cm but not exceeding 55 cm in diameter. Here CBP has taken the outer circumference of 53.34 cms and applied it as the diameter. This is incorrect because we need to calculate the diameter by applying the formula Circumference = 2πr or π x diameter.

We know the circumference is 53.34 cms.

By substituting the value of circumference in the formula, we get, 53.34 = π x Diameter

Diameter = 53.34/π, where π is a constant = 3.14

Diameter = 53.34/3.14 = 16.99 cms

Therefore, the correct classification would be answer choice A 8712.00.1510 Having both wheels not exceeding 50 cm in diameter. CBP’s official answer is incorrect and therefore appealable.

Question 20

On March 15, 2005, a machine was imported into the United States and was tested for precision. The imported machine was then sold and exported to a customer in Canada.  How much of the imported duty paid may be requested for a refund on a drawback claim?

A. None
B. Partial
C. 99%
D. Lesser of the two
E. 100%

CBP answer is C. 99% 19 CFR 181.45(b), 181.45(b)(1)(vi) and 191.51(a)(2)(b)(1)

However, see § 181.46 Time and place for filing drawback claim.

(a) Time of filing. A drawback claim under this subpart shall be filed or applied for, as applicable, within 3 years after the date of exportation of the goods on which drawback is claimed. No extension will be granted unless it is established that a Customs officer was responsible for the untimely filing. Drawback shall be allowed only if the completed good is exported within 5 years after importation of the merchandise identified or designated to support the claim. A good subject to a claim for same condition drawback must be exported before the close of the 3-year period beginning on the date of importation of the good into the United States.

Relevant information is missing in this question to answer it correctly. The question does not provide information on when the machine was exported and when the drawback claim was filed, both of which are necessary to answer it. This is therefore an appealable question due to incomplete or missing information in the question.

These are just two examples, and a careful review of each question and answer is required to identify possible grounds for filing effective appeals. If you need help with appealing your Customs Broker Exam results, contact us for expert assistance in drafting your appeal grounds.