U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) announced on March 17 that it has cancelled the next nationwide customs broker license exam, which was scheduled for April 1.
The agency attributed the cancellation to "the unprecedented situation related to coronavirus (COVID-19) across the country, and the closure of our testing centers."
CBP's third-party testing contractor, Pearson Vue, posted a general notice to its clients on March 17 that all its testing locations throughout the U.S. and Canada will be closed due to the coronavirus through April 16.
It is estimated that 1,300-1,400 individuals had registered with CBP to take the customs broker license exam on April 1.
"Due to uncertainty with the COVID-19 pandemic, it will be difficult for the agency to set a new date for the April 1 exam. Without a crystal ball, it is unknown whether there will be a workable date for May or June," Renata Pearson, president of San Carlos, California-based CCRA (Customs Compliance/Regulatory Affairs), who has taught customs broker license exam preparation classes for 20 years, told American Shipper.
"Although CBLE [customs broker license exam] participants are disappointed that they won't get an opportunity to sit for the April exam, people's health and safety is of utmost importance. No one could have anticipated the events that are currently unfolding," she said. "I don't believe CBP had a choice but to cancel the exam."
Many communities across the U.S. have started implementing "shelter-in-place" programs to slow the spread of COVID-19.
"The CBLE Educator Team will support any decision made by CBP concerning the April exam," Pearson said. The team, which consists of 17 CBLE educators, was established in 2013 to help CBP improve the overall process and success of the customs broker license exam.
With the April 1 test cancelled, Pearson encouraged her students to use the additional time to "continue to prepare and study so that they can do even better on the exam."
Section 641 of the 1930 Tariff Act requires a person who conducts customs business on behalf of others to be licensed by CBP.
To pass the four-and-a-half-hour customs broker license exam, an applicant must score a passing grade of 75% or higher. Applicants spend many hours preparing for the exam. It is estimated that of the applicants who take the customs broker license exam, only 10% to 20% pass.
If the trade community is required to wait until the next exam on October 8, signup is expected to be announced in August.
After the October 2019 exam, the National Customs Brokers and Forwarders Association (NCBFAA) pointed out problems with the Pearson Vue test sites for taking the customs broker license exam.
The association said CBP will hold a webinar for potential test-takers on March 24 and that "will be a great way to stay up-to-date with the latest from the agency."
There are an estimated 14,450 active licensed customs brokers operating in the U.S. today.