US and Mexico vow to expand Unified Customs Processing at border

The U.S. and Mexican governments have committed to expand a program to enhance shared customs processing of U.S.-bound cargo along the shared land-border between the two countries.

The announcement was made at the conclusion of the 12th Plenary Meeting of the 21st Century Border Management Initiative Executive Steering Committee in Mexico City on March 4.

“To facilitate the movement of commercial goods and travelers between the two countries, in 2020 both governments expect to implement low-cost, high-impact strategies to simplify customs and immigration screening and reduce wait times,” the U.S. Department of State said in a statement.

The Unified Cargo Processing (UCP) program was first implemented by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and Mexico’s Tax Administration Service (SAT) in August 2016 as a “proof of concept” pilot project at the Mariposa port of entry at Nogales, Arizona.

UCP allowed officers from both agencies to work side by side at the Mariposa port of entry to jointly inspect and process U.S.-bound cargo shipments, eliminating  the need for separate agency inspections and reducing wait times at the border for goods entering the U.S. from Mexico.

UCP-designated shipments bypass the SAT primary processing in Mexico and enter the dedicated Free And Secure Trade (FAST) lane on the U.S. side of the border, allowing the shipment to proceed unencumbered to CBP primary inspection.

If a problem is discovered, the shipment is sent for a secondary exam, where both CBP and SAT officers will conduct the exam. Findings of illegal or prohibited merchandise are immediately reported by SAT to CBP.

Since its inception, the UCP program has been expanded to other Southwest ports of entry, including El Paso and Laredo, Texas; Nogales, Arizona; and Otay Mesa, California.

The State Department announcement did not reveal which U.S.-Mexico land border ports are under consideration for inclusion in the UCP program.