October 26, 2021

International Shipping Documents

Figuring out all the parties involved, data needed and how your team will manage shipping all converge on documents. This article will cover what documents are necessary for import and export customs. We’ve done this by summarising documents and compiling lists of what documents are necessary for your shipments.

Customs Clearance

During trade between two countries, the customs of the country of export and the country of import will request several documents for reasons such as identification of products, determination of value, determination of origin, etc. The importing company must determine the documents it will need during the customs procedures before signing the sales contract with the exporter and ensure that the exporter can obtain the necessary documents.

Before you start importing, you need to learn what documents you need to obtain from the exporter. You’ll also have to check what documents and certificates you need to provide according to the type of product you will import. This process is essential to avoid unaccounted costs and penalties. 

Documents Required for Export

To sell/buy goods internationally, you have to give power of attorney to a customs broker. The exporter or the importer company needs to organize the overseas delivery process with a shipping company.

The exporter company prepares an invoice and packing list containing information such as the number of goods, description of goods, price, weight, incoterms, etc. The shipping company issues one of the documents called Bill of Lading for sea shipments, airway bill for airway shipments, or CMR for land shipments.

The customs broker issues a certificate of origin determining the origin of the products to be exported, based on the carrier and the documents prepared by the exporter. The customs broker finally completes the customs file by preparing an export customs declaration called the "bill of entry."

This process may become more complicated depending on the type of products being exported and the additional procedures associated with the HTS (Harmonized Tariff Schedule) codes. A movement document such as "ATR, EUR1" must be issued for tax exemption in a trade between two countries with a trade agreement. During the export stage of the products whose exports are subject to individual permits, quotas, or certificates, the exporter must submit these documents to their customs.

Commercial Invoice

Commercial Invoice is one of the primary documents that should be included in an export document set. A detailed invoice is essential for fast and accurate customs procedures. When preparing an invoice, you must specify incoterms (delivery terms) and specify the products' HTS codes. If you make an invoice that includes the product packages' numbers, dimensions, and weight information, you may not need to prepare a packing list separately. It is advised that you add  the "Country of Origin" on the invoice. Listed below is necessary information that your invoice should contain:

· Description of the goods

· HTS Code for the goods (8-10 digit)

· Number of goods

· Invoice Value

· Country of Origin

· Incoterms (Please specify the delivery terms with city name) · Shipper (Seller) Company name, address, contact details

· Consignee (Buyer) Company name, address, contact details · Payment terms (The bank account)

Packing List / Weight List

It's also possible to prepare an invoice with packing details. If you are sending a large number of parcels, we recommend that you make a packing list.

Bill Of Lading

The Bill of Lading (BL) is a commercial document issued by the shipper. BL is a bill of transport stating to whom the goods belong. The information on the BL should be compatible with your invoice.

The carrier company issued a Bill of lading as at least three original documents to the sender, recipient, and carrier.

Bill of lading is a shipping bill that contains the buyer, seller, and product information, arranged by the shipper with the information provided by the exporter, and symbolizes the belonging of the products along the delivery process.

Certificate Of Origin

Certificate of Origin (COO) shows the origin of the commercial goods. In other words, the origin of the commercial goods is proven with this document since different customs taxes and exemptions apply between countries.

Customs Declaration Form

Customs Declaration Form (Bill Of Entry) is prepared at the export or import stage, following the completion of customs procedures. This document is valid only at the customs of the country where it is prepared. Therefore, the export declaration does not need to be sent to the importing company. The closure of the import declaration indicates that the import process is over and the importer company can receive the products.

Optional Documents- if requested

Insurance certificate

An Insurance Certificate is the required document for import customs clearance only. It means it's not necessary for export customs clearance. The incoterms you will indicate on your invoice also indicate who owns the insurance liability. The Insurance certificate helps to verify the shipment in terms of whether the invoice amount contains the insurance or not. Finally, if the exporter does not insure due to incoterms, it is the importer company's initiative to issue an insurance policy. The importing company does not have to make insurance.

Arrival Notice (Inward Cargo Manifest)

The arrival notice is a document that includes the details associated with the shipment. It can also be prepared just to inform the importer company when exporting to a different country. However, it is mandatory for US customs. Before the products shipped to the USA reach the US customs, an "arrival notice" should be issued about the products, and the importer company should ensure that the "Cbp Form 7533" form is prepared based on the information on the form.

Import License

Imports of certain products may be subject to special authorization. Some products, such as drugs, explosives, weapons, and the like, are subject to special approval in many countries. Therefore, only companies with import licenses can import such products. It could be obtained from the government agency of the Importing country.

Customs Bond

It is mandatory to open a bond on behalf of the importing company to make transactions at US customs. It should be renewed every year. Actually, it's not a customs document and not related to the exporter company. On the other hand, many US companies requested DDP delivery terms. Therefore exporter companies should arrange the Bond process with the shipment company.

Certificates of Inspection

Customs officers may request an inspection to determine whether any product's qualitative and quantitative characteristics match the order request. Some countries require an inspection certificate at the stage of importing some products. In particular, products that concern human health, such as food products, medical products.

Letter of Credit

Letter of Credit (LC) is a payment term. In a sale with LC, the exporter has to prepare all the documents specified in the LC. The exporter has to prepare all the documents listed in the LC under the conditions specified in the LC. The content, quantity, and all other conditions of the documents must comply with the LC. However, it is not a document using in the customs clearance period. It is just a document between the two companies that determines the conditions under which the payment will be valid, with a bank guarantee.

Certificate of Analysis

The buyer may request to enclose a certificate of analysis. If this document is to be requested, it is worth mentioning at the time of order. In some countries, a "certificate of analysis" is a mandatory document to complete import transactions. Sometimes, although it is not compulsory during the import process, the importer company may want to issue a COA to get more detailed information about the products.

You can find templates for documents here: Document Templates