Articles on Exporting

Exporting Paperwork Requirements

Exporting documents can be confusing. Certificates of origin? Export packing lists? We offer simple explanations for those of you who are new to exporting.

You've done the research and made the necessary preparations to begin exporting your product overseas. All that's left to do now is drive it down the shipping dock and say bon voyage, right?

Exporting Paperwork

Not so fast. There's still one more mountain to climb before your merchandise hits foreign shelves: Exporting Paperwork.

The amount of paperwork exporting requires can be dizzying. If you haven't done it before, you'll need to tap into the experience of a seasoned exporter for guidance. Here are just some of the important documents you'll need to complete.

  • Commercial Invoice - The commercial invoice contains a description of the products being shipped. It is used by both the exporter and the importer to provide proof of ownership and to secure payment.
  • Export License - Most exports don't require the completion of an additional license since they are automatically shipped under a general export license that doesn't require you to fill out anything. However, under certain conditions, you may need to obtain a "validated" license. Check with the U.S. Department of Commerce to find out whether or not this applies to your situation.
  • Shipper's Export Document (SED) - This is a big one. The SED gives the Census Bureau the ability to monitor the kinds of products that are being exported and requires an official categorization of the merchandise being shipped.
  • Certificate of Origin - This document states the shipments country of origin and can be used to receive a lower tariff rate if a special arrangement exists between the two nations.
  • Export Packing List - This is a detailed document itemizing the materials being shipped, weights and measurements (net, legal, tare, & gross), and type of packaging. A copy of the packing list needs to be affixed in waterproof plastic to the outside of the package.
  • Insurance Certificate - If you are insuring the products being shipped, you'll need to fill out a form describing the amount of coverage.
  • Inspection Certificate - Some countries require inspections for imported goods and require the completion on an inspection certificate before the goods can enter the country.
  • Shipper's Instructions - Exporters are required to provide their freight forwarders with detailed instructions about the movement of the goods once they are unloaded in the importing country. The more detail you provide, the more likely it is that your goods will get where they are going faster. Your freight forwarder should be able to provide you with a standard form.
  • Inland Bill of Lading - The Inland Bill of Lading records the movement of your goods from their original shipping point to their inland destination.
  • Dock Receipts - Dock receipts are used to record the transfer of responsibility from domestic to international carriers.
  • Bill of Lading/Air Waybill - These important forms give evidence of title for the goods being shipped and detail the international carrier's responsibilities in transporting your products.

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