Shipping Documentation Requirements
Each country has different document requirements for inbound shipments. Most often, international shipments should be accompanied by a Bill of Lading, and/or Shipper’s Letter of Instruction, a commercial invoice, a packing list and a certificate of origin. For specific document requirements for international freight shipments, please contact our Transportation Specialists.
Exporters and importers should seriously consider having UPS-Translogistics handle the documentation required, since our Transportation Specialists are highly knowledgeable in export and import regulations & procedures. The following documents are commonly used in exporting and importing goods. However, the specific documentation necessary in a particular transaction depends on the requirements of the U.S. government and the government of the importing country.
- Air freight shipments are handled by Air Waybills (AWB) which is a contract between the shipper and airline that states the terms and conditions of air transportation and can never be made in negotiable form.
See sample Airway Bill**.
- Ocean Bill of Lading (B/L) is a receipt for cargo in transit, and a contract between the exporter and an ocean carrier for transportation and delivery of goods to a specified party at a specified foreign destination. The Ocean Bill of Lading is Issued after the vessel has sailed and the cargo has been entered in the ship’s manifest.
See sample Ocean Bill of Lading**.
- Commercial Invoice is a bill for the goods from the seller to the buyer. These invoices are often used by governments to determine the true value of goods when assessing customs duties. Governments that use the commercial invoice to control imports will often specify its form, content, number of copies, language to be used, and other characteristics.
See sample Commercial Invoice**.
- Consular Invoice is a document that is required in some countries. It describes the shipment of goods and shows information such as the consignor, consignee, and value of the shipment. Certified by the consular official of the foreign country stationed here, it is used by the country’s customs officials to verify the value, quantity, and nature of the shipment.
- Certificate of Origin is a document that is required in certain nations. It is a signed statement as to the origin of the export item. Certificate of origin are usually signed through a semiofficial organization, such as a local chamber of commerce. A certificate may still be required even if the commercial invoice contains the information.
See sample Certificate of Origin**.
- NAFTA Certificate of Origin is required for products traded among the NAFTA countries (Canada, the United States, and Mexico). The NAFTA Certificate of Origin is used by Canada, Mexico, and the United States, including Puerto Rico, to determine if goods imported into their countries receive reduced or eliminated duty as specified by the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). For those forms that are completed online, this application is designed for goods whose origin is the U.S. or Puerto Rico only. The NAFTA Certificate of Origin must be attached to an Invoice if the shipment is valued at greater than the following:
- a) $1,000 USD and is being sent to a Mexican destination from Canada or the U.S.
- b) $1,600 (Canadian dollars) and is being sent to a Canadian destination from Mexico or the U.S.
- c) $2,500 USD and is being sent to a U.S. destination from Canada or Mexico.
See sample NAFTA Certificate of Origin**.
Shipments valued at less than the above amounts do not require a NAFTA Certificate of Origin. Instead, the customer should type the following statement on the shipment’s invoice: “I hereby certify that the goods covered by this shipment qualifies as an originating good for purposes of preferential tariff treatment under the NAFTA.” For purposes of obtaining preferential tariff treatment, the NAFTA Certificate of Origin must be completed legibly and in full by the exporter and be in the possession of the importer at the time the declaration is made. This document may also be completed voluntarily by the producer for use by the exporter.
- Inspection Certification is required by some purchasers and countries in order to attest to the specifications of the goods shipped. This is usually performed by a third party and often obtained from independent testing organizations.
- Dock Receipt and Warehouse Receipt are used to transfer accountability when the export item is moved by the domestic carrier to the port of embarkation or warehouse and left with the ship line or forwarding agent for export. All Dock Receipts and Warehouse Receipts are issue by Terra Global Logistics’ eTraffic System and automatically sent to the client, shipper and/or consignee.
- Destination Control Statement appears on the commercial invoice, and ocean or air waybill of lading to notify the carrier and all foreign parties that the item can be exported only to certain destinations.
- Verified Gross Mass (VGM) – Effective July 1st, 2016 – New requirements to verify the gross mass of a packed container will be required, as per The International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS). In order to comply with the new regulations, shippers will be responsible for certifying the Verified Gross Mass (VGM) of all containers, prior to their loading on board vessels. The VGM includes the mass of all packages and cargo items, pallets, dunnage and other packing and securing material inside the container, as well as the tare weight, which appears on the door of the container.
See Sample VGM**.
- Automated Commercial Environment (ACE) is a commercial trade processing system designed to automate border processing, enhance border security, and foster U.S. economic security through lawful international trade and travel. ACE is part of a multi-year U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) modernization effort. ACE will: allow trade participants access to and management of their trade information via reports; expedite legitimate trade by providing CBP with tools to efficiently process imports/exports and move goods quickly across the border; improve communication, collaboration and compliance efforts between CBP and the trade community; facilitate efficient collection, processing and analysis of commercial import and export data; and provide an information-sharing platform for trade data throughout government agencies.
See additional information at the ACE/AES Guide**.
- ISF 10+2 – U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s Importer’s Security Filing (ISF) 10+2 is a federal regulation that requires importers to electronically provide data to U.S. Customs on vessels destined to the U.S., before vessel departure from origin. IMPORTANT: It applies to only sea freight shipments. Any ocean freight cargo shipped to the U.S. without a timely/accurate ISF may result in a Customs penalty of USD $5,000 to the Importer. Importers are responsible for the 10 elements which can be found on the attached form
U.S. Customs ISF 10+2 Data Sheet**.
- Shipper’s Letter of Instructions is the shipping instructions to the forwarder or carrier from the shipper or exporter.
See sample Shipper’s Letter of Instructions**.
- An Export License is a government document that authorizes the export of specific goods in specific quantities to a particular destination. This document may be required for most or all exports to some countries or for other countries only under special circumstances.
- A Packing List itemizes the material in each individual package and indicates the type of package, such as a box, crate, drum, or carton. It also shows the individual net, legal, tare, and gross weights and measurements for each package (in both U.S. and metric systems). Package markings should be shown along with the shipper’s and buyer’s references. The list is used by the shipper or forwarding agent to determine the total shipment weight and volume and whether the correct cargo is being shipped. In addition, U.S. and foreign customs officials may use the list to check the cargo.
See sample Packing List**.
- A Cargo Insurance Certificate is used to assure the consignee that insurance will cover the loss of or damage to the cargo during transit. Contact our Transportation Specialist for insurance coverage, limitations and premiums.
Documentation must be precise, because slight discrepancies or omissions may prevent merchandise from being exported, result in nonpayment, or even result in the seizure of the exporter’s goods by U.S. or foreign government Customs. Collection or proper documents are subject to precise time limits and may not be honored by a bank if the time has expired. Most export and import documentation is routine for Terraa Global Logistics’ Transportation Specialists. The exporter or importer of record is ultimately responsible for the accuracy of the documents it they provide.
The number and kind of documents the exporter must deal with varies depending on the origin & destination of the shipment and description of the goods. Because each country has different import regulations, the exporter or importer must be careful to provide all proper documentation. For additional documentation requirements or information pertaining to foreign or domestic, export or import restrictions, please contact our Transportation Specialist or the following organizations: