Close this search box.

Export Documentation

To know which documents are needed for an export shipment, the best place to start is your foreign customer/importer or a freight forwarder.  By obtaining correct information, you are helping your customer efficiently clear the goods with customs in the target market. 

An airway bill is specific to freight traveling by air transport. The documents is shipper-specific and provides detailed information for tracking the shipments. These are not negotiated documents.

This transportation document is used as a contract between the owner of the goods and the carrier that states what is being shipped and where it is going. It can be used as a receipt from the carrier when goods are picked up. They come in two typical forms. First, a straight bill of lading is non-negotiable. Second, a shippers order bill of lading can be used to trade goods while they are in transit. Once possession needs to be taken, the original bill of lading is required.

Certificates of Origin certify where the products or goods originated. While not always a requirement, it may speed up customs verification. This document is destination-specific, and different pieces of information are required based on that destination or product type. 

This is the legal document detailing the terms of the transaction between the buyer and the seller. The commercial invoice should state the goods being sold and the amount required for payment. Customs uses the commercial invoice as a primary tool to determine duties. Overall, these invoices are used by governments to determine the goods’ value and maintain import controls. The commercial invoice should reflect the packing list, so be sure they agree. Often, a specific number of copies, languages, and content will be required for entry into the country.

This is a statement on the Commercial invoice for goods that fall under Commerce Control Lists outside of the EAR99. The Destination Control Statement is listed on transportation documents (bill of lading, airway bill) to highlight the goods can only go to specific destinations. If you are unsure if your goods are on the Commerce Control List, see details on Do I Need an Export License? Or utilize the Commerce Control List from the Bureau of Industry and Security. If needed, this information should be on the Commercial invoice.

When the value of a commodity classified under Schedule B is over $2,500 or an export license is required, filing Electronic Export information is needed. The filing data is used by the U.S. Census Bureau to collect trade data on U.S. exports. Learn the requirements here: EEI Filing from the International Trade Administration.

The vast majority of exports fall under the U.S. Dept of Commerce’s Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS) under the distinction of No License Required (NLR). If an export license is required for your goods, it often has to do with the type of goods, uses, and final destination. See more details in Do I Need an Export License?

A formal quote is used for a variety of business transactions but sets the understanding of goods, pricing, payment details, and shipment. In international business, the quotes provided should be highly detailed and outline product specifics, dimensions, net and gross shipping weight, delivery points, insurance costs, and designate the currency of sale. 

Both commercial stationers and freight forwarders have the official packing list on hand. This document goes beyond basic information and includes a high level of detail. The packing list should include a list of the sellers, buyers, shippers, the invoice number, date of shipment, mode of transport, the carrier, itemized quantity, descriptions, packaging descriptions (crate, box, drum, etc.), number of packages, weight (net and gross in metric), dimensions, and any markings.

Before shipping an export, a proforma invoice can be used as a negotiating tool to start the conversations. It should be used more like a quote for pricing and goods, and the document should be labeled as a Proforma, not an invoice. The document will provide a description of the goods (this may include quantity, pricing, weight, and other specifications). Eventually, the proforma will be finalized to become the commercial invoice.