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Types of Documents required in international trade?

Custom clearance is required for any commercial shipment, whether it is for import or export. Simply expressed, this means that enterprises exporting and importing goods into and out of the country must clear certain government-imposed customs hurdles.

export import documents suman exports

Preparing documentation to be submitted online or physically with the consignment is a common part of the customs clearance process. This assists the competent authorities in calculating the cargo's taxes and levies.
The documentation needed for customs clearance are usually determined by the type of goods being sent. It may also differ depending on the cargo's origin and destination countries. However, most enterprises must comply with a set of general paperwork when importing or exporting items as a rule of thumb.

1. Pro-forma Invoice

Everything begins in a typical export transaction when you receive an inquiry regarding one or more of your products. A request for a quote could be part of such an inquiry.

You presumably have a standard quotation form to use if the inquiry came from a domestic prospect. Your quote would, however, be presented as a Pro-forma invoice in an overseas transaction. Because your overseas prospect may want a Pro-forma invoice in order to obtain finance, open a letter of credit, apply for required import permissions, and other things.

A Pro-forma invoice resembles a commercial invoice in appearance, and if completed correctly, they will be extremely comparable. A Pro-forma invoice includes the following information:

  • The transaction's buyer and seller.

  • The commodities are described in depth.

  • The classification of those commodities according to the Harmonised System.

  • The cost.

  • The sale's payment term, which is usually specified in one of the 11 current INCOTERMS.

  • The delivery information, such as how and where the goods will be delivered, as well as the fee.

  • The quote's currency, whether it's in US dollars or another currency.

  • Make sure to date and add an expiration date on your Pro-forma invoice. Because the export procedure can be very volatile, provide a precise time range for your quote to reduce your risk.

Once the Pro-forma invoice is confirmed seller can start preparing the goods and the buyer can arrange for finance.

Here is the handy ready-to-use template prepared by our team - Pro-forma Invoice Template

2. Commercial Invoice

You must prepare your goods for delivery, including the paperwork that must accompany the goods, after sending a Pro-forma invoice to your foreign prospect and receiving their order. The commercial invoice is one of the most significant of these documents.

The commercial invoice contains the majority of the information about the entire export transaction, from beginning to end.

People who look at this sample commercial invoice and wonder why it looks so different from the invoices their company uses for domestic orders frequently ask me questions. Keep in mind that the invoices you generate from your company's accounting or ERP system are accounting invoices, not export invoices, that are utilized to get paid.

The commercial invoice may resemble the Pro-forma invoice you issued your customer as a quote, but it should include additional information you weren't aware of before. For example, once you've received the business invoice, you'll almost certainly have an order number, purchase order number, or other customer reference number, as well as banking and payment details.

Include any pertinent marine insurance information, as well as any other information that will assure fast delivery of the products and full payment from your customer.

Check out our handy template for Commercial Invoice - Commercial Invoice Template

3. Packing List

A packing list for export shipments may be more thorough than a packing list or packing slip for domestic shipments. It can be used in a variety of ways, including:

  • The information on the packing list may be used by your freight forwarder to construct the bills of lading for the cargo.

  • A complete packing list may be required by a bank as part of the set of paperwork you show to receive payment under a letter of credit.

  • Customs officials in the United States and the destination country may utilize the packing list to locate specific packed products that they want to inspect. Rather than having to search the entire shipment, it's far easier if they know which box to open or pallet to unwrap.

  • The packing list lists the contents of the cargo, as well as their net and gross weights and dimensions in both imperial and metric measurements. It recognizes any markings on the parcels as well as any particular instructions for assuring the items' safe delivery to their final destination.

Check out our handy template for Packing List - Packing List Template

4. Bill of Lading

For international shipping, an inland bill of lading is frequently the first transportation document necessary. The inland carrier can prepare it for you or you can make it yourself. It's a contract of carriage between the exporter and the shipper of the products that specify where the items are headed and acts as a receipt for the goods being picked up.

The inland bill of lading is not usually assigned to the buyer in an overseas cargo. Instead, it is assigned to the international carrier moving the goods, or, if not, to a forwarder, warehouse, or another third party who will consign your products to the carrier when they are ready.

5. Certificate of Analysis (COA)

A document certifying that specific goods have been subjected to specific testing and have yielded specific findings. It is frequently the outcome of an agreement between the seller and the buyer, or a necessity of one of their governments, in international trade.

Food products, wines and spirits, chemicals, and pharmaceuticals are among the most common items for which a certificate of analysis is issued. There are some countries that demand it at the import customs, such as in the case of spices export from the Spice Board of India. When the parties have established a trust relationship, this certificate can be provided by a certifying authority (assigned by the exporter or importer) or by the exporter's own laboratories. The study might be carried out in the exporter's facility or warehouse, or at the point where the product is loaded for international shipment. The analysis is usually performed on samples that represent a particular percentage of the total amount of items sold.

The details and name of the party providing the analysis should be disclosed when utilized as a required document under the terms and conditions of a letter of credit. If this is not done, banks will accept any document that appears to be a certificate of analysis issued by someone other than the beneficiary on its face.

6. Certificate of Origin

Some countries demand a certificate of origin to prove where the items came from. A semi-official entity, such as a chamber of commerce or a country's consulate office, is normally required to sign these certificates of origin. Even if the nation of origin information is contained on your commercial invoice, a certificate of origin may be necessary.

A chamber of commerce will usually charge you a fee or ask you to be a member in order to stamp and sign your certificate. A completed form must be delivered to the chamber office, where it will be stamped and signed for you.

Electronic certificates of origin (eCO) are becoming increasingly popular as a replacement for the time-consuming procedure of depending on expensive courier services or hand-delivering a certificate of origin to a chamber of commerce for certification. An eCO is frequently faster to produce, enabling you to send the certificate to the importer online, and can be registered with the International Chamber of Commerce for added credibility.

7. Phytosanitary Certificate

The Phytosanitary Certificate (PSC) is a government-issued certificate that must be presented when exporting or re-exporting plants, plant products, or other regulated items. PSCs are provided to show that consignments meet the importing country's phytosanitary import criteria. The Government of India's Ministry of Agriculture and Farmer Welfare issues PSCs in accordance with the International Plant Protection Convention's requirements (IPPC).

To import controlled products such as plants, bulks & tubers, or seeds for propagation, fruits & vegetables, cut flowers & branches, grain, and growing medium, the importer will need a phytosanitary certificate. They may also be necessary for certain processed plant products with the potential to introduce regulated pests (examples include cotton or wood). They might also be required to cover polluted items like empty shipping containers, automobiles, or other organisms. It's quite possible that the products will not be passed through customs if the shipper cannot present a phytosanitary certificate to the importer. The things may be seized and destroyed entirely.

8. Fumigation Certificate

A fumigation certificate is an approval document issued by the licensing authority to indicate that shipment and shipping materials have been properly fumigated. All the countries that require the certificate will not clear any shipment without it.

The certificate contains details about the fumigation of imported goods such as the purpose of treatment, the type of fumigants used, and the temperature range that was applied. All the information ensures that the proper fumigation process has been followed.

9. Insurance Certificate

When insurance is issued against an open maritime cargo policy, this document is used to provide coverage for loss or damage to cargo while in transit. In rare situations, a shipper may provide a document certifying that a consignment has been insured under a specific open policy and that the certificate represents and replaces the conditions of that open policy. Because of concerns that such an instrument would not qualify as a "policy" under the terms of letters of credit, it has become standard practice to utilize an insurance certificate. Cargo insurance certificate and special cargo policy are other terms for the same thing. See also open policy; open maritime cargo insurance coverage.

10. Country Specific Document

The above-mentioned documents are the standard documents that are pretty much required in the majority of international trades. However, it is always a good idea to check with the buyer if any additional documents would be required by the importer's country custom. Exporters should also verify required documents from the information provided by the Chamber of Commerce website of the Importer's Country.

Here are some examples of Country Specific Documents(not an exhaustive list.)

1. Export Licenses 

An  export license  is a government document that authorizes the export of specific goods in specific quantities to a particular destination for a particular end-use. This document may be required for most or all exports to some countries or for other countries only under special circumstances. Examples of export-license certificates include those issued by the  U.S. Department of Commerce’s  Bureau of Industry and Security  (dual use articles), the  State Department’s Directorate of Defense Trade Controls (defense articles), the  Nuclear Regulatory Commission (nuclear materials), and the  U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (controlled substances and precursor chemicals).  

2. Destination Control Statement 

A  Destination Control Statement  (DCS found in part 758.6 of the BIS Export Administration Regulations, or EAR) is required for exports from the United States for items on the Commerce Control List that are outside of EAR99 (products for which no license is required) or controlled under the International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR). A DCS appears on the commercial invoice, ocean bill of lading, or airway bill to notify the carrier and all foreign parties that the item can be exported only to certain destinations. For more information, visit the Bureau of Industry and Security website.

3. Saudi Arabia – Certificate of Conformity (CoC) Requirement

The Ministry of Commerce and Industry in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has implemented the Product Conformity Program (PCP) [formerly known as SASO (Saudi Arabian Standards Organization)] for certain regulated products for commercial use. A Certificate of Conformity (CoC) is required from internationally accredited laboratories (e.g., Intertek or SGS) for certain regulated consumer products exported into the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (Kingdom).

The PCP is a combined conformity assessment, inspection and certification process on the basis of which certain regulated commodities are allowed entry into the Kingdom and are potentially cleared more quickly through Saudi Customs. The program provides assurance to Saudi consumers that these regulated products are free from potential safety hazards and are fit for use in the Kingdom.

Note: The CoC is not required for personal shipments, temporary imports and samples (limited quantities).

Please feel free to use the templates that we shared above and we would love to hear feedback from our fellow international traders. Let us know if you have any query regarding international trade or spices business.

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Mar 03
Rated 5 out of 5 stars.

helped me a alot in my project thanks

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