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What are the Documents Required for Exporting? And 4 Other Questions to Help You Prepare

If you’re exporting goods then there’s a lot to prepare to make sure everything’s ready. Even the slightest mistake or forgotten detail can lead to wasted time and money. The export documents, for example, are one of the most important things to remember.

To make sure you’re ready, we’ve answered all of the questions you might have, including what are the documents required for export shipping?

13 - export shipment documents

1. What Documentation Maybe Required for Exporting?

The documents you need to send with an export shipment are decided by where the goods are going, the methods of transport the courier’s using and what the shipment consists of. Here are some of the most common documents you may need.

Certificate of Origin

In certain circumstances your customer at destination may require a Certificate of Origin to help clear the shipment through Customs. A Certificate of Origin provides evidence of where the goods originated.

When evidence of origin is required certain countries will accept a statement on the original invoice but to avoid any potential issues further down the line, it’s better to have a Certificate of Origin created.

The document proves that the goods originated in the same country that’s stated on the invoice or packing list.

Commercial Invoice

As a whole, the following items may be required:

  • Invoice number
  • Customer order number
  • Invoice date
  • Your address
  • Customer address
  • Method of payment
  • Shipping terms
  • Shipping and packaging charges
  • Number of packages sent. Including the measurements and weights
  • Country of origin and tariff code

In addition to the above list, keep these in mind:

  • When you’re preparing your invoice, you must include all of the information that you and your customer have previously agreed upon. This includes any changes made to the sale at any point. It must all be recorded.
  • Customs authorities at certain destinations may require certified/signed original invoices.

If all of the above are included and your transportation company are compliant, it will ensure the easy movement of goods and straightforward customs clearance.

Bill of Lading

If your shipment is travelling via sea then you will need a Bill of Lading (BOL) to accompany your shipment. This is issued by the freight forwarder or shipping line to acknowledge receipt, and provides details of your shipment. The BOL will have a unique identifying number that will allow you to track your shipment through to delivery. 


Air Waybill

An Air Waybill (AWB) is a document that accompanies your goods when travelling by air. This document provides details of your shipment. It’s used to inform customs authorities and other interested parties, about your shipment so that it can be processed as quickly as possible. The AWB will have a unique identifying number that will allow you to track your shipment through to delivery. 


2. What Rules and Regulations Need to Be Complied With?

Each country has its own set of rules and regulations and your courier service provider should be able to guide you through the rules that you need to adhere to when shipping goods.

Before you think about exporting items, you should see if there are any restrictions associated with the type of goods you are exporting.

Here are some examples of restricted commodities:

  • Agricultural products

  • Knives and other weapons

  • Endangered species and items created from their fur or skin

  • Counterfeit currency and goods

  • Certain medications

  • Hazardous goods

  • Fruit and vegetables

Certain types of goods may need an export licence. This is why it’s so important to find an effective courier to partner with, as they’ll be able to guide and advise you on the what needs to be done. 


3. How Soon Do the Items Need to Arrive?

This can seem like an obvious question but the answer will determine the method of transportation that you’ll need your items to take.

If the shipment is time-critical, then you may need to use an express service to make sure your goods arrive on time. If there’s no immediate deadline, then you can use slower methods, like sea freight or an economy service, to take advantage of cheaper costs.

Domestic and international deliveries require different approaches. A good courier service partner will provide a variety of service levels to suit your requirements.


4. Have You Chosen the Right Courier to Work With?

Having the right courier partner by your side can be the difference between a successful shipment and an angry client. Problems at customs, incorrect documents and lost items are just some of the costly issues you could face if you make the wrong choice.

When choosing a courier partner to work with, there are some criteria you can consider to help separate the great couriers from the good:

  • Do they offer you the ability to track your goods once they’ve been shipped?

  • Do they have a proven track record of helping businesses like yours with their export needs?

  • What’s their customer service like? Are they proactive and willing to go the extra mile to ensure your shipment is a success?

  • Do they have established communications channels that will make customs clearance quick and stress-free?

  • Are they willing to provide a bespoke service that suits your specific needs or are you restricted by their services?

The best way to get an answer to these questions is to read reviews of their services from customers that have dealt with them before and to ask them yourself. Before committing to any one partner, ask them the questions above and if you aren’t satisfied with their answer, take your business elsewhere.


Compare Your Options in Our Free Download

We’ve put together a free download that compares couriers of different sizes, including Crossflight, to help you to find the right one to suit you. It outlines the pros and cons of each so you know exactly what you’re getting before you make your choice.

To get your free copy of the comparison guide, click the download link below.

Crossflight v Other Couriers