What export documentation do I need?

Exporting means sending goods from one country to another – and they pass through customs on the way. For customs to clear your goods, it's vital to have the right shipping documents for export, and to fill them in correctly.

What key shipping documents do I need for export?

Here’s a checklist of the most common export documents you need to include with your shipment when sending goods to another country:

The exact list of documents you need to provide depends on the goods you are shipping, the destination country and export controls. Sometimes you’ll need to include additional ones as well.

Export document checklist

See below for a more detailed explanation of each document:

Export declaration

This needs to be submitted to, and approved by, the customs authorities before your goods leave the country. Your carrier should be able to take care of this using the information from your paperwork.

Commercial invoice

Make sure you have a commercial invoices and that you fill it in correctly. This includes a clear goods description and the value of your goods.

Air waybill

You’ll also need an air waybill or consignment note. This outlines key details about your shipment such as the number of items, a goods description and weight.

Packing list

It’s worth including a packing list with your shipment as some countries require it. To be extra careful, you could also place one inside your package.

Remember, a packing list and a commercial invoice are two different documents. A commercial invoice includes the price while a packing list outlines the details of the goods like the weight and quantity.

Export license

An export license is a document issued by government bodies allowing registered companies or individuals to legally ship goods that are otherwise restricted. It’s important to check if you need one well in advance of shipping.

Certificate of origin

The certificate of origin is an official document that states where a product was produced, manufactured or processed. Remember to check in advance if you need one.

Who do I give the documents to?

All your shipping documents need to be handed over to your carrier's driver when they come to collect your parcel or shipment. Once the driver returns to the carrier’s station, the paperwork will be checked to see if everything is in order. If the paperwork is incomplete, they’ll hold your shipment and you’ll be contacted, which is likely to cause a delay in shipping.

What do I need to bear in mind when preparing export documentation?

Ensure the information on each document is consistent. The details on your air waybill, commercial invoice and all other documents should be the same. If it’s not consistent, customs will ask for more information and your customer might have problems receiving your shipment.

Relevant topics