Here we explain the most common customs documentation for international shipping, as well as how to complete your paperwork.
Commonly used documents for customs clearance
What it's about
The Commercial Invoice is the basic statement of the seller to the buyer for goods shipped; it ideally represents a complete record of the business transaction between the exporter and the importer with regard to the goods sold. It is used as one of the primary documents in the collection process and is the main document used by customs officials for control, valuation and duty determination. It is also a document of content; it must fully identify the shipment as well as serve as the basis in preparing all other documents covering the shipment. All data contained in the invoice documentation must conform to the particular entry requirements of the country to which the goods are being shipped.
- FedEx Express® shipments: Commercial Invoice paperwork is required for most nondocument commodities. You must submit one signed original and two copies.
- FedEx International Ground® shipments: Three copies of the Commercial Invoice are required for all shipments to Canada. For multiple-piece shipments to a single recipient, only one complete set is needed.
For shipments to Canada, if you prefer to select your own broker rather than use our new brokerage-inclusive service, you will need to include your broker’s name and contact information on the Commercial Invoice. If a customs broker is not identified on the Commercial Invoice, we may assign FedEx Trade Networks as the customs broker to clear the shipment, and we will bill the recipient for the clearance entry fee, duties and taxes, and other applicable surcharges. If the recipient refuses to pay the charges, they will be charged to you.
What's required on it
If you want to print a Commercial Invoice and complete it by hand, you can download the form for FedEx Ground® shipments from U.S. to Canada, or download the form for FedEx Express shipments. You may also use business or personal stationery for your Commercial Invoice, as long as you include all the required information.
You can see how the required information should appear in our Commercial Invoice interactive form. It shows how to complete each section and includes sample data to help you learn how to provide the correct information.
Don’t forget, you can use the FedEx Document Preparation Center on FedEx® Global Trade Manager to complete, save and reuse Commercial Invoices for both your FedEx Express and FedEx Ground international shipments.
Certificate of Origin
What it's about
Certificate of Origin documentation verifies the country in which the product was manufactured.
The product being exported and its destination country determine if Certificate of Origin paperwork is required for customs. Some countries restrict imports from certain countries, many countries limit the quantity of goods that are allowed to be imported, and some countries give preference to goods manufactured in a certain country.
If your product qualifies as having originated in North America, use the NAFTA Certificate of Origin (see below) for shipments to Canada and Mexico. For help understanding NAFTA Rules of Origin, see our information on North American trade solutions.
To determine if your shipment requires a Certificate of Origin, use the Find International Documents tool on FedEx® Global Trade Manager or call 1.800.GoFedEx 1.800.463.3339 and say "international services." FedEx can prepare your Certificate of Origin for a fee; for more information, call 1.866.684.6023 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
What's required on it
If your shipment requires a Certificate of Origin, one original is required. The descriptions and amounts on the Certificate of Origin must be consistent with those entered on the Commercial Invoice. Most countries accept a generic Certificate of Origin form.
You can see how the required information should appear on our Certificate of Origin interactive form. It shows how to complete each section and includes sample data to guide you in providing the correct information.
Don’t forget, you can use the FedEx Document Preparation Center on FedEx® Global Trade Manager to complete, save and reuse the Certificate of Origin.
NAFTA Certificate of Origin
What it's about
Canada, Mexico and the U.S. developed a uniform Certificate of Origin to certify that originating goods imported into their territories qualify for preferential treatment accorded by the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). If your product does not meet the specific NAFTA Rules of Origin, it does not qualify for preferential tariff treatment and the Certificate of Origin should not be completed.
While the NAFTA Certificate of Origin does not have to accompany the shipment, the importer must have a copy of the certificate in hand to claim NAFTA tariff preference at customs. NAFTA Certificates of Origin may, at the discretion of the exporter, cover a single importation of goods or multiple importations of identical goods.
If the value of a Mexico-bound shipment is less than US$1,000, or the value of a Canada-bound shipment is less than CAD$1,600, a NAFTA Certificate of Origin is not required. Instead, you can write the following statement on the Commercial Invoice:
"I certify that the goods referenced in this invoice/sales contract originate under the rules of origin specified for these goods in the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), and that further production or any other operation outside the territories of the parties has not occurred subsequent to production in the territories."
FedEx Trade Networks can assist you with properly classifying your products and producing valid NAFTA Certificates of Origin. For more information, call FedEx Trade Networks at 1.866.268.7602.
What's required on it
In the U.S., the exporter is required to retain either the original or a copy of the NAFTA Certificate of Origin for five years from the date of signature. The importer is required to retain the certificate and all other relevant documentation for five years after the importation of the goods. Mexican exporters must maintain a copy of the certificate for 10 years. Canadian importers and exporters are required to keep the certificate for six years from the time of the transaction for the importer and six years from the date of signing for the exporter.
- Include the following information on the NAFTA Certificate of Origin:
- Exporter’s name, address and tax identification number.*
- Producer’s name, address and tax identification number.*
- Importer’s name, address and tax identification number.*
- A complete and accurate description of the contents of the shipment.
- The product’s Schedule B or HTS code.
- The NAFTA Rules of Origin preference criterion.
- The product’s producer.
- The product’s net cost.
- The product’s country of origin.
Once you’ve checked that all the information on the NAFTA Certificate of Origin is accurate, provide your company name, title and phone number, then sign and date the form.
Don’t forget, you can use the FedEx Document Preparation Center on FedEx® Global Trade Manager to complete the NAFTA Certificate of Origin (Canada-bound shipments only).
*In the U.S., the tax identification number is the Employer Identification Number (EIN) or Social Security number; in Mexico, it’s the federal taxpayer’s registry number (RFC); and in Canada, it’s the EIN for the importer, and it’s assigned by Canada Customs and Revenue Agency for the exporter.
Electronic Export Information
What it's about
Electronic Export Information (EEI), formerly known as the Shipper’s Export Declaration (SED), is used for compiling official U.S. export statistics and to enforce U.S. export laws. By law, all EEI filing records must be retained for five years from the date of export.
When it's required
The EEI must be filed with shipments from the U.S., Puerto Rico or the U.S. Virgin Islands to foreign destinations; between the U.S. and Puerto Rico; and from the U.S. or Puerto Rico to the U.S. Virgin Islands, if any of the following applies:
- Shipment of merchandise under the same Schedule B commodity number is valued at more than US$2,500 and is sent from the same exporter to the same recipient on the same day. (Note: Shipments from the U.S. to Canada are exempt from this requirement.)
- The shipment contains merchandise, regardless of value, that requires an export license or permit. (To determine if your shipment requires a license, go to the U.S. Department of Commerce: Bureau of Industry and Security.)
- The merchandise is subject to the International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR), regardless of value. (For more information about ITAR, go to the U.S. Department of State.)
- The shipment, regardless of value, is being sent to Cuba, Iran, North Korea, Sudan or Syria.
- The shipment contains rough diamonds, regardless of value (7102.10, 7102.21 and 7102.31).
When it's not required
The EEI is not required for:
- Shipments from the U.S. to Canada unless the merchandise is subject to ITAR, requires an export license or permit, or is rough diamonds.
- Shipments from the U.S. to the following U.S. territories: American Samoa, Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, Guam, Howland Islands and Wake Island.
- Shipments from the U.S. Virgin Islands to the U.S. or Puerto Rico.
Options for filing
If your shipment requires EEI data, you have several options for meeting new U.S. Foreign Trade Regulations requirements for electronic filing of the EEI.
- You can self-file EEI directly to the U.S. Census Bureau’s AESDirect Web site, a free Internet application supported by the U.S. Census Bureau that allows you or your authorized agent to transmit EEI to the Automated Export System (AES).
- You can connect to AESDirect using a FedEx Ship Manager® electronic shipping solution with AESWebLink. Based on the information you enter during your shipping transaction, the FedEx Ship Manager solution may notify you that EEI is required. If it is, you can connect to the AESDirect Web site to submit the required information. You will receive an AES proof-of-filing citation — which is an internal transaction number (ITN) — via e-mail to enter in the appropriate field on your FedEx Ship Manager solution’s processing screen.
- Using FedEx Export AgentFile®, you can authorize FedEx — either electronically or via fax — to file an EEI on your behalf. A filing fee and certain limitations apply. For more information about FedEx Export AgentFile and about filing the EEI, go to fedex.com/us/electronic-export-information.
At www.census.gov, access and watch videos from the U.S. Census Bureau that step you through everything you need to know concerning filing the EEI with the Automated Export System — from what shipments require it to registering for and filing with AESDirect to proof-of-filing citations.
For additional information regarding international shipping, including selecting the shipping service that’s right for your needs, packing your shipment and creating shipping labels, finding locations and scheduling pickups, tracking your shipment’s status, and much more, go to FedEx® International Services.