• Deanna Clark-Esposito

The Top 5 Records Exporters Should Keep


When it comes to export compliance, the retention of certain records is an obligation that cannot be avoided. Whether you’re just starting out or are already in business and need to get your record keeping in order, these five types of documents should be on your list of “must-have’s” in terms of which records - whether physical or electronic - to keep.


1. Basic Export Documents

Whether it's an expensive technology-related shipment subject to a license, or a low value shipment for which no license is required, there are three basic export records that should be kept. The commercial invoice which describes the merchandise and it’s price, the export packing list which states who the buyer, seller, shipper, date of shipment, etc. is, and the pro forma invoice, which is prepared by the exporter in advance of shipping the goods.


2. Specific Export Compliance Documents

Where greater control is placed over an export, such as one with a potential military application like night vision goggles, additional steps must be taken in advance of an export and the records documenting these must be kept. Example records may include that of an export license, including an OFAC (Office of Foreign Assets Control) license, a license exception, or a copy of the destination control statement as placed on the commercial invoice.


3. Certificate of Origin

The requirements for a certificate of origin vary by product and country. Whereas a certificate of origin stamped by a local chamber of commerce may be necessary, other times it is sufficient to make such a statement on company letterhead. In addition to a generic certificate of origin, where the US has a free trade agreement with a country, a special certificate may instead be required, and the burden upon whom one must be generated by - that is, whether it is the obligation of the seller or the purchaser - can vary from country to country.


4. Certificates Based on a Specific Good

Certain other kinds of certificates may be necessary depending upon the type of shipment it is. For example, a Shipper’s Declaration for Dangerous Goods, commonly referred to as a “DG Certificate” for the transport of what are considered dangerous goods (including something as common as a lithium-ion battery) will be required for such a shipment. Other examples include a certificate for fumigation, fisheries, or a phytosanitary certificate. Whatever other kind you may need, and there are several other kinds which may be required, copies of these certificates must be kept as part of your records maintenance program.


5. Certificates Based on a Specific Transaction

While a particular certificate may not be necessary, it could prove advantageous to have one. Such is the case where a company is exhibiting at trade shows in several countries. It may seek to obtain a temporary shipment certificate known as an “ATA Carnet,” which would allow the company to temporarily enter into countries for such purpose and enter their goods, i.e., import them, in to a foreign country without the need or obligation to pay the customs duties. Depending on the number of countries traveled to the company could save hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars using this system which makes purchasing the carnet in the first place a worthwhile investment.


For more information, check out the Dept. of Commerce’s website at www.export.gov.


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