What are Certificates of Free Sale?

A Certificate of Free Sale (CFS) is known by several names in the exporting industry. They are sometimes referred to as Certificates of Export. In simple terms, these documents serve as proof that a product being exported to another country has been freely and legally marketed, distributed, and sold in the United States of America. Importing countries require this documentation as verification of the international trade of commerce.

What Products Require CFS Documentation?

Certificates of Free Sale are required for a wide range of consumer products when exported to a foreign country. Typically, a CFS is attached to shipments of cosmetics, foodstuffs, personal care, and agricultural products. Other classes of products that may require a CFS include:

  • Seafood
  • Biologics
  • Nutraceuticals
  • Pet foods and pet products
  • Food supplements
  • Veterinary medicines
  • Medical devices

Some of these products are governed by regulations established by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, and import of these products must meet similar regulations in their destination country or countries.

Which Countries Require Certificates of Free Sale?

Not every country requires a Certificate of Free Sale to be on file, but most now request such documentation to accompany each shipment or sales transaction. In some cases, the sale of each product mandates documentation, including CFS and certificates of origin.

This is done to ensure that any imported product meets and is controlled by the importing country's regulations. By providing Certificates of Free Sale to foreign governments, regulators in both the exporting and importing countries can ensure a smooth transaction through customs checks without restriction.

What documents are required for Certificates of Free Sale?

The agencies or organizations that issue Certificates of Free Sale have specific regulations for the issuance of these documents. Exporters must submit documents physically or electronically. Typically, the following supporting documents are required:

Written declarations from the manufacturer(s) that the products are made in the United States.
Documentation showing the sale of each product to U.S. customers with U.S. addresses. Both name and address of the customer must be included on every invoice. Sale invoices should be dated within the last 12 months and the products named on the invoices must be the same as they will appear on the certificate. Multiple products may be listed on a single certificate for export, but sale invoices are required for each product.

Who can issue a CFS?

Exporters have several options when it comes to obtaining CFS documentation, and different agencies handle different industries for Certificates of Free Sale. These certificates may be issued by:

  • U.S. Food and Drug Administration
  • U.S. Department of Agriculture
  • Individual state governments
  • Chambers of Commerce and Commerce Associations

Speak with your local Chamber of Commerce or commerce association to learn whether your products produced in the United States need export certificates before shipping to foreign countries.

Do I have to be a Chamber of Commerce member to get a Certificate of Free Sale?

No, you don’t need to be a Chamber of Commerce member to apply for a Certificate of Free Sale, Good Manufacturing Practice Certificate or Certificate of Origin, although membership can offer preferential pricing.

Can I Get an Online Free Sale Certificate?

In years past, CFS and other export documentation had to be obtained in writing by submitting physical documents to regulatory authorities. Swiftdox has greatly improved the process by creating a platform that allows the issuance of certificates of free sale online. If your company is based in the United States, export documents can be applied for online. Export document choices include:

The application and supporting country documents are submitted to the Swiftdox platform and then certificates are issued via the platform's network of Chamber of Commerce partners. International trade is an important part of the global economy; by streamlining the export certification process, Swiftdox has provided powerful new tools to manufacturers and exporting entities in the U.S. and beyond.