What is Export Documentation?

International trade of goods via import and export is the lifeblood of world commerce. When these goods are sold between countries, each shipment includes documentation that meets established statutes of the manufacturer/producer origin country as well as the country where the exports will land. Export documentation can take many forms. The most common export documents include:

  • Export license - required by the United States government to do exporting business with countries around the world
  • Bill of Lading
  • Waybill
  • Letter of Credit
  • Certificate of Origin (CO)
  • Certificate of Free Sale (CFS)
  • Proforma Invoice
  • Commercial Invoice
  • Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP)
  • Export Packing List
  • Shipper's Letter of Instruction (SLI)
  • Dangerous Goods Form

Different shipments may call for different export documentation to remain in compliance with U.S. and foreign requirements. Regulatory authorities use these documents to ensure that exported goods meet established standards and international treaties, particularly for shipments that may be hazardous or of a sensitive military/technology nature.

An exporter clearly has many challenges in meeting the requirements of the applicable export. Failure to obtain the right documents can cost the exporting company thousands, even millions, of dollars for violations.

The Export Journey

Exporting products to other countries requires careful coordination with numerous stakeholders. Each step of the export journey is highly regulated, thus necessitating the documents and agreements established between countries. For a typical export, entities handling the process include:

  • The exporter
  • Shipping departments
  • Freight forwarding firms
  • International carriers
  • Departments of Commerce and Government agencies
  • Banks
  • Buyers/importers
  • Intermediate consignees
  • Inland carriers

What Products Require Export Documentation?

Nearly every product being exported needs documentation accompanying the shipment. Freight forwarders must ensure that all shipping documents and certifications are obtained before shipment occurs to the destination country. Certain goods, such as agricultural and consumer products, may need only certificates of free sale and similar documentation like a bill of lading or packing list.

Others, particularly critical military and technology goods, mandate specific documents to meet regulatory provisions designed to protect national security. These goods may fall under the regulatory statutes of the International Traffic of Arms Regulations (ITAR). Still, others require dangerous goods forms based on rules of the International Maritime Organization or the International Air Transport Association. Shipping of mixed goods may necessitate multiple certificates, with each document attached to a specific product type within the export.

Because the document requirements may vary substantially depending on the goods being exported, it is critical that exporters establish compliance programs.

What is the Export Documents Process?

Exporters shipping goods to foreign countries from U.S. manufacturing centers begin the exportation process by applying for the required certificates. Typically, this is done by reaching out to agencies or organizations authorized to issue documents. Agencies like the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), and the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) have document issuing authority. Chambers of commerce and commerce associations issue certificates for export, depending on the type and class of goods shipping to another country.

There is no specific timeframe associated with the export shipping documentation process. Normally, the certificate request process takes 5-20 days, but certain goods may need extra scrutiny and documents may be delayed. A freight forwarder or export company usually requests documents in writing by submitting invoices that show the country of manufacture or origin.

For documents like the Certificate of Free Sale (CFS), goods must be shown to have been made in the U.S.A. and purchased by U.S. based companies to meet trade agreements with other countries.

Before the shipment begins its journey, a Commercial invoice, packing list, and certificate of origin may be obtained to clear customs for the importing country. In many cases, a commercial invoice is needed to establish the sale between exporter and importer. Again, these documents support the due diligence of shipping firms, which face penalties for noncompliance.

What is Swiftdox's Online Solution?

Faced with the challenges and delays associated with exporting documentation, an innovative developer sought solutions. The result was Swiftdox, a revolutionary platform designed to make online export documents easy to apply for and to obtain.

Industry-leading help is part of the Swiftdox formula. Users have access to powerful tools for applying for certificates and downloading them once approved. It even allows for seamless document management. Best of all, the online platform streamlines the certification application process, saving time and money.

Because Swiftdox is an online platform, it can be used anywhere in the world and on any computing device. Whether you need to apply for an export certificate or related document from home, or are outside of the office and have a smartphone or tablet, Swiftdox is ready to provide superior service and assistance. With our help, your online documentation needs are faster and easier than ever before.