Globalization Gains: Start with International Shipping Forms


Filling out international shipping forms can be long and tedious, but it’s a must to ensure smooth delivery for your shipments! Today’s businesses must navigate government regulations when it comes to international shipping. Accurate and complete documentation is the most critical part.

With any shipping, you must handle the proper packaging and the courier paperwork for the item being shipped. In the realm of international shipping, another layer of complexity gets added to the process. There’s no avoiding government, especially since governments worldwide require it to help monitor the movement of goods across their borders.


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So, if you want to grow globally, learn how to fill out customs forms because inaccurate information or missing forms can delay or prevent your shipments from reaching its destination.

These are the forms you need when you’re shipping internationally:

  • Commercial Invoice
  • Certificate of Origin (2)
  • United States
  • Electronic Export Information (EEI)
  • Other documents (i.e., packing list and dangerous goods forms)

Commercial Invoice

Most shipments are held back for a period because of inaccurate description of goods. To prevent this inconvenience, provide an accurate commercial invoice form to identify the products being shipped and used, for all shipments containing non-documents. Doing so helps to determine how the product should be classified for import control and duties calculation.

The Commercial Invoice requires:

  • Name and contact information for both sender and receiver
  • Bill of Lading/Air Waybill (i.e., the shipment ID/tracking number)
  • Terms of Sale
  • Reason for export
  • Description of the item
  • Harmonized Tariff Code (if applicable)
  • Country/Territory of origin (where manufactured) for each commodity
  • Number of units, unit value, and total value of each item
  • Number of packages and its total weight
  • Sender’s signature and date of sending

Ultimate SAP Guide to Smooth & Successful International Shipping

U.S. Certificate of Origin

Some nations restrict imports from specific countries, so they require a Certificate of Origin to authenticate the country of origin of the merchandise. It may also be required because of established treaty arrangements, varying duty rates, and preferential duty treatment depending on where the goods were manufactured in.
The U.S. Certificate of Origin is used for goods that were produced or manufactured in the U.S. Note that the list of information required on the form is shorter than the Commercial Invoice. The certificate form also requires an authorized signature of the local Chamber of Commerce Secretary and the seal of that organization.

The U.S. Certificate of Origin requires:

  • Name and contact information for both sender and receiver
  • Number of packages and its total weight
  • Description of the item
  • Bill of Lading/Air Waybill Number (i.e., the shipment ID/tracking number)
  • Signature of the local Chamber of Commerce Secretary
  • Seal of the local Chamber of Commerce

Note: not all countries and/or products need a U.S. Certificate of Origin. Make sure to check the country regulations if the country you’re shipping to requires a certificate.


NAFTA Certificate of Origin

The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) eliminates or reduces barriers to trade and invest between the U.S., Puerto Rico, Canada, and Mexico. Reducing the barrier is great when it comes to seamlessly exporting goods. With that said, the NAFTA Certificate of Origin is used exclusively between those four countries to determine if the goods imported could have reduced or eliminated duties.

This certificate must be used if the shipment is valued at greater than:

  • $1,000 USD and is being sent to a Mexican destination from the U.S. or Canada
  • $2,500 CAD and is being sent to a Canadian destination from the U.S. or Mexico
  • $2,500 USD and is being sent to a U.S. destination from Mexico or Canada

If the shipments are valued at less than the above amounts, the shipper doesn’t need to fill out a NAFTA Certificate of Origin and should, instead, write on the Commercial Invoice:

“I hereby certify that the good covered by this shipment qualifies as an originating good for purposes of preferential tariff treatment under the NAFTA.”

The NAFTA Certificate of Origin requires:

  • Name, contact information, and tax ID for both sender and receiver
  • Name, contact information, and tax ID of the item’s producer
  • Description of the item
  • Harmonized Tariff Code

International Shipping checklist download

Electronic Export Information (EEI)

If you’re shipping goods valued at greater than $2,500, then you’re required to file an Electronic Export Information (EEI) document for the U.S. Customs and Border Protection. The U.S. Census Bureau collects the information for export compliance and governmental reporting.

You file the EEI through the Automated Export System online. Carriers can file on your behalf if they have a Power of Attorney on file for your business. If you’re using a multi-carrier shipping software, you can file all the necessary documents on one system.

The EEI requires:

  • Name and contact information for both the sender and receiver
  • Description of the item
  • Information on shipment (i.e., mode of transport, port of export/unlading, etc.)

Other Documents

There are more forms that aren’t required everywhere but can be important in the export process. Depending on what kind of goods you’re shipping, you may need additional documents to supplement.


Packing List

A packing list isn’t required by customs in most countries, but the list helps as a supporting document for banks and for compliance and duty liability. The packing list may also be used by freight forwarders to prepare a bill of lading.

A Packing List requires:

  • Name and contact information of both the sender and receiver
  • Description of the item(s)
  • Weights and measurement of each and total packages
  • Any marks and/or numbers (i.e., container number and seal number)
  • Additional information (i.e., special instructions)

Dangerous Goods Forms

If you’re shipping products that are considered dangerous goods or hazardous materials, then you need to include the appropriate forms with your shipment. Depending on the mode of transportation, companies need to use either the International Air Transport Association’s form or the International Maritime Organization’s form.

It’s extremely important that the shipments are properly packaged, labeled, and documented. Someone who has been trained to handle dangerous goods shipping should be the one to complete the Shipper’s Declaration for Dangerous Goods.

Check out a guide for shipping hazardous materials to better understand the importance of proper communication of dangerous goods.

International shipping is a growth strategy for many businesses. It does require you to manage different types of forms. As you cross borders, your shipments become subject to government regulations of both the origin and destination countries. If you’re not careful, your shipments may not be delivered. The first step is to understand how to fill out forms for international shipping.

The second? To win!

Expedite your shipping process with automated export information filing with a solution like ShipAES. With ShipERP, our SAP-integrated solution fulfills all your compliance shipping needs with ShipAES. Our Automated Export Systems solution gives your business the ability to automate the filing of export information during the shipping process. ShipAES validates at a delivery or shipment level to ensure the export compliance.

Learn about the fully-integrated AES platform

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