This table lists Basic Documents, required for all exports, and Special Documents, required for certain goods.
PDF links in the right-hand column open the following three types of documents:
1. Country-specific documents, where available, listed by name
2. Examples (actual specimens of documents submitted for a particular country and product)
3. Generic samples (blank nonspecific documents)
|Single Administrative Document (SAD)||example|
|Commercial Invoice (CI)||generic sample|
|Freight Document: Bill of Lading (B/L),
Air Waybill (AWB), Rail Waybill, or Road Waybill
|Packing List (P/L)||generic sample|
|Exit Summary Declaration (EXS)||e-file only (FAQ)|
|Export Accompanying Document (EAD)||example|
|Certificate of Origin (CoO)||example|
|Certificates of Inspection||example (Certificate of Conformity)
example (Phytosanitary Certificate)
|Export Licenses, Permits, Certificates||product-specific|
Advisory: Documents and means of submission (e.g. paper vs. electronic), may change. Contact a customs broker or a a freight forwarder for requirements, including number of originals and copies, particular to your shipment.
Explanation of Basic Documents
Single Administrative Document (SAD)
The Single Administrative Document (SAD) is a legal declaration for the import and export of goods. The same form is used for both import and export for the entire European Economic Area (the European Union and European Free Trade Association). The completed SAD contains all the basic information required for customs procedures. Except for certain specific cases, all goods exported from the customs territory of the EU must be declared to the customs authorities using the SAD. While most data boxes on the SAD are required by EU legislation, a few are at the discretion of customs in the member state.
The language used for filling out the declaration must be acceptable to the customs office(s) where the form is processed. Only official languages of the EU are accepted.
The SAD's Eight Copies
The SAD comes in eight copies on special paper that produces a carbonless copy in selected fields. Thus some information is identical on all sheets, while other information differs from one copy to the next. The copies are ultimately distributed to the following, as applicable:
- Outside country or EU member state of export or transit
- Outside country or EU member state of export or transit, for statistical records
- Destination office of the transit agency; or accompanies the goods as the document T2L serving to attest the to the EU status of the goods
- Return copy for the transit procedure (not necessary if no transit is involved)
- Outside country or EU member state of import
- Outside country or EU member state of import, for statistical records
Data Required on the SAD
The SAD has about 50 data boxes, not all of which are required for every customs procedure. The following are among the required data:
- Exporter name, address, and details
- Consignee name, address, and details
- Representative (agent) name, address, and details
- Combined Nomenclature (CN) tariff classification code of the goods
- Packages and description of the goods, with marks and numbers of containers
- Gross and net mass of the goods
- Goods' country of export and country of origin
- Invoice amount, currency, and exchange rate
- Delivery terms
- Identity and nationality of the means of transit at departure, at entry, and at destination
Customs Offices and Processing
- Country and customs office of transit, if any
- Country and customs office of destination
- Code of customs procedure (e.g. release for free circulation, transit, customs warehouse)
- Calculation of taxes
- Additional documents submitted with the SAD, e.g. certificates and authorizations
Detailed guidelines for completion of the SAD are available on the website of the European Commission's Taxation and Customs Union at www.ec.europa.eu/taxation_customs/index_en.
Commercial Invoice (CI)
The Commercial Invoice (CI) documents the transaction between the exporter and the importer. It is always required for customs clearance.
Information contained on the CI includes, at minimum:
- The name and address of the consignor
- The name and address of the consignee
- Invoice number and date of issue
- Bill of Lading or other freight document number
- Terms and conditions of delivery and payment (Incoterm)
- Full description of the goods, including the quantity, unit of measure, and unit price
- Total invoice value in the currency of payment
- Means of transport
If the currency of payment indicated on the CI is not freely convertible to the euro or the currency of an EU member state, an equivalent amount of the total invoice value must be given in a currency that is convertible.
This is generally the Bill of Lading (B/L), but may also be a Road Waybill, Air Waybill, or Rail Waybill. A B/L is both a receipt for goods and a contract of carriage, but may also serve as a title document. B/Ls are issued by the carrier or their agent. One of these documents, as appropriate to the means of transport used, must be completed and presented to customs authorities to obtain export clearance of the goods. The documents are explained below.
Bill of Lading (B/L)
While "Bill of Lading" may refer generically to any freight document, the term is generally applied to freight documents covering carriage by water. Different types of B/Ls may be used to cover particular arrangements. For example, an On Board Bill of Lading indicates the goods have been received on board the transport vessel; a Negotiable Bill of Lading serves as a negotiable title document and can be used to transfer ownership of the shipment by an endorsement, much as a bank check.
The Road Waybill is a freight document for the transport of goods by road. Four copies are issued and signed by the consignor and the carrier. The first copy is intended for the consignor; the second remains in the possession of the carrier; the third accompanies the goods and is delivered to the consignee, and the fourth is signed and stamped by the consignee at delivery and then returned to the consignor. The Road Waybill is not a document of title and is nonnegotiable.
Air Waybill (AWB)
The Air Waybill (AWB) is a freight document for the transport of goods by air. It is issued by the carrier or the carrier's agent. The AWB contains three originals and several extra copies. One original is kept by each of the parties involved in the transport (the consignor, the consignee, and the carrier). The additional copies may be required at the airport of departure and the airport of destination, for delivery, and in some cases, for onward carriage.
A Rail Waybill is a freight document for the transport of goods by rail. One original and five copies of the Rail Waybill are generally issued: the original accompanies the goods, the duplicate of the original is kept by the consignor, and the three remaining copies are kept by the carrier for internal purposes.
FIATA Bill of Lading (for multimodal shipments)
The FIATA Bill of Lading is a multimodal or combined transport document with negotiable status, which has been developed by the International Federation of Freight Forwarders Associations (FIATA).
International Road Transport (Transports Internationaux Routiers) or TIR Carnet
Administered by the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE), the International Road Transport (Transports Internationaux Routiers) or TIR Convention is a multilateral treaty created on November 14, 1975, to simplify and harmonize the administrative formalities of international road transport. The 1975 convention replaced the TIR Convention of 1959, which itself replaced the 1949 TIR Agreement. With more than 50 countries using the procedure, the TIR system is the international customs transit system with the widest geographical coverage. A handbook on using TIR Carnets is available from the UNECE at www.unece.org/DAM/tir/handbook/english/newtirhand/TIR-6Rev11e.pdf.
As with other customs transit procedures, the TIR system enables goods to move under customs control across international borders without the payment of the duties and taxes that would normally be due at importation (or exportation). A condition of the TIR procedure is that the movement of the goods must include transport by road.
Goods move from a customs office of departure in one country to a customs office of destination in another country under cover of an internationally accepted customs transit document, the TIR Carnet, which also provides a financial guarantee for the payment of the suspended duties and taxes. The guarantee system is managed by the International Road Transport Union or IRU (www.iru.org).
Although each EU member state is a contracting party to the TIR Convention, the EU is considered to be a single territory for the purposes of the TIR procedure. This means TIR can only be used in the EU for international movements (where the movement either starts or ends in a third country, or where the goods move between two or more EU member states via the territory of a third country).
The IRU's TIR-EPD (https://tirepd.iru.org) is an electronic application that enables TIR Carnet holders to submit electronic pre-declarations (EPD) to customs authorities in different countries. With TIR-EPD, customs authorities are able to confirm that the pre-declaration was submitted by an authorized TIR Carnet holder and that the TIR Carnet is valid. This exchange of advance information facilitates pre-arrival risk analysis and makes border crossings simpler, safer, and faster. A TIR-EPD user guide is available at www.iru.org/system/files/TIR-EPD%20User%20Guide%20ENG.pdf.
Packing List (P/L)
The Packing List (P/L) is a document that accompanies a shipment and provides information on the items shipped, including quantities, dimensions, and weight. It is useful for customs clearance as an inventory of the cargo. Both commercial stationers and freight forwarders carry packing list forms.
The P/L used to import goods to the EU may be prepared in any language, but it is recommended that it be translated into English. One original and at least one copy is required. The P/L is often signed, but signing is not necessary.
Information that must be on the P/L includes:
- The name and address of the consignor
- The name and address of the consignee
- The name and address of the carrier
- The quantity, description, and total net and gross weight (in kg) of the goods
- The date of shipment, invoice number, and bill of lading or other freight document number
- Mode of transport and the carrier,
- The type of package (e.g., box, crate, drum, or carton) the quantity of packages, total net and gross weight (in kg)
- Package marks and dimensions, if appropriate
Explanation of Special Documents
Special document requirements for exports depend on the product being exported, and are often temporary measures put in place by government agencies. A few common categories of documents are listed here. As always, check with a customs broker, freight forwarder, or Estonian customs authorities for documents required for a particular shipment.
Exit Summary Declaration (EXS)
The Exit Summary Declaration (EXS) must be lodged, in addition to the SAD, at the customs office of exit for shipments leaving the EU customs territory. It is only required for goods for which a full declaration is not required. The EXS includes the following:
- Consignor name and address
- Consignee name and address
- Goods description
- Goods item number
- Number of items
- Gross mass
- Container number
- Commercial reference number
- Declaration date
- Commodity code
- Customs office of exit
- Location of goods
- Type of package (code), number of packages, and shipping marks
- United Nations (UN) dangerous goods code
- Number of seals / seals identity
- Transport document number
- Other specific circumstance indicator
- Person lodging the summary declaration (only required in the Exit Summary Declaration)
- Method of payment code for transport charges
- Mode of transport code
- Countries of routing codes
Export Accompanying Document (EAD)
The Export Accompanying Document (EAD) authorizes the release of goods for export. In general, this document is printed from the customs authority's computerized system and to be presented to the customs office of exit.
Certificate of Origin (CoO)
The Certificate of Origin (CoO) is an affidavit certifying the country of origin/production of the goods in the shipment. For goods originating in countries party to trade agreements with the country of import, a CoO is necessary to claim a preferential tariff. The CoO is certified by an official organization in the country of origin, such as a consular office or a chamber of commerce. A variety of types of CoO exist. For most countries of import, an EU Certificate of Origin may be used. Arab countries generally require a CoO from an Arab chamber of commerce in Estonia.
An insurance document is required for customs clearance only when the insurance data indicating the amount of premium paid to insure the merchandise does not appear on the CI.
Insurance is an agreement by which a company, in exchange for the payment of a premium, guarantees compensation to the insured in the event of loss or damage covered by the insurance policy. Insurance protects the insured against damage caused by common risks during handling, storing, loading, or transporting cargo and, depending on the policy, by other rare risks such as riots, strikes, or terrorism.
Note that basic insurance provided by a carrier is generally limited by regulation. Depending on the means of transport, indemnity is limited by the weight and value of the goods, not their value. As a result, it is common for the seller or buyer, depending on insurable interest, to take out insurance for additional coverage.
International conventions dictate the standard extent of the transporter's responsibility, as follows:
- The Convention for the Contract of the International Carriage of Goods by Road (CMR Convention) for road freight
- The Convention Concerning Intercarriage by Rail (CIM Convention) for rail transport
- International Convention on Bill of Lading, better known as the Hague Rules or the Brussels Convention, for shipping
- The 1929 Warsaw Convention, as well as the Montreal Draft Treaty of 1975, for air freight
An inspection certificate confirms that goods have been inspected for conformity to a set of industry, customer, or government specifications prior to shipment. Various kinds of inspection certificates may be required for export.
A variety of certificates may be required, either by the EU or by Estonian customs, attesting to the safety of plants, animals, and their products. Inspection and certification are carried out by agricultural, food safety, or animal health agencies in the country of origin prior to shipment. For some products, EU regulations specify which bodies are approved to certify the documents.
EU harmonized certificates are available on member countries' customs websites. These certificates may include "delete as appropriate" statements that should not, however, be removed from the form before printing it. Instead, the text should be lined out (struck through) electronically before printing.
A phytosanitary certificate indicates that a shipment has been inspected and is free from harmful pests and plant diseases. For export of some plants and seedlings, the department of agriculture or a designated official of the country of origin must provide a permit or phytosanitary certificate.
A veterinary certificate or health certificate attests that a live animal, or any animal products, have been visually or comprehensively tested and have been found free of evidence of disease and pests. The certificate is generally required for the shipment of live animals and animal products (processed foodstuffs, poultry, meat, fish seafood, dairy products, and eggs and egg products), and is usually very specific to the goods. The certificate is issued by a certified veterinarian or the department of agriculture in the country of origin, and it may be additionally verified by an authorized national entity. Some countries require that health certificates be notarized or certified by a chamber of commerce and legalized by a consulate.
Certificate of Conformity or Certificate of Compliance
This document certifies that the article has been tested, checked, and verified for compliance with the norms and directives stated on the certificate, showing that the article complies with standards in the country of import. The certificate identifies the product by serial number, year of production, and manufacturer.
The certificates are usually obtained from independent, neutral testing organizations. The issuing body of the certificate is an important element of the document, as the reputation of the certifying body is the importer's assurance of quality. Certifying bodies may be national or international in scope; they are in turn monitored by national or international accreditation bodies.
Export Licenses, Permits, and Certificates
Export licenses and permits show the licensee's permission to export a specified quantity of a commodity; often, they also specify the country of import for which permission is granted. Some form of license, permit, or certificate is required for all restricted goods. Licenses and permits are issued by ministries responsible for management of commodities or resources that are subject to export restrictions. (See the Restricted and Prohibited page for details.)
Certificates show acceptability of the goods for export. Acceptability may depend upon international agreements or national standards for goods to be exported.
Export of wild animals and plants is subject to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). Species threatened with extinction globally or locally may be exported only under specific conditions and with the appropriate CITES export permit/certificate.
Note: The above information is subject to change. Exporters are advised to obtain the most current information from a customs broker, freight forwarder, logistics professional, or the local customs authorities.
Sources: European Commission (www.ec.europa.eu); Estonian Tax and Customs Board (Maksu ja Tolliamet) (www.emta.ee); EveryCRSReport.com (www.everycrsreport.com); United Nations Conference on Trade and Development or UNCTAD (https://unctad.org)
Article written for World Trade Press by Brielle Burt, Jennifer Goheen, and Nina Bellucci.
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