This table lists Basic Documents, required for all imports, 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 documents)
|Entry Summary Declaration (ENS)||e-file only (FAQ)|
|Single Administrative Document (SAD)||example|
|Certificate of Origin (CoO)||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|
|Value Declaration (Form DV 1)||example|
|Inspection Certificate||example (Phytosanitary Certificate)
example (Certificate of Conformity)
|Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) Certificate of Origin Form A
(combined declaration and certificate)
Advisory: Documents and means of submission (e.g. paper vs. electronic), may change. Contact a customs broker or a freight forwarder for requirements, including number of originals and copies, particular to your shipment.
Explanation of Basic Documents
Entry Summary Declaration (ENS)
The Entry Summary Declaration (ENS) is a pre-loading report required for every shipment intended to enter or transit the European Union (EU) It is instituted as a security measure to facilitate a timely risk assessment of cargo. For each port of loading, the carrier is responsible for lodging an ENS with the first EU port of call. (See Basic Process for procedural details.)
The ENS does not take the place of the full declaration (see SAD below). A manifest, transport document, or another internationally approved commercial or official document containing the details required for the identification of goods can be substituted for the ENS.
Information required includes:
- Bill of Lading (B/L) number
- Shipper and consignee name and address (Economic Operator Registration and Identification/EORI number if available)
- Notify party name and address (mandatory if the consignee is "to order," EORI number if available)
- Four-digit Harmonized System (HS) code, clear and accurate goods description (general terms such as "Freight All Kinds/FAK" and "general cargo" are not accepted)
- List of all EU ports of call on ship's itinerary
- Package type
- Number of packages
- Container number
- Shipping marks for packaged goods (for less than container load, or LCL, cargo)
- Cargo gross weight (kg)
- UN code for dangerous goods
- Seal number
As a receipt for ENS filing, customs issues a Movement Reference Number (MRN), which is entered in the customs manifest and used for subsequent tracking of the shipment.
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 EU and European Free Trade Association). The completed SAD contains all the basic information required for customs procedures. Except for certain specific cases, all goods imported into 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. In some versions, green boxes are for transit operations and are omitted for direct import. 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.
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.
Commercial Invoice (CI)
The Commercial Invoice (CI) documents the transaction between the exporter and the importer. It is always required for customs clearance as it is used by customs to determine the transaction value of the goods on which customs duties in the EU are usually based. The CI 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 CI is often signed, but it is not necessary. 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. Freight documents are issued by the carrier or carrier's agent. One of these documents, as appropriate to the means of transport used, must be completed and presented to customs authorities to obtain clearance of the imported 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/L 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
As in every country, special document requirements for Estonia and the EU are too numerous to list comprehensively. They depend on the type of product, country of origin, international treaties and agreements, or temporary measures put in place by government agencies. A few common categories are listed here. As always, check with a customs broker, freight forwarder, or Maksu-ja Tolliamet (customs) authorities for documents required for a particular shipment.
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 upon 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 are required when importing plant products, meat products, and industrial equipment.
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 officially states that regulated plants, plant products, or sometimes other articles meet specified requirements for import. The purpose is generally to avoid contamination with pests. Fruit, vegetables, grain, flowers, agricultural goods, and forestry products that are subject to regulation require a phytosanitary certificate. The certificate may also be needed for other articles that could carry pest contamination, such as empty containers.
The exporter is responsible for applying to the domestic agricultural agency in advance of shipment to request certification, obtain model certificates, and carry out inspection.
While plants imported from outside the EU may require a phytosanitary certificate for import, most plants can be freely transported within the EU.
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 are independent, neutral testing organizations that may be national or international in scope; they are in turn monitored by national or international accreditation bodies.
VI1 Document for Wine
Wines imported from outside the EU must be accompanied by a VI1 Document, which is issued by the country of origin.
Value Declaration (Form D.V. 1)
The Value Declaration Form, also called a Customs Value Declaration, must be presented to customs authorities when the value of the imported goods exceeds €10,000. The Value Declaration Form must be presented with the SAD.
ATA (Admission temporaire / Temporary Admission) Carnet
The acronym ATA is a combination of French and English phrases "Admission Temporaire / Temporary Admission." When the goods are temporary imports traveling under an ATA Carnet, the carnet must be presented to customs along with the SAD. (See the Special Provisions page for details.)
Import Licenses, Permits, or Certifications
Import licenses and permits show the licensee's permission to import a specified quantity of a commodity. Some form of license, permit, or certificate is required for all restricted goods. Licenses and permits are issued by ministries responsible for controlling commodities that are subject to import restrictions. (See the Restricted and Prohibited page for more information.)
Importing goods from another EU country seldom requires a general import license. Importers from outside the EU need to acquire a license before importing certain goods. In particular, food and wine products from outside the EU require a license known as an AGRIM Certificate.
Import 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 imported only under specific conditions and with the appropriate CITES permit.
Generalized System of Preferences (GSP)
The Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) is a preferential tariff system that provides reduced rates on some imports from certain developing countries. The GSP concept and programs were established based on the premise that preferential tariff rates in developed country markets could promote export-driven industry growth in developing countries. Therefore, the GSP helps to free beneficiaries from heavy dependence on trade in primary products (e.g., raw materials) and diversify their economies to promote stable growth.
Due to differences in developed countries' economic structures and tariff programs—as well as differences in the types of domestic industries and products each country aims to shield from greater foreign competition—it proved difficult to create one unified system. Therefore, the GSP concept became a system of individual national schemes based on common goals and principles—each with a view toward providing developing countries with generally equivalent opportunities for export growth. As a result, the preference-granting countries implemented various individual schemes of temporary, generalized, and nonreciprocal preferences under which tariffs were lowered or eliminated for specific developing countries.
Under the direction of the World Trade Organization (WTO), the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) implemented the GSP in 1971. The following developed countries grant GSP preferences: all European Union member states, Armenia, Australia, Belarus, Canada, Iceland, Japan, Kazakhstan, New Zealand, Norway, Russia, Switzerland, Turkey, the United Kingdom, and United States of America. Among WTO members, the developing country status is generally based on self-determination. For the GSP, however, each preference-granting country establishes particular criteria and conditions for defining and identifying developing country beneficiaries. Consequently, the list of beneficiaries and exceptions may vary greatly among countries.
As a trade preference, the GSP concept posed a problem under the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) because granting preferences to particular countries is inconsistent with the fundamental nondiscrimination obligation placed on GATT Parties (GATT Article I:1) to grant most-favored nation (MFN) tariff treatment to the products of all other GATT Parties. However, since preference programs were viewed as a means of transitioning developing countries to greater trade liberalization and economic development, GATT Parties accommodated them in a series of joint actions.
A GSP Handbook on the Scheme of the EU is available at https://unctad.org/system/files/official-document/itcdtsbmisc25rev5_en.pdf.
GSP Certificate of Origin Form A
The claim for GSP treatment must be supported with the appropriate documentary evidence. The GSP Certificate of Origin Form A is used for this purpose. A combined declaration and certificate, Form A was adopted in 1970 by the UNCTAD´s Working Group on Rules of Origin as a common certificate of origin for the purposes of the GSP (TD/B/AC.5/38).
The most recent changes to Form A include:
- In September 2013 to take into account the accession of Croatia to the EU as well as the introduction by Iceland of unilateral duty-free and quota-free market access for imports of certain products originating in least developed countries (Notes 2013) (TD/B/GSP/FORM/4)
- In July 2007 to take into account the EU's enlargement and to include the Principality of Liechtenstein, leading to a revision of the note on the Back of the form (Notes 2007) (TD/B/GSP/FORM/3)
- In July 2005 to take into account the new GSP scheme of Turkey, leading to a revision of the note on the back of the form (Notes 2005) (TD/B/GSP/FORM/2/Rev.1)
- In April 2004 to take into account the EU's enlargement, leading to a revision of the note on the back of the form (Notes 2004) (TD/B/GSP/FORM/1)
The UNCTAD Trade and Development Board agreed that the old Form A with notes dated 1996, 2004, and 2005 will remain valid until existing stocks are exhausted.
Note: The above information is subject to change. Importers 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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