What licenses and documents do you need for exporting goods?

All the forms you need to know about

When it comes to exporting goods, there are several documents you need to fill out. If you fail to fill out and attach the correct documentation, your shipment may never reach its intended destination.

Here are some of the most common export documents. Some, if not all of these will apply to your shipment, so it's best to look into each one before you send your goods.

Export licence. Although the majority of goods can be shipped overseas without an export licence, it's advisable to check whether or not you require one before you begin distributing your products.

Items which typically require a licence include animals, chemicals, drugs and medicines, a product over fifty years old or an item with potential military use.

To find out more about downloading and filling out an export licence application form, go to the Home Office website (www.homeoffice.gov.uk).

Commercial invoice. This document is important to both you and the company importing your goods; you need proof of the commercial invoice to apply for other documents, while the importer needs a copy of the document to bring your goods into their country.

Essentially, the commercial invoice is the final bill issued by you to the buyer. It should give details of all parties involved in the transaction, provide information about the goods to be sold (type, quantity, purpose etc) and list the key terms of the deal.

In the vast majority of countries around the world, customs authorities use the commercial invoice to determine the rate of customs duty and carry out inspections. Some may require the invoice to contain specific additional information – it's best to check this in full before you fill the document out.

Although most customs agencies allow you to create the commercial invoice yourself, on your own company letterhead, some demand that you use their own internal documents; it's best to check this with your importer, or their country's customs office.

Consular invoice. This is typically used to identify goods, and is a formal requirement in certain countries.

To purchase a consular invoice, you need to contact the consulate of the country you're shipping too, and fill out the form in the language of that country.

Certificate of Origin. Many countries will require you to include a Certificate of Origin in your bundle of documents; this document tells the importing country where your product was made, NOT where it was sent from (a particularly important distinction if your manufacturer is based outside the UK).

For more information, go to the British Chambers of Commerce website (www.britishchambers.org.uk).

EUR.1. If you are exporting to a country within the EU and your goods meet certain criteria, you could benefit from cheaper rates of duty – or even avoid paying duty altogether.

If you are eligible, you will need to fill out a EUR.1 form; to download the form, or find out more information, go to the HMRC website (www.hmrc.gov.uk).

Export Cargo Shipping Instruction (ECSI). This document gives your freight forwarder details of what your packages contain, and how they should be transported. To download a form, and get more information, go to the SITPRO website (www.sitpro.org.uk).

Standard Shipping Note. If you're transporting goods by sea, this document instructs the port on how best to handle the packages you send. Again, you can consult the SITPRO site for more information.

National Export System (NES) declaration. This is an electronic document which applies only to goods being shipped outside the EU.

If you think you need to fill out a declaration, you first need to download an NES application form from the HMRC website; once you have filled out the application, you will be given access to the computer system which handles NES forms. Visit www.hmrc.gov.uk for more information.


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