Overview of Import & Export Documents and Procedures

Import and Export binders sitting on a desk in an office.

The United States exports billions of dollars’ worth of goods every year, and we do it on a global scale. The sheer number of items moved from country to country is massive, and each of those items must be stored, inspected, moved, and accounted for.

To ensure that items that leave the country and items that come into the country are safe and meet standards of quality before and after shipment, our government and foreign governments enforce rigorous standards through requirements for documentation and accountability for import and export procedures. The standards must be thorough; without them, the movement and shipment of dangerous goods and poor care of goods during shipment would otherwise become commonplace.

But requirements for U.S. import and export documentation and procedural standards can be a challenge to fully understand. Handling the logistics of shipments in and out of the U.S. often requires the assistance of experienced shipping logistics consultants to avoid delays and complications.

Familiarize yourself with some of the common import and export procedures and documentation below. Not all documents and procedures are necessary in all circumstances.

Warehousing Level Documents and Procedures

At the warehousing level, which includes storage and preparation for shipment, you must prepare:

  • Packing List – A list for accountability of what goods are packed where and in what quantities, or the dimension and weight of goods or packages and containers.
  • Insurance Certificate – Proof of insurance for goods due for export.
  • Certificate of Origin – Proof that goods shipped outside the country of origin were produced or manufactured in the country of origin.

You may also need to coordinate the completion of paperwork individual to warehouses or shipping centers to comply with internal processes unique to the station.

Customs Level Documents and Procedures

Customs brokers take on responsibility as the first checkpoint for imported goods. Among documents required for clearance on imports and exports at customs, you will likely deal with:

  • Duties – Duties and fees, which are tariffs on imported goods to help protect local economies, are due once goods have arrived in-country.
  • Permissions – Depending on the type of goods exported, customs officials may require coordination and communication for the issuance of notice of permission and approval.
  • Delivery – Imported goods need to be housed before distribution, so delivery reservations are made at the customs level.

Shipment procedures continue well after goods have reached their destination. Customs is often only the receiving step; there are still additional procedures necessary after customs.

Government Level Documents and Procedures

You may also find that exporting to certain countries requires compliance with highly specialized regulations. Some examples for import and export in the U.S. include:

  • Food & Drug Administration – Because consumable goods are so sensitive to environmental influence and tampering, the U.S. Food & Drug Administration must watch the quality of imported and exported goods carefully.
  • Department of Agriculture – Agriculture is essential to life and economy in every country; in the U.S., the Department of Agriculture must monitor imported and exported goods to ensure that they do not negatively affect health & economy.

Agencies like these often impose individualized checks and procedures with which compliance is necessary. Seamless import and export rely on preparing for agency regulations by knowing which regulatory agencies will be watching your goods.

Bank Level Documents and Procedures

Banks work to make certain that invoices are paid or covered by insurance. Commonly, shipping across countries involved help from the bank with:

  • Duties and Taxes – Importing and exporting at scales calls for equally scaled duties and taxes to be regularly covered. Banks can assist with making sure duties and taxes are paid efficiently.
  • Letters of Credit – These legal documents act as a guarantee that those who are due payment will be paid despite the ability of interested parties to pay on time or in full.
  • Invoices – Handling invoicing in a timely manner is the only way to ensure that you get paid as an exporter or maintain relationships in good standing with exporters to continue receiving goods shipments in acceptable condition on time.

Handling money in importing and exporting is a practice that calls for tact and professional proficiency. Keeping accountability is indispensable in the shipping economy.

As the goods you export and import become more specialized, they are monitored by more agencies and require greater amounts of paperwork. Fortunately, our consulting services for import & export documentation & procedures is hassle-free and exceptionally thorough. Eliminate doubt & maximize efficiency of your imported or exported goods with the consultants at Global Shipping Services.

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