The Export Process

Let’s take a quick look at the Export Process.  We are going to start with a broad look at the process and as we progress, each article will focus on different parts of the export business and what you need to know in more detail.

If you have ever had the opportunity to travel internationally, you have noticed a few details that are quite different than traveling domestically.

International Travel Process

1 – You will need your passport before leaving the US.  In fact, the ticket agent or sea-port agent or bus agent, will require seeing your passport and confirming that you have a valid updated passport prior to leaving the country.

2- You will be asked if you packed your own bags and if they have been with you at all times.  This confirms that you are in fact the owner/responsible person for what is contained in the bags.

3- Many times you are asked if this is a pleasure or business trip.

4- Many airlines and ships electronically transfer their manifest list to the destination country as soon as the airplane takes off. This is to help expedite the destination clearance process.

5- You have just landed!  Wooo Hooo!  You are ready to start your vacation.  You have been on Vacation mode for a week now in anticipation of this very moment.  You are now ready to start your vacation!  …but wait, you are not “technically” in the country yet.  Although your plane landed, and you are in fact in another country, you need to clear customs.

6- Clearing Customs – After you land, you will be routed through several lines or departments.  You may be asked to complete a form or several forms (many times the airline will give you the form to fill in the plane, but other times it is done after you arrive).

Then a Customs Officer will ask you the purpose of your trip.  Is it business or pleasure that brings you to our country? (NOTE: These are two different types of entries)

Then you may be routed to a different department if the purpose of your trip is business (to complete additional paperwork).

They will also ask you if you are bringing any products and the value of the products.

One of the final steps is for the Customs Official to either grant you entry into the country without inspections or route you to another department where your bags will be inspected.

Once the inspection is complete, you will be granted access to the country, if all checks out properly, of course.

Now you are there!!

The Export Process

Well, a shipment has a very similar flow process.

There are requirements that need to be completed Prior to the shipment being exported that are both US requirements as well destination country requirements.

Please always be aware that every product/commodity is different. Not all products will require inspection; in fact, the great majority will Not require inspection, license, permit, etc.

After you and your overseas customer(s) have agreed on the all terms (it is important that you understand the cost associated with your customer’s requirements so that those cost are built into your price to them), you will need to prepare the shipment.

Let’s take a quick look at a few requirements your customer may have that you will need to address prior to shipping (there may be other requirements or none at all).

Inspection prior to shipping

Some foreign companies require (your customer will advise if this is the case for them) an inspection prior to export.  There are several companies that perform these services. Your customer normally pays for the inspection and everything associated with it.  You will need to contact the inspection company to set up an appointment once the shipment is ready for inspection (please make sure it is completely ready for export).  The inspection company will need access to the product (in other words, please do not seal any of the boxes because the inspector will need to have access to the product.  Once the product is inspected, the inspector usually seals the boxes with inspection certification tape.  The goal is to ensure that the boxes are not opened after inspection.  The inspector will file a report (many times with pictures of the inspection) to the consignee.  You will be advised that the shipment is ready for export.  If a shipment requires inspection, Never ship without the inspection.

Consular Invoice

Some countries require Consular invoice(s).  These are forms usually provided by the Consulate office. Some consulate offices will require that you purchase the form others will provide the form at no charge. Once his documentation is prepared, it is then presented to the consulate office for validation. The cost, forms and requirements will vary depending on the country. Please factor these cost when negotiating.

Certificate of Origin

A certificate of origin is used to qualify goods for duty-free or reduced duty entry at the destination country. There is usually no direct cost associated with the form. But in order to qualify for the reduced or duty-free entry the form must accompany the export shipment.

Transportation or Conveyance

You will also need a conveyance document. This is like your airline ticket when you are a passenger. It provides information on your shipment in the mode of transportation to his destination. If the shipment is going by air the document will be the airway bill or air waybill.  If the shipment is going by ocean than it is referred to as an ocean bill of lading.  Shipments may also move via truck or rail.

Before the shipment departs you will need to complete the commercial invoice.  This is the most common document and the most important (outside specific commodities like firearm, ammunition, medication, etc.) that you will complete.  We will have a podcast and an article solely on the commercial invoice.

You may need to complete the EEI (formally known as the Shipper’s Export Declaration (SED)).  This is required when shipments are over $2500 per commodity.

These are the basic documents that you will need prior to shipping:  Your Invoice (Commercial Invoice), transportation waybill (air, ocean, truck, rail, etc.), and EEI if required.  You will need to have these documents in order to export a shipment.

Once the shipment arrives at the destination country, it will need to clear Customs much the same as a passenger would.

Your invoice will tell Customs:

  • What the importer is bringing in to the country
  • The classification of the goods/product
  • The Commercial value of the product
  • If the shipment qualifies for reduced or duty free entry
  • If the shipment is a gift, sample, temporary entry, commercial sale, etc.
  • Who is the owner of the shipment
  • Who has the legal right to make entry/clear the shipment
  • The country of origin of the products

Although this may seem as the final step before the shipment arrives, and in most cases it is, there may be additional department that will need to review and perhaps even inspect the shipment such as Food and Drug, Department of Defense, Drug Enforcement, (the destination country’s counterpart to these US Agencies).

Once all the applicable Agencies have released the shipment, then it truly is released to your customer.

Congratulations!  You have completed your first shipment and are so much more experienced and are ready to continue selling products to the Global Marketplace.

Please join our community. You will automatically receive 2 very helpful articles only reserved for those who join our online community.

As we grow the site, we will be adding podcast, video podcasts, articles and blogs. All of the information on our site is free and for your benefit.  Please remember to e-mail us with any questions.  Our email address is: Please share your successes and let us know what other articles, blogs or podcast you would like for us to cover.

Thank you for being part of our export community.


Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.