Customs documentation basics for exporters
As the exporter, you’re responsible for preparing the customs documentation.
The type of documentation required depends on the type of goods you are exporting, their commercial value and the country/territory of destination.
The most common required export documents are the International Air Waybill (required for all shipments) and the Commercial Invoice (required for most shipments with commercial value and destination outside the European Union).
Expert Tip: Completing all documentation correctly will help you avoid customs delays.
Your role, step by step, in the international shipping process
Helpful customs tips
While completing your documentation and preparing your shipment:
- Make sure that the exporter’s EORI number (or registration/VAT number for non EU based companies) is clearly stated on the Commercial Invoice
- Include the contact details for both the importer and exporter
- Make sure the information you put on the Commercial Invoice matches the information on the Air Waybill
- Put three copies of the commercial invoice (the original and two copies) on the package
Online FedEx shipping tools guide you through the international shipping process; they allow you to upload all your customs documentation and transmit it electronically.
Why is a commercial invoice important? How do I complete it accurately?
What is a commercial invoice and why is it needed?
The Commercial Invoice is the primary document used by most foreign customs agencies for import control, valuation and duty determination.
It is the first international shipping document that should be completed as it is the foundation of all other trade documents. The information provided on other international shipping documents, including the Air Waybill or shipping label, must correspond with the Commercial Invoice.
The Commercial Invoice is prepared by the exporter and is required by the importer to prove ownership and arrange for duties & taxes payment.
When is it needed?
The Commercial Invoice is required for all product/commodity (non-document) shipments for international trade.
The commercial invoice allows the establishment of proof of export. This evidence supports the tax exemption.
How can I complete and upload my Commercial Invoice?
When using FedEx Ship Manager® at fedex.com, you are guided through completion of your customs documentation. You can either upload your own documentation or generate your documentation automatically during the process.
What is an EORI number and where do I need to enter it?
What is an EORI number?
An EORI number is a unique reference assigned by a customs authority to identify economic operators within the European Union. It is needed for all companies and all types of export and import shipments. Since 1st July 2009, European Union legislation requires that all member states adopt the EORI (Economic Operators Registration and Identification) system.
Why do you need an EORI number?
The EORI number is a legal requirement and should be included on all custom declarations for import from or export to countries/territories outside the EU. Customs authorities will refuse any entry of goods without an EORI number.
How can you get an EORI number?
An EORI number needs to be granted by the customs authorities of the country/territory where you or your business is based.
Important note: The EORI number must be linked to a VAT number
Where should I enter my EORI number?
If your application is being processed, please inform us of your EORI number by emailing
For more information on country/territory specific prohibitions, check out FedEx Global Trade Manager
- Human corpses, human organs or body parts, human and animal embryos, or cremated or disinterred human remains.
- Explosives *
- Firearms, weaponry and their parts (acceptable between the U.S. and Puerto Rico).
- Perishable foodstuffs and foods and beverages requiring refrigeration or other environmental control.
- Live animals including insects.
- Plants and plant material, including cut flowers (cut flowers are acceptable from the U.S. to selected points in Canada and from Colombia, Ecuador and the Netherlands to the U.S.).
- Lottery tickets and gambling devices where prohibited by local, state, provincial or national law.
- Money (coins, cash, currency, paper money and negotiable instruments equivalent to cash such as endorsed stocks, bonds and cash letters).
- Pornographic and/or obscene material.
- Shipments being processed under:
- Duty drawback claims unless advance arrangements are made.
- Temporary Import Bonds - acceptable under the FedEx International Broker Select option, for initial import only.
- U.S. State Department licenses.
- U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration export permit.
- Letters of Credit. Shipments subject to Letters of Credit are generally prohibited, with the exception of shipments subject to Letters of Credit calling for a "courier receipt," as defined by Article 25 of UCP 600, shipped using the FedEx Expanded Service International Air Waybill.
- Certificate of Registration shipments (CF4455).
- Hazardous waste, including, but not limited to, used hypodermic needles or syringes or other medical waste.
- Shipments that may cause damage to, or delay of, equipment, personnel or other shipments.
- Shipments that require us to obtain any special license or permit for transportation, importation or exportation.
- Shipments or commodities whose carriage, importation or exportation is prohibited by any law, statute or regulation.
- Marijuana, including marijuana intended for recreational or medicinal use, and synthetic cannabinoids.
- Shipments with a declared value for customs in excess of that permitted for a specific destination.
- Dangerous goods except as permitted under section 9 "Dangerous Goods" of the Federal Express conditions of carriage.
- Processed or unprocessed dead animals, including insects and pets. Taxidermy-finished hunting trophies or completely processed (dried) specimens of whole animals or parts of animals are acceptable for shipment into the U.S.
- Packages that are wet, leaking or emit an odor of any kind.
- Wildlife products that require U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service export clearance by FedEx prior to exportation from the U.S.
- In-bond shipments destined to or being withdrawn from a Foreign Trade Zone or bonded warehouse, unless the FedEx International Broker Select option is selected for U.S. import shipments, or the FedEx International Controlled Export service option is selected for U.S. export shipments.
- APO/FPO/DPO addresses.
- C.O.D. shipments.
* Class 1.4 explosives are acceptable for carriage to Canada, Germany, France, Japan, United Arab Emirates and United Kingdom. Note: United Arab Emirates only allows Class 1.4 explosives to be shipped hold-for-pickup to the FedEx Express facility in Dubai.
Complex customs clearance needs? We’ve got answers
Do you need to designate a specific customs broker?
Our Broker Select option allows you to designate a specific customs broker. Simply select the FedEx International Broker Select option when preparing your shipment online and indicate the broker's address and telephone number on the FedEx® International Air Waybill.
To find out more, discover all our ancillary clearance services or get in touch with your FedEx Sales Executive.
Need a customized solution?
You can rely on our customs clearance specialist expertise to help you build the right solutions to your most complex customs needs.