|How to Prepare Customs Documents
Unsure which documents are required for your international shipment? We can help.
If you're new to international shipping or are doing business in a region for the first time, you might be unsure of what documents you need or how to complete them. You're right to be diligent. To avoid shipment delays at customs, you must properly prepare the customs documents according to the destination country's requirements.
Document requirements differ from country to country and from shipment to shipment. This can make preparing customs documents seem daunting, but we're here to help. So rest assured — if you prepare well before you begin completing your documentation, shipping internationally can be easy.
While you might need additional documents based on your commodity, these documents are most commonly required:
- A Commercial Invoice is required for all FedEx International Ground® shipments. For FedEx Express® international shipments, a Commercial Invoice is required by most countries for commodity shipments. Commodities are anything considered tangible, including merchandise, supplies or parts, product samples, and gifts of any value. It is not required if the item being shipped is a typed, written or printed document with no commercial value. Examples include personal or business letters or reports. You can send non-commodity shipments directly to the recipient without any customs documentation.
When completing the Commercial Invoice, provide accurate and detailed information of the shipment’s content, including an accurate description of the shipment and its origin. Consider these questions:
- What is the item you're shipping?
- Where was it originally manufactured?
- What is it made of?
- What is its value? If it's more than $2,500, some countries might require an additional document.
- What will it be used for? Or, if it's a component, what will it be used with?
- Is it a product sample? If so, note that as part of the description. (For example, rather than write "sample" or "wood screw" describe the item as "wood screw sample."
- How many are being shipped? (If the items are pairs, count each separately — a pair of shoes equals two items.)
- How much does the shipment weigh?
The destination country's regulatory and customs authorities use this information to determine the tariff and how to process the shipment. An incomplete or inaccurate Commercial Invoice can increase the risk that the destination country will delay the shipment's entry at the border.
- Certificate of Origin is a record of the country where the product was manufactured. Whether the form is required depends on the commodity and destination country. For more information, including how to determine if your shipment requires a Certificate of Origin, go to "Documents for international shipments" on Our Services.
- NAFTA Certificate of Origin is used if your commodity was manufactured in North America and will remain within one of those participating member nations — the U.S., Mexico and Canada — as specified under the rules of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). More information is provided in
NOTE: If the commodity requires a Certificate of Origin or a NAFTA Certificate of Origin, your local chamber of commerce must validate and notarize the completed original form.
- Electronic Export Information (EEI) might be required by the destination country if your shipment is valued at $2,500 or more. Click here for more information and to determine if you need to file an EEI. Details are included on the option to authorize FedEx as your agent for filing the EEI.
Get the help you need
If the thought of preparing customs documents is overwhelming, take advantage of our online sites and personal assistance, including:
- International Services. Peruse the site for resources and information on shipping internationally. Additionally, an online chat box will appear to offer one-on-one support from a live representative.
- Prepare Documents. This section on the International Services site provides specific information and assistance on documentation requirements and filing options. It will lead you through the document-preparing process, from determining which ones are required for a particular country and commodity, to providing ones you can download or process online, along with step-by-step instructions on how to complete them.
- FedEx® Global Trade Manager. Find trade information on more than 220 countries and territories served by FedEx. A tool enables you to view a list of the documents the destination country requires, as well as download and prepare the documents.
- U.S. Commercial Service. This page gives information about the USCS, a government agency which provides personal assistance and can walk you through the documents required for your shipment.
- FedEx International Shipping Resources. Choose from this list of phone numbers and online resources to answer your questions about international shipping, including document requirements.
- Our Services. Find detailed information on customs documents, including whether they're required for your international shipment.
- International Customer Service. Call 1.800.GoFedEx 1.800.463-3339 (say "international services").
- Account executive. Contact your FedEx account executive for small-business international assistance.
- Document preparation assistance. We can take care of the international paperwork for you. To authorize us as your agent, call 1.866.684.6023 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- FedEx® Electronic Trade Documents. Available through FedEx® electronic shipping solutions, this option enables you to electronically submit your completed trade documents to us. We'll attach them to your package, saving you the time and hassle of printing and attaching them yourself.
If you frequently repeat the same type of shipment, save time and eliminate errors by creating shipper profiles on your fedex.com account. With a click of a button, your shipping documents will pre-populate with the commodity and recipient information.
Go to International Services to start or expand your global shipping experience.
More from FedEx Updates
Find additional tips and tricks to improve your FedEx experience on FedEx Updates.