FedEx Express aircraft

A step-by-step guide to international shipping documents

A step-by-step guide to international shipping documents

Shipping internationally can be a big revenue booster for your store. After all, your customers can ship to more than 220 countries and territories with FedEx, so you have a lot of ground you can cover.

And with the great discounts you get on FedEx International Priority®, FedEx International Economy® and FedEx International Ground, as well as the savings you get on the FedEx Bonus Weight Envelope pricing, promoting your store as a FedEx international shipper can be a lucrative strategy.

But considering the many regulations and document requirements for each shipment, international shipping can be a complicated process. For starters, documentation must be completely and correctly filled out for every shipment. Information that is missing or incomplete puts the shipment at risk of delays at customs.

In the tabbed sections below, we provide simplified steps for completing some of the documents most commonly used by international shippers. Between this and the other resources available online, we hope you can become the neighborhood expert for shipping customers’ packages to other countries and territories. 

Commercial Invoice

A Commercial Invoice is the main document required when shipping goods with commercial value (commodities) to any foreign country. It’s used by customs authorities to identify the seller and buyer of the goods, what the goods are, and where they’re being shipped. The goods description and monetary value determine duties and taxes, and whether any controls are needed. For instance, some goods are not accepted in certain countries or territories.

Commercial Invoice example

1. EXPORTER: Complete this section with your customer’s contact information. The phone number is important in case questions arise about the shipment or goods being shipped. 

2. PURPOSE OF SHIPMENT: Indicate why the shipment is being made. Some examples:

a. The goods are being purchased by the recipient.
b. The goods are a gift to the recipient.
c. The goods were purchased from the recipient and are being returned.
d. The goods are samples being sent for the recipient’s consideration.

3. CONSIGNEE: Complete this section with the contact info for the party receiving the shipment. A consignee could be the same as the owner/purchaser of the goods (the importer). If your customer doesn’t know the ZIP or postal code of the consignee, the World Post Code site can help you complete the international address portion of this section.

4. IMPORTER: The party purchasing the goods is the importer. You can leave this section blank if the consignee is also the person purchasing the goods. (NOTE: Some parties are prohibited from receiving shipments. Use the FedEx® Global Trade Manager tool to determine whether the recipient is listed as a denied party.)

5. DESIGNATED BROKER: If your customer identifies a broker for the transaction, include the broker’s information in this field. If no broker is designated, FedEx will serve as the customs broker for the shipment. 

6. GOODS: This section must be fully completed and correct. Information that is incorrect, incomplete or missing will cause the shipment to get held up in customs at the destination country or territory. Some tips: 

a. Net weight: The weight (in kilos) of the goods, without the packaging. Some countries and territories restrict the weight of various items being shipped. Go to the International Trade Administration site to find a list of country’s regulations and restrictions. 
b. Description of goods. Enter as much detail as possible to describe the goods being shipped. “Men’s shirt” is not enough. “Men’s long-sleeved, 100% cotton, button-down dress shirt” is an example of the description required. If relevant, include parts or serial numbers of the item being shipped.  
c. Harmonized tariff number. This code is a universal identifier of the goods being shipped. It’s used by customs authorities in all destination countries or territories to assess duties and taxes, and apply necessary controls, such as if importing a particular item is prohibited in the destination country or territory. Incomplete or inaccurate codes will cause shipment delays at customs and potential fines or expensive tariffs. You can use the tool on the International Shipping page to find or verify the harmonized code.
d. Country of manufacture. List the country or territory where the commodity was grown or manufactured.
e. Unit value. The selling price or fair market value of the item being shipped. 
f. Total value. This is the total price of the number of units being shipped. 

7. TERMS OF SALE: Defined by the parties’ sales contract, this section outlines the responsibilities of the shipper (exporter) and the buyer (importer) for the transfer of goods. It impacts which party pays for the costs, who manages the documentation, insurance decisions, who handles the shipping after the goods pass through customs and so on.

8. DECLARATION STATEMENT: This section must be completed for exports that require a license or license exemption. If applicable, enter the license or license exempt number.

9. ORIGINATOR OR NAME OF COMPANY REPRESENTATIVE: Enter your customer’s name and, if applicable, the customer’s business information. 

For more information on completing a Commercial Invoice, and to download a copy for manual reporting, go to the Customs Documents tab on the International Shipping site on fedex.com.

Certificate of Origin

A Certificate of Origin validates where the commodity was grown or manufactured. Information supplied on the document is used by the destination country or territory to determine the duty to be paid or whether the shipment from a particular country is allowed in the destination country or territory. Whether a Certificate of Origin is required depends on the commodity and the destination of the shipment. 

Certificate of Origin example

1. UNDERSIGNED: Name of the exporter, owner or the authorized agent of the shipment. 

2. SHIPPED VIA: FedEx. 

3. CONSIGNED TO: Name of the consignee and complete address.

4. PRODUCTS OF: Name of the country or territory where the product was grown or manufactured. 

5. GROSS WEIGHT: The weight (in kilos) of the goods, plus the packaging. 

6. NET WEIGHT: The weight (in kilos) of the goods, without the packaging.

7. DESCRIPTION OF GOODS: A complete description of the goods as written on the Commercial Invoice. 

8. EXPORTER: Signature of the exporter, owner or the authorized agent of the shipment. 

9. NOTARY PUBLIC: Legal verification that the document was prepared by the signee and that proper identification was produced. 

10. CHAMBER OF COMMERCE: An authorized member of the area’s chamber of commerce completes this section. 

For detailed information on completing a Certificate of Origin, go to the Customs Documents tab of the International Shipping site on fedex.com.

NAFTA Certificate of Origin

The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) Certificate of Origin is used when shipping goods that have been identified as eligible to receive preferential tariff treatment between the U.S., Canada and Mexico.

If the merchandise does not qualify within NAFTA or if the customer does not want preferential duty treatment, this document is not needed; use a standard Certificate of Origin instead. Note that without the NAFTA Certificate of Origin, duty will be assessed on the shipment. 

NAFTA Certificate of Origin

1. EXPORTER: Name of the exporter, owner or the authorized agent of the shipment.

2. BLANKET PERIOD: The NAFTA Certificate of Origin can be completed and kept on file for one year for a specific commodity. The dates reflect when the original certificate became applicable to the commodity and when it expires.

3. PRODUCER: Enter the full information for the producer of the commodity. If there is more than one producer, attach a separate piece of paper with the complete information. If the producer is the same as the exporter, enter “SAME.” If the exporter doesn’t know who the producer is, enter “UNKNOWN.”

4. IMPORTER: Name of the person accepting the shipment. If more than one importer, enter “VARIOUS.” If the importer is unknown, enter “UNKNOWN.”

5. DESCRIPTION OF GOODS: Include a complete description of the goods as written on the Commercial Invoice. 

6. HS TARIFF CLASSIFICATION NUMBER: Input the harmonized code as completed on the Commercial Invoice and identified using the tool on the International Shipping page. 

7. PREFERENCE CRITERION: The backside of the NAFTA Certificate of Origin lists six criteria (A–F) that make a commodity eligible for preferential tariff treatment. If the commodity does not meet any of the criteria, use a standard Certificate of Origin instead. 

8. PRODUCER: Enter “YES” or “NO” to indicate whether your FASC customer is the producer of the goods listed in column 5. If you entered “NO,” follow with a statement of who the producer is for each item.   

9. NET COST: Enter “NC” if the net cost method is used to calculate the regional value content; otherwise, enter “NO.” 

10. COUNTRY OF ORIGIN: For shipments to Mexico, enter “US” if the product originated in the U.S. For shipments to Canada, enter “US” if the product being exported originated in the U.S. If part of the product being exported to Canada also originated in Mexico and the value of the product subsequently increased by more than 7%, enter “JNT.” 

11. AUTHORIZED SIGNATURE: This section must be completed by the exporter or the producer. The exporter and the producer may be the same person.   

Complete instructions for the NAFTA Certificate of Origin are on page 2 of the document. You can download a copy from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Details on each entry are explained in Part 181 — North American Free Trade Agreement of the Electronic Code of Federal Regulations

Electronic Export Information (EEI)

The U.S. government uses the EEI for official statistics on goods being exported and to ensure compliance with U.S. export regulations. If an EEI is required for a shipment, it must be filed electronically and record of it must be kept for five years. 

To determine whether a shipment requires an EEI, first identify the destination country or territory: 

An EEI is not required when shipping to Canada, except in these cases:

  • Exports are sent for storage in Canada, but ultimately destined for third countries.
  • Shipments moving from the U.S. through Canada to a third destination.
  • Shipments requiring a Department of State, DDTC, export license under the ITAR (22 CFR 120-130)
  • Shipments requiring a Department of Commerce, BIS, export license under the EAR (15 CFR 730-774).
  • Shipments subject to the ITAR, but exempt from license requirements (ITAR exemption).
  • Exports classified as rough diamonds under the 6-digit HS subheadings (7102.10, 7102.21, or 7102.31).
  • Shipments of used self-propelled vehicles as defined in19 CFR 192.1 of U.S. Customs and Border Protection regulations, regardless of value or country of destination.

An EEI may be required for all other shipments traveling:

  • From the U.S. to foreign destinations
  • Between the U.S. and the U.S. territory of Puerto Rico
  • From the U.S. or the U.S. territory of Puerto Rico to the U.S. territory of the U.S. Virgin Islands

If the shipment is traveling to a foreign destination or to a U.S. territory identified in the section above, then consider what is being shipped. As listed on the Electronic Export Information site on fedex.com, an EEI is for these types of shipments: 

  • Shipment of merchandise under the same Schedule B commodity number is valued at more than US$2,500 and is sent from the same exporter to the same recipient on the same day. (Note: Shipments to Canada from the U.S. are exempt from this requirement.)
  • The shipment contains merchandise, regardless of value, that requires an export license or permit.
  • The merchandise is subject to the International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR), regardless of value.
  • When the shipment is self-propelled vehicles.
  • When export of “600 series” items is enumerated in paragraphs .a through .x for a “600 series” Export Control Classification Number (ECCN).
  • The shipments is exported under a license exception Strategic Trade Authorization (STA).
  • The shipment, regardless of value, is being sent to Cuba, Iran, North Korea, Sudan or Syria.*
  • The shipment contains rough diamonds, regardless of value (HTS 7102.10, 7102.21 and 7102.31).

If an EEI needs to be filed, records of it must be kept for five years. 

For more information, go to the Electronic Export Information page on fedex.com.

*FedEx does not ship to Cuba, Iran, North Korea or Sudan. At the time of publication, shipping by FedEx to Syria has been suspended. For updates, call 1.800.GoFedEx 1.800.463.3339 and say “international services.” 

*NOTE: NAFTA is expected to be replaced by the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) in the coming months. Once the USMCA is implemented, we will provide information on how the changes will affect international shipping documents, duties and taxes, and other information relevant to you as a pack-and-ship store owner.