The import process is not difficult for SMEs (small and medium enterprises), but it can be complicated if you don’t have all the required information and documentation ready ahead of time. This article will introduce you to importing documentation requirements, whether you will be shipping your final product or parts and raw materials for manufacturing.
Are you ready to start importing? Required documentation for imports will generally accompany the shipment from origin. These documents may include:
- The transportation document (also known as the waybill or Bill of Lading);
- The invoice for all shipments subject to custom duties and taxes;
- Any specific paperwork required for your type of product; and/or
- Forms to obtain preferential benefits under an international trade agreement.
Both the waybill and your invoice will contain the commodity information needed for the import clearance process. It is important that these documents include complete and accurate information to avoid delays or other issues at the time of import. Here is some essential information that must be included:
- Name, address, and contact information of the parties involved in the transaction, generally the shipper and receiver, also known as the “consignee.”
- Detailed and accurate description of your goods. This description is essential to support the tariff classification of the goods which determines the import duties and taxes. Your descriptions should be as specific as possible. For example, “computer parts” should include which parts, brand names, models, and serial numbers. You should use easily understood language (no technical terms).
- Number of pieces (quantity).
- Value per item and total value of the goods, specifying the currency.
- Country of origin, which is where the products where produced, manufactured, or grown. This is not necessarily the country of export.
- International Commercial Terms: Also known as “Incoterms”. These three-letter trade terms help facilitate a common language in the transportation and delivery of goods. These terms define the responsibility and risks for the transactions between the parties. For a full list of Incoterms, visit the International Chamber of Commerce website.
- Information specific to the type of goods such as license or registration numbers.
Please note that most countries require additional information such as the importer’s tax ID number to process clearance. Including this information in your shipping documentation will facilitate the import process.
Remember that most of this documentation will be created by the shipper. Therefore, you should work with the shipper to ensure all the required information is included at the time of import.
Customs and other government agencies have controls in place for different types of products. These requirements vary in each country based on local regulations. For example, food and medicine imports could be regulated by a nation’s Department of Health or a similar entity. It is also important to be aware of any import restrictions on your product that may require additional licenses, permits, and certificates. It may take some time to obtain this documentation, some of which may be requested from the shipper or manufacturer of the product.
At the time of import, customs will generally require a customs agent or broker to perform the clearance process on your behalf. You should review your options and choose the agent who best fits your needs. If shipping with an express operator, customs clearance is part of their services in most countries – and they can provide you with guidance on the import requirements around the world.