In order to successfully ship your products to another country, you must comply with all regulations leaving the U.S. as well as entrance into the destination country. To ensure a smooth (and successful) transaction, it’s important you have all of your documents in order. In this article, we’ll touch on the top 10 most common documents you may encounter during the export process. 

1. Bill of Lading

The bill of lading (BOL) is usually the first common export document used in international shipment and it is a contract between the owner of the goods and the carrier. It says what goods are shipping, where they are going, and where the shipment began. In addition, once the shipment is picked up, the bill of lading serves as a receipt issued by the carrier. A BOL will be provided if you use a B-Stock partner shipping company.

2. Certificate of Origin

The Certificate of Origin (CO) is used to identify the country of the manufacturer where the goods were made. For example, the U.S. Food & Drug Administration requires a certificate of origin for every product imported to the U.S. The exporter should verify whether a CO is required with the buyer and/or an experienced shipper/freight forwarder or the Trade Information Center.

3. Commercial Invoice

A commercial invoice is a bill for the goods from the seller to the buyer. This document includes all the important details about the seller and the shipment so that the receiving party can readily check that the shipment is intact upon arrival. Please note: most marketplaces on B-Stock do not provide commercial invoices. 

4. Pro Forma Invoices

A pro forma invoice is an invoice prepared by the exporter before shipping the goods, informing the buyer of the goods to be sent, their value, and other key specifications. Pro forma invoices are commonly used as preliminary invoices with a quotation, or for customs purposes in importation. They differ from a normal invoice in that they’re not a request for payment. Only some B-Stock sellers choose to provide pro forma invoices, contact our Customer Support team to find out if a specific marketplace offers one. 

5. Consular Invoice

Required in some countries, a consular invoice is a form available through a consular representative of the country you’re shipping to and it certifies the shipment of goods. If required, copies are available from the destination country’s embassy or consulate in the U.S. It is not required in every country, but is used to help many emerging nations facilitate customs and collection of taxes. The cost of this documentation can be significant and should be discussed with the buyer.

6. Dock/Warehouse Receipts

This document is issued by a shipping company to acknowledge that the goods have been received for shipment. It provides the exporter with proof that the delivery of goods to the international carrier was successful and in good condition. It transfers the accountability for the safe custody of the cargo from the shipper to the carrier and serves as the basis for preparing the bill of lading.

7. Export License

An export license is a government document that authorizes the export of specific goods in specific quantities to a particular destination. This document may be required for most or all exports to some countries or for other countries only under special circumstances. 

8. Export Packing List

An export packing list is similar to a shipping list in that it lists the goods being shipped, information on how it was packed, how the goods are numbered, and weight/height dimensions. Even though it’s not always required, it’s an important document used by freight forwarders to prepare a bill of lading and to understand how much cargo is needed. Neither B-Stock nor the retailer provides an export packing list. If an auction comes with a manifest, the details provided are at the discretion of the seller. Most manifests only document the type of item and its quantity.

9. Inspection Certificate

These inspections are usually done with industrial equipment, perishable merchandise, and meat products. It certifies the items were received in good condition and that the shipment contained the correct quantity. The inspection is usually performed by a third party, often an independent testing organization. While many B-Stock sellers perform functionality inspections, sellers do not provide inspection certifications.

10. Insurance Certificate

For export shipments, this document certifies you have bought an insurance policy for your cargo on board. Oftentimes insurance is purchased because liability and large losses are a concern to the exporter. Insurance certificates can be obtained from your freight forwarder. Note: an airway bill can serve as an insurance certificate for a shipment by air. 

Depending on what your small business is exporting, you may not encounter all of these documents. However, it’s still a good idea to familiarize yourself with as many terms as you can. Before you ship anything, however, you’ll want to make sure you’re in compliance with all regulations. In case you missed it, be sure to read our article Export Education: Export Compliance. Though B-Stock specializes in business to business liquidation, we are not experts in the exporting industry. Visit Learn How To Export for some great tools and education on exporting.


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