Common Export Documents to Be Aware Of

Sep 9, 2021
4 minutes of read


Common Export Documents to Be Aware Of

There are a few key shipping documents that the exporter must always be ready with. The export procedure and documentation required are quite simplified and explained intricately on the Singapore Customs website. When sending your goods to another country, there is a checklist of the most common export documents that will be necessary to be included with your shipment. The eventual documentation that needs to be provided will also depend on the goods being shipped, the country that is importing, and export controls. At times ones may require very specific and additional documentation as well.

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The popular ones are:

  • Export declaration
  • Commercial invoice
  • Air waybill
  • Packing list
  • Export license
  • Certificate of origin

Export declaration

Before the goods leave the port, an export declaration needs to be submitted to and approved by the customs authorities. This is basically declaring and providing details about the goods that are supposed to leave the country and can even be taken care of by your carrier as they have access to all your paperwork and can obtain information from it.

Commercial invoice

You need to be particular about the commercial invoice being filled in correctly. This will state the description and value of the goods being exported. For most international shipping, this commercial invoice is a vital document. From this invoice, the customs authorities obtain information about the goods, helping them to assess if any controls are needed or the goods can move out of a country. In the case of imports, it also assists them with duties and taxes determination. Each shipment has its own commercial invoice.

The commercial invoice should ideally be printed in English on the company letter with company details. The following things must be stated on the commercial invoice:

  • Reason for exporting the goods – is it a gift or business-related
  • Shipping number which consists of the airwaybill number and date of shipping
  • Incoterms® that mention who the responsibility of the package lies on
  • Accurate description of the goods including brand name, good type, model number, etc.
  • Quantity of each product being shipped using the correct unit of measurement like pieces, weight, volume, etc.
  • HS Code that notifies the customs authorities about the type of good being shipped and helps assess taxes and duties to be levied
  • The declared value of the goods which is the market price. One may have to support this declaration if it seems unreasonable
  • Insurance costs need to be specified separately and not as part of freight, else the customs calculate these as per their discretion
  • Country of origin- even though the goods are being exported from Singapore, they could have been manufactured elsewhere
  • The net weight and gross weights need to be listed

The commercial invoice needs to have all the above information, post which it needs to be signed.

Air waybill

An airway bill is another important export document that is required as part of the export procedure and documentation. This is also referred to as a consignment note or dispatch note and is the contract between the carrier and the shipper.

This document needs to be accurate and clear as it mentions important details about the shipment such as the description of goods, quantity, weight, etc, and is used to track the shipment.

An Airway Bill will have the following details:

  • Exporter’s details such as company name, phone number, date, account number, complete address, and VAT or tax ID
  • The recipient’s details like name, number, and tax ID number
  • Shipment details such as the number, type, weight, and dimensions of the package. For cross-border shipment, include the description of goods, HS code (Harmonized Commodity Description and Coding System), and the value of the shipment. In case the goods fall in the dangerous category list such as explosives, toxic, etc.,it needs to be declared.
  • The shipping service needs to be selected whether it is 24-hour delivery, morning delivery, or weekend service
  • The billing section should state whether you or the receiver is paying the carrier freight charges & accordingly mention the account number
  • This airway bill needs to be signed

Packing list

When exporting goods internationally, it is necessary to include a packing list in the shipment as some countries require it. To be extra careful, you could also place one inside your package. Do not confuse this document for a commercial invoice as the commercial invoice focuses mostly on the price whereas the packing list outlines the quantity, weight, and other details of the goods.  

Export license

An export license is key for any international export procedure and documentation purposes. This export document is allotted by government bodies giving permission to registered organizations or individuals to legally ship goods that fall on the restricted list. You should be aware if the goods you are shipping are restricted or not in order to attain this document well in advance. The commercial invoice must declare this export license number.

Items such as medicines, chemicals, historical artifacts, artwork, and dual-use items fall in the restricted category. Even video game consoles or goods such as candles and crayons that contain paraffin wax are restricted.

Dual-use items are basically items that can be used both personally and by the military. For instance, drones are used for videography as well as in military operations. These items may not strike you as restricted so it is best to refer to the list and know well in advance, if you need to apply for an export license.

Certificate of origin

This official document states the country of production, manufacturing, or processing of the product you are exporting. This certificate of origin is especially important when shipping internationally. The country of origin needs to be stated for political, economic, or environmental reasons. There could be import quotas, anti-dumping measures, or a boycott in place.

If you are shipping to a country that shares a trade agreement with Singapore, the COO acts as proof of eligibility for reduced taxes and import duties to the customs department.
The above list of the export documents needs to be retained for 5 years from the date the customs permit is approved. The information across the export documents needs to be consistent. Apart from having this aspect of the export procedure and documentation in order, it is also vital that you select a trusted payments partner such as Tazapay. An escrow service is the ideal way for cross-border payment that secures both the importer and exporter.

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Common Export Documents to Be Aware Of
Export & Import

Common Export Documents to Be Aware Of

Sep 9, 2021
4 min of read

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