Special Documents For Exporting

This article is about other documents not falling under the category of “commonly used” (e.g., commercial invoice, bill of lading, packing list. 

 Certain products may require certificates to show cleanliness, compliance with standards, safety, and health. Other products may require pre-shipment inspections before departing the export country or be qualified for a free trade agreements tariff rate. 

Asking the foreign buyer at the beginning of the transaction which documents will be needed for goods to clear customs in the importing country is a best practice. 

The information has not been altered or manipulated from its source, It has the same content and statements due to the legal load about imports and exports. 

We always suggest requesting the help of a professional custom agent or export/import licensed broker.

Certificates of Origin

 Certificates of origin (COO) must comply with foreign customs requirements (i.e., country of importation), for letters of credit or simply at the buyer’s request. 

There are two types of COOs:
  1.  One type is known as “generic” or “non-preferential,” which means that the country of origin of the goods stated on the document does not qualify the goods for any preferential treatment with the country on the receiving end. 
  2. The second type of certificate may be required to obtain a free trade agreement (FTA) preferential tariff rate.

Generic Certificates of Origin

Example of a Generic Certificate of Origin

A generic COO is one of the most commonly requested documents. Here is what you need to know when to use, how to certify, and where to obtain such a COO to help make for a smooth export transaction:  

  • A generic COO needs to be certified by an outside entity such as a local Chamber of Commerce. This does not apply to FTA certification (the documents need to be self-Certified). 
  • Some countries may require the COO for all or only certain products. In many cases, a statement of origin printed on company letterhead will suffice. The exporter should verify whether a COO is required with the buyer and/or an experienced shipper/customs broker/freight forwarder. 
  • An importing country may require a certificate of origin issued by the manufacturer for textile products.  
  • The number of required copies and language may vary from country to country.  

Note: Some countries may require that a COO be notarized, certified by a chamber of commerce, and legalized by the commercial section of the destination country’s consulate. The National U.S.-Arab Chamber of Commerce provides notarization and certification services for Middle Eastern countries. 

Where to Obtain a Generic Certificate of Origin

  •   Generic COOs (for goods that don’t qualify for free trade agreements) may be obtained from a commercial vendor, broker, or freight forwarder.
  • You may obtain an electronic version of a generic COO from the U.S. Council for International Business for U.S. origin or non-U.S. origin products. For the latter, additional proof of origin may be required.  
  • The eCOOs can save time and money, bypassing the delay and expense of employing messengers to obtain certification. USICB certificates can be printed from any computer.

FTA Certificate of Origin

Check the video attached. Press the form!
  • Other COOs may be required to obtain FTA preferential tariff rates. These certify that goods listed on the document are eligible for duty-free or reduced tariffs because the country of importation extends these privileges to the country of origin. 
  • A specific NAFTA certificate (CBP 434) for qualifying shipments to Canada and Mexico. Many other FTA partners can accept declarative statements that contain particular data elements, including information stating how the product qualifies for an FTA. For more information, visit FTA Certificates of Origin.


Export Documentation for Shipments of Specific Goods

Additional certificates for import clearance in foreign countries are based on the products and various reasons for certification or compliance. So, again, ask your importer and verify with another dependable source such as your freight forwarder or customs broker. Keep in mind that categories and products overlap in the below listings and that your product may require documentation from more than one category.


Certificates for Food, Drugs, Cosmetics, and Medical Devices

U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) can issue special certificates depending on the product to be exported:

  • Certificate of Free Sale – for food, including dietary supplements and cosmetic products that may be legally marketed in the United States.
  • Certificate to Foreign Government – for export of human drugs and biologics, animal drugs, and devices that can be legally marketed in the United States.
  • Certificate of Exportability – for conventional foods, food additives, food contact substances, and infant formula products that cannot be legally marketed in the United States but meet specific FDA standards and may be legally exported.
  • Certificate for Cosmetics – for products that meet the definition of a cosmetic.   
  •   Health certificate for collagen and gelatin products is intended for export to the European Union (EU) and specified risk materials certificates for collagen and gelatin products to export to non-EU countries.


  • Exporting of Medical Devices – may require submission of an export certificate often needed by the foreign government or buyer for products regulated by the FDA. This states that the exported device – including radiation-emitting electronic products that are medical devices — meets specific specified U.S. requirements. These requirements depend on the marketing status of the device: legally marketed in the U.S. or cannot be legally marketed in the U.S (unapproved for the U.S. market). The FDA’s Center for Devices and Radiological Health (CDRH) issues export certificates for medical devices. To obtain an export certificate, submit your request to CDRH, which will approve or deny the request. 

A more detailed list of export documents issued by the FDA, contacts, how to apply, and FAQs, can be found on FDA’s website.        

Other Food-Related (including Chemicals and Pharmaceuticals)

  • Ingredients Certificate – food products may be requested with inadequate or incomplete labels. The manufacturer may issue the certificate. It must describe the product, including contents and percentage of each ingredient, chemical data; microbiological standards; storage instructions; shelf-life; and date of manufacture. If animal fats are used, the certificate must state the type of fat used and that the product contains no pork, artificial pork flavor, or pork fat. All foodstuffs are subject to analysis by foreign Ministry of Health laboratories to establish fitness for use. 
  • Certificate of Analysis – attests that goods have undergone a particular type of testing with specified results. A certificate of analysis may be needed by the parties in the transaction or required by the country of importation. This document is usually required for food products, wines and spirits, chemicals, and pharmaceuticals. If the buyer agrees, this certificate can be issued by a certification authority or by the exporter. Certificates of analysis may be obtained from an accredited laboratory.
  • Halal Certificate – guarantees products and services aimed at the Muslim population meet requirements of Islamic law, and therefore suitable for consumption in Muslim-majority countries. This certificate states that the fresh or frozen meat or poultry products were slaughtered per Islamic law, and certification by an appropriate chamber and legalization by the destination country’s consulate is usually required. Information on the certification process and forms can be found on American Halal Foundation’s website

Dangerous and Hazardous Goods

  • Dangerous Goods Certificate – exports classified as hazardous goods submitted for handling by air carriers and air-freight forwarders need to be accompanied by a Shipper’s Declaration for Dangerous Goods; a requirement of the International Air Transport Association (IATA). The exporter is responsible for the form’s accuracy and ensuring that IATA requirements related to packaging, marking, and other information have been met. Note: For shipments of dangerous goods, it is critical to identify goods by proper name and comply with packaging and labeling requirements, depending on the type of product shipped and country of destination. Visit the International Air Transportation Association or Department of Transportation – HAZMAT websites for more information. In addition, hazardous material regulations are contained in the International Maritime Dangerous Goods regulations for ocean exports.

Safety Data Sheet (formerly called MSDS) – documents health and safety information about products, substances, or chemicals classified as hazardous substances or dangerous goods. SDS must follow various country/region regulations, including European Union REACH (Regulation on Registration, Evaluation, Authorization, and Restriction of Chemicals – Regulation 2006/1907/EC), CLP (Classification, Labeling, and Packing – Regulation 2008/1272/EC). SDS also follows the Globally Harmonized System and Occupational Safety and Health Administration standards. Both SDS and a Shipper’s Letter of Instructions are required by the broker or freight forwarder responsible for arranging the shipment of the goods. This helps ensure proper safety measures are taken to handle goods, and that vessel safety limits are not breached. SDS information also helps determine additional shipping costs associated with sending hazardous materials. Companies such as Intertek, SGS, or Veritas can help manufacturers and exporters prepare or update Safety Data Sheets. Manufacturers, importers, distributors, and downstream users are responsible for keeping SDS current and compliance with relevant regulations.

  • Radiation Certificate – may be required in some countries, including Saudi Arabia, for some plant and animal imports. The certificate states that the products are not contaminated by radioactivity


  • Chemicals – for shipments of chemical substances or mixtures subject to section 12(b) of the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), exporters need to notify the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). EPA, in turn, will provide information about the exported chemical and its related regulatory actions to the importing government. Learn about TSCA exporting requirements

Note: Exporters of manifested hazardous wastes, spent/used lead-acid batteries, universal wastes, and cathode-ray tubes for recycling should now be transitioning to an electronic border process using the Automated Export System (AESDirect).

Health and Phytosanitary (Animals and Plants)

  • Export Health Certificates – cover shipment of live animals, plants, and animal products such as veterinary biologics as required from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS). Each country establishes its own rules for the entry of animals from the United States, and some countries require a specific health certificate they have developed. Many requirements may be found on APHIS’ International Animal Product Export Regulations website. In addition, APHIS works with other federal agencies, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Customs and Border ProtectionFish and Wildlife Service, FDA, and U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service, to facilitate the health certification verification process. 
  • Phytosanitary certificates attest to the condition of plants or plant products and verify that the product is free from specified epidemics and/or agricultural diseases. In addition, they assist exporters in meeting the plant quarantine requirements of the importing country. An authorized certification official issues phytosanitary certificates (federal, state, or county – California county only). APHIS plant protection and quarantine provides phytosanitary certification of U.S. and foreign-origin agricultural commodities. Additional information and forms are available from APHIS.  

Fishery Products

  • Export Certification of Fishery Products – The National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has regulatory and stewardship authority for fisheries, marine sanctuaries, marine mammals, threatened and endangered species, and habitat conservation. Several agencies, such as the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s  Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) or U.S. Food and Drug Administration, certification of fishery products, depending on the product, by-product, and uses. See the decision-making chart for guidance on NOAA’s website.

Wood Packaging and Fumigation

  • ISPM 15 (Wood Packaging) Marking.- are International Standards for Phytosanitary Measures Guidelines for Regulating Wood Packaging Material in International Trade. ISPM 15 applies to coniferous and non-coniferous hardwood used as raw wood packaging material. It exempts wood packaging made of manufactured wood-based products such as plywood and veneer, reconstituted wood products, products created using glue, heat, and pressure, or a combination of both. Under ISPM 15, no specific certification indicates that wooden packaging has been heated or chemically treated. Instead of the certificate, a unique stamp is applied to the packaging signifying an appropriate treatment occurred. For ISPM 15 requirements and compliance information, visit the American Lumber Standard Committee and National Wooden Pallet and Container Association websites.  
  • Fumigation Certificate – certifies that any wooden-packing materials (e.g., pallets, crates) OR an entire cargo has been fumigated. If it applies to cargo (e.g., used textiles), then the certificate proves that the cargo shipping out of the U.S. has been fumigated or sterilized. It contains details of the applied type of treatment. A certified fumigator needs to complete the fumigation certification of cargo exported from the USA prior to cargo delivery to an ocean freight carrier’s terminal (Container Freight Station). The certificate may also be required for quarantine clearance of any goods of plant or animal origin. Information on the treatment of wood, requirements for plant exports, animal exports, certifications, and fees can be found on the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS).   

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