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Is There a Form for That? An Introduction to Commonly Used Exporting Forms for Your Small Business

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Is There a Form for That? An Introduction to Commonly Used Exporting Forms for Your Small Business

By kmurray, Contributor and Moderator
Published: March 10, 2014 Updated: September 26, 2016

If you’re a small business owner interested in exporting – or are already navigating the international arena – you know there’s a lot to get organized. The resources available from can help you with all the stages, from training and market research to information about financing. also offers a wealth of information about documents that are used in exporting. Here’s a rundown of a few of the most common.

Common Export Documents

Commercial Invoice: A commercial invoice is a bill for the goods from the seller to the buyer. Governments often use them to determine the true value of goods when assessing customs duties.

Export Packing List: An export packing list features much more detail than a standard domestic packing list. It lists the seller, buyer, shipper, invoice number, shipment date and more. It also itemizes quantity, description, type of package (such as a box or crate), the weight and even more details.

Pro Forma Invoice: An exporter prepares a pro forma invoice before shipping the goods. It lets the buyer know the goods to be sent, their value and other key information. It also can be used as an offering of sale or price quote.

Transportation Documents

Airway Bill: Airway bills are required for any airfreight shipments and are shipper-specific. For example, USPS, Fed-Ex, UPS, etc. have individual airway bills

Bill of Lading: A bill of lading is a contract between the owner of the goods and the carrier. A straight bill of lading is non-negotiable. A second, negotiable type is known as a shipper's order bill of lading. This can be bought, sold or traded while the goods are in transit. The customer usually needs an original as proof of ownership to take possession of the goods.

Electronic Export Information (EEI): This is the most common of all export control documents. It’s required for shipments above $2,500 and for shipments of any value requiring an export license. It has to be electronically filed via the AES Direct online system, which is a free service from Census and Customs. If you’re shipping to Canada, you don’t need an EEI unless an export license is required.

Export Compliance

Export Licenses: An export license is a government document that authorizes the export of specific goods in specific quantities to a particular destination. Some countries require an export license for most or all exports; others require it only under special circumstances.

Certificates Of Origin

Generic Certificate of Origin: Some countries require a Certificate of Origin (CO) for either all or just certain products. In many cases, a statement of origin printed on company letterhead is sufficient, although some countries require that it be notarized. You should verify if a CO is required with the buyer, an experienced shipper/freight forwarder or the Trade Information Center.

Check out  for more information about these and more, including documents required for shipping specific products and destination-specific requirements. You can also visit Business USA’s Exporting Portal for additional resources.

Related Resources

About the Author:

Katie Murray

Contributor and Moderator

I am an author and moderator for the the Community. I'll share useful information for your entrepreneurial endeavors and help point you in the right direction to find other resources for your small business needs. Thanks for joining our online community here at!


The link toward the bottom of this blog post: visit Business USA’s Exporting Portal for additional resources. leads the browser to pages with broken/dysfunctional links, resulting in "404 Page Not Found" errors. I have contacted DOC/ITA to make them aware. I recommend that this blogger check out any links, thoroughly, before including in a blog post. (Please don't be offended; "Feedback is the breakfast of champions."
The link in this blog post: Business USA’s Exporting Portal leads the browser to broken/dysfunctional links. Check with DOC/ITA before further distributing this link.
Very informative post for those who are planning to get into exporting world. As the points shared are very crucial, since absence of any of these documents can put any person in trouble. As proper documentation holds the important part of export.
for small business owners not easy to do business beyond the political boundaries, Most of the business owners don't have proper documents and they always try to hide their actual imported or exported products cost.
Hi Kmurray, Most of the business owners don't have proper documents and they always try to hide their actual imported or exported products cost. They don't know that they are doing own loss. Because when you will show proper documents and proper product cost, at that if you are getting any type of loss at that time government is totally responsible for that. So it may be very helpful post for changing mind.

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