Step-By-Step - Required Documents for Exporting from the U.S

Step-By-Step: Required Documents for Exporting from the U.S.

We’re assuming you’ve done a little bit of homework before landing on this post. And most of what you’ve read has probably been relatable to the experience of staring at a bowl of Alphabet Soup.

There’s so many acronyms, requirements, regulations, documents, and other factors that are involved in the exporting process – it can be downright painful to make sense of it all, let alone to learn exactly what you need to know.

“Just tell me what I need to fill out to export a product.”

We’re going to make this really simple. The below is a step-by-step walkthrough of what you should expect to fill out in regard to documents for exporting from the U.S.

Exporting from the U.S.

There’s tons of information that relates to exporting a product from the U.S., but the actual number and types of documents you need to fill out in order to get a product moving is pretty simple. And working with the right shipping vendors should make the process even simpler.

Without further ado, here is a clear layout of what documents you need to fill out when exporting from the U.S.

Step 1: Contact a Freight Forwarder

In case you don’t know, a freight forwarder plays the role of a middle-man in the shipping process (Hint: Interlog USA is a freight forwarder if you didn’t know that already…) You can think of them as a “travel agent” for stuff. They don’t own the ships, cars, trains, or planes to move the product, but they hold the relationships with all these carriers both in the U.S. and overseas to facilitate the move of a product.

Your freight forwarder will be responsible for the handling and sending of documentation to the appropriate parties, so you don’t have to worry about it. This includes the below documentation.

Step 2: Fill Out Required U.S. Export Documentation

There are only 3 documents that you are required to fill out in order to export a product from the U.S.

1)  Shipper Letter Of Instruction:

The Shipper Letter Of Instruction is filled out by the exporter (or shipper in this case), and specifies how and where a freight forwarder should handle the shipment. It’s also your way of assigning authority to your freight forwarder to act on your behalf as the forwarding agent.

Essentially, they will deal with all the U.S. export control and customs requirements (they speak the afore-mentioned “Alphabet Soup” language fluently, so no need to worry.)

2)  Commercial Invoice

A commercial invoice is a document which specifies the commercial value of the goods you will be shipping. The details needed to fill out the document are pretty simple. You will need to list who the exporter (shipper/seller) and consignee (buyer/customer) are, a brief description of the goods being shipped, and their commercial value.

If multiple different products are being shipped, the value of each good should be listed at the bottom of the document.

3)  Packing List

Not the one you used for your last family vacation, although is would be at least partially disingenuous for us to say it’s entirely different.

Just like it sounds – a Packing List is a document which contains details regarding what you are shipping. It will contain contents of the package, quantity, and weight of the units and entire shipment.

Frequently Asked Questions

Where Do I Get These Documents?

SLI: All freight forwarders, including Interlog USA, have SLI templates on hand that they can send to you. However, if you happen to have a template on hand that you prefer to use, you can always send this to your forwarder. Click here to get our SLI template.

Commercial Invoice & Packing List: Most exporters already have these on hand. If you haven’t used them in the past, you should be able to find tons of templates online.

When Does it Need to Be Sent?

All documents listed here will be sent at the same time. So round them all up, fill them out, and get them in one place to be sent. Often the above documents won’t be issued until the goods are picked up from the facility.

They just need to be filed before they leave the U.S. It’s best practice to get them to your freight forwarder as soon as possible. The international carrier associated with the move will specify when they need it, but if you get your documents to your freight forwarder, they can take care of the documentation filing.

Who Do I Send Each Document to?

As with the rest of the documentation listed in this article, all documents can be sent to the freight forwarder handling your shipment. They will file each document at the right time to make sure your cargo moves seamlessly.

Further Questions

If you have further questions regarding exporting goods from the U.S., feel free to reach out to one of our team members. We have 20+ years of experience in the industry and are always happy to answer questions when we have the opportunity.

If you are looking to ship a product and need a freight forwarder to help with the move, let us know! We are excited to help you and your team.


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