Planning on importing goods into your own country, do you know the import documents needed for customs clearance?

Keep in mind that any commercial cargo (Import or Export) has to pass customs clearance.

In simple words, the business involved in importing/exporting businesses has to meet the requirements of customs clearance.

Every Country, whether it is America, the UK, or Europe has its own customs clearance rules and you have to meet those rules in order to get your hands on those products.

These rules are met using a procedure. And, that procedure is arranging import documents.

There are plenty of import documents and each of these documents differs from country to country.

In this blog, EJET will talk about the documents related to importing process. Keep reading this, and make sure that you are arranging these documents.

Table of Content

Chapter 1: What do you need to know about Customs clearance and import documents?

Chapter 2: Key Elements involved in Importing process?

Chapter 3: The hurdles you can expect when importing products and how to cater to that?

Chapter 4: Export Documents required for Customs Clearance?

Chapter 5: Basic Import Documents Needed for Customs Clearance?

Chapter 6: Frequently Asked Questions About Import Documents

Chapter 1: What do you need to know about Customs clearance and import documents?

What do you need to know about Customs clearance and import documents

Transactions such as importing and exporting are happening way too fast and that is all because the world has moved towards digital solutions.

With an internet connection and a laptop, you can easily buy products from different countries. However, to keep the transactions safe and smooth, there is an entity called customs.

In this chapter, we will talk about the role of customs clearance and what is the process for clearing the customs.

1. What is the role of Customs Clearance?

Whenever a product reaches the port of the country, there is a need to check whether the product is good enough to be sold in that country or not.

Furthermore, every country takes some charges (known as Duties) during the port clearing process.

What is the role of Customs Clearance

The officials check whether the product is safe or not, they match the products with a bill of materials and they send the products for quality assurance and checking purposes.

All these processes are called customs clearance. Don’t worry, these processes are not hard as they seem. Because if you have the proper documents such as a Bill of materials, certifications, and licenses, you can easily pass the customs clearance step.

2. What are import documents?

The question that we get a lot is “What are the import documents?”. Well, to help you understand this, we have a dedicated chapter down below.

However, to give you an idea, import documents are basically pieces of paper that show that products are authentic and are owned by you.

With these documents, the customs officers decide whether to let the products in the country or not.

What are import documents

Keep in mind that different kinds of products need a different kind of import documents. For instance, if your product comes under the electronic niche, you need a bill of materials, CE/ROHS certification, and other documents related to this.

Like this example, there are papers that are suited for a specific type of product. However, the bottom line is, these import documents are important and if you are not able to arrange these documents, then the customs officers can seize your products.

And, that leads to delays and it is not healthy if you are an Amazon FBA seller or are doing eBay selling business.

3. Importing Items into US, UK, Europe-How it is done?

Now, let’s talk about the process of importing goods into the US, UK, and Europe. The idea behind each of these areas is the same.

You have to pass through a number of steps in order to clear the steps. Each country’s organizations are different, but they all are doing the same thing.

For instance, let’s talk about the US. When your items reach the port of the US, you have to fill in the customs entry. Other than that, if you are not available, you can hire a customs broker, who will fill in the details on your behalf.

That is not it. When you are doing with the customs entry, you have to meet the requirements of CBP.

CBP checks whether the duties have been paid, the items meet according to the standards of the US government, and whether you have the proper license to sell that item in the US.

Once, that is done, the CBP will release the products and they will be ready for transportation.

Talking about Europe, since there are multiple countries in that region, each of them has its own organizations that are handling the importing process.

As for the UK, they have their own office known as HMRC’s and they will handle your imported products.

Chapter 2: Key Elements involved in Importing process?

Key Elements involved in Importing process

Whenever there is an importing or an exporting process, there are concerned parties involved. For instance, there is an importer and an exporter.

Sometimes they both hire a customs broker who will handle the process. In order to keep the process smooth, it is important to understand the elements of importing process.

In this chapter, we will talk about the elements that are involved in importing so that you can understand the system.

1. The role of Importer

An importer is a person who has ordered the products from suppliers they are operating in countries like China. The importer’s role in the process is arranging the documents related to the customs rules of his country.

For instance, he will arrange the transportation papers, bill of materials, or any special certification. Moreover, the importer is also responsible for paying the customs and duties on the port. That is applicable if you are not on contracts such as DAP or DDP.

In that case, the exporter will handle that process. On the shipping documents, the name of the importer can either be the business or the buyer. Moreover, the name can also be the person who is the owner of those products.

2. The role of the exporter

An exporter is a person who sends goods to another country. Usually, this is the person who is either the manufacturer of the product or is acting as the sourcing agency.

The exporter is the person who will handle the export processes of his own country. He will arrange the documents for that product.

He will paste the indication markings on the boxes, and in some cases, he will also pay the customs of the country he is sending the products.

3. Declaring goods- What does this mean?

Declaring goods- What does this mean

There is a term in importing and exporting known as declaring goods. Declaring goods means that you own that product and are responsible for those products. There is a form that needs to be filled. Nowadays, that is all digital.

However, if you are facing any issues, you can ask the carrier to handle this one. But, you need to check whether the carrier can do this or not and if not, then you need a customs broker who will handle the declaring process.

4. COO (Country of Origin)-What is this and why this is important

The next term that you will face a lot of COO or also known as Country of Origin. The country of origin specifies the location where the products are originated from. For instance, if you have ordered a product from China, then the COO mark will be China.

Basically, the country of origin is used to calculate the taxes and import duties. Customs officials also use this detail for checking whether the product meets the regulations or not.

So, the bottom line is, country of origin mark is important and it should be included in the import documents.

5. Do you need an importing license?

Before going towards whether you need an import license or not, let’s talk about what is import license is.

An import license is a piece of paper that is issued by government bodies that shows that a person meets the requirements of importing products into the country. However, there is a catch for this.

Do you need an importing license

if you are a small-scale importer and are importing items that are not restricted or require special paperwork, then you don’t need an import license.

On the other hand, if you have items that require special paperwork, then you will need an import license.

6. Duties and Taxes (Do these matter)

The question is whether these duties and taxes matter or not. Well, the thing is regardless of anything, you have to pay the duties and taxes because they are defined by the government of that country.

Basically, these duties and taxes are there because the government has to protect the people, the jobs, the economy, and the flow of importing/exporting .

So, the thing is you have to pay the customs and duties. However, there are some carriers who will pay the customs/duties and will recover the money from you after that has been done.

Chapter 3: The hurdles you can expect when importing products and how to cater to that?

The hurdles you can expect when importing products and how to cater that

If you are a new Amazon FBA beginner, then there is a chance you will face delays. Honestly, those delays are mostly because of incomplete paperwork.

In this chapter, we will talk about the hurdles you can expect in the process of import and export so that you can see what you are entering into. Let’s move forward and discuss this.

1. Incomplete/inaccurate documents and delays

The first thing that you can expect is delays in clearing the items from the port. That is all because of incomplete paperwork.

The thing is when you are handling the import document, it is essential to arrange all related paperwork because that can save you from delays.

For instance, if you are ordering electronic paperwork, then make sure you have a bill of materials, CE/ROHS certification, licenses, and more. With related documents, there is very less chance of delays.

If, you are not able to present those documents, the customs officers will seize your products until you have arranged the required paperwork.

2. Restricted/banned products and their permits

Restricted banned products and their permits

The second hurdle you can expect is if you are dealing in products such as restricted products or items that are banned. See, there is a reason countries have restricted products and that is because there are health concerns with that.

If you can handle and store these kinds of products in a proper manner, then you can import these products. Talking about banned products, if such item is banned, customs officers will sure shot seize the products.

Dealing with these kinds of products requires special paperwork and arranging that paperwork can become a headache.  However, if you are into those products and want to get your products out, then you have to do that.

If not, there is a 100% chance that import/export officers will not release your product. So, make sure you have every type of document for items such as oils, dangerous goods, or explosive items.

3. Selecting the right classification

In this business, there is a chance you can face an extensive amount of charges. That is because you haven’t selected the right classification for your items. Let’s take an example for this one.

Suppose, you are dealing with dangerous goods such as battery packs. Now, the thing is battery packs are only shipped by sea and they require special storage.

Moreover, there are special charges for these types of products. To calculate the right amount, you have to select the right classification.

Battery items come under dangerous goods- battery solutions, so you have to select like that in order to get the exact amount.

Keep in mind that selecting the wrong classification can lead to you paying more than what should be paid. So, do the research and coordinate with the freight forwarder. Lastly, arrange the right import paperwork so keep your side clear.

4. Demurrage Fees and how to avoid that?

Demurrage Fees and how to avoid that

Demurrage fee is when the container stays on the port beyond its allotted time, then the shipper has to pay a per-day charge to the carrier. See, the thing is demurrage fees are linked with delays.

If you are not able to provide complete documents, then delays will happen. And, delays are there that means, the container will stay on the port for that time span.

And, if the containers remain at the port for longer periods, then you have to pay the demurrage fees. So, in order to avoid that, make sure you have the right and proper paperwork.

5. Detention fees and what to do

The detention fee is paid when the exporter takes the container for loading the products and does not return it in the allotted, then he has to pay the detention fee.

Make sure you have noted the time and returned the container as soon as possible to avoid that fee.

Chapter 4: Export Documents required for Custom Clearance?

If you are in the business of export and import, then you need clearance. And, for clearance, there is a need for proper paperwork so that you can clear the specific barriers of export/import business.

In this chapter, we will talk about the documents needed for the export business. Make sure you have all these documents so that you can have efficient transactions.

1. Proforma Invoice

Proforma Invoice

The first document that is needed in the export business is a proforma invoice. A Proforma invoice or also known as PI is similar to a purchase order. However, there is a slight difference between the two.

In the PI invoice, there are terms and conditions mentioned. For instance, if you are working on the DAP term, then it will be mentioned in PI. Moreover, there is total quantity, item number, contact details, and more on that invoice.

2. COO(Country of Origin) certificate

Moving towards the next document, it is the country of origin certificate. Country of Origin states the original location of the product.

Basically, that information is used by the customs officers. They calculate the fees associated with the country and they see whether the standards of that country meet their country’s standards.

Country of Origin

For instance, if you are ordering electric tasers from China, then your country’s officials will check whether the standards of China meet the country’s standards or not.

With the help of the COO certificate, they will also calculate the customs and duties. So, COO is an important certificate, and it is needed at the time of clearance.

3. Shipping Bill

A shipping bill is a document that is used for comparing the measurable like total bill, etc. Shipping bill is important in the business of eCommerce. The shipping bill is submitted through platforms such as ICEGATE.

Online platforms depend on country to country. There is another thing that you need to take care of. In order to get the shipping bill, you have to present some documents. Those documents are.

  • Acceptance of Contract
  • GR Forms for shipment
  • Packing list
  • Export License
  • Purchase Order
  • Invoices
  • AR4 and Invoice
  • Port Trust document
  • QC Certificate and test reports
  • Bill of Sight

Bill of sight is a document that acts as a declaration between the exporter and the customs department. It is used when the receiver is not sure about the products.

Basically, if there is a bill of sight document, then the receiver cannot open the package until he has paid the remaining payment. BIll of Sight document is necessary if the exporter does not have the proper information for the generating bill of entry.

With the bill of sight, the exporter also has to arrange a document that specifies that goods can be cleared through customs.

4. Letter of Credit

Letter of Credit

A letter of credit is a document that is issued by the bank of the importer. It basically specifies that the receiver will pay the amount of that product. It acts as the assurance between the two parties.

Keep in mind that the exporter only releases the product when he has the letter of credit.

5. Export License

The export license is basically a certification that shows the exporter is eligible to send the products to international borders. Keep in mind that you will need an export license for the first time.

Then, there is no need for an export license. Basically, it is proof, and when you have provided that for the first time, it goes into the record.

Export licenses vary from product to product and country to country. So, make sure you have that when you are sending the products for the very first time.

Export License

6. Health Certifications

If an exporter is sending products that require special paperwork, then there is a need for health certificates. For instance, if you are sending grocery items to the US, you will need certifications such as FDA approval, minerals testing, and other test reports.

Make sure that you have these certifications because if not, then the importer will face issues and that can cost you the business.

7. Warehouse receipt

A warehouse receipt is a document that shows that the exporter has paid all customs, duties, and freight charges related to that product.

Once that is done, the officers generate the warehouse receipt. This slip is used by the importer to clear the items from the import port.

Chapter 5: Basic Import Documents Needed for Customs Clearance?

In the above chapter, we talked about the documents that are needed for export clearance. We mentioned those details because some of the export documents are linked with import documents.

It was important to give you an idea about export paperwork. Here, in this chapter, we will mention import documents that are needed if you are importing products from China or any other country.

1. Commercial Invoice

Commercial Invoice

When importing the items from different countries, the customs officer will ask for a commercial invoice.

A commercial invoice is a document that specifies the details of the product, the terms used in the contract, the number of products, items description, delivery method, shipping method, and other details related to that product.

A customs officer compares the items with the commercial invoice and decides whether to release that product or not.

2. Bill Of Lading (BOL)

Bill of Lading (BOL) is a piece of paper that is issued by the carrier to the shipper. BOL acts as the proof between the carrier and the shipper and shows that the items were shipped by that carrier.

It has details such as item description and destination address. BOL can also act as a shipping receipt and can be used for clearing the customs.

Bill of material is an important document and should be presented at the time of customs clearance. That is because it also acts as proof in case of theft or missing items.

3. Packing List

Bill Of Lading

A packing list is a document that shows the type of items present in the shipment. It is used for comparing the items with the PI list. A packing list is sent along with the goods and it is used by transportation companies.

With this, they know what is exactly in the shipment. A packing list is attached with each container so that the officers and loaders don’t get confused, and don’t send the container to the wrong address.

4. Notice of Arrival

Notice of arrival is a document that is sent by the carrier to the receiver. When this notice has arrived, the receiver has to arrange the customs and other related paperwork.

Keep in mind that, this is not used for clearing the items. It is only used for giving the receiver a remainder that the items have arrived at the port.

Moreover, if you ignore this letter, there is a chance that you will have to pay the detention or demurrage fees. So, when it comes, take action as quickly as possible.

5. Certificate of Insurance

Certificate of Insurance

A certificate of insurance is a document that is used for clearing the import customs procedure. The certificate is used for verification of the items by the customs officers.

Moreover, they also check whether the price contains the product insurance or not. If your items are insured, then you need to present the certificate of insurance.

6. Letter of Credit or LC

We also mentioned a letter of credit in the export documents section. Well, the thing is it is also needed for import procedures.

See, the thing is a supplier needs a verification that the importer will pay the money and for that, they ask for a letter of credit.

Letter of credit is generated by the bank and the importer has to present it to the exporter. Once that is done, the exporter will release the product for shipping.

7. Technical Write-up or Literature (Only required for specific goods)

This is a document that shows the exact details of the product, how it works, and what type of materials it contains. This document is not necessary for every document.

However, it is needed for some products. You can easily hire a writer for creating a technical write-up about the product. It is needed when you are dealing with items that are rare and require special attention.

8. Industrial License (for specific goods)

An industrial license is a paperwork that is required for special items. For instance, if you are ordering products that are restricted, then you need an industrial license.

For instance, the importers of bulletproof jackets require special industrial licenses in order to clear the items from the port.

9. Test Report (If any)

Test Report

If the supplier has arranged certification and your country requires any special certification, then you need to have that readily available with you.

These reports are important because if the product contains any harmful material, it can cause greater issues. So, try to be on the safe side and arrange the proper test and QC reports.

10. Import License

Lastly, you will need proof that you are the importer of that product. So, that is why you will need the import license. You will need to present this for the first time.

Chapter 6: Frequently Asked Questions About Import Documents


1. What type of documents are required for customs clearance?

When you are importing the products from China, you will need these mentioned import documents.

However, there is a chance that you will need additional documents because the import paperwork varies from product to product and country to country.

  • Commercial invoice
  • Bill of lading
  • Packing list
  • Notice of arrival
  • Insurance certificate
  • Letter of credit
  • Technical writeup
  • Industrial license
  • Test report
  • Import license

2. What is the difference between Bill of Lading and Bill of Sight?

Bill of Lading is a document that contains information such as the port of destination, description of items, and contract terms.

 In contrast, bill of sight is the document that shows that the receiver is not allowed to open the package until the payment has been done.

 There is a detailed subchapter on both of these terms in this blog that will give you complete information.

3. Can you hire a customs broker for import/export documents?

Yes, you can hire a customs broker for clearing the items. Most people hire the customs broker for these processes because these brokers know what is required for clearing the items from the port.

4. Do customs charges apply on Sea shipping?

Regardless of any transportation method, you have to pay the customs fee.

That is because customs and duties are set by the government itself and every person has to comply with this fee.

 Sea shipping customs is paid at the seaport whereas, air shipping customs is paid at the airport of the dry port.

5. How to important products in US?

If you are planning to import products to the USA, then you have to follow the steps. The steps are mentioned down below

  • Find a product using JungleScout or AMZscout
  • Find a supplier and ask for the samples
  • Select the relevant supplier and place a bulk order
  • Arrange the proper paperwork for that item
  • Ask the supplier to ship the items
  • Pay the custom using online or on-site method
  • Arrange transportation from the port to the warehouse


Importing items into your country can become a headache if you don’t know what you are doing.

 Getting a single item into the country requires a proper import document and if you are not able to arrange those documents, then the items can be seized.

For instance, if you are ordering dangerous goods, then you have to acquire relevant import documents.

However, here is a thing. If you are dealing business in simple items such as clothes, shoes, glass items, or any other, then there is no need for any special paperwork.

 In this blog, we have mentioned the import documents that are pretty common in the business.

The blog contains all information related to import documents and what you can expect during the import/export transactions.