Despite the fact that we live in a globalized world, international shipping is tougher than it has ever been before. This is especially true in the United States, where international security has become incredibly tight following 9/11. Anyone interested in shipping things to or from the United States internationally now has a slew of different rules and regulations that they must follow requiring the maintenance of records and proper documentation. Failure to comply with the regulations imposed by the Customs and Border Protection office means that, at best, your cargo won’t be shipped and, at worst, it might be seized or you might be fined.

In this article, we will talk about the different forms and pieces of information you will have to include along with your cargo when you are filing your import and export documents. Additionally, we will discuss how document management systems (DMSs) can greatly improve your shipping document management.


Import and Export Documents

The documents that you will need to import or export depend highly on what kind of cargo you are planning on shipping, but some basic steps are almost always required. The first set of documents we will talk about are for import only, and the requirements for them are a little more stringent than exporting. In general, import documentation includes:

  • an entry manifest or application and special permit for immediate delivery,
  • evidence of right to make entry,
  • commercial invoice or a pro forma invoice,
  • packing lists, and
  • any other necessary documents to determine that the merchandise is permissible in the United States.

Of these documents, the entry manifest and the commercial invoice are by far the most important and the most difficult to obtain. Both of these documents must be filed with Customs and Border Protection within fifteen days of the cargo’s arrival in the United States.

It is important to note that while importing items into the United States does not require a special license in most cases, exporting them does. You have to hold a valid export license in order to file any of the necessary paperwork with CPB. It is also important to check if the country you are sending items to requires a Certificate of Origin, which is a document provided by CPB that verifies that the United States is the country of origin.

There are a lot of documents for both import and export that depend entirely on your cargo, and the list of them is a little too large to put in this article. However, in general, if your cargo is living, perishable (such as food), must be handled in a particular way (such as halal or kosher guarantees,) presents a health concern, is radioactive, or is qualified as a dangerous good by the International Air Transport Association (IATA), then a special certificate is necessary for both import and export.


Shipping Document Management

Even the simplest import and export tasks require a lot of forms, which in turns requires the investment of resources into their organization, management, and security. For this reason, document management systems like eFileCabinet are a necessity. Of course, you could deal with all the documents yourself by hand, but a DMS puts one-click access to files in your hands whether you’re at head office or working on the ground.

The transportation document management software provided by eFileCabinet not only reduces the truly monumental amounts of paper that you might be using, but also offers an intuitive interface that allows you to quickly retrieve the documents you need when you need them. Metadata tags afford easy document organization, files can be automatically backed up to the Cloud, and encryption protects everything you store with eFileCabinet. Combined with the audit trail functionality that tracks who creates, accesses, and edits a document, and when, these features offer transparency and peace of mind to our customers. All of these benefits are included in eFileCabinet’s the unique platform for businesses looking to go paperless in the  transportation and shipping industry: a variety of our software is tailored to the unique needs of the industry and will help you negotiate the complex regulations of the import and export world.

Read more about eFileCabinet’s shipping and transportation software today.