Export documentation matrix

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Export Documentation Matrix

In the following matrix, you will identify who requires a specific document to be completed or where the document needs to be filed. You will also give a short description of the document's purpose in the importing process.

Type of Document

Name of Document

Who Requires  It / Where Is It Filed

Purpose of Document

Payment/Financing Documents

letter of credit

The buyer requires it.  This document is filed at the buyer's bank.

This purpose of this document (LC) is for the buyer's bank promising to pay to the seller on a specific amount.

air waybill

Freight carrier or freight forwarder and recipient (buyer) requires it. The Shipper's statement (proof) and is filed with the carrier, Shipper.

Air Waybill refers to a receipt issued by an international courier/carrier company for goods and serves as evidence of “contract of carriage”, but it is not a document of Title to the goods. The AWB is non-negotiable documentation.

pro forma invoice

The exporter and it is filed at the buyer's request.

This document shows what types of products are shipping.  Also, it states in it the price, how it shipped, and when it is leaving the country of origin for the ultimate destination. Pro forma invoices are commonly generated for goods that are being provided at no cost to recipient. It is not a true invoice, because it is not used to record accounts receivable for the seller and accounts payable for the buyer. It is used to declare the value of the trade.

Shipping Documents

shipper's export declaration

Dept of Commerce requires it. It is filed with the shippers.

The document states the addresses and description of the products and licenses to ship and the value of goods.

general export license

The shipper requires it and filed at the Department of Commerce of Export.

This document is a general purpose of shipping local areas and Canada.

validated export license

The shipper requires it and it is filed at the Dept of Commerce (Export).

This is a required document if the product is shipped to unfriendly countries under strict requirements.

export bill of lading

The shipping and receiving.  It is filed at the Exporting.

The Bill of Lading serves as a Receipt for Goods. The Bill of Lading (commonly, “the B/L” and on occasion, notated as “the B.O.L.”) denotes that the shipment appears to be in good order and was properly prepared, marked, consigned, and destined as shown. The Bill of Lading should be signed by both shipper and carrier. Bill of Lading identifies parties and states Terms and Conditions of this agreement. These terms and conditions, referred to as the "heart". Special rules or limitations are set forth in this section and should be considered by the auditor to determine liability for loss, damage, and delays. The B/L may serve as evidence of “Title”. This holds true for the “Negotiable” Bill of Lading, sometimes called an Order Bill of Lading - where the holder of the bill may sell the Bill of Lading and thus relinquish title to the property. Another form of Bill of Lading is termed a Straight bill of lading is not negotiable. It states that goods are the property of specified individuals, usually the buyer, and the "Straight" B.O.L. may designate the Shipper or other interested parties. Bills of Lading may be classified as Government, Livestock, or Commercial. The government classification is, of course, for government shipments; livestock for livestock shipments; and commercial for the majority of business and personal shipments.

insurance certificate

The carrier service.  It is filed between the shipper and receiver. Typically, the importer is required to purchase this type of insurance. However, this policy may be taken out by either the buyer or the seller; depending on a shipment's Incoterms.

The insurance certificate is evidence that the shipment is insured against loss or damage while in transit.

Collection Documents

commercial invoices

The seller requires this.  This is filed for the buyers.

Commercial invoices for export orders are similar to domestic invoices but include additional information, such as Origin of the goods, export packing marks, and a clause stating that the goods will not be diverted to a country that is not the “Ultimate Destination”. Invoices for LC sales will specify the bank and the credit numbers. Additionally, some importing countries require the commercial invoice to be in their native language and to be visaed by local consul.

consular invoices

The seller requires this.  This is filed for the buyers.

Forms which are purchased from the consul, prepared in the language of the country, and then visaed by the consul, and are in addition to the commercial invoice.

certificates of origin

Foreign Government (Country of “Ultimate Destination”) and the seller as “Shipper” require this.  This is filed for the buyer.

Documents required by other types of government as the origin of the merchandise.

inspection certificates

The buyer requires this.  This is filed by the Department of Agriculture.

This certificate is a proof of inspected products, goods, or animal freight.


Axia College. (2006). Writing style handbook. Phoenix, AZ: Author.

INB 205