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Export Documents

Documents Summary

This table lists Basic Documents, required for all exports, and Special Documents, required for certain goods. 

PDF links in the right-hand column open the following three types of documents:
    1. Country-specific documents, where available, listed by name
    2. Examples (actual specimens of documents submitted for a particular country and product)
    3. Generic samples (blank nonspecific documents)

Basic Documents PDF
Customs Declaration for the Export of Goods Declaration for the Export of Goods
(not available)
Commercial Invoice (CI) generic sample
Freight Document: Bill of Lading (B/L),
Air Waybill (AWB), or Rail Waybill (RWB)
generic sample
Business Registration Certificate/Investment License not available
Export-Import Code Registration Certificate not available
Insurance Document example
Packing List (P/L) generic sample
Special Documents PDF
Certificate of Origin (CoO) example
Certificates of Inspection example (Phytosanitary Certificate)
example (Certificate of Conformity)
Export Licenses, Permits, Certifications product-specific

Advisory: Documents and means of submission (e.g. paper vs. electronic), may change. Contact a customs broker or a a freight forwarder for requirements, including number of originals and copies, particular to your shipment.

Explanation of Basic Documents

Customs Declaration for the Export of Goods

The Customs Declaration for the Export of Goods is the central document in the collection of documents submitted to declare goods for export from Vietnam. The completed declaration contains all the basic information required for customs procedures. Required data fields include:

  • Exporter name, address, and details
  • Consignee name, address, and details
  • Representative (agent) name, address, and details
  • Harmonized System (HS) tariff classification code of the goods
  • Packages and description of the goods, with marks and numbers of containers
  • Gross and net mass of the goods
  • Goods' country of origin and country of destination
  • Invoice amount, currency, and exchange rate
  • Calculation of duties
  • Delivery terms
  • Means of transport 
  • Customs office of destination
  • Customs procedure, e.g., release for free circulation, transit, bonded warehouse
Commercial Invoice (CI)

The Commercial Invoice  (CI) documents the transaction between the exporter and the importer. It is always required for customs clearance. 

Information contained on the CI includes, at minimum:

  • The name and address of the consignor
  • The name and address of the consignee
  • Invoice number and date of issue
  • Bill of Lading or other freight document number
  • Terms and conditions of delivery and payment (Incoterm)
  • Full description of the goods, including the quantity, unit of measure, and unit price
  • Total invoice value in the currency of payment
  • Means of transport
Freight Document

This is generally the Bill of Lading (B/L), but may be a Road Waybill, an Air Waybill, or Rail Waybill. A B/L is both a receipt for goods and a contract of carriage, but may also serve as a title document. Bills of Lading are issued by the carrier or their agent. One of these documents, as appropriate to the means of transport used, must be completed and presented to customs authorities to obtain export clearance of the goods. The documents are explained below.

Bill of Lading (B/L)

While "Bill of Lading" may refer generically to any freight document, the term is generally applied to freight documents covering carriage by water. Different types of B/Ls may be used to cover particular arrangements. For example, an On Board Bill of Lading indicates the goods have been received on board the transport vessel; a Negotiable Bill of Lading serves as a negotiable title document and can be used to transfer ownership of the shipment by an endorsement, much as a bank check.

Road Waybill

The Road Waybill is a freight document for the transport of goods by road. Four copies are issued and signed by the consignor and the carrier. The first copy is intended for the consignor; the second remains in the possession of the carrier; the third accompanies the goods and is delivered to the consignee, and the fourth is signed and stamped by the consignee at delivery and then returned to the consignor. The Road Waybill is not a document of title and is nonnegotiable.

Air Waybill (AWB)

The Air Waybill (AWB) is a freight document for the transport of goods by air. It is issued by the carrier or the carrier's agent. The AWB contains three originals and several extra copies. One original is kept by each of the parties involved in the transport (the consignor, the consignee, and the carrier). The additional copies may be required at the airport of departure and the airport of destination, for delivery, and in some cases, for onward carriage.

Rail Waybill

A Rail Waybill is a freight document for the transport of goods by rail. One original and five copies of the Rail Waybill are generally issued: the original accompanies the goods, the duplicate of the original is kept by the consignor, and the three remaining copies are kept by the carrier for internal purposes.

FIATA Bill of Lading (for multimodal shipments)

The FIATA Bill of Lading is a multimodal or combined transport document with negotiable status, which has been developed by the International Federation of Freight Forwarders Associations (FIATA).

Insurance Document

An insurance document is required for customs clearance only when the insurance data indicating the amount of premium paid to insure the merchandise does not appear on the CI. 

Insurance is an agreement by which a company, in exchange for the payment of a premium, guarantees compensation to the insured in the event of loss or damage covered by the insurance policy. Insurance protects the insured against damage caused by common risks during handling, storing, loading, or transporting cargo and, depending on the policy, by other rare risks such as riots, strikes, or terrorism.

Note that basic insurance provided by a carrier is generally limited by regulation. Depending on the means of transport, indemnity is limited by the weight and value of the goods, not their value. As a result, it is common for the seller or buyer, depending on insurable interest, to take out insurance for additional coverage.

International conventions dictate the standard extent of the transporter's responsibility, as follows:

  • The Convention for the Contract of the International Carriage of Goods by Road (CMR Convention) for road freight
  • The Convention Concerning Intercarriage by Rail (CIM Convention) for rail transport
  • International Convention on Bill of Lading, better known as the Hague Rules or the Brussels Convention, for shipping
  • The 1929 Warsaw Convention, as well as the Montreal Draft Treaty of 1975, for air freight

Packing List (P/L)

The Packing List (P/L) is a document that accompanies a shipment and provides information on the items shipped, including quantities, dimensions, and weight. It is useful for customs clearance as an inventory of the cargo. Both commercial stationers and freight forwarders carry packing list forms.

Information that must be on the P/L includes:

  • The name and address of the consignor
  • The name and address of the consignee
  • The name and address of the carrier
  • The quantity, description, and total net and gross weight  (in kg) of the goods
  • The date of shipment, invoice number, and bill of lading or other freight document number
  • Mode of transport and the carrier, 
  • The type of package (e.g., box, crate, drum, or carton) the quantity of packages, total net and gross weight (in kg)
  • Package marks and dimensions, if appropriate

Registration Documents

Business Registration Certificate/Investment License

All business entities are required to register with the Vietnamese Ministry of Finance to engage in import or export related trade in Vietnam. The entities must have a valid Business Registration Certificate (for domestic entities) or Investment License (for foreign entities) to begin trading.

Export-Import Code Registration Certificate

This certificate is obtained from a local customs office once for all a trader's subsequent import/export transactions. 

Explanation of Special Documents

Special document requirements depend on the product being exported, and are often temporary measures put in place by government agencies. A few common categories of documents are listed here. As always, check with a customs broker, freight forwarder, or Vietnamese customs authorities for documents required for a particular shipment.

Certificate of Origin (CoO)

The Certificate of Origin (CoO) is an affidavit certifying the country of origin/production of the goods in the shipment. Many kinds of CoO exist, some of them specific to a particular trade agreement. The general CoO is issued and certified by the Vietnam Chamber of Commerce and Industry, while special types of certificates are obtained from ministries responsible for the commodity or sphere of trade. For goods originating in Vietnam that are exported to Vietnam's preferential trade partners, a CoO is necessary to claim a preferential tariff on import. 

Inspection Certificates

An inspection certificate confirms that goods have been inspected for conformity to a set of industry, customer, or government specifications prior to shipment. The certificates are usually obtained from independent, neutral testing organizations. Various kinds of inspection certificates may be required for export.

Sanitary Certificates

Sanitary certificates attest to the safety of plants, animals, and their products. Inspection and certification are carried out by specified agricultural, food safety, or animal health agencies in the country of origin prior to shipment.

Phytosanitary Certificate

A phytosanitary certificate officially states that regulated plants, plant products, or sometimes other articles meet specified requirements for import. The purpose is generally to avoid contamination with pests. Fruit, vegetables, grain, flowers, agricultural goods, and forestry products that are subject to regulation require a phytosanitary certificate. The certificate may also be needed for other articles that could carry pest contamination, such as empty containers.

The exporter is responsible for applying to the domestic agricultural agency in advance of shipment to request certification and inspection.

Health Certificate

A veterinary certificate or health certificate attests that a live animal, or any animal products, have been visually or comprehensively tested and have been found free of evidence of disease and pests. The certificate is generally required for the shipment of live animals and animal products (processed foodstuffs, poultry, meat, fish seafood, dairy products, and eggs and egg products), and is usually very specific to the goods. The certificate is issued by a certified veterinarian or the department of agriculture in the country of origin, and it may be additionally verified by an authorized national entity. Some countries require that health certificates be notarized or certified by a chamber of commerce and legalized by a consulate.

Certificate of Conformity or Certificate of Compliance

This document certifies that the article has been tested, checked, and verified for compliance with the norms and directives stated on the certificate, showing that the article complies with standards in the country of import. The certificate identifies the product by serial number, year of production, and manufacturer. 

The certificates are usually obtained from independent, neutral testing organizations. The issuing body of the certificate is an important element of the document, as the reputation of the certifying body is the importer's assurance of quality. Certifying bodies may be national or international in scope; they are in turn monitored by national or international accreditation bodies. 

Export Licenses, Permits, or Certifications

Export licenses and permits show the licensee's permission to export a specified quantity of a commodity; often, they also specify the country of import for which permission is granted. Some form of license, permit, or certificate is required for all restricted goods (see Restricted and Prohibited Articles). Licenses and permits are issued by ministries responsible for management of commodities or resources that are subject to export restrictions.

Certificates show acceptability of the goods for export. Acceptability may depend upon international agreements or national standards for goods to be exported.

CITES Permit/Certificate 

Export of wild animals and plants is subject to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). Species threatened with extinction globally or locally may be exported only under specific conditions and with the appropriate CITES import permit.

Note: The above information is subject to change. Exporters are advised to obtain the most current information from a customs broker, freight forwarder, or the local customs authorities.


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