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Shipping internationally – a guide to completing your export commercial

Filling out export documentation can seem daunting if you are new to it. The commercial invoice (or pro forma invoice) is the most common customs document you'll encounter when shipping beyond the EU. Incorrect information is also the most common cause for customs delay, so getting it right matters.

UPS is proud of its fast, efficient customs clearance reputation, which is why we've created this guide to help you avoid delays. It breaks down the form into easy-to-understand sections. The two main areas to watch out for are:

  • description of goods
  • goods valuation

Always be accurate in your declaration. State as much as you know about the goods being exported. Make sure your documentation clearly communicates the reason for your export.

Don't worry if you don't have some of the information at hand, such as a Harmonised Tariff code. By choosing UPS, you'll get a free customs brokerage service* which means we'll take care of that for you.

Explore this guide and uncover some tips from our top brokerage experts at UPS.

Learn more about shipping with UPS

*UPS Brokerage services are provided at no extra cost for routine customs clearance. We also offer value added and optional UPS customs services for an additional fee.

Our expert brokerage knowledge combined with UPS logistics will help you master exporting

A B C D E F G H I J K L

Tip:

You will need to provide 3 copies of your commercial invoice with your shipment: one original and at least two copies. These must be signed. We also recommend you put a copy inside your package (or in one package if you’re sending several).

Find out how to prepare each section of your invoice step-by-step. Simply click on each highlighted section on the displayed invoice OR view all steps by clicking SHOW ALL Show All
  • A

    From

    Please include full details, including Tax ID (or in the EU, the Economic Operators Registration and Identity (EORI) Number), contact name, address with postal code and country, and phone number (very important).

  • B

    Shipment Details

    • 1
      Tracking #
      Tracking number is the number shown on your shipping label (automatically generated when you create a shipment in UPS shipping systems). If there is more than one package this should be the lead or first tracking number.
    • 2
      Invoice #
      Invoice number is assigned by the shipper if applicable.
    • 3
      Date

      Date. Not necessarily the date that the shipment is handed to UPS, this should be the date the transaction took place in the seller's records. (The date on the shipping label should show the date the shipment is handed to UPS.)

      Tip. Getting the date of sale / transaction correct is particularly important when goods are being purchased under a letter of credit.

    • 4
      PO #
      Purchase Order number is assigned by the shipper if applicable.
    • 5
      Terms of sale
      Terms of sale (Incoterm) refers to the billing terms on the invoice. The terms state who (seller or buyer) is responsible for paying various costs – shipping, insurance, import tax and duty charges – and clarify the point at which the goods change ownership.
    • 6
      Reason
      Reason for export. For example, whether shipment is a sale, a gift, an item for repair, etc.
  • C

    Ship to

    Please include full details, including Tax ID (or in the EU, the Economic Operators Registration and Identity (EORI) Number), contact name, address with postal code and country, and phone number (very important).

  • D

    Sold-to information

    Please include full details, including Tax ID (or in the EU, the Economic Operators Registration and Identity (EORI) Number), contact name, address with postal code and country, and phone number.

  • E

    Units / U/M

    • 1
      Units
      Units refers to the quantity of the merchandise, i.e. the number of individual items per description type being sent.
    • 2
      U/M
      Abbreviation for Units of Measure - whether the items are listed as individual, bundle, roll, etc.
  • F

    Description of goods

    This is where you need to provide a detailed description of what items are in the package(s).

    The details of the description should include:

    • What it is
    • What materials it's made of
    • What the item is used for

    The detailed descriptions you provide are used by the destination brokerage department to assess and apply the import country's duty and tax on the goods being sent.

  • G

    Harmonised Tariff Codes

    Harmonised Tariff Codes. If available, include this to assist the clearance of your goods. This global system of classification speeds up exports, reduces delays and avoids potential additional fees and charges.

    Tip. Don't worry if you do not know some or all of the Harmonised Tariff Codes for the goods in your shipment. UPS has a team of expert customs brokers to take care of this for you and ensure there is no customs hold up.

  • H

    Country of origin

    Country of Origin. This is the country where the goods were manufactured or assembled NOT the country they are being shipped from, e.g., if goods made in Italy are being shipped from the US, the C/O is Italy, not the US.

  • I

    Unit Value / Total Value

    • 1
      Unit Value
      Unit value is the value of the items individually, e.g., 15 shirts at £10 each, the unit value is £10.
    • 2
      Total Value
      Total unit value is the value of all items combined, e.g., 15 shirts at £10 each have a total value of £150.

    Tip. Be precise and include a valuation figure that is accurate to your knowledge. If customs officials at the destination country have reason to believe the valuation of your goods is not correct this can be a reason for them to hold a package for further investigation. It’s important to recognise that all materials have an intrinsic value too. For example, even if you are sending a product sample your valuation should at a minimum represent the cost of the materials it took to produce it.

  • J

    Additional comments

    Add any other information that could be useful here.

  • K

    Declaration Statement, Shipper and Date

    A Declaration Statement could be required on the invoice for commodities that require a licence or licence exception.

    Tip. If needed, the purpose for the export should be included here in order to ensure that your goods are considered appropriately during clearance – such as when the goods are not being sold but entering a country temporarily for repair or for an event.

    • 1
      Shipper
      Put your title and signature here.
    • 2
      Date
      The date you (the shipper) made the statement.
  • L

    Final Cost / Value Information

    • 1
      Invoice line total
      Invoice line total is the total value of all contents, excluding packaging, included in the shipment.
    • 2
      Discount
      Discount / Rebate is any discount or rebate given by the shipper.
    • 3
      Invoice
      sub-total
      Invoice sub-total is the total amount after any discount or rebate.
    • 4
      Freight
      Freight is the cost to transport the shipment.
    • 5
      Insurance
      Insurance is the amount the shipper or receiver pays to cover the cost of replacing the shipment if it is lost or damaged.
    • 6
      Other
      Other is for any other charges placed on the shipment by the shipper, e.g. Handling Charge.
    • 7
      Total invoice amount
      Total invoice amount is the total after all discounts are taken off and all charges added up.
    • 8
      Total No. of packages
      Total number of packages is the number of packages included in the shipment.
    • 9
      Total weight
      Total weight (kg or lbs) is the shipment weight including packaging.
    • 10
      Currency code
      Currency code indicates what currency the values are listed in, e.g. GBP, EUR, USD etc.