Frequently Asked Questions

Exporting Basics: Documentation

What is a Certificate of Origin, and where do I get one if it’s needed?

The Certificate of Origin verifies your commodity's country of manufacture. The document is notarized and certified by a Chamber of Commerce. Because the country of manufacture is a key element in customs entry (for quotas, etc.), many countries require a Certificate of Origin for some shipments exceeding a certain value. Even though the commercial invoice usually includes a statement of origin, some countries require that a separate certificate be completed. Customs offices will use this document to determine whether or not a preferential duty rate applies on the products being imported.

The data required for a certificate of origin is generally the same as for a commercial invoice. Basic information includes a description of the goods, gross and net weight, and the number of packages. The certificate will also include a brief statement as to the origin of the goods. A few countries require specialized certificates of origin that might include more detailed information and/or require a specific wording for its origin declaration.

While some countries require certificates of origin for all products, others may only require them for certain types of products. Almost all Middle Eastern countries require that certificates of origin accompany all shipments. Most Latin American and European countries, however, only require the certificate for certain products, such as textiles. Certificates of origin are generally unnecessary in Asia unless requested by the importer. African nations run the gamut of requirements. A NAFTA Certificate of Origin is required for U.S. shipments to Mexico and Canada.

General certificates of origin forms can be obtained from the Government Printing Office (202-512-1800); freight forwarders; trade document companies, such as UNZ & Company or Export Forms Co. and some local chambers of commerce. Specialized certificates of origin can often be acquired through embassies or country-specific chambers of commerce. A few countries, such as Spain and Malawi, require that their own certificates of origin be used. These certificates can usually be obtained directly from the embassy of that country. The America-Israel Chamber of Commerce provides copies of the "U.S. Certificate of Origin for Exporting to Israel". Both the Israel and NAFTA certificates can also be purchased from the Government Printing Office and the various trade documents companies.

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