Exporting goods with the right documents

When you sell products to customers abroad you need export documents. Especially if you export goods to a country outside the European Union (EU). What documents you need to export depends on your product and the country of destination.

In addition to the usual documents, such as the invoice, packing lists, and transport documents, extra documents may be required. For example, when exporting live animals and plants, military and strategic goods, or medicines and cultural objects. In the Netherlands, multiple public authorities are involved in the process of issuing documents, including KVK.

Transactions within the EU

For export transactions within the EU, commonly used documents such as invoices, packing lists, and transport documents will usually be enough. But additional rules apply for certain goods, and you may need a licence, certificate, or other type of consent. This generally involves goods regulated by legislation in the fields of safety, health, economy, and the environment (VGEM).

Extra documents needed

There is no list showing which products you do or do not need extra documents for. Below is a list of situations for which you need extra documents when trading or transporting within the EU:

Documents from customs required

Within the EU there is free movement of goods. This means that you do not have to submit an export declaration with Dutch Customs for goods you export to another EU Member State. But in some cases, you need customs documents when trading within the EU:

Exception territories

Some areas are part of the EU, but in some territories, different rules apply. These are the so-called exception territories (in Dutch). They do not belong to the EU's customs territory, excise territory, VAT territory and/or statistical territory. As a result, you sometimes need customs documents when trading with these areas. Examples are the Canary Islands, and Ceuta and Melilla. A customs representative such as a freight forwarder or logistics service provider prepares customs documents.

Transportation of union goods through a non-EU country

Union goods are goods produced in the EU or previously imported into the EU from a non-EU country. If you supply these goods to a customer in another EU member state and the transport is via non-EU territory, you need customs documents. For example, you export a machine to Italy and the transport is via Switzerland (a non-EU country). The transport then takes place under the Internal Union Transit Procedure. For this transport, you need a T2 document. A customs representative will prepare this document for you.

Transport of union goods through non-EU waters

You also need a customs document when transporting union goods between EU countries via waters that do not belong to the territory of EU member states. For example, for the transport of goods by sea vessel between Italy and Greece. Greek customs considers goods that do not arrive via a scheduled maritime service as non-Union goods, meaning goods from non-EU countries. To prove EU origin, you need a T2L document. A customs representative will prepare this for you.

Exports to countries outside the EU

Standard documents required for export shipments to countries outside the EU are invoices, packing lists, and transport documents. You must also submit an export declaration to Customs. You can do this electronically. In most cases, the freight forwarder or customs broker handles the export declaration for you. You need additional export documents if you export products for which rules apply relating to product safety, health, economy, and environment (VGEM). In that case, you need export licenses or certificates.

There is no set list showing which products you do or do not need extra export documents for. Below is an overview of situations where you need extra documents.

  • If you export strategic goods (military and dual-use goods, that is, goods that can be used for both military and civil purposes) you will most likely need to apply for an export licence, or notify the Central Import and Export Office (CDIU) of Dutch Customs.
  • Do you intend to export endangered animal and plant species (or products thereof)? In some cases, you will need a CITES permit for export (in Dutch). You obtain this permit (in Dutch) from the Netherlands Enterprise Agency (RVO). 
  • Animals, animal products, and plant products must meet the health requirements of the country of destination. You need veterinary and phytosanitary export certificates to prove this. You obtain these certificates from the Netherlands Food and Consumer Product Safety Authority with the electronic system e-CertNL.
  • The Netherlands Controlling Authority for Dairy and Eggs (COKZ) issues certificates for dairy products (in Dutch).
  • To export medicines to countries outside the European Economic Area (EEA), you need a wholesale licence from Farmatec.
  • When exporting cheese to the US and Canada, you sometimes need export certificates (in Dutch). This is the case for cheese you export to these countries within the tariff quota. The tariff quota means that importers in the US and Canada can import a certain quantity of cheese free of import duties. Another name for the export certificate is an Agrex certificate. You apply for the certificate at RVO.

When in doubt, you can always consult a customs broker for information about the export documents and certificates you need. They will know everything there is to know about this subject. 

Documents for the destination country

Do you want to know which documents you need for importing your product into a country outside the EU? For most countries, this information is available in the Access2Markets database of the European Commission. In this video, we explain how to use 'My Trade Assistant'. Besides the required documents, you will also find other information. For example, about import duties for your product in the destination country.

Destination country not in Access2Markets

Is the import destination not in Access2Markets? The following sources or authorities may have information about the required import documents for that specific country:

  • The economic or trade department of the Dutch embassy in the country of destination. First, you contact RVO. Next, RVO will maintain contact with the embassy.
  • The customs authorities of the destination country.

KVK export documents

KVK issues various export documents. You can obtain the following 4 from KVK:

  1. Certificate of origin (CVO). A non-preferential or generic certificate of origin that proves the country of origin of the goods stated on the document. There are several reasons why a CVO is required. Your customer may ask for a CVO because they sell the products they bought from you to another country for which import restrictions are in place. Or a Letter of Credit (L/C) is used as the transaction payment method. In that case, the CVO is a required trade document.
  2. EUR.1 and EUR-MED certificates. With a EUR.1 or EUR-MED, your customer gets a reduction or exemption from import duties. You only use these certificates for countries with which the EU has a trade agreement. Some countries do not use EUR.1 or EUR-MED, but only an invoice declaration. This is a preferential declaration of origin that you put on your sales invoice. Rules of origin apply to the use of a EUR.1, EUR-MED or invoice declaration.
  3. Signature authentication. With the authentication of a signature, KVK confirms that this signature is from someone authorised to sign within your company. Some countries require the legalisation of a signature on documents. For example, on a sales invoice.
  4. ATA carnet. You use an ATA carnet if you temporarily take trade samples, exhibition material, or professional equipment to certain countries outside the EU. You then do not pay import duties and VAT.

If you have any questions regarding the export documents issued by KVK, the various declarations of origin and how to use them, or the rules of origin for your product, contact Export documents region West: 088 585 18 87. Or Export documents region East/South: 088 585 18 89.

Request information from the importer

Always ask your customer (importer) what documents they need if they want to import goods into their country. For the importing party, it is much easier to get this information from the local authorities. The freight forwarder can also obtain information through local customs agents in the country of destination.