Exporting goods with the right documents
- Marcel Hoebink
- How to
- 24 May 2023
- Edited 9 Feb 2023
- 8 min
- Managing and growing
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 invoice, packing list, 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 field of safety, health, economy, and the environment ( VGEM).
Examples are procedures for the transfer of waste, EU certificates (in Dutch) required for the trade in endangered animals and plants, and a licence required to transfer military goods to another Member State. There are also rules for the supply of medicines, the transport of cultural objects designated as national property, and for the transportation of live animals and animal products. When trading in weapons you need a weapons permit. And you need a plant passport for the trade in certain plants and propagation material. On the website of the European Commission you find information about food safety, and about animal and plant health.
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:
Some areas are part of the EU, but in some area’s 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.
Transactions 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.
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 (‘Rijksdienst voor Ondernemend Nederland’, 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 (‘Nederlandse Voedsel- en Warenautoriteit’, NVWA) with the electronic system e-CertNL. The Netherlands Controlling Authority for Dairy and Eggs (‘Controle Orgaan Kwaliteits Zaken’, COKZ) issues certificates for dairy products (in Dutch). You also need to apply for a certificate (in Dutch) to export agricultural products (AGREX certificate). You apply for this certificate (in Dutch) with 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.
KVK export documents
KVK issues various export documents. You can obtain the following 4 from KVK:
- 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 on 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.
- EUR.1 and EUR-MED certificates. These are preferential certificates of origin that will give you the benefit of lower import duties (tariff preference) in most countries that signed a free trade agreement with the EU. If you export shipments with a limited value (no more than €6,000) to these countries, you do not need an EUR.1 or EUR-MED. An invoice will suffice. Only products of preferential origin will qualify for lower import duties in a treaty country. Preferential origin means that products are obtained from or sufficiently processed in the EU (or the treaty country).
Some treaty countries do not use EUR.1 or EUR-MED certificates, but ask for other statements for proof of origin. In that case, you can include these statements in your sales invoice. You do not need to go through KVK. On KVK.nl, we listed the treaty countries (in Dutch). Here you can also download various declarations of preferential origin.
- Signature authentication, for signatures on commercial invoices, for example. That way, KVK confirms that the signature on the document belongs to someone working at the company and authorised to sign.
Document certification, in which KVK certifies the text, or specified paragraphs of the text.
- ATA carnet. You need an ATA carnet for goods that you export temporarily to a non- EU country for a specific purpose: commercial samples, items required for business fairs, or materials for professional activities. These goods will return – within 1 year – to the Netherlands.
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, please contact the KVK Export Documents Desk (call 088 585 15 85, menu option 4).
Check your documents
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.
You are a supplier of ceramic roof tiles and you have a new buyer in China. Follow the steps below and find out what documents you need.
- Go to the Access2Markets database.
- Complete the field ‘Product name or HS code’. An HS code (Harmonised System code) is a commodities code value used by Customs around the world to categorise products. Each product has its own HS code. The HS code for ceramic roof tiles is 690510.
Do you not know the code for your product? You can also turn to Dutch Customs (call 0800 01 43) or Statistics Netherlands (CBS, call 088 570 70 70) for answers regarding HS codes (product codes). Enter the HS code for ceramic roof tiles: 690510.
- Select from the drop-down menu below ‘Country from’ the country from which you are exporting (for example, the Netherlands). In the field ‘Country to’ you fill in China. Next, click on ‘Search’.
- You are now directed to the section headed ‘Tariffs’. Here you will find the import duties that apply in China for the import of ceramic tiles. On the left, you see a list of subjects, such as ‘Taxes’ (for information on additional levies for import into China, such as Chinese VAT on import) and ‘Procedures and formalities’. If you click here, you see 3 sections:
Here you find general information about local legislation of the country of destination (in this example China). Including information about import requirements for specific product groups, customs procedures, requirements for packaging and labelling, prohibited imports, etcetera. You find more information by clicking on the different topics.
This column provides an overview of documents or obligations that are generally required for import into the country of destination. You will get more information by clicking on the topics. Here you also learn who has to provide the documents (you, the person importing, or another party such as a carrier) and where you need to apply for the document.
Here you can see whether any specific obligations or documents are required when importing a product into the country of destination. If you click here, you see what the obligations or documents are, who has to organise this, etcetera. In this example, you see 2 specific requirements, namely: China Compulsory Certification and Supplier’s Declaration of Conformity. This implies that these 2 requirements apply specifically to the import of roof tiles into China. However, if you click on both requirements, the information banner at the top of the page reads: ‘Only required for 6905.90’. This means that those 2 requirements do not apply to the import of roof tiles. Their product code is ‘6905.10’. That is why you should always carefully check the specified requirements.
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.
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 Market Access Map of the International Trade Centre (ITC).
- The economic or trade department of the Dutch embassy in the country of destination. First, you contact RVO (in Dutch). Next, RVO will maintain contact with the embassy.
- The customs authorities of the destination country.
ICC Incoterms® are standardised international trade rules. You and your foreign customer decide on an Incoterm® to define who is responsible for transport (and where this responsibility is transferred), who covers the risks for loss or damage to the goods during transport, at what point the goods are transferred to the other party, and who will obtain the required documents. There are 11 different Incoterms®. For export shipments to countries outside the EU, the Incoterms® Ex Works (EXW) and Delivered Duty Paid (DDP) are less suitable.
If you use EXW, it is the responsibility of your customer abroad to obtain all required documents (including the export documents). This can be impractical, quite difficult, and in some cases even impossible.
If you use DDP, you (the exporting party) are responsible for the import into the country of destination. In that case, you are also considered the importing party in the destination country. This means that you pay the import duties and local levies (such as VAT) in the destination country. But it also means that you have to obtain the required import documents. This is often difficult and, in some cases, might even be impossible.