Skip to main content

There is a range of different documents needed in order to export goods from the UK. Using the right forms and using them correctly is crucial if you want to export goods in a timely and efficient manner. Different documents are required for exporting to different countries and it can often be confusing working out what’s required and when.

Here we’ll take a look at some of the most common documents and why they’re needed.

Certificate of Origin

A Certificate of Origin may need to accompany your goods. This will state where a product was manufactured, processed or produced and it’s often needed for customs clearance in your destination market. These can be obtained from your local Chamber of Commerce.

Commercial Invoice

The most commonly used document in international trade is the commercial invoice. This is required by the customs authorities in the destination country and is used to establish the value of imported goods. This gives the customs officials the information they need in order to calculate the duties.

A commercial invoice will include the seller and buyer details, the terms of sale, a description of the goods and quantity, the weight of the shipment, and details of other applicable charges such as insurance and freight costs.

Proforma Invoice

A proforma invoice shows what the seller is intending to ship and the amount they’ll invoice for once that order has been shipped. This invoice is sent to the buyer by the seller, usually in advance of shipment. It will detail the goods that are being supplied, their price and the quantity. It should contain the total order value, along with any other charges that are to be applied to facilitate the shipment. A proforma invoice is often needed by the buyer to allow them to initiate the whole import process.

Packing List

The packing list is an itemised list of the goods that are being shipped. It will include a detailed list of content, the quantities involved, the weight of each package and a description of the good. It’s the job of the seller to compile the packing list and then send it to the recipient. This makes it easy for the buyer to check the contents of the package against the packing list and their order.

UK Export Licence

The UK has special requirements for some controlled goods. Items such as firearms, medicines, animal products and plants will require an export licence.

Dangerous Goods

Any dangerous goods will require special paperwork.

Local Regulations

Different destination countries may require special documentation in order to satisfy local regulations. For example, documentary evidence that your goods meet the products standards of their destination jurisdiction may be required.

Transport Documentation

As well as the documents required to enable your goods to clear customs, there is also a range of documents needed to assist the safe transportation process.

Export cargo shipping instruction

To give a freight forwarder detail of the goods as well as how they’re to reach their destination, an export cargo shipping instruction will be required.

Standard Shipping Note

A Standard Shipping Note will contain a range of information about the goods, and the companies that are involved in shipping and receiving them. There is a standard shipping note for shipping goods overseas.

Bill of lading or a waybill

Depending on the form of transport you choose to ship your goods, a Bill of Lading (sea freight) or waybill (air transport) will be issued when your carrier safely receives your goods. This can provide evidence if there are any problems with the shipment.

CIM Consignment Note

If any part of the shipping process is being carried by rail then you will need a CIM Consignment Note. This will contain details of the goods that are being transported. The consignment note is signed/stamped by the sender and the carrier. If you’re shipping dangerous goods you will also need to complete a dangerous goods declaration.


Depending on the contents of your shipment you may need insurance. The buyer may require proof of insurance, particularly if the costs are being passed on.

Payment Documentation

Making sure that your goods have the right paperwork can ensure that making and receiving payment is straightforward. It reduces the risk of agreements not being honoured or the goods not being accepted by the recipient. This will usually include Bank Collection or Documentary Collections and a Letter of Credit. A documentary collection is used primarily for shipments by sea, a letter of credit (L/C) is a guarantee from a bank on behalf of the buyer.

Your freight forwarding company will take care of documentation

As can be seen from the above, the range of documents that may be required for any shipment is considerable. This is one of the reasons why so many exporters opt to use the services of an experienced freight forward company.

At SSO Logistics, we’re one of the UK’s leading providers of reliable, flexible and affordable freight forwarding services. We take the stress out of the export process, allowing you to concentrate on other aspects of your business.

We will handle difficult administrative aspects of the export process while you focus on your longer-term business goals. We will also help you reduce the time and costs of exporting goods through our network of contacts across the exporting business.

To find out more about what we can do for your export business contact us today.

Leave a Reply