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Frequently Asked Questions

 
 
 
 
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US Export FAQ

Here you will find frequently asked questions regarding exports from the US

Questions:

What is a Certificate of Origin?
Can I use a General Certificate of Origin for exports to countries involved in sprecial trade agreements (NAFTA,US-Israel Free Trade, etc.)?
How can I obtain a Certificate of Origin?
What is an HS or HTS number?
What is a schedule B number?
Is there a difference between the HTS and Schedule B numbers?
How are schedule B numbers organized?
How do I classify my product?
Can I get a Customs Ruling for my product?
What is a Shippers Export Declaration (SED)?
How does AES work?
Who must file the Shippers Export Declaration (SED)?

Questions and Answers
What is a Certificate of Origin?
A Certificate of Origin is a document, required by foreign governments, declaring that goods in a particular international shipment are of a certain origin. 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 a preferential duty rate applies on the products being imported. Certificates of origin are important because of trade agreements and regulations that might apply to goods coming from the United States. 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 of goods, number of packages, mode of transportation, date and origin of shipment, and an address for the seller and buyer. The certificate will also include a brief statement as to the origin of the goods. A few countries require specialized, unique 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. For assistance in determining if a certificate of origin is required for a particular country, please contact the Trade Information Center by telephone at 1-800-USA-TRADE. Information about country documentation requirements can also be accessed on the TIC Internet website at http://www.export.gov/tic by first clicking on Country Information, then clicking on the region of interest on the multi-colored map of the world, and finally clicking on the country of interest. Once you have selected the country, click on All Documents and review any with Documentation or Certificate of Origin in the title.
Can I use a General Certificate of Origin for exports to countries involved in sprecial trade agreements (NAFTA,US-Israel Free Trade, etc.)?
No. Specific certificates of origin are sometimes required for countries involved in special trade agreements, such as the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) among the United States, Canada, and Mexico. The NAFTA Certificate of Origin validates that a good originated in a NAFTA country and is eligible for the preferential duty rate. The U.S.-Israel Free Trade Area also has its own certificate of origin. Products that are at least 35 percent U.S-made enter Israel duty-free if accompanied by a copy of the U.S. Certificate of Origin for Exporting to Israel. This certificate of origin can be obtained from a trade document company or the America-Israel Chamber of Commerce in New York by telephone at (212) 819-0430, or in Chicago at (312) 641-2937. The Association of America-Israel Chambers of Commerce maintains an Internet website at http://www.israeltrade.org. If the exporter is not the manufacturer, the certificate will need to be certified by either the America-Israel Chamber of Commerce or any local U.S. Chamber of Commerce. These can be located on the U.S. Chamber of Commerce website at http://www.uschamber.com. If the exporter is also the manufacturer, this certificate does not need to be notarized. Instead, the exporter should make the following declaration in box 11 of the certificate: The undersigned hereby declares that he is the producer of the goods covered by this certificate and that they comply with the origin requirements specified for those goods in the U.S.-Israel Free Trade Area Agreement for goods exported to Israel.
How can I obtain a Certificate of Origin?
A local U.S. Chamber of Commerce can certify most general certificates of origin. Chambers usually ask exporters to provide access to original invoices for all items referenced on the certificate of origin. Local Chambers are likely to certify only goods that originate in the United States. Goods from other countries typically need to be certified in their country of origin, though regulations vary from country to country. Many Middle Eastern countries require that the certificate of origin be certified by specific organizations. Bahrain, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Oman, Qatar, Sudan, Syria, Tunisia, United Arab Emirates, and Yemen all require certification by the National U.S.-Arab Chamber of Commerce. Information on certification procedures can be found on the National U.S.-Arab Chamber of Commerce website at http://www.nusacc.org or by contacting the Trade Information Center. Shipments to Egypt must be certified by the American Egyptian Cooperation Foundation. The Foundation maintains a website on the Internet at http://www.americanegyptiancoop.org and can be reached by telephone at (212) 867-2323. The U.S.-Saudi Arabian Business Council certifies goods to Saudi Arabia and can be reached by telephone at (202) 638-1212 or on the Internet at http://www.us-saudi-business.org. Goods to Morocco and Algeria must have certificates of origin certified by the embassies of those countries. Embassy of Morocco, Tel: 202-462-7979. Embassy of Algeria, Tel: 202-265-2800; website at http://www.algeria-us.org. As was mentioned previously, the American-Israel Chamber of Commerce certifies the U.S. Certificate of Origin for Exporting to Israel. NAFTA Certificates of Origin do not need to be certified. The declaration of the exporter is sufficient.
What is an HS or HTS number?
The World Customs Organization (WCO), formerly the Customs Cooperation Council, developed the Harmonized Commodity Description and Coding System, also called the Harmonized System (HS), to describe products for customs purposes. The HS is recognized by 179 countries and customs or economic unions, representing 98% of world trade.
The HS assigns six-digit codes that represent general categories of goods. Countries that use HS numbers are allowed to define commodities at a more detailed level, but must harmonize the first 6-digits to the HS framework. Each country can assign up to four additional numbers, making the entire number up to 10 digits. Using these codes ensures that customs officials are referring to the same item when classifying the product and applying the tariff rate.
The U.S. tariff schedule, or Harmonized Tariff Schedule (HTS), is based on the HS international nomenclature. The 10-digit HTS numbers are used on U.S. import documentation and to obtain U.S. tariff rates.
What is a schedule B number?
In the United States, numbers used to classify exported products are called Schedule B numbers. Similar to the HTS, the Schedule B system is also based on the international HS, but the U.S. Census Bureau administers it. The Schedule B number, not the HTS number, must be provided on the Shippers Export Declaration (SED). Using these numbers, U.S. export statistics are calculated from the SED by the Census Bureau.
Is there a difference between the HTS and Schedule B numbers?
Yes, in the United States, HTS numbers are used for import documentation, while Schedule B numbers are used for export documentation. Both Schedule B and HTS numbers have the same first six digits, however at the 10-digit level the codes can be different. For example, Schedule B and HTS codes show differences for the number 0101.10.0000 Live horses, asses, mules, and hinnies:

Schedule B:
0101 Live horses, asses, mules, and hinnies
0101.10.0000 Purebred breeding animals
0101.90 Other:
0101.90.1000 Horses
0101.90.5000 Asses, mules, and hinnies

HTS:
0101 Live horses, asses, mules and hinnies:
0101.10.00 Purebred breeding animals
0101.10.00.10 Males
0101.10.00.20 Females
0101.90 Other:
0101.90.10 Horses
0101.90.10.10 Imported for immediate slaughter
0101.90.20.00 Asses Mules and hinnies:
0101.90.30.00 Imported for immediate slaughter
0101.90.40.00 Other

The HTS number tends to be more detailed.
There are about 9,000 export codes (Schedule B) and approximately 17,000 import numbers (HTS). It is usually okay to use the more detailed HTS number on export documents, but that is not always the case. The Census Bureaus Foreign Trade Division website (http://www.census.gov/foreign-trade/www) contains a list of HTS numbers that cannot be used to report exports.
How are schedule B numbers organized?
Schedule B and HTS numbers are organized by chapters, beginning with 01 (live animals and animal products) and ending at 97 (works of art, collectors pieces and antiques). The United States and certain other countries also use chapters 98 and 99 to cover special categories of products, such as goods temporarily imported for repair or alteration (United States), donations of clothing and books for charitable purposes (Canada), and household and other goods imported by someone resuming residence in the country (New Zealand). Under each chapter is a heading and then a subheading that further describes the product. HTS numbers for various products break down in the order outlined below: Chapter = first 2 digits Heading = first 4 digits Subheading = first 6 digits Tariff item = up to 10 digits total For example, the following is a breakdown of a product mens cotton raincoat and its HTS number 6201.12.2010 Chapter: 62 Apparel articles and accessories, not knit, etc. Heading: 6201 Mens or boys overcoats, raincoats, carcoats, capes, cloaks, anoraks (including ski jackets), windbreakers and similar articles (including padded, sleeveless jackets): Overcoats, carcoats, capes, cloaks and similar articles Subheading: 6201.12 Of cotton Tariff item: 6201.12.2010 Mens raincoats
How do I classify my product?
The first step is to understand the product well, particularly its material and how it will be used. Sometimes the details may make a difference in its category. For example, hammers are classified in several different chapters, and it is important to know if the hammer is electric or pneumatic and whether it is made of metal, wood, or rubber. Next, visit the Census Bureaus Schedule B Search Engine website at http://www.census.gov/foreign-trade/schedules/b/. You may either browse through the chapters or search for a Schedule B code. To begin, click on Search and enter a key word in the search box; then click search. The results will be listed two different ways: alphabetic index and Schedule B book descriptions. Choose the description that best fits the product and use the corresponding classification number.
Can I get a Customs Ruling for my product?
Yes, you can. This is referred to as an advanced customs ruling. The request must be in writing to the customs authority of the importing country and provide sufficient information on the product. Most customs authorities will make the determination and provide a binding customs ruling. However, the customs authoritys ruling must be accepted, even if there is a category or number that better describes the product. Be aware that the number assigned by customs may carry a higher tariff than a number you believe better describes the product.
What is a Shippers Export Declaration (SED)?
An SED or its electronic equivalent, called an Automated Export System (AES) record, is used by the U.S. Census Bureau to compile trade statistics and is employed by the U.S. Bureau of Customs and Border Patrol to track exports and, if necessary, prevent illegal shipments. An SED or AES record must be filed for any shipment valued over $2,500, or for any item that requires an export license.
How does AES work?
When an exporter decides to export merchandise, the exporter or his authorized agent makes shipping arrangements (a booking) with a carrier. The exporter or the authorized agent transmits the commodity (SED) information using the automated system. This information can come directly from the exporter or the authorized agent. The AES validates the data and generates either a confirmation message or error message to the filer. AES also validates the transportation data and then generates either a confirmation message or an error message. Any error messages generated by the automated system must be corrected and the correction transmitted to AES.
Who must file the Shippers Export Declaration (SED)?
The U.S. principal party in interest (USPPI) is responsible for filing the paper SED or its electronic equivalent. The USPPI is defined as the person in the United States who receives the primary benefit, monetary or otherwise, of the export transaction. Generally, that person is the U.S. seller, manufacturer, order party, or foreign entity. The foreign entity must be listed as the USPPI if in the United States when the items are purchased or obtained for export. The USPPI may authorize another party, for instance a freight forwarder, to file the SED or electronic record by granting the party the power of attorney.
 
 
 
 
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