The 3 Shipping Documents You Must Include When Exporting Firearms

Did you know that when you ship firearms from the United States to a recipient in another country, you are required to include a commercial invoice, a Destination Control Statement and a packing slip with every shipment?

Continue reading to learn how to prepare these documents correctly so you can avoid problems with U.S. Customs and Customs officials in the destination country.

How to Prepare a Commercial Invoice for an International Shipment

A commercial invoice is a document between an exporter and foreign buyer that details the products being sold in an international shipment. Everyone knows what an invoice is, of course, but commercial invoices have some special uses in international transactions.

When your shipment leaves the U.S., Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) uses the commercial invoice as a means of identifying the contents of your shipment. This is part of their process for confirming that export regulations have been followed correctly and that the package does not contain items that have not been submitted for export clearance.

Customs officials in the receiving country use the commercial invoice to verify that information provided by the importer on the Customs Declaration is accurate. That’s how they determine the correct duties, import charges and, in many countries, Value Added Tax (VAT) that are due from the recipient.

Mistakes can lead to seizure on the way out of the U.S. or into the destination country, so it is important to use a consistent form for international commercial invoices and to include all required information every time.

At a minimum, the commercial invoice should include the following information:

  • Invoice number
  • Invoice date
  • Name, address, and contact details of the U.S. shipper / exporter
  • Name, address, and contact details of the foreign consignee / importer
  • Shipper’s part number of each product
  • Description of each product
  • Quantity of each product
  • Unit price of each product, including the type of currency (i.e. USD for US Dollar, CAD for Canadian dollar, EUR for Euro, etc.)
  • Extended price of each product (i.e., the quantity times unit price for each line item).
  • Any additional fees such as shipping, handling, licensing, etc. (List these individually if you charge for them individually).
  • Total cost of all products plus any additional fees
  • Incoterm
  • Destination control statement (see below for details)

Although not required, we recommend that you also include:

  • Schedule B or HTS number(s)
  • BIS export license number(s) if applicable
  • Export classification (ECCN or USML category)
  • Shipment weight
  • Number and type of packages
  • Any special instructions if applicable

When ITAR-controlled products are included, the following information must also be included in the commercial invoice:

  • The country of ultimate destination
  • The end-user
  • The license or other approval number or exemption citation

Destination Control Statement

When shipping items controlled by the Export Administration Regulations (EAR) or the International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR), exporters are required to include a “Destination Control Statement” on the commercial invoice.

The purpose of the Destination Control Statement is to inform the recipient that the goods remain subject to U.S. export controls even when ownership has passed to the end user. Transfer and re-export are not permitted without authorization from the applicable U.S. regulatory authority.

The precise wording to be used is specified in §758.6 of the EAR and §123.9(b) of the ITAR. The wording in both regulations is identical:

“These items are controlled by the U.S. Government and authorized for export only to the country of ultimate destination for use by the ultimate consignee or end-user(s) herein identified. They may not be resold, transferred, or otherwise disposed of, to any other country or to any person other than the authorized ultimate consignee or end-user(s), either in their original form or after being incorporated into other items, without first obtaining approval from the U.S. government or as otherwise authorized by U.S. law and regulations”

Every shipment that contains an EAR- or ITAR-controlled item must include the Destination Control Statement, even if an exemption or license exception is relied on as the export authorization.

(Note: The regulations require that the Destination Control Statement be included verbatim, but the regulations do not prohibit exporters from using additional means of communicating the substance of the message in ways importers, especially those who do not speak English, may find easier to understand.)

Include a Packing Slip

The packing slip includes much of the same information as the commercial invoice and it is used for similar purposes at outgoing and incoming border clearance.

There are a few exceptions, however. Typically, prices are not included in the packing slip. Also, the Destination Control Statement is not required to be on the packing slip, but we recommend that you include it anyway.  

At a minimum, the packing slip should include:

  • Packing slip number
  • Shipment date
  • Name, address, and contact details of the U.S. shipper / exporter
  • Name, address, and contact details of the foreign consignee / importer
  • Part number of each product
  • Description of each product
  • Quantity of each product
  • Incoterm

We recommend that you also include:

  • Destination control statement
  • Export license number(s) or citation of the applicable exemption/exception
  • Number and type of packages
  • Weight (pounds and ounces or metric, whichever you use)
  • Dimensions
  • Any special instructions if applicable

Worried you won’t do it right? If you sell firearms, parts, accessories, or optics online and want a safe and cost-effective way to export them without making mistakes, EasyExport probably can help. Schedule a call to learn more.

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