Documents Required for International Shipping

List of required international shipping documents: The different types

We frequently get asked what are the requirements for international shipping. The truth is, that different types of shipping documents are required according to the kind of content you are shipping internationally. We have compiled the list of shipping documents that you need both for parcels and freight upon import or export. To ensure a smooth delivery of your goods and that you have all the required paperwork in place, it is important to thoroughly understand the importance of each transport document used for import and export.

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Documents required for international shipping for both parcels and freight

Proforma invoice

The proforma invoice is a document required for international shipping with Eurosender. You will get the proforma invoice after you finalise the booking process and order the shipping service. You will then have to insert the required details, print the proforma and hand it to the courier. This invoice can be used as part of the customs clearance documentation and the customs will be calculated based on this document. Bear in mind that the proforma and the label should contain the same information.

The proforma invoice contains all the required information about your international shipment, including:

  • A detailed description of each item (instead of “shirts”, write “men’s white cotton shirts, size M”);
  • Export type (permanent, repair-return, temporary);
  • The value of each item (excluding VAT);
  • Quantity of all items;
  • The total weight of the shipment;
  • The origin of each item (the production country or countries);
  • The reason for export (gift, commercial purposes, samples, repair);
  • Harmonised System (HS) codes to classify each item.

Commercial invoice

You will either be required to have a proforma invoice, commercial invoice or other declarations (CN22/CN23), depending on who is sending the package. For commercial goods, the sender has to provide a commercial invoice and the rest of the shipping documentation required for customs clearance. This document helps the customs authorities determine the applicable taxes and duties for the shipment.

The commercial invoice should include all the details related to this trade, such as:

  • A detailed description of each item (instead of “shirts”, write “men’s white cotton shirts, size M”);
  • Export type (permanent, repair-return, temporary);
  • The value of each item (excluding VAT);
  • Quantity of all items;
  • The total weight of the shipment;
  • The origin of each item (the production country or countries);
  • The reason for export (gift, commercial purposes, samples, repair);
  • Harmonised System (HS) codes to classify each item.

Certificate of origin

As a retailer, you will be required to provide a certificate of origin, which is usually issued by the chamber of commerce. This type of shipping document proves that a specific product was obtained, produced, manufactured or processed in a particular country. The customs authorities may ask for the certificate of origin in some instances. Certain countries may have additional and different country-specific certifications, so it’s essential to check this further with the respective countries.

Shipping label or Waybill

The shipping label displays the essential information about your shipment that enables your shipment to reach its destination. Generally, it contains all the necessary information about the pickup and delivery addresses, the details about the sender and the recipient, tracking codes, the package quantity, content and weight. Additionally, it also includes information about the shipping method and the name of the carrier company. Unlike the other shipping documents, the shipping label has to be physically attached to the package.

Customs declaration CN22/CN23

The customs declaration form serves the same purpose as the commercial invoice, to help the authorities determine the applicable customs duties and taxes to the shipment. The customs declaration is a document required for international shipping.


Additional shipping documents required for international freight shipping

Packing list

The packing list is an integral part of the shipping documentation required for transport and includes all details about the international transaction. Usually, this shipping document is not used for customs purposes but as a supporting document for BoL preparation. It includes information such as the details of the consignee and consignor, what item can be found in each container, the measurements and weight of the containers, the quantity, specific marks and numbers and other necessary additional information.

Shipper’s letter of instruction

The shipper’s letter of instruction gives the authority to the freight forwarder to act on behalf of the contracting parties for international trade. This transport document is vital for export. It contains all the necessary instructions for the exchange, such as the details of the shipper and the consignee, the notifying party, the departure and destination, product description and measurements and other special instructions.

Inland Bill of Lading

Usually, the exporter needs to fill out the inland bill of lading that serves as a contract between the two parties. This transport document for export states what goods are transported, who is paying, the pickup and destination points.

Transport insurance or Insurance certificate

The sender will usually conclude a shipping insurance contract with the transport company or with specialised companies directly. This specific type of transport document for insurance is required as it defines the scope of the risks covered for the transit.

The transport insurance certificate specifies the type of coverage for the products.


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List of other transport documents

Dangerous goods form

The dangerous goods form contains all the necessary information for the carrier that the cargo complies with all the regulations. The sender needs to provide this documentation as it is crucial information for further handling of the shipment. This document contains all information about the consignee and consignor, the air waybill number, the airport departure and destination, the shipment’s content, the classification, packaging, markings and labels.

Bill of Lading

The carrier provides the bill of lading which also has a contractual nature that serves as a receipt of the provided freight services. This document has to be signed by the carrier, shipper and receiver and accompanies the shipped goods.

Air waybill

The air waybill accompanies the shipped goods by plane, serves as a receipt by the international airline, and is a contractual document between the airline and the shipper. This document additionally provides the details of the shipment’s content, the terms and conditions, the receiver and the sender’s details, and other information.

Proof of collection and delivery

The sender signs the proof of collection and confirms the pickup of the shipment.

The recipient signs the proof of delivery and confirms the parcel was safely transported to the final destination.


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FAQ about the different types of transport documents

What do different types of shipping documents mean?
Each document has its specific purpose in international trade. In general, these documents, forms, records or certificates prove the validity of the shipment and verify that the shipment complies with the rules and regulations of the specific countries. These documents are also crucial in case of claims if the goods go missing, get stolen or endure damage during transit. Most of these documents are also helping the customs authorities with the customs clearance process.
What types of shipping documents are required for every international shipment?
It is important to note that not all documents are required for international shipping. For most shipping services, it is crucial to provide the proforma (or commercial) invoice, the certificate of origin and the label. Bear in mind that additional documentation may be required, depending on the country and shipping service.
How do I get the documents required for shipping?
It depends on the type of document. For instance, when shipping with Eurosender, you will get the label and the proforma by email, and you have to fill it out and give it to the transporter upon collection. In general, some documents are filled out by the sender, and the carrier provides some. You can look up online on official websites for the empty form that you can fill out.
What are the essential cargo transport documents required for export?
We have compiled a list of shipping documents required when booking an international shipping service with Eurosender. The most commonly used export and transport documents are the proforma (or commercial) invoice, the packing list, the air waybill, the bill of lading and other export licenses required by the specific country.
Who prepares the required shipping documents for import and export?
In general, the shipper needs to provide the required documentation for transport, but not limited to. In some cases, the carrier needs to send some paperwork to the sender or the receiver. We advise you to check this further once you are sure which document you need for the international trade.
Disclaimer: The following list of shipping documents reflects the requirements for shipments travelling internationally, outside of the European Union, but not limited to. You may be asked to provide additional documentation if needed, depending on different country regulations.