cpna-9Importing and Exporting can be a daunting task for brand owners the first time they are doing so. Do contact a Freight Forwarder for assistance, and for tradeshows contact the recommended forwarder. You do not have to use them in most cases, but it is wise to at least be in contact to be sure things are done properly. Don’t always go with the least costly alternative. Commercial Freight Forwarders may not know the nuances of getting samples and prototypes into a country for a tradeshow. They may also not be familiar with the drayage practices as they vary all around the world.

Be aware that ocean shipping takes a lot longer than airfreight, and most sailings are only once a week. This may be fine for Commercial, but for tradeshow do take this into account. Some countries have extremely strict regulations (Brazil, China, USA, to name a few) so when shipping to a show as soon as you know you want to ship products, get in touch with the recommended Freight Forwarder to find out the requirements. Airfreight is much faster, but customs clearances can take up to a week in either case. FDA holds can take up to a month. In addition to this, some countries require an export customs clearance , which can again take additional time.

In many countries you may need an Importer of Record to ship products to. Sometimes this registration can take 6 months or more, and the brand owner will need to supply ingredient lists, MSDS and any other forms the importer may ask you for. If you have an importer of record in a country that you are doing a tradeshow at, they can act as the importer even if you are not shipping directly to them.

Some products may be considered “drugs” including face creams, toothpaste, etc. Any FDA regulated products will require an FDA Registration Number to be imported into the USA, even as samples or if they are USA goods returning from an exhibition. Foreign Countries may get this number by going to www.fda.gov, or asking their freight forwarder for assistance.

Documentation Requirements:

  •  Bill of Lading (for air, ocean and land shipments) can be done by the Freight Forwarder or Shipper
  • Commercial Invoice for Customs Clearance (for a tradeshow the value does not have to be the replacement value if goods are being given away as samples, but they must not have a “Zero Value”
  • Shippers Letter of Instructions is needed to inform the freight forwarder of the intentions of the shipment (insurance, dangerous goods, packing requirements, etc)
  • Proper and Concise Shipping Labels


Depending on the destination the following may be required as well:

  • Consular Invoice which describes the shipment and needs to be certified by the foreign consulate of the destination country before shipping
  • Certificate of Origin
  • NAFTA Certificate of Origin
  • Certificate of Inspection
  •  Certificate of Free Sale
  •  Import or Export License
  • Certificate of Insurance

For tradeshows, you will also need Material Handling forms as well as Bills of Lading to inform the show management of your intentions after the show. Ask your Freight Forwarder or Shipper if they will have onsite assistance for you, or how this can be done if you are not familiar with the rules at that particular venue or in that country


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