The eight documents required to clear U.S. imports


The U.S. customs clearance process for imports is perplexing, especially to new importers. However, precisely preparing documents will save you an enormous amount of stress and time. To help you, here are eight primary documents you need for U.S. customs clearance and who is responsible for filling out each one. Firstly, let’s look at the documents that fall under the importer’s responsibility based on information from the seller of the items being imported.

Commercial Invoice

A commercial invoice should give the Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Office sufficient information to decide whether the items you are importing are admissible. Since the primary goal of the invoice, which is for foreign trade, is to calculate tariffs, the document must contain as detailed and precise information as possible describing the items as follows:

1. Amount of items
2. Country of Origin
3. Value (in U.S. Dollars and foreign currency)
4. Place of purchase
5. Name, location, and address of person or company selling the merchandise
6. U.S. address to where the goods are being shipped

The commercial invoice is crucial as it allows clearance of your commodities at their U.S. port of entry. 

Packing List

The shipper or freight forwarder supplies the Packing List document. The list must comprise the information in your commercial invoice and might be examined by the CBP to confirm the shipment. The invoice and list fit together and detail relevant info in the customs clearance process.

Certificate of Origin (C.O.O.)

The C.O.O document declares the country where the goods or commodity was manufactured. It contains product information, destination, and the country of export. As per government policies, as well as bilateral and unilateral business agreements between countries, the import duty may be exempted on specified goods. Duties may be imposed depending on the local availability and consumption of goods, or the goods being imported from certain countries due to political policies. So, the importance of certifying the origin of goods plays a vital role in international trade between countries.

Now let’s take a look at the documents that are still the importer’s responsibility but are related to information from the items’ carrier.  

Bill Of Lading  (BOL)

The Bill Of Lading (BOL) is a critical and legally binding piece of documentation issued by the carrier to the shipper, detailing the type, quantity, and destination of the items being carried. In other words, it provides both the shipper and carrier with all the details to process a shipment accurately. It has four primary functions. Firstly, it is a document of title to the goods described in the BOL. Secondly, it serves as a receipt for the shipped goods upon delivery at the prearranged destination. Thirdly, it represents the agreed terms and conditions for the transportation of the goods. Lastly, it ensures that exporters receive payment and importers receive their goods. The document must accompany the shipped products regardless of the form of transportation and must be signed by an official representative from the shipper, carrier, and recipient.

Air Waybill (AWB)

An Air Waybill (AWB), or air consignment note, is a type of BOL but accompanies goods shipped by air instead of the ocean and allows tracking. The document is legally binding and serves as a receipt of goods by the carrier (airline) and a carriage contract between shipper and carrier. The AWB is a standard form from the International Air Transport Association (IATA).

ISF 10+2 Form

The CBP’s ISF or 10+2 rule only applies to ocean cargo imports) and aims to screen high-risk shipments before arrival in the U.S. to protect the country from acts of illegal activities or terrorism. It also identifies players in the supply chain. The form must be filed with the CBP 24 hours before the cargo sails from the last port of origin into the U.S. Although not all carriers provide the form, some do and include in it the required information. This allows for easier filing by the importer. While the 10+2 ISF form expands the importer’s scope of accountability for questionable shipments, it lessens examination for low-risk shipments.

Arrival Notice

An Arrival Notice is a statement prepared by an agent or carrier to alert the consignee or recipient that their shipment of goods has arrived (or when it is scheduled to do so). It generally contains an overall description of the commodities, details regarding the number of cargo units that have entered, and fees that must be paid upon collection. The Notice helps owners by speeding up the process of cargo processing and clearing customs.

Delivery Order (D/O)

After goods are released from the CBP, a delivery order document is issued by a consignee, freight owner, carrier, or shipper that orders the release of cargo transportation to another party. A D/O must be separated from the BOL, is non-negotiable, and does not replace evidence of the delivery of goods. The D/O must be sent to the trucker for him to pick-up the shipment from the CFS. Basically, the D/O is the culmination of the shipping cycle where the cargo and carrier part ways.


All the required documents work together to deliver essential information throughout the customs clearance process. When using eezyimport’s Self Filer Module, you are not required to upload the documents to your Entry filing, however you do have to have them in case they are requested by the CBP. For our Broker Module, you will be asked to upload the shipment documents for the broker to review. Both modules save you time and money and make it easier to meet documentation requirements.

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eezyimport is an online platform and is not a licensed customs broker. However, we work closely with a third-party licensed customs broker who can assist with any entry-related issues.

eezyimport is an online platform and is not a licensed customs broker. However, we work closely with a third-party licensed customs broker who can assist with any entry-related issues.

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