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Documents for export - What export documents do you need?


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The required export documents depend on the respective target market and the financing you have chosen.  Customs documents are required for export to third countries, i.e. countries that are not part of the European Union (EU).

In the intra-Community movement of goods, you need a VAT number and must comply with the reporting obligations to the tax office and Statistics Austria. An exception in the intra-Community movement of goods are excisable goods , for which customs documents are required.

The accompanying documents for goods, such as those required for a letter of credit, are:

  • Invoice (commercial invoice)
  • Transport documents
  • Insurance documents
  • Additional documents


The invoice (commercial invoice) should contain not only all commercial details, but also all data for smooth transport and customs clearance in the importing country. This includes, in particular, customs tariff number and proof of origin. It should always be remembered that in foreign trade the invoice is not only a document for the buyer and seller, but also for customs authorities, banks and forwarding agents.

A proforma invoice is issued before the transaction is concluded. This is necessary if the importer needs it for an import license or a foreign exchange permit. A prerequisite is that the proforma invoice must agree in all important points with the final commercial invoice.

Transport documents

The transport documents are proof of the exporter's fulfillment of the delivery obligation. They must comply with the respective delivery clause and be "clean", i.e. they must not contain any foul markings.

The most important shipping document for overseas shipments is the bill of lading. It documents the sea freight contract concluded between the shipper and the shipowner. The importance of this document is due to the fact that around two thirds of world trade is carried out by sea.

The ocean waybill or sea waybill is used primarily in shipping traffic on the North Atlantic and in traffic between multinational companies and group subsidiaries. It is always used when there is a risk that the goods will arrive faster than the bill of lading, which may well be the case, especially in North Atlantic traffic with its short transport time. Without a bill of lading, the goods could not be handed over at the port of destination, but with a sea waybill this is possible without further ado, because it does not have the character of a security, i.e. it does not represent the goods.

Other types of bills of lading apply to air freight, road freight and rail freight. In these cases, the original accompanies the goods, while the duplicate or duplicate remains with the sender. The duplicate waybill does not certify ownership of the goods, but has a "blocking function": as long as the consignee does not have the goods in his hands, the consignor can use it to reschedule the goods, i.e. order them back or change their destination. There are three copies of the air waybill (for the carrier, as a document accompanying the goods and for the consignor); the third copy has a blocking function.

In inland waterway transport, this is referred to as a consignment bill or river bill of lading; in the postal service, the postal dispatch bill is proof that the goods have been handed over. The warehouse certificate is issued by a warehouse keeper and is proof of the storage of the goods.

The forwarder's certificate of receipt is issued by the forwarder and not by the carrier like all other shipping documents. The forwarder confirms that he has accepted the goods for shipment to the designated consignee. Details about the shipment are not provided, therefore this document is not "compliant" with the letter of credit. It is different with the forwarder's certificate of transport, which confirms not only the acceptance but also the shipment of the goods.

When shipping by different modes of transport, e.g. rail and ocean vessel, a "multimodal transport document" is used. The most common is the "negotiable FIATA multimodal bill of lading (FBL) ". which covers the entire transport route from the point of acceptance to the destination by a single carrier.

Insurance documents

The insurance documents certify the conclusion of an insurance contract for the protection of goods during transportation. The insurance policy is the basis for making a claim. A distinction is made between individual and general policies. An individual policy applies to a single shipment, while a general policy applies to all shipments of goods registered with the insurer. In the case of a general policy, the individual consignment of goods is confirmed by an insurance certificate.

A cover note is a written declaration by the insurance broker that the insurance has been registered. It is used as a remedy when it is not possible to execute and deliver the actual insurance document in time.

Additional documents

Especially in the case of a letter of credit, additional documents may be required:

  • The consular invoice is filled in on special forms provided by consulates or embassies of the buyer country and is sworn by these authorities upon presentation of the invoice and the freight documents. This confirms that the invoice value corresponds to the real commercial value of the goods, in order to prevent the evasion of customs duty in the importing country due to a too low invoice value. 
  • The certificate of origin indicates the country from which the goods originate and is issued in Austria by the Chamber of Commerce of the province in whose area the exporter is based.
  • The weight list is a list indicating the weight of the individual packages, where the final total of the weight must correspond to the information in the transport document.
  • The packing list is a list of individual packages. Usually, it also contains a list of the size dimensions of the packages and information about the items they contain.
  • Certificates of analysis are required when delivering ores, minerals or chemicals. They indicate the composition of the products.
  • An inspection certificate ensures that the goods comply with the agreements in terms of quantity and quality. If an inspection company is involved, it is advantageous to specify in the contract already at whose expense the inspection fees will be.
  • A veterinary certificate is issued by the veterinary services of the supplier country and certifies the health and disease-free status of animals and animal products.
  • A phytosanitary certificate is a certificate issued by a phytosanitary service that, for example, the delivered grain is free of fungi and animal pests.

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