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Import: Import Documents

Documents Summary

This table lists Basic Documents, required for all imports, and Special Documents, required for certain goods.

PDF links in the right-hand column open the following three types of documents:
    1. Country-specific documents, where available, listed by name
    2. Examples (actual specimens of documents submitted for a particular country and product)
    3. Generic samples (blank documents)

Basic Documents PDF
Bill of Entry Bill of Entry for Home Consumption
Certificate of Origin (CoO) example
Commercial Invoice (CI) generic sample
Freight Document: Bill of Lading (B/L),
Air Waybill (AWB), or Rail Waybill
generic sample
Insurance Document example
Packing List (P/L) generic sample
Special Documents PDF
Certificates of Inspection example (Phytosanitary Certificate)
example (Certificate of Conformity)
Import Licenses, Permits, Certifications product-specific

Advisory: Documents and means of submission (e.g. paper vs. electronic), may change. Contact a customs broker or a freight forwarder for requirements, including number of originals and copies, particular to your shipment.

Explanation of Basic Documents

Bill of Entry

The Bill of Entry is to be submitted in a set, with different color-coded copies meant for different purposes. The importer clearing the goods for domestic consumption must file four copies of the Bill of Entry; the original and duplicate are meant for customs, the third copy is for the importer, and the fourth copy is meant for the bank for making remittances.

In the non-EDI system, along with the Bill of Entry filed by the importer or a representative, the following documents are also required:

  • Signed invoice
  • Duly signed Packing List
  • Bill of Lading or Delivery Order/Airway Bill
  • Import Declaration and GATT Declaration signed and stamped by the consignee (two copies)
  • Importer/Customs House Agent (CHA) Declaration
  • License wherever necessary
  • Letter of Credit/bank draft wherever necessary
  • Insurance document
  • Import license
  • Industrial License, if required
  • Test report in case of chemicals
  • Ad hoc exemption order
  • Duty Exemption Entitlement Scheme (DEEC) Book/DEPB in original
  • Catalog, technical write-up, literature in case of machineries, spares, or chemicals as may be applicable
  • Separately split-up value of spares, components, or machineries
  • Certificate of Origin, if preferential rate of duty is claimed
  • No Commission Declaration
Import Manifest

The Import Manifest is required to be submitted before the arrival of the aircraft or vessel; the agents submit the Import Manifest before arrival so that the maximum possible formalities are completed before the vessel or aircraft arrives. This also enables importers to file the Bill of Entry in advance.

Certificate of Origin (CoO)

The Certificate of Origin (CoO) is an affidavit certifying the country of origin/production of the goods in the shipment. For goods originating in countries party to trade agreements with India, a CoO is necessary to claim a preferential tariff. The CoO is certified by an official organization in the country of origin, such as a consular office or a chamber of commerce.

Commercial Invoice (CI)

The Commercial Invoice (CI) documents the transaction between the exporter and the importer. It is always required for customs clearance as it is used by customs to determine the transaction value of the goods, on which customs duties are usually based. The CI is often signed, but signing is not necessary.

Information contained on the CI includes, at minimum:

  • The name and address of the consignor
  • The name and address of the consignee
  • Invoice number and date of issue
  • Bill of Lading or other freight document number
  • Terms and conditions of delivery and payment (Incoterm)
  • Full description of the goods, including the quantity, unit of measure, and unit price
  • Total invoice value in the currency of payment
  • Means of transport

If the importer/buyer is different from the receiver/consignee, the CI must state this information clearly.

Freight Document

This is generally the Bill of Lading (B/L), but may also be a Road Waybill, an Air Waybill, or Rail Waybill. A B/L is both a receipt for goods and a contract of carriage, but may also serve as a title document. Freight documents are issued by the carrier or carrier's agent. One of these documents, as appropriate to the means of transport used, must be completed and presented to customs authorities to obtain clearance of the imported goods. The documents are explained below.

Bill of Lading (B/L)

While Bill of Lading may refer generically to any freight document, the term is generally applied to freight documents covering carriage by water. Different types of B/Ls may be used to cover particular arrangements. For example, an On Board Bill of Lading indicates the goods have been received on board the transport vessel; a Negotiable Bill of Lading serves as a negotiable title document and can be used to transfer ownership of the shipment by an endorsement, much as a bank check.

Road Waybill

The Road Waybill is a freight document for the transport of goods by road. Four copies are issued and signed by the consignor and the carrier. The first copy is intended for the consignor; the second remains in the possession of the carrier; the third accompanies the goods and is delivered to the consignee, and the fourth is signed and stamped by the consignee at delivery and then returned to the consignor. The Road Waybill is not a document of title and is nonnegotiable.

Air Waybill (AWB)

The Air Waybill (AWB) is a freight document for the transport of goods by air. It is issued by the carrier or the carrier's agent. The AWB contains three originals and several extra copies. One original is kept by each of the parties involved in the transport: the consignor, the consignee, and the carrier. The additional copies may be required at the airport of departure and the airport of destination, for delivery, and in some cases, for onward carriage.

Rail Waybill

A Rail Waybill is a freight document for the transport of goods by rail. One original and five copies of the Rail Waybill are generally issued: the original accompanies the goods, the duplicate of the original is kept by the consignor, and the three remaining copies are kept by the carrier for internal purposes.

FIATA Bill of Lading (for multimodal shipments)

The FIATA Bill of Lading is a multimodal or combined transport document with negotiable status, which has been developed by the International Federation of Freight Forwarders Associations (FIATA).

Insurance Document

An insurance document is required for customs clearance only when the relevant data do not appear on the CI indicating the premium paid to insure the merchandise.

Insurance is an agreement by which a company, in exchange for the payment of a premium, guarantees compensation to the insured in the event of loss or damage covered by the insurance policy. Insurance protects the insured against damage caused by common risks during handling, storing, loading, or transporting cargo and, depending on the policy, by other rare risks such as riots, strikes, or terrorism.

Note that basic insurance provided by a carrier is generally limited by regulation. Depending on the means of transport, indemnity is limited by the weight and value of the goods, not their value. As a result, it is common for the seller or buyer, depending upon insurable interest, to take out insurance for additional coverage.

International conventions dictate the standard extent of the transporter's responsibility, as follows:

  • The Convention for the Contract of the International Carriage of Goods by Road (CMR Convention) for road freight
  • The Convention Concerning Intercarriage by Rail (CIM Convention) for rail transport
  • International Convention on Bill of Lading, better known as the Hague Rules or the Brussels Convention, for shipping
  • The 1929 Warsaw Convention, as well as the Montreal Draft Treaty of 1975, for air freight
Packing List (P/L)

The Packing List (P/L) is a document that accompanies a shipment and provides information on the items shipped, including quantities, dimensions, and weight. It is useful for customs clearance as an inventory of the cargo. Both commercial stationers and freight forwarders carry packing list forms. Information that must be on the P/L includes:

  • The name and address of the consignor
  • The name and address of the consignee
  • The name and address of the carrier
  • The quantity, description, and total net and gross weight (in kg) of the goods
  • The date of shipment, invoice number, and bill of lading or other freight document number
  • Mode of transport and the carrier
  • The type of package (e.g., box, crate, drum, or carton) the quantity of packages, total net and gross weight (in kg)
  • Package marks and dimensions, if appropriate

Explanation of Special Documents

As in every country, special document requirements for India are too numerous to list comprehensively. They depend on the type of product, country of origin, international treaties and agreements, or temporary measures put in place by government agencies. A few common categories are listed here. As always, check with a customs broker, freight forwarder, or Indian customs authorities for documents required for a particular shipment.

Inspection Certificates

An inspection certificate confirms that goods have been inspected for conformity to a set of industry, customer, or government specifications prior to shipment. The certificates are usually obtained from independent, neutral testing organizations. Various kinds of inspection certificates are required when importing plant products, meat products, and industrial equipment.

Sanitary Certificates

Sanitary certificates attest to the safety of plants, animals, and their products. Inspection and certification are carried out by specified agricultural, food safety, or animal health agencies in the country of origin prior to shipment. 

Phytosanitary Certificate

A phytosanitary certificate officially states that regulated plants, plant products, or sometimes other articles meet specified requirements for import. The purpose is generally to avoid contamination with pests. Fruit, vegetables, grain, flowers, agricultural goods, and forestry products that are subject to regulation require a phytosanitary certificate. The certificate may also be needed for other articles that could carry pest contamination, such as empty containers.

The exporter is responsible for applying to the domestic agricultural agency in advance of shipment to request certification and inspection.

Health Certificate

A veterinary certificate or health certificate attests that a live animal, or any animal products, have been visually or comprehensively tested and have been found free of evidence of disease and pests. The certificate is generally required for the shipment of live animals and animal products (processed foodstuffs, poultry, meat, fish seafood, dairy products, and eggs and egg products), and is usually very specific to the goods. The certificate is issued by a certified veterinarian or the department of agriculture in the country of origin, and it may be additionally verified by an authorized national entity. Some countries require that health certificates be notarized or certified by a chamber of commerce and legalized by a consulate.

Certificate of Conformity or Certificate of Compliance

This document certifies that the article has been tested, checked, and verified for compliance with the norms and directives stated on the certificate, showing that the article complies with standards in the country of import. The certificate identifies the product by serial number, year of production, and manufacturer. 

The certificates are usually obtained from independent, neutral testing organizations. The issuing body of the certificate is an important element of the document, as the reputation of the certifying body is the importer's assurance of quality. Certifying bodies may be national or international in scope; they are in turn monitored by national or international accreditation bodies. 

Import Licenses, Permits, Certifications

Import licenses and permits show the licensee's permission to import a specified quantity of a commodity. Some form of license, permit, or certificate is required to import all restricted goods (see Restricted and Prohibited Articles). Licenses and permits are issued by ministries responsible for controlling commodities that are subject to import restrictions.

Certificates show acceptability of the goods for import. Acceptability may depend upon international agreements or national standards for goods to be imported.

CITES Permit/Certificate

Import of wild animals and plants is subject to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). Species threatened with extinction globally or locally may be imported only under specific conditions and with the appropriate CITES permit.

Note: The above information is subject to change. Importers and exporters are advised to obtain the most current information from a customs broker, freight forwarder, logistics professionals, or local customs authorities.

Source: Central Board of Indirect Taxes and Customs