China Import Agent - Documents to Fill When Importing from China



Companies across the globe are looking at minimizing their procurement costs. Now, they are actively looking beyond domestic markets for product sourcing. With the availability of cheap labor and high-tech manufacturing facilities, China is becoming a favorite country for import. But there are multiple challenges while dealing directly with a company in China. Moreover, you require numerous documents while importing from China. Working on all these aspects would be too much for your company to handle. 

What is the most efficient way to source from China? How can you prepare perfect import documents? You can partner with a China import agent for all these activities. In this blog, let us understand more about the documents required while importing from China.

Essential Import Documents You Need to Fill When Sourcing from China

Global sourcing is a very crucial activity in today's business environment. It has multiple advantages in comparison with domestic sourcing. But it is essentially an international trade activity. There are huge variations in quality standards across countries. The inter-country material movement is closely monitored by the respective customs department. Due to this, the import activity requires numerous supporting documents. They make sure that the trade activity adheres to all the parameters set by each country. Even in countries, the standard forms may change according to the nature of the product. However, even the absence of a single document can delay your import activity. So let us understand the essential import documents while sourcing from China. 

1. Commercial invoice

Global sourcing involves the transaction between a buyer and seller from different countries. This is an international trade document that requires multiple security clearances. Customs clearance is the most crucial aspect of this. A commercial invoice is a mandatory document for customs clearance. The invoice is a proof of purchase transaction that outlays all terms and conditions involved. Most importantly, it contains all details about the goods that are imported. 

A commercial invoice includes the following details.

  • Name of the exporter

  • Name of the client

  • Invoice number and date

  • Shipping details

  • Payment terms

  • Product description

  • Price per unit

  • Total quantity

  • Total value

The role of commercial invoices is very crucial for calculating the import tariffs. It helps the customs department in monitoring the nature and quantity of goods entering a country. For the buyer, it is also a crucial document for tracking their purchases. The commercial invoice also acts as a supporting document for insurance claims for lost/damaged goods. If you are planning to import from China, an import sourcing agent can help you prepare a commercial invoice.

2. Bill of Lading

Logistics is a critical part while importing products from another country. The sourcing activity is complete only when the final shipment is delivered without damage or loss of products. International logistics is a complex process involving multiple modes of transportation. A bill of lading (BOL) is a legally binding document issued to a shipment partner by the carrier. This is an acknowledgment receipt for the set of products to be shipped. The bill of lading has the following details.

  • Details of the receiver and shipment partner

  • Date of shipment

  • Total quantity and weight of goods

  • The total value of goods.

  • Freight classification

Apart from this, it may contain special instructions regarding the transport of any hazardous material. The bill of lading serves 3 main purposes in an international trade-related transaction. They are,

  • Proof of final loading of products for shipment

  • Outlays terms and conditions of carriage

  • A document of title to the goods

Nowadays, the laws are very strict and a missing document can be real trouble for your sourcing. A Chinese import agent can be very useful while dealing with your document preparation.

3. Air Waybill

An air waybill (AWB) provides detailed information about a shipment through an air courier. It follows a standard format as per the International Air Transport Association (IATA). Every goods' shipment through the airline needs to have an AWB. Unlike a bill of lading, it is a non-negotiable document. It doesn't qualify as a document of title to the goods shipped. For tracking purposes, it uses a standard eleven-digit number scheme. The air waybill consists of the following

  • Name and address of the shipper

  • Name and address of the receiver

  • Code of the airport (origin)

  • Code of the airport (destination)

  • Details of the carrier

  • Shipment value

  • Quantity and weight of materials

Sometimes, special handling instructions for fragile and perishable goods are also present in the bill. The air waybill acts as a contract of carriage. It is a form of the freight bill and a supporting document for customs declaration. Usually, eight copies of AWB are prepared for every consignment. Each set includes original and duplicate copies for all the parties involved in the transaction.

4. Packing list

In international trade, every aspect is carefully monitored. For material movement between different countries, this is very crucial for safety reasons. It is a document that contains complete details about the products inside a package. It is very similar to a commercial invoice but doesn't contain any information about the cost of the products. The packing list is helpful while booking a shipment. A transporter usually issues a bill of lading based on the packing list. The document contains the following details.

  • Details of the exporter

  • Name and address of the receiver

  • Quantity and weight details of the goods

  • Reference numbers related to the package

  • Special instructions for hazardous materials

A packing list is an important document that accompanies an international consignment. Ensure that all your import packages do have a packing list. While working with companies in China, a China import agent can help you in preparing a proper packing list. 

5. Pro forma invoice

Usually, the preparation of a pro forma invoice is the first step in an import process. It helps the buyer to arrange documents and monetary resources for importing products. The buyer can submit the pro forma invoice to obtain import licenses. It is also helpful for opening a letter of credit. It is very similar to the initial quotation supplied by the seller. The invoice provides the buyer with all the necessary information regarding the order. Most negotiations in the price are based on the pro forma invoice. This also helps in estimating all the costs associated with the sourcing process. A buyer obtains pro forma invoices from multiple companies for comparing rates. 

The pro forma invoice covers the following details.

  • Seller information 

  • Buyer information

  • A detailed list of items

  • Quantity and dimensions of the product

  • Expected date and terms of delivery 

  • The total value of products

  • Payment terms

  • Product price per unit

  • The expiry date of the current offering

For better import deals, you need to negotiate properly based on the pro forma invoice. In doing so, lack of proper communication shouldn't be a constraint. A china import agent can help in successful negotiations in the Chinese language.

6. Certificate of Origin

International trade between different countries is valid only if they adhere to cross-border trade agreements. Every product needs to specify its country of manufacturing. The country of origin helps in determining the import duty on each product. Moreover, it is crucial for monitoring the movement of prohibited materials from any country. The exporter or the manufacturer usually prepares the certificate of origin. But it becomes valid only after the authorization from the respective chamber of commerce. Nowadays, electronic verification of the certificate of origin is acceptable in many countries. The document contains the details given below.

  • Details of the product

  • Exporter and importer details

  • Product category and tariff code

  • Country of origin (Example: 'Made in China')

Having a CO is very crucial during the import process. It helps in avoiding any delays for your consignment shipping.

7. CITES Permit

CITES permit is a specific requirement in the case of importing/exporting certain species of plants and animals. CITES stands for 'Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora'. In every country, there is a national CITES management authority that issues the permit. If you engage in the trading of certain species without a CITES permit, you might end up committing a criminal offense. For obtaining this you need to do the following.

  • Find out the scientific name of the species you need to import

  • Apply to the national CITES management authority with complete details

  • Pay the processing fees

After a scrutiny process, you will receive the CITES permit. You need to spend a lot of time and resources for obtaining the permit. It is always advisable to use the services of a China import agent for processing the permit.

8. Import/Export Declaration

The import/export declaration is the main document for customs clearance and records. An exporter usually submits the export declaration before shipment. The customs monitor this information for controlling exports. This is also helpful in computing the data regarding a country's foreign trade. The entries in a declaration are

  • Details of the product 

  • Category type and number of the product

  • The total value of the products

This declaration plays a crucial role in speeding up the clearance process at the ports during shipping. Ensuring the entry of accurate information is very important. It is always better to delegate this task to a Chinese import agent. They will coordinate with the export company in China to complete the activity.

9. CE Certificate

China is becoming a favorite sourcing destination for companies across the globe. Many companies in Europe are increasingly procuring goods from Chinese manufacturers. But the European Union (EU) has high-quality standards for trading any product across their member countries. CE certificate is a standard administrative marking for products that are eligible for sale in the EU. This marking corresponds to safety, health, and environmental standards set by the European Union. For example, electrical products for sale in the EU region should comply with particular voltage standards.

The manufacturer should conduct multiple tests before putting the CE mark on any product. This along with proper documents are necessary for completing the marking process. The use of CE marking without verification can result in an export ban for the company. In any case, due diligence is compulsory. For a company in Europe, it is difficult for you to engage directly with companies in China. A China import agent can complete all these formalities on your behalf.

10. Single Administrative Document

A single administrative document or SAD is the main customs declaration form used in the European Union. It is a mandatory process while importing goods from non-EU countries. Before the introduction of SAD, there were multiple forms for import declaration. This made the import process very tedious for companies. The unification of these resulted in the formation of a single administrative document.

The document consists of 8 parts and has 54 boxes. They correspond to different aspects of the international trade process. It is proof that a company is eligible for import/export activities. A consignee can appoint an agent to complete the SAD procedures. It can save a lot of time and effort for your company. The import sourcing agent can verify and sign the document on your behalf. But always choose the best China import agent for a hassle-free sourcing experience.

11. Fumigation Certificate

Export/import activity encompasses multiple activities. The goods require proper storage and transportation till they reach the client. Most goods are packed in wooden cases during shipping. Wooden surfaces are more prone to pest attack. Pests can affect the quality of the products. Fumigation is the process of controlling pests using chemical agents. Methyl bromide and formaldehyde the chemical substances used for fumigation. A fumigation certificate or a pest-control certificate is the proof for the fumigation process. It contains the following details.

  • Date of fumigation

  • Purpose of fumigation

  • Name of the fumigation agents used

  • Temperature readings

A fumigation certificate is mandatory for wooden cases. Wood-derivatives such as cardboard boxes don't require fumigation. Make sure to complete this process to avoid any product rejections. Consult a China import agent for more details.

插图1.jpgCommon Documentation Errors Customers Make When Importing Goods from China 

The import process is very complex. Apart from the operational aspect, every step needs a valid supporting document. Being an international trade activity, adherence to laws is very crucial. Any export/import activity is subject to monitoring by the respective countries. The rising trend of smuggling and other illegal activities has made these laws even stricter. You need to be very careful while preparing these documents. Any slight inaccuracy in documents may be deemed as fraud. It can cause shipment delays and even lead to heavy penalties. So, it is advisable to appoint a China import agent for carrying out all these activities. They can help you in overcoming all the challenges during a sourcing activity.  

When working with multiple vendors, the chances of making mistakes in import documents are very high. You need to be very careful while making these documents. Check out some common documentation errors in import forms. 

  • A total mismatch of goods details on paper and actual shipment (quantity, product category, etc.)

  • Product value mismatch in invoice and bill of exchange.

  • A faulty or claused Bill of Lading, where the promised goods are not delivered properly.

  • Inadequate insurance coverage along with wrong currency entry

  • Use of letter of credit after the expiry date

  • Use of electronic signatures wherever it is not permitted

  • Entry of wrong company credentials while drawing bill of exchange

  • Spelling errors while entering product details

Most of the mistakes in the documentation occur due to a lack of proper verification. Create a system where the concerned department cross-checks every document related to sourcing activity. This can save you a lot of time and money. In case of documents in the Chinese language, consult your Chinese import company for further clarifications.


How Maple Sourcing Can Help you With Documentation?

For executing a successful global sourcing activity, experience and domain expertise is very essential. While sourcing from China, the vast difference in language and business culture make this even complex. But a Chinese import company can work on your behalf to mitigate all these challenges. They can provide end-to-end solutions in global sourcing. But make sure to select the right sourcing agent for your business. A sourcing agent with local presence in China can help you in selecting a proper manufacturing partner.

Maple Sourcing is involved in China sourcing since 2012. The vast experience equips them with all the resources to provide you a hassle-free sourcing experience. Maple Sourcing team members are proficient in both English and Chinese. This helps in effective communication with Chinese manufacturers. Most importantly, Maple Sourcing team prepares the documents. They help in preparing these documents with all the necessary details. The partner verifies all the documents and signs them on your behalf. The company also coordinates with the shipping and manufacturing partners. With their support, you will get an excellent sourcing experience. So if you are thinking about partnering with a China import agent, pls contact now.

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