The certificate of origin is a document issued by an exporter that confirms and certifies the country of origin of its products.
Alternatively, it might be a separate letter or form that incorporates a statement indicating the country of origin is as stated on the commercial invoice and certifies the document is true and correct; it is then signed by the exporter’s employee.
One of the most important export documents, the certificate of origin is issued by the exporter, it may be stamped by a chamber of commerce and supported by a commercial invoice declaring the same information.
The Generic Certificate of Origin Form
A generic certificate of origin—one that is not created to demonstrate that the goods qualify under the rules of origin in a free trade agreement—should accompany almost every export, as it might follow the product through its life, including reexports.
The certificate of origin is documentary evidence that the goods originated in the country stated in the certificate, commercial invoice or packing list. Customs authorities expect the certificate to be a separate document from the commercial invoice or packing list.
Customs authorities do not typically require it to be signed by the exporter, but if it is, it does require the signature to be notarized. The customs authorities in the country of import may require that a chamber of commerce add its proof of review to the exporter’s certificate of origin. The proof of review can occur through the addition of the chamber’s official embossing stamp and the signature of an authorized chamber representative.
Most countries also accept an electronic certificate of origin (eCO) that has been electronically signed by a chamber of commerce, who then registers the legitimacy of the certificate with customs authorities around the world. Using an eCO can be faster and less expensive than traditional paper certificates.
To help determine when a certificate of origin is required, the U.S. International Trade Administration provides a summary of documentary requirements, which you can find by searching specific countries on their website. Shipping Solutions Professional export documentation and compliance software includes an Export Compliance Module, which includes free access to the Country Document Determination Wizard.
A certificate of origin may also be required by the buyer in the documentary requirements stated within a letter of credit. The letter of credit may specify additional certifications or language within that must be noted in order for the certificate of origin to comply with the stated requirements.
You can learn more about certificates of origin for exports in our comprehensive resource for all exporters, Export Procedures and Documentation: An In-Depth Guide.
Electronic Certificates of Origin (eCO)
Electronic certificates of origin are secure, easy to use and fast. With an eCO, you can submit the required documentation online and get an electronic certificate stamped by a chamber of commerce in less than a day or, if you prefer, receive an expedited paper certificate overnight.
Shipping Solutions has partnered with American World Trade Chamber of Commerce, whose certification staff is accredited by the International Chamber of Commerce World Chambers Federation. You can be assured that your chamber of commerce document will comply with the rules, regulations and best practices of international trade. You can learn more on the eCO web page.
Free Trade Agreement Certificates of Origin
Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) and Trade Promotion Agreements (TPAs) made by the U.S. with other countries don’t typically require a specific form to be used as proof of origin and don't require that they be reviewed and stamped by a chamber of commerce. Instead, they identify the information that must be included on a certificate of origin or some other document like the commercial invoice to prove that the goods qualify for preferential duty rates.
In order to make sure they include all the required data elements, exporters, producers and importers who wish to claim that their goods qualify under the rules of origin for an FTA or TPA usually use the appropriate suggested certificate of origin template. You can quickly create a certificate of origin by using an export documentation software package like Shipping Solutions or by manually completing a certificate of origin template.
The U.S. currently has 14 FTAs in force with 20 countries. You can download a free certificate of origin template for each of these agreements by clicking the links below:
- U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) Certificate of Origin
- U.S.-CAFTA-DR Certificate of Origin
- U.S.-Chile Certificate of Origin
- U.S.-Colombia Certificate of Origin
- U.S.-Australia Certificate of Origin
- U.S.-Israel Invoice Declaration
- U.S.-Korea Certificate of Origin
- U.S.-Panama Certificate of Origin
- U.S.-Peru Certificate of Origin
Unlike the generic certificate of origin, a FTA or TPA certificate of origin should be signed by an individual at the company providing the certificate, which could be the manufacturer, the exporter or the importer. The signature does not need to be notarized.
This type of certificate of origin is not required by the customs authority in country of origin, so the manufacturer or exporter should not provide one simply because the importer requests one. An importer will often request a certificate of origin because it will save them money on import duties.
The certificate of origin should only be signed if the exporter or manufacturer can prove that the goods qualify for reduced or duty-free entry under the appropriate rules of origin under the free trade agreement. To provide one without proof that the goods qualify could be considered fraud, and the company and individual that signs the certificate of origin could face significant penalties.
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This is an adaptation and an update of an article that was originally written by Catherine J. Petersen and was first published in January 2015. It has been updated to include current information, links and formatting.