The certificate of origin is a document issued by an exporter that confirms and certifies the country of origin of its products.
The certificate of origin may be a statement added to the commercial invoice that supports the listing of the country of origin by line item. 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, certifies the document is true and correct, and then signed by the exporter’s employee.
The Certificate of Origin Form
Although the two options mentioned above will satisfy the customs authorities of most countries, there are certain countries that require a separate document titled as a Certificate of Origin that presents the same information in a format historically acceptable to them. The countries where importation of most (if not all) products is subject to presentation of a certificate of origin includes Saudi Arabia and other Middle Eastern countries and Brazil.
You can learn more about certificates of origin in our comprehensive resource for all exporters, Export Procedures and Documentation: An In-Depth Guide. Also, The U.S. government provides a summary of documentary requirements at export.gov, which you can find by searching specific countries at that website. The Export Reference Library published by Bloomberg BNA is available with a paid subscription. And Shipping Solutions Professional export software includes an Export Compliance Module, which includes free access to the Country Document Determination Wizard.
The certificate of origin is documentary evidence that the goods originated in the country stated in the certificate, commercial invoice, or packing list. Customs in these countries expect the certificate to be a separate document from the commercial invoice or packing list.
Customs in these countries also expect it to be signed by the exporter, the signature notarized, and the document subsequently signed and stamped by a chamber of commerce. In some cases, the customs authorities at destination may even name the chamber of commerce who is to 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 a 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 the traditional paper certificates.
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.
Free Trade Agreement Certificates of Origin
Free trade agreements made by the U.S. with other countries may have a specific form that must be issued by the exporter as proof of origin so products can qualify for preferential duty rates. Samples of those forms can be found at the U.S. Customs and Border Protection website, export.gov, or the customs or chamber of commerce websites of the destination country.
This article was first published in January 2015 and has been updated to include current information, links and formatting.