What Is a Consular Invoice?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

A consular invoice details the contents of a shipment, and affirms that it does not contain any illegal or questioned items. It is prepared by a consular official working in the importing country’s consulate in the nation of origin. The document is written in the language used by the importing country to ensure that customs officials can read and understand it, and includes a seal confirming that it is official. Such documents may be required for some imports, and can be recommended in other cases.

The contents of a shipment are outlined in a consular invoice.
The contents of a shipment are outlined in a consular invoice.

Firms preparing international shipments need a number of documents. If a consular invoice is required, they typically need to make an appointment with an official, who will go over the contents of the shipment and prepare a document. The importing country may require the use of a special form, which may be provided by its national consulate. Any fees paid for the preparation of the consular invoice are also noted, to eliminate confusion or disputes.

Customs officials use this document to determine appropriate tariffs, duties, and other fees in association with a shipment. It is important to make sure it is correct, and to confirm that the form is completely filled out. Problems with the consular invoice may result in delays at the dock or warehouse, in which case a shipment may be held until they can be resolved. With perishable or critical items, this could create significant problems for the importer.

In preparation to ship internationally, a company may consult a third party firm or attorney who specializes in this service if it doesn’t regularly handle such shipments. Each country has its own import requirements, and if the exporter fails to meet them, it may be liable for expenses incurred by the client. Failure to get a consular invoice, for example, might result in a fine that the exporter would have to pay. Likewise, if a form is incomplete and paperwork needs to be processed again, the client might hold the exporter financially responsible for any losses.

Multiple copies of a consular invoice are produced when the document is generated. One should be attached to the shipment, along with any other documentation. Exporters also usually keep at least one copy for their files, as a personal reference to use in connection with billing and other activities. They may send an additional copy to the importer along with other information regarding to shipment. Copies can also be attached to the shipment for retention at customs and at other stops along the way.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Discussion Comments

Proper documentation is essential when exporting goods to a foreign country. Companies can hire international freight forwarders to assist them in the process. Freight forwarders are familiar with U.S. and foreign import and export requirements and can offer guidance regarding the proper packaging, the various costs likely to be involved including insurance and port charges, and the proper documentation needed.
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