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)
|Customs Declaration for the Import of Goods||not available|
|Certificate of Origin (CoO)||generic sample|
|Commercial Invoice (CI)||generic sample|
|Goods Sale and Purchase Contract||not available|
|Freight Document: Bill of Lading (B/L),
Air Waybill (AWB), or Rail Waybill (RWB)
|Business Registration Certificate/Investment License||not available|
|Export-Import Code Registration Certificate||not available|
|Certificates of Inspection||example (Phytosanitary Certificate)
example (Certificate of Conformity)
|Import Licenses, Permits, Certifications||product-specific|
|Cargo Delivery Order||not available|
|Packing List (P/L)||generic sample|
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
Customs Declaration for the Import of Goods
The Customs Declaration for the Import of Goods is a legal declaration for the import of goods into Vietnam. The completed declaration contains all the basic information required for customs procedures. Required data fields include:
- Exporter name, address, and details
- Consignee name, address, and details
- Representative (agent) name, address, and details
- Harmonized System (HS) tariff classification code of the goods
- Packages and description of the goods, with marks and numbers of containers
- Gross and net mass of the goods
- Goods' country of export and country of origin
- Invoice amount, currency, and exchange rate
- Calculation of duties
- Delivery terms
- Means of transport
- Customs office of destination
- Customs procedure e.g. release for free circulation, transit, bonded warehouse
Certificate of Origin (CoO)
The Certificate of Origin (CoO) is an affidavit certifying the country of origin/production of the goods in the shipment. Many kinds of CoO exist, some of them specific to a particular trade agreement. For goods originating in countries party to trade agreements with Vietnam, 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 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.
Parties importing for the first time must contact the Ministry of Industry and Trade for approval of their importing plan. The original MOC-approved Importing Plan must be submitted with the declaration.
Goods Sale and Purchase Contract
A Goods Sale and Purchase Contract is a sales agreement documenting the seller's commitment to deliver property to a buyer for a stipulated price under specified conditions. The contract must be submitted to Vietnam Customs in written form; telex, fax, emails and other electronic information are accepted as well as paper versions. Information customs requires on the document is as follows:
- Name of goods
- Mode of payment
- Areas and time limit of goods delivery and receipt
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.
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.
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).
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
Business Registration Certificate/INVESTMENT LICENSE
All business entities are required to register with the Vietnamese Ministry of Finance to engage in import or export related trade in Vietnam. The entities must have a valid Business Registration Certificate (for domestic entities) or Investment License (for foreign entities) to begin trading.
Export-Import Code Registration Certificate
This certificate is obtained from a local customs office once for all a trader's subsequent import/export transactions.
Explanation of Special Documents
As in every country, special document requirements for Vietnam 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 Vietnamese customs authorities for documents required for a particular shipment.
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 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.
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.
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.
Food Quality Registration Certificate
All foodstuffs, including locally-produced foodstuffs, must be accompanied by a Food Quality Registration Certificate issued by the Vietnam Food Administration (VFA) under the Ministry of Health (MOH). Registration and certification for imported foodstuffs is issued by VFA to trader/importer of the foods upon receipt of his or her announcement of the food quality, safety, and hygiene standards in compliance with binding provisions of Vietnamese law.
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.
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 export permit.
Temporary Import License
A license is required for temporary import of goods under customs office supervision. A written confirmation is required, stating that the goods are to be sent out of Vietnam on specific dates. See Special Provisions for more information on the temporary import procedure.
Cargo Delivery Order
Goods imported through seaports require submission of a Cargo Delivery Order. This is an order from the shipping company to the port authority authorizing release of the cargo to the consignee following payment of applicable charges. Once clearance is complete, customs officials affixes its seal of customs certification to the Delivery Order for submission to the port authority.
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
Note: The above information is subject to change. Importers are advised to obtain the most current information from a customs broker, freight forwarder, or the local customs authorities.
Article written for World Trade Press by Taylor Holloran, Jennifer Goheen, and Nina Bellucci.
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