Businesses involved in the export and import industry all understand the necessity of filling out Customs Forms and Documents. These forms and documents are a key aspect in keeping borders safe, providing transparency, executing trade agreements, and the tracking of items.

However, the process is not the easiest and can often lead to confusion. When in doubt, consult with one of the brokers at Gallagher Transport or double check with Customs.

Filling out the right forms and documents accurately can be a tricky process, but getting it right means avoiding delays at the border and hefty fees.

Common Customs Forms

The forms outlined below are customs forms you will come across often. We’ll go over the definition of each form, its use, and then an example of the actual form. By the end of this article, you would be familiar with the different forms used.

  • Proforma Invoice
  • Commercial Invoice
  • Packing List
  • Certificate of Origin
  • Importer Security Filing Data (10+2)
  • Bill of Lading
  • Arrival Notice
  • PGA Certificates & Declarations

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Proforma Invoice

Definition: A proforma invoice is a preliminary invoice used as an estimate, not as a request for payment.

Proforma invoices are sent by a seller to a buyer in advance of a shipment of goods and used for customs purposes. Ensure the proforma invoice accurately breaks down all that needs to be known.


customs forms pro forma


Though there is no specific format for an invoice, CBP regulations do provide what information should be on an invoice:

  1. Describe the item clearly
  2. List the quantity
  3. State the value (either price paid, or estimated value based on other considerations.) Give both the value in foreign currency and U.S. dollars
  4. Country of Origin (where the item was made)
  5. Where it was purchased
  6. List the Name of the business or person selling the merchandise
  7. List the Location of the business or person selling the merchandise
  8. List the Name and address of business or person buying the merchandise, and if different from the importer
  9. List the U.S. address of the person or business the goods are being shipped to

Alternatively, you may visit this link to know more about invoice requirements.

Commercial Invoice

Definition: A commercial invoice refers to the final bill for the goods from the supplier to the customer.

The commercial invoice is one of the main legal documents used by Customs to determine the true value of goods and calculate for duties. Additionally, it gives the seller and buyer a useful reference document for the terms and agreement of the order.


Commercial Invoice

Packing List

Definition: A packing list is a description of how the goods are packed and the corresponding weight.

This form is not required for customs except if you have food products. Packing lists may be useful for separating and handling.


Packing List Customs Forms

Certificate of Origin

Definition: a Certificate of Origin from the manufacturer which confirms the country of origin or manufacture.

These are required if you are trying to import goods under a free trade.


Certificate of Origin Customs Forms

Importer Security Filing Data (10+2)

Definition: an Import Security Filing Data form is a preliminary reporting of ocean freight cargo.

Importers, or their agent, must provide a set of data elements required by customs so the ISF can be submitted to US Customs ahead of vessel departure. This can be submitted by the broker, importer or agent but must be on file 24 hours before shipment leaves origin.


ISF Customs Forms

Bill of Lading

Definition: a Bill of Lading is a shipping document issued by a carrier or agent and serves as a receipt of freight services, a contract between a freight carrier and shipper and a document of title .

The Bill of Lading is a document used to acknowledge the receipt of cargo for shipment and to identify the type, quantity and destination of the goods being carried.


Customs Forms Bill of Lading

Arrival Notice

Definition: an Arrival Notice document is issued by the carrier with arrival information and is sent out 3-5 days before the shipment gets to port.

Arrival Notice forms show details of shipping including IT#, arrival ports, etc.  related charges, and documentation required to enable clearance and arrange pickup of international shipment. It has to match what has been manifested to customs.


Arrival Notice

PGA Certificates & Declarations

Phyto-Sanitary Certificate – USDA document that certifies plant and plant products are free from regulated pests and confirms with other applicable phytosanitary requirements.  They are most commonly required for plants or seeds.

Phyto Sanitary Customs Forms

FDA Form 2877 – For radiation-emitting products

Radiation FDA

CITES permits – endangered animal and plant species required by USF&W Link to CITES permit (7 pages) 

Firearm permit – for importing firearms Link to Firearm Permit (14 pages)

Alcohol permit – required by TTB Link to Alcohol Permit (3 pages)

Should you have any questions using the forms outlined in this article, we would be more than happy to assist you. Call 303‑365‑1000 or email us anytime.