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Customs Terminology Explained

Customs has a language all of its own as well as terminology that can appear a little complicated at times. Our glossary presents some of the more common terms you will come across when shipping dutiable goods internationally.

Ad Valorem

This is a Latin term meaning “according to the value.” All duties and taxes are calculated on the basis of value, so you may see this used quite often.

ATA Carnet

The ATA Carnet is an international Customs document. Issued under the terms of the ATA Convention and the Istanbul Convention, it incorporates an internationally valid guarantee.

The carnet can be used in place of national Customs documents and as security for import duties and taxes. This covers the temporary admission of goods and the transit of goods.

The ATA Carnet can also be accepted to control the temporary export and re importation of goods. However, in this case, the international guarantee does not apply.

Bonded Goods

These are goods stored in a secure warehouse. While they remain there, they are not liable for any payment of import duty. That is, until the duty is paid or the goods are exported or legally dealt with.

Brokerage

Often refers to customs brokerage, where a third party is used for the clearance of inbound or outbound shipments.

Cargo Manifest

A Cargo Manifest lists the goods carried in a means of transport or in a transport unit.
The manifest gives the commercial details of the goods, such as:

  • transport document numbers
  • consignors and consignees
  • marks and numbers
  • number and kind of packages
  • descriptions and quantities of goods

It may be used in place of the Cargo declaration.

Certificate of Origin

This is a specific document that expressly certifies that the goods to which the certificate relates, originate in a specific country.

This Certificate may also include a declaration by the manufacturer, producer, supplier, exporter or other competent person. 

CIF

An abbreviation used in some international sales contracts, when the selling price includes all “Costs, Insurance and Freight” for the goods sold.

This means that the seller arranges and pays for all relevant expenses involved in shipping goods – from their point of export to a given point of import.

In trade statistics, “CIF value” means that all figures for imports or exports are calculated on this basis, regardless of the nature of individual transactions.

CITES

Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species

Consular Invoice

This is a detailed statement of goods shipped, certified by the consulate of a country. It is required by certain foreign governments that want a tighter control over imports.

Customs Declaration

Any statement or action, in any form prescribed or accepted by Customs, giving information or particulars required by Customs.

De Minimis

This is a Latin term and is a shortened version of the expression “de minimis non curat lex” meaning “the law does not care about very small matters.”

It is often considered more efficient to waive very small amounts of duties and taxes rather than collect them.

 

EDI

Electronic Data Interchange – the electronic transmission of data.

Free Zone

An area within a country (a seaport, airport, warehouse or any designated area) regarded as being outside its customs territory.

Importers may therefore bring goods of foreign origin into such areas without paying customs duties and taxes. This is always pending eventual processing, trans shipment or re exportation.

Free zones were once numerous and prosperous when tariffs were higher many years ago. Some still exist in capital cities, transport junctions and major seaports, but their number and prominence have declined as tariffs have fallen in recent years.

Free zones may also be known as "free ports," "free warehouses," "free trade zones" and "foreign trade zones."

Harmonized System

The international system published by the World Customs Organization that sets out in a systemized form the goods handled in international trade.
Goods are grouped in Sections, Chapters and sub Chapters that are governed by rules.

INCOTERMS

The recognized abbreviation for the International Chamber of Commerce Terms of Sale. These terms were last amended in the year 2010.

Landed Cost

The cost of the imported goods at the port or point of entry into a country, including the cost of freight, insurance and port and dock charges.
All charges occurring after the goods leave the import point are not included.

Phytosanitary Certificate

A certificate issued by a Government agency (usually Agriculture) to satisfy import regulations of foreign countries.

The certificate indicates that a shipment has been inspected and found free from harmful pests and plant diseases.

Preference (or Preferential) Duty

A lower duty rate based on the value of the goods and dependent on the country of origin.

Pro forma Invoice

An invoice provided by a supplier prior to the shipment of merchandise, informing the buyer of the kinds and quantities of goods to be sent, their value and specifications (weight, size, etc.). 

UN/EDIFACT

United Nations EDI For Administration, Commerce and Transport.

EDI (Electronic Data Interchange) Standards are developed and supported by the UN for electronic message (data) interchange on an international level.

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Country
ISO Codes

    A
  • Afghanistan
    AF / AFG

  • Albania
    AL / ALB

  • Algeria
    DZ / DZA

  • American Samoa
    AS / ASM

  • Andorra
    AD / AND

  • Angola
    AO / AGO

  • Anguilla
    AI / AIA

  • Antarctica
    AQ / ATA

  • Antigua and Barbuda
    AG / ATG

  • Argentina
    AR / ARG

  • Armenia
    AM / ARM

  • Aruba
    AW / ABW

  • Australia
    AU / AUS

  • Austria
    AT / AUT

  • Azerbaijan
    AZ / AZE


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    B
  • Bahamas
    BS / BHS

  • Bahrain
    BH / BHR

  • Bangladesh
    BD / BGD

  • Barbados
    BB / BRB

  • Belarus
    BY / BLR

  • Belgium
    BE / BEL

  • Belize
    BZ / BLZ

  • Benin
    BJ / BEN

  • Bermuda
    BM / BMU

  • Bhutan
    BT / BTN

  • Bolivia
    BO / BOL

  • Bosnia and Herzegovina
    BA / BIH

  • Botswana
    BW / BWA

  • Brazil
    BR / BRA

  • British Indian Ocean Territory
    IO / IOT

  • British Virgin Islands
    VG / VGB

  • Brunei
    BN / BRN

  • Bulgaria
    BG / BGR

  • Burkina Faso
    BF / BFA

  • Burma (Myanmar)
    MM / MMR

  • Burundi
    BI / BDI


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    C
  • Cambodia
    KH / KHM

  • Cameroon
    CM / CMR

  • Canada
    CA / CAN

  • Cape Verde
    CV / CPV

  • Cayman Islands
    KY / CYM

  • Central African Republic
    CF / CAF

  • Chad
    TD / TCD

  • Chile
    CL / CHL

  • China
    CN / CHN

  • Christmas Island
    CX / CXR

  • Cocos (Keeling) Islands
    CC / CCK

  • Colombia
    CO / COL

  • Comoros
    KM / COM

  • Cook Islands
    CK / COK

  • Costa Rica
    CR / CRC

  • Croatia
    HR / HRV

  • Cuba
    CU / CUB

  • Cyprus
    CY / CYP

  • Czech Republic
    CZ / CZE


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    D
  • Democratic Republic of the Congo
    CD / COD

  • Denmark
    DK / DNK

  • Djibouti
    DJ / DJI

  • Dominica
    DM / DMA

  • Dominican Republic
    DO / DOM


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    E
  • Ecuador
    EC / ECU

  • Egypt
    EG / EGY

  • El Salvador
    SV / SLV

  • Equatorial Guinea
    GQ / GNQ

  • Eritrea
    ER / ERI

  • Estonia
    EE / EST

  • Ethiopia
    ET / ETH


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    F
  • Falkland Islands
    FK / FLK

  • Faroe Islands
    FO / FRO

  • Fiji
    FJ / FJI

  • Finland
    FI / FIN

  • France
    FR / FRA

  • French Polynesia
    PF / PYF


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    G
  • Gabon
    GA / GAB

  • Gambia
    GM / GMB

  • Georgia
    GE / GEO

  • Germany
    DE / DEU

  • Ghana
    GH / GHA

  • Gibraltar
    GI / GIB

  • Greece
    GR / GRC

  • Greenland
    GL / GRL

  • Grenada
    GD / GRD

  • Guam
    GU / GUM

  • Guatemala
    GT / GTM

  • Guinea
    GN / GIN

  • Guinea-Bissau
    GW / GNB

  • Guyana
    GY / GUY


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    H
  • Haiti
    HT / HTI

  • Holy See (Vatican City)
    VA / VAT

  • Honduras
    HN / HND

  • Hong Kong
    HK / HKG

  • Hungary
    HU / HUN


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    I
  • Iceland
    IS / IS

  • India
    IN / IND

  • Indonesia
    ID / IDN

  • Iran
    IR / IRN

  • Iraq
    IQ / IRQ

  • Ireland
    IE / IRL

  • Isle of Man
    IM / IMN

  • Israel
    IL / ISR

  • Italy
    IT / ITA

  • Ivory Coast
    CI / CIV


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    J
  • Jamaica
    JM / JAM

  • Japan
    JP / JPN

  • Jersey
    JE / JEY

  • Jordan
    JO / JOR


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    K
  • Kazakhstan
    KZ / KAZ

  • Kenya
    KE / KEN

  • Kiribati
    KI / KIR

  • Kuwait
    KW / KWT

  • Kyrgyzstan
    KG / KGZ


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    L
  • Laos
    LA / LAO

  • Latvia
    LV / LVA

  • Lebanon
    LB / LBN

  • Lesotho
    LS / LSO

  • Liberia
    LR / LBR

  • Libya
    LY / LBY

  • Liechtenstein
    LI / LIE

  • Lithuania
    LT / LTU

  • Luxembourg
    LU / LUX


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    M
  • Macau
    MO / MAC

  • Macedonia
    MK / MKD

  • Madagascar
    MG / MDG

  • Malawi
    MW / MWI

  • Malaysia
    MY / MYS

  • Maldives
    MV / MDV

  • Mali
    ML / MLI

  • Malta
    MT / MLT

  • Marshall Islands
    MH / MHL

  • Mauritania
    MR / MRT

  • Mauritius
    MU / MUS

  • Mayotte
    YT / MYT

  • Mexico
    MX / MEX

  • Micronesia
    FM / FSM

  • Moldova
    MD / MDA

  • Monaco
    MC / MCO

  • Mongolia
    MN / MNG

  • Montenegro
    ME / MNE

  • Montserrat
    MS / MSR

  • Morocco
    MA / MAR

  • Mozambique
    MZ / MOZ


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    N
  • Namibia
    NA / NAM

  • Nauru
    NR / NRU

  • Nepal
    NP / NPL

  • Netherlands
    NL / NLD

  • Netherlands Antilles
    AN / ANT

  • New Caledonia
    NC / NCL

  • New Zealand
    NZ / NZL

  • Nicaragua
    NI / NIC

  • Niger
    NE / NER

  • Nigeria
    NG / NGA

  • Niue
    NU / NIU

  • Norfolk Island
    / NFK

  • North Korea
    KP / PRK

  • Northern Mariana Islands
    MP / MNP

  • Norway
    NO / NOR


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    O
  • Oman
    OM / OMN


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    P
  • Pakistan
    PK / PAK

  • Palau
    PW / PLW

  • Panama
    PA / PAN

  • Papua New Guinea
    PG / PNG

  • Paraguay
    PY / PRY

  • Peru
    PE / PER

  • Philippines
    PH / PHL

  • Pitcairn Islands
    PN / PCN

  • Poland
    PL / POL

  • Portugal
    PT / PRT

  • Puerto Rico
    PR / PRI


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    Q
  • Qatar
    QA / QAT


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    R
  • Republic of the Congo
    CG / COG

  • Romania
    RO / ROU

  • Russia
    RU / RUS

  • Rwanda
    RW / RWA


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    S
  • Saint Barthelemy
    BL / BLM

  • Saint Helena
    SH / SHN

  • Saint Kitts and Nevis
    KN / KNA

  • Saint Lucia
    LC / LCA

  • Saint Martin
    MF / MAF

  • Saint Pierre and Miquelon
    PM / SPM

  • Saint Vincent and the Grenadines
    VC / VCT

  • Samoa
    WS / WSM

  • San Marino
    SM / SMR

  • Sao Tome and Principe
    ST / STP

  • Saudi Arabia
    SA / SAU

  • Senegal
    SN / SEN

  • Serbia
    RS / SRB

  • Seychelles
    SC / SYC

  • Sierra Leone
    SL / SLE

  • Singapore
    SG / SGP

  • Slovakia
    SK / SVK

  • Slovenia
    SI / SVN

  • Solomon Islands
    SB / SLB

  • Somalia
    SO / SOM

  • South Africa
    ZA / ZAF

  • South Korea
    KR / KOR

  • Spain
    ES / ESP

  • Sri Lanka
    LK / LKA

  • Sudan
    SD / SDN

  • Suriname
    SR / SUR

  • Svalbard
    SJ / SJM

  • Swaziland
    SZ / SWZ

  • Sweden
    SE / SWE

  • Switzerland
    CH / CHE

  • Syria
    SY / SYR


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    T
  • Taiwan
    TW / TWN

  • Tajikistan
    TJ / TJK

  • Tanzania
    TZ / TZA

  • Thailand
    TH / THA

  • Timor-Leste
    TL / TLS

  • Togo
    TG / TGO

  • Tokelau
    TK / TKL

  • Tonga
    TO / TON

  • Trinidad and Tobago
    TT / TTO

  • Tunisia
    TN / TUN

  • Turkey
    TR / TUR

  • Turkmenistan
    TM / TKM

  • Turks and Caicos Islands
    TC / TCA

  • Tuvalu
    TV / TUV


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    U
  • Uganda
    UG / UGA

  • Ukraine
    UA / UKR

  • United Arab Emirates
    AE / ARE

  • United Kingdom
    GB / GBR

  • United States
    US / USA

  • Uruguay
    UY / URY

  • US Virgin Islands
    VI / VIR

  • Uzbekistan
    UZ / UZB


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    V
  • Vanuatu
    VU / VUT

  • Venezuela
    VE / VEN

  • Vietnam
    VN / VNM


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    W
  • Wallis and Futuna
    WF / WLF

  • Western Sahara
    EH / ESH


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    Y
  • Yemen
    YE / YEM


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    Z
  • Zambia
    ZM / ZMB

  • Zimbabwe
    ZW / ZWE


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