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Why Can't You Export without Regulatory Documents?

Updated: Jul 25, 2023

If you do not have any regulatory documents then you cannot export. It is as simple to understand that if you can travel abroad without a passport, you can also export without regulatory documents.

This article gives a glimpse into the importance of regulatory documents for exports.

What are regulatory documents?

Regulatory documents are those that have been prescribed by various Government departments and bodies to ensure that the exporter complies with their rules and procedures while carrying out exports. The major regulatory authorities are the Customs, Central Excise, Goods and Services Tax Department, Reserve Bank of India (RBI), and Directorate General of Foreign Trade (DGFT).

Regulatory documents are mainly associated with the pre-shipment stage of the export transactions. There are two types of regulatory documents:

  • Documents required for export permission, and

  • Documents required for export clearance.

Documents required for export permission

Under the Foreign Trade Policy, without proper permission or registration, no one can export/import from/to India.There are mainly ten types of classified regulatory documents required for export permission/registration.

Documents required for export clearance

After having proper and required registration, an exporter needs to release the shipment and thus he/she need to clear the goods for export.

Customs clearance

Countries across the globe follow a certain set of procedures for customs clearance of export shipment. Documentation plays a vital role in this matter. But the more important is to submit error-free and correct documents in required forms on-time.

There are several reasons for doing customs clearance before exporting the goods from home country. Some are undermentioned: -

  1. To control whether an exporter has obtained proper permission or license from the relevant authorities to release the goods for export.

  2. To determine the value of exportable goods on which the duty is leviable. In case, the duty is chargeable then the customs department collects the duty before giving clearance permission to the shipment.

  3. To determine if the goods require examination as per the customs law of the country.

  4. To enable the government to collect statistical data of all the goods exported from the country.

Documents required for customs clearance

India took a leap forward in improving the 'Ease of Doing Business' today by reducing the mandatory documents required for import and export of goods to three documents each. The Directorate General of Foreign Trade (DGFT) issued Notifications to this effect.

  • Notification no. 114 dated 12-March-2015.

  • Notification no. 08/2015-2020 dated 04-June-2015.

  • Trade notice no. 15/2015 dated 21-January-2016.

The Department of Commerce had set up an Inter-Ministerial Committee under the Chairmanship of DGFT in July 2014 to study and recommend ways to reduce the number of mandatory documents required for export and import. The Committee held detailed discussions with all stakeholders and the concerned Departments/ Ministries/Agencies and also visited JNPT, Mumbai, India to study the ground situation and find ways to minimize the number of documents and reduce transaction costs and time for exports and imports. The Committee submitted its "Trading Across Borders" report to Prime Minister's Office in December 2014.

Based on the recommendations of the report, the RBI has agreed to do away with the 'Foreign Exchange Control Form (SDF)' by incorporating the declaration in the 'Shipping Bill' (for exports) and dispensing with the 'Foreign Exchange Control Form (Form A-1)' (for imports). Customs have also agreed to merge the 'Commercial Invoice' with the 'Packing List' and have issued a Circular (Circular No. 01/15-Customs dated 12-January-2015) for accepting 'Commercial Invoice cum Packing List' that incorporates the required details of both the documents. The exporters and importers, however, have the option of filing separate 'Commercial Invoice' and 'Packing List' also, if they so desire. Shipping Ministry has also agreed to do away with the requirement of 'Terminal Handling Receipt' and make the process online.

As a result, after issue of the DGFT's Notification dated 12-March-2015, only three documents each would be mandatory documents for export. These are: -

  1. Commercial Invoice cum Packing List

  2. Bill of Lading/ Airway Bill

  3. Shipping Bill/ Bill of Export

It may be recalled that India ranked 126 in the 'Trading Across Borders" component of "Ease of Doing Business", out of 189 countries ranked by the World Bank, in its 2015 Report. The ranking methodology adopted by the World Bank for 'Trading Across Border' takes into account the number of mandatory documents required for export and the time and cost of exporting a container out of the country. World Bank's 2015 Report listed 7 mandatory documents respectively for export from India. These were: -

  1. Shipping Bill

  2. Commercial Invoice

  3. Packing List

  4. Bill of Lading/ Airway Bill

  5. Foreign Exchange Control Form (SDF)

  6. Terminal Handling Receipt

  7. Technical Standard Certificate

As such, after the issuance of DGFT's Notification, the two documents (Commercial Invoice and Packing List) required by Customs have been merged into one document, whereas one document (Foreign Exchange Control Form - SDF for export) required by RBI and one document (Terminal Handling Receipt) required by Ministry of Shipping have now been dispensed off. As regards, 'Technical Standard Certificate'/ 'Certified Engineer's Report', 'Product manual', and 'Inspection report', these documents are required in specific cases/products/tariff lines only and are not mandatory for all products.

The reduction in the number of mandatory documents would also lead to the corresponding reduction in transaction costs and time.It is expected that this step would not only facilitate the 'Ease of Doing Business' in respect of 'Trading across Borders' but also improve India's ranking on this parameter.

Conclusion: It is recommended to know what kind of documents are required for the export from India. In the absence of this information, the decision to export can be very costly for you.


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Disclaimer: This blog is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal or financial advice. The information contained in this blog is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice. You should always consult with a qualified professional before making any financial decisions. The author of this blog makes no representations as to the accuracy or completeness of the information contained herein. The information in this blog is subject to change without notice. The author of this blog is not liable for any losses or damages that may arise from the use of this blog.


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