When freight forwarders and other companies involved in shipping cargo move merchandise from city to city, or state to state, that merchandise is always accompanied by invoices that give specifics about the merchandise including quantity, value, and current condition, in order for it to pass any necessary inspections, pay any required fees, and arrive at its destination. These goods should be properly insured in the event that they are lost or damaged during transport.

Carnets are documents used in Internationals shipping

When companies arrange for cargo to move between countries they are required to and often use some type of carnets (also known as temporary admission carnets). These are international customs documents issued by the chambers of commerce in the majority of the cities in the industrialized world in order to allow the temporary importation of goods, free of customs duties and taxes. They can be issued for several different categories of merchandise, and also serve as the U.S. Certificate of Registration of goods upon re-importation.

In the United States there are two types of carnets issued: ATA and TECRO/AIT. TECRO/AIT carnets are used for temporary imports in Taiwan, which only accepts the TECRO/AIT carnet. ATA carnets are used for the 85 other countries and territories that are members of the carnet system.

Most merchandise can be listed on a carnet and virtually all types of goods and equipment can be transported under the ATA carnet, including commercial samples, professional equipment (for example, tools used in a particular trade), and goods intended for use at fairs and exhibitions (these carnets are restricted to six months).

Merchandise not covered by these specialized documents includes consumable items, such as agricultural products (food, seeds, fertilizer, pesticides), explosives, disposables and postal traffic, which are prohibited from travelling under an ATA carnet. While generally they are issued and can be used for one year from the date of origin, U.S. or foreign customs official always have the right to limit the validity period on a carnet upon inspection, although this is only done under highly unusual circumstances.

While valid it can be used multiple times and in multiple countries during the period of validity, and can be issued and delivered in as little as one day, once the application process has been completed.