Export Documentation

Certificate of Free Sale

The import/export industry is filled with challenges. Many shipments require extensive documentation and certificates, especially those shipments going to or coming from foreign countries.

One of the documents is known as a Free Sale Certificate or a Certificate of Free Sale (CFS). In this guide, we will explore the certificate, including what it means, how it works, and how they are issued.

What is a Certificate of Free Sale?

A certificate of free sale (CFS) goes by several names in the exporting industry. They are sometimes referred to as certificates of export.

These documents serve as proof that a product being exported to another country have been freely and legally marketed, distributed, and sold in the United States of America. Importing countries require this documentation as verification of the international trade of commerce.


What Products Require CFS Documentation?

Typically, a certificate of export is attached to shipments of cosmetics, foodstuffs, personal care, and agricultural products.
Certificates of Free Sale are required for a wide range of consumer products when being exported into a foreign country. Other classes of products that may require a CFS include:

  • - Seafood
  • - Vitamins
  • - Biologics
  • - Nutraceuticals
  • - Pet foods and pet products
  • - Food supplements
  • - Veterinary medicines
  • - Medical devices

Why is a Certificate of Free Sale Required?

Some of these products are governed by regulations established by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, and import of these products must meet similar regulations in their destination country or countries.

International commerce is governed by many laws, both in the manufacturing or producing country as well as in the receiving country. For example, agricultural products are rigorously regulated by U.S. government agencies like the FDA and the Department of Agriculture.

When those products are exported, the receiving country's government regulations must also be followed. When registering or renewing registration with a foreign country, exporters must obtain an export certificate like a CFS to foreign governments before goods can be shipped into that country.

Not all countries require CFS documentation, but more are requesting this certificate to accompany certificates of origin and other documents with shipments in order to clear international customs.


Which Countries Require Certificates of Free Sale?

Not every country requires a CFS to be on file, but most now request such documentation to accompany each shipment or sales transaction. In some cases, the sale of each product mandates documentation, including CFS and certificates of origin. This is done to ensure that any imported product meets and is controlled by the importing country's regulations.

By providing a certificate of free sale to foreign governments, regulators in both the exporting and importing countries can ensure a smooth transaction through customs checks without restriction.


Who Can Issue a Certificate of Free Sale?

Exporters have several options when it comes to obtaining CFS documentation, and different agencies handle different industries for certificates of free sale. These certificates may be issued by:

  • - U.S. Food and Drug Administration
  • - Chambers of Commerce and Commerce Associations
  • - U.S. Department of Agriculture
  • - Individual state governments
  • - Pet foods and pet products
  • - Food supplements
  • - Veterinary medicines
  • - Medical devices

Speak with your local Chamber of Commerce or commerce association to learn whether your products produced in the United States need export certificates before shipping to foreign countries.


What Documents are Required for Certificates of Free Sale?

The agencies or organizations that issue certificates of free sale have specific regulations for the issuance of these documents. Exporters must submit documents physically or electronically. Typically, the following supporting documents are required:

  • - Written declarations from the manufacturer(s) that the products are made in the United States.
  • - Documentation showing the sale of each product to U.S. customers with U.S. addresses. Both name and address of the customer must be included on every invoice. Sale invoices should be dated within the last 12 months and the products named on the invoices must be the same as they will appear on the certificate. Multiple products may be listed on a single certificate for export, but sale invoices are required for each product.

How Much Time Does it Take to Issue a CFS?

There is no specific timeframe for the issuance of a CFS or other foreign export documentation. The time varies by issuing institution, but requests are typically granted within 5 - 20 days. Many export certificates, including free sale documentation, can be obtained within 2 business days by using the Swiftdox online platform. Swiftdox has revolutionized the certification process for importers and exporters by streamlining the issuance of these required documents.


Can I Get an Online Free Sale Certificate?

In years past, CFS and other export documentation had to be obtained in writing by submitting physical documents to regulatory authorities. Swiftdox has greatly improved the process by creating a platform that allows the issuance of certificates of free sale online. If your company is based in the United States, export documents can be applied for online. Export document choices include:

  • - Certificate of Free Sale (CFS)
  • - Certificate of Origin (CO)
  • - Certificate of Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP)

The application and supporting country documents are submitted to the Swiftdox platform and then certificates are issued via the platform's network of Chamber of Commerce partners. International trade is an important part of the global economy; by streamlining the export certification process, Swiftdox has provided powerful new tools to manufacturers and exporting entities in the U.S. and beyond.

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