Temporary importation provisions are an important tool for companies who want to show their products in foreign markets or for professionals bringing tools of the trade into a foreign country for a limited period of time.
Last Published: 10/18/2016

Temporary Imports, ATA Carnet

Temporary importation provisions are an important tool for companies who want to show their products in foreign markets or for professionals bringing tools of the trade into a foreign country for a limited period of time. Companies have several options when considering temporary importation. These include: ATA Carnets, Temporary Importation Bond (TIB) and entry with duty drawback. There is also provision for bringing “tools of trade” allowed for in the North American Free Trade Agreement. The ATA Carnet system is the most user-friendly system of temporary importation; however, there are a number of countries that do not accept carnets. In these countries, companies can post TIBs or apply for a duty drawback as an alternative means to duty free importation. 

What Is An ATA Carnet?

ATA Carnet (aka "Merchandise Passport") is an international customs document accepted by 80 countries and territories. ATA Carnet allows temporary entry of goods, duty-free and tax-free, whether shipped or hand-carried. ATA Carnet system was established by international ATA convention and is governed by World Customs Organization and International Chamber of Commerce and its World Chambers Federation to encourage world trade and reduce trade barriers created by different national customs regulations. The initials "ATA" are from the French and English words "Admission Temporaire/ Temporary Admission." U.S. Customs appointed US Council for International Business as National Guaranteeing Association (NGA).

Companies are required to present carnet documentation to U. S. Customs when leaving the country and upon entry into and exit from the foreign country. Upon return, the company must again show the carnet document to U. S. Customs for duty-free entry back into the United States. The ATA Carnet also serves as the registration of goods for the U.S. and eliminates the need for a U.S. Customs Certificate of Registration Form 4455. ATA Carnets cover most personal and professional goods, including commercial samples, professional equipment and goods intended for use at trade shows and exhibitions. The ATA Carnets do not cover consumable or disposable items. They are also not recommended for situations where some of the products taken abroad may be sold in a foreign country. However, they are particularly useful when a product may “travel” to several countries prior to being returned to the United States. 

Where Can I Use A Carnet?

The ATA Carnet is accepted by many countries and territories worldwide. For a complete list of countries and territories that accept carnets, contact information as well as countries not covered by the ATA Carnets contact US Council for International Business: 

ATA Carnet Department
 1212 Avenue of the Americas
 New York, NY 10036
 Telephone: (866) 786-5625 or (800) 5DUTYFREE (538-8937);
 Fax: (212) 944-0012 
 Email: info@merchandisepassport.org

What are the benefits of the ATA Carnet?

- Eliminate duties and value-added taxes (VAT); 
- Simplify customs procedures allowing a temporary exporter to use a single document for all customs transactions, make arrangements in advance, and at a predetermined cost;
- Allow for an unlimited entries/departures for up to one year;
- Facilitate reentry into the U.S. by eliminating the need to register the goods with U.S. Customs at the time of departure;
- Eliminate need to file an Electronic Export Information form (former Shipper’s Export Declaration) except for those exports that require an export license;
- Eliminate the need for Temporary Importation Under Bond (TIB).

Note of caution: ATA Carnets DO NOT exempt the holders from obtaining necessary licenses or permits.)

How Do I Apply For an ATA Carnet?

ATA Carnets may be obtained from the USCIB or from two officially-appointed Carnet Service Providers: Boomerang Freight Solutions and Roanoke Trade Services. In addition to the three carnet issuing entities, exporters may contact other parties including brokers and freight forwarders who can assist with the preparation of an ATA Carnet; however, the carnets will be issued by the designated service providers. 

Exporters can obtain ATA Carnets and carnet bonds services via an online application process. 

How Much Does A Carnet Cost?

The value of the shipment determines carnet processing fees

How Long Does It Take To Process A Carnet?

It can take two business days to process a carnet application if the application and security deposit are received by 4:00 pm ET. 

What If I Lose My Carnet Documents?

The USCIB or its two designated service providers offer warranty coverage for lost, stolen, or destroyed carnet forms for a fee. The USCIB will issue an immediate replacement to customers with this warranty. Full terms and conditions of carnet warranties are available when submitting an application electronically, or by contacting an ATA Carnet consultant for details. 

Can I Sell The Goods Covered Under Carnet?

Carnets are NOT recommended for goods intended for sale. Should some of the goods be sold, Carnets are subject to a penalty equal to 10% of the amount of the duties and taxes in addition to the payment of duties and taxes for the goods sold off. A USCIB Claims Handling Fee may also apply.

For goods sold off ATA Carnet, a company needs to contact a local customs office to determine the most appropriate procedure. Some countries such as U.K. and Australia tightly control the sale of goods accompanied by carnets. Generally, local customs will request that the goods and ATA Carnets be brought to the local office prior to Carnet expiration so that the Carnet may be properly discharged and duties, taxes, and penalty paid

Prepared by the International Trade Administration. With its network of 108 offices across the United States and in more than 75 countries, the International Trade Administration of the U.S. Department of Commerce utilizes its global presence and international marketing expertise to help U.S. companies sell their products and services worldwide. Locate the trade specialist in the U.S. nearest you by visiting http://export.gov/usoffices.

ATA Carnet