Shipping Goods Using an ATA Carnet

A carnet, or “ATA carnet” is a customs document that simplifies the process of clearing customs when temporarily bringing goods into a foreign country. The carnet, also often referred to as the “merchandise passport”, provides a way to ship certain merchandise, exempt from paying duties and taxes (including value-added taxes) to foreign customs for those goods, since the goods being shipped are not intended to stay in the country for more than one year’s time. Manufacturers of all types of goods use carnets, including the following:

  • Clothing companies
  • Art galleries
  • Jewelers
  • Orchestras, and many other businesses and institutions

Companies or individuals shipping professional and expensive gear and/or items will generally utilize this shipping service. However, carnets cover virtually all types of goods, whether it’s ordinary goods used in the course of operating a normal business, or items that are unique or exotic, such as a rare piece of art (museums) or live animals (circuses).

The word carnet (pronounced “car-nay”) comes from “ATA Carnet”. “ATA” is an acronym for “Admission Temporaire/Temporary Admission” which is a combination of both French and English terms. Over 90 countries and territories worldwide accept carnets, promoting international travel and business. Each country has its own organization that is in charge of the carnet process and oversees the use of carnets for shipping goods.

Carnets are not useful for those who ship food, other perishable items

The ATA carnet can also be used for commercial road vehicles, aircrafts, and even pleasure boats. Because the carnet covers only items to be temporarily exported, it cannot be used for goods that will be consumed in another country, such as food items, plants or other perishables.

The ATA carnet holder (that is, the company or individual named on the green cover page of the carnet document) is responsible for the payment of any customs claims should they become due as a result of misusing the carnet. Even those fortunate enough to have a carnet bond as their security for the goods in transit will still be responsible and required to pay any claims related to the merchandise being transported. Speak to an insurer familiar with this process if you have questions or concerns.