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What is a Carnet and how can I apply for one?

Updated: Apr 3, 2023

Pronounced car-nay, a carnet is a quick-and-simple way of getting customs clearance for a temporary export. It is a document that will allow the free movement of goods between countries for a year before being returned to the US.

Recognized throughout the world, the carnet is jointly administered by the World Customs Organization (WCO) and the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC). It is referred to as an ATA Carnet, which is an amalgam of the French “Admission Temporaire” and the English “Temporary Admission.”

An ATA Carnet reduces costs by eliminating the need for a financial deposit with customs authorities in exporting countries. A surety deposit of 40 percent of the shipment value is payable to the United States Council for International Business (USCIB), the guaranteeing entity in the US.

This is to cover any customs claims that may arise from a carnet that is misused. However, these cash deposits are returned in full once the re-import into the US is complete.

A carnet, therefore, expedites the shipment of temporary exports both in the US and with customs authorities of the target country. But what exactly is it, when should you use it and are there different types?

What is a Carnet?

A passport for goods, a carnet is an import-export document that will allow you to export goods into a signatory company for up to a year. The document then allows for these goods to be brought back into the United States.

A carnet gives you duty and tax-free international customs clearance for up to a year and can be used for a variety of commercial purposes. It applies to goods both hand-carried or shipped, and all costs are paid upfront by the applicant. This makes it safer and easier for you to plan your temporary export of goods.

When should you use a Carnet?

A carnet is designed for the temporary use of such items as professional equipment (for example, those used by film crews, professional musicians), material for trade shows (such as display booths), sporting equipment, material for educational purposes and commercial samples for trade missions.

When importing your goods back into the US, CBP Form 4455 is not Needed With a Carnet, the ATA Carnet itself serves the purpose of CBP Form 4455.

What goods are NOT covered by a Carnet agreement?

The goods that do not come under such an agreement are letters and parcels, food items, seeds, pesticides, fertilizer, disposable items and explosives.

A carnet does not cover perishable or consumable items.

Are there different types?

There are two types of carnet issued in the US: an ATA carnet for signatory countries and a TECRO/AIT carnet for Taiwan. The second results from a bilateral trade agreement between the two countries.

Which countries accept a Carnet?

The ATA Carnet has grown exponentially since its introduction in the 1960s. Over 100 countries now use it as the most common document for temporary export. While each country has its own variations, the convention governing ATA Carnets provides a standard regulatory framework for the guaranteeing associations to follow.

See here for a full list of carnet countries.

Who is authorized to issue ATA Carnets?

Guaranteeing associations in signatory countries issue carnets to residents of their country. In US territory, the US Customs and Border Protection has given this authority to the United States Council for International Business (USCIB). They, in turn, appoint two ATA Carnet Service Providers, Roanoke Trade and Corporation for International Business DBA boomerang carnets, to issue them on their behalf.

What happens if a Carnet expires before the goods are re-exported back to the US?

No charges are issued by the US guaranteeing association for a US-issued carnet should it expire before being returned to home territory. However, foreign administrations may administer charges if US goods fail to meet the deadline for export out of their territory back to the US.

Do I still require an export license in conjunction with the ATA Carnet?

Yes, the two come under different jurisdictions and an import/export license is still needed. For more information, check the USCIB document here.

Can I change a carnet once it is issued?

The list of goods attached to the carnet (known as the “general list”) cannot be amended once it is issued. But it is possible to list the split shipments if the document allows for this. Check with your carnet supplier or ask us.

There are many benefits of gaining a carnet. It can usually be issued to an applicant within 24 hours, is recognized by over 100 countries and territories around the world and valid for up to one year. A carnet can save time and paperwork as it avoids protracted customs documentation for each country that you pass through.

An ATA carnet document can be used to visit several countries and territories during the year.

Are you considering exporting professional goods, samples relating to commerce, or exhibition or trade fair goods for a limited time to a country? Check if they are a signatory to the ATA Carnet agreement.

Carnet Services

If you are exporting and need to apply for a Carnet or are importing and need to clear and ship your Carnet in the United States, please contact us today or request a quote.



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