The Basics of the ATA Carnet

ATA Carnet: Your “Merchandise Passport”

What is an ATA Carnet?

An ATA carnet is an international customs document that is sometimes referred to as a “merchandise passport.” This particular document may help exporters to avoid some fees and taxes (i.e. VAT) when exporting goods overseas for a short duration. In addition, it serves as the registration of goods in transit for the United States.

Is the ATA Carnet Right for Me?

There are a few pieces of information that should be taken into consideration before applying for an ATA carnet. Here are some basic facts to know before applying:

  • The ATA carnet applies to merchandise that will reenter the U.S. within 12 months of export date.
  • The document covers most personal and professional goods (including commercial samples, professional equipment, goods for trades shows, etc.); however, it does not cover consumable or disposable goods (i.e. explosives or agricultural products).
  • The carnet must be financially secured, which can be done in two ways:
  • Surety bond: You can apply for the surety bond when you apply for the ATA Carnet
  • Certified check: 40% of general list value (some exceptions)

What is the Cost of a Carnet?

In addition to either the surety bond or certified check, there is a basic processing fee for an ATA carnet. This fee ranges anywhere between $200 and $330 (based on the general list value). This fee includes the ATA carnet and up to 4 sets of certificates.

What is the Benefit of an ATA Carnet?

There are several benefits the exporter will incur when using an ATA carnet. Some of these include:

  • No payment of / filing for refund of VAT (value-added tax)
  • No posting of security at time of importation
  • No need for U.S. customs form 4455
  • Unlimited reuse for all products listed on the carnet for up to 12 months

Processing a Carnet: How Long Does it Take?

The ATA carnet can be processed within 24 hours (at no additional fee) if the application is received by 4 P.M. central time (for electronic applications). If the application is not submitted electronically, it may take 2-3 business days to process the application. For an additional fee, same-day pick-up and delivery is available.

Do All Countries Accept the ATA Carnet?

Unfortunately, not all countries can accept the ATA carnet. There are, however, 65 countries and 27 territories that do accept the carnet. For countries that do not accept the carnet, here are a few important things to know:

  • When traveling to non-ATA carnet countries, ATA carnet can only be guaranteed to serve as the registration of goods leaving the U.S.
  • Acceptance of the ATA carnet in non-ATA carnet countries isn’t guaranteed, but it is possible
  • ATA carnet will always assist in bringing goods back into the U.S. (it must be validated prior to departure).
  • Alternatives are available - for instance, a Temporary Importation Bond or the duty drawback process. For more information on these two items or to apply, contact a customs broker in the importing country.

How Can I Find Out More about the Carnet?

To find out more information about the ATA carnet, please contact the U.S. Commercial Service’s Pittsburgh office via telephone at (412) 644-2800.


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