NAFTA Certificate of Origin: Questions & Answers

Information Source: Governments of Canada Mexico and U.S.

Posted By: Trade Information Center, U.S. Department of Commerce

The following has been prepared by the Governments of Canada, Mexico and the United States for the trade community. This document was designed to provide general answers to some of the commonly-asked questions regarding the NAFTA Certificate of Origin. Detailed information should be obtained from the sources listed in the attachment to this document, particularly from the Customs Administration of the NAFTA country into which the goods will ultimately be imported.

I. General Questions

1. Who should fill out the NAFTA Certificate of Origin?

2. Should a producer or distributor who is not an exporter fill out a NAFTA Certificate of Origin?

3. What language must the form be in?

4. Does a NAFTA Certificate of Origin have to be notarized or certified by a government official, chamber of commerce or any other body?

5. What does the form cover?

6. What is a blanket Certificate of Origin?

7. Does a copy of the Certificate of Origin have to be filed with each entry?

8. When a Certificate of Origin is required to be submitted to the Customs Authority, does this have to be the Certificate with the original signature? What time period does the importer have to submit a valid Certificate of Origin when the authorities request it?

9. Once an exporter has signed a NAFTA Certificate of Origin, how long is it valid?

10. Who keeps the original signed copy of the NAFTA Certificate of Origin?

11. Can NAFTA Certificate of Origin forms, other than those printed by the Mexican, Canadian and United States government, be used?

12. If a private company wishes to print a Certificate of Origin in a format that differs from the official format, is prior authorization required and to whom must the company submit the request? Should the company note such authorization on the Certificate?

13. How are Low-value Shipments treated? Is a Certificate of Origin required?

14. How are temporary importations treated -- is a Certificate of Origin Required?

15. What happens if a NAFTA Certificate of Origin form is not ready at the time of importation?

16. What happens if the producer, exporter or importer discovers that the Certificate of Origin is incorrect? Can the Certificate be corrected?

17. How long should copies of the Certificate of Origin be retained?

18. If, at the time of export, an exporter does not know whether or not the exported product "originates," what should the exporter do?

19. What is an advance ruling under the NAFTA?

20. If an advance NAFTA ruling is received, should this be noted on the Certificate of Origin?

II. Completion of the Certificate of Origin

I. GENERAL QUESTIONS

1. Who should fill out the NAFTA Certificate of Origin?

The NAFTA certificate of origin should only be filled out by U.S, Canadian, or Mexican exporters and producers of goods for which the importers are eligible to claim NAFTA tariff preference. The Certificate of Origin must be completed and signed by the exporter of the goods in order for an importer to obtain preferential tariff treatment under the NAFTA. Such a certificate may be based on a certificate of origin filled out by a producer or other written representation by that producer. Importers must have the Certificate of Origin in their possession at the time of declaration but do not have to present it to Customs unless requested. Importers cannot claim NAFTA tariff preference until they are in possession of the NAFTA Certificate of Origin.

2. Should a producer or distributor who is not an exporter fill out a NAFTA Certificate of Origin?

Exporters who are not producers often request that their producers or distributors provide them with a Certificate of Origin. A distributor is not required by NAFTA to complete a Certificate of Origin unless he/she is an exporter. A distributor, may, however, forward a producer's certificate of origin to an exporter. A producer may, on a voluntary basis, complete a NAFTA Certificate of Origin. The exporter may then complete the NAFTA Certificate of Origin based on the producer's Certificate of Origin. It is the exporter's Certificate, and not the non-exporting producer's Certificate, that must be provided to the importer.

3. What language must the form be in?

The NAFTA Certificate of Origin is used in all three countries and may be printed in English, French, or Spanish as long as it complies with the official format. The Certificate shall be completed in the language of the country of export or the language of the importing country, at the exporter's discretion. Importers need only submit a written translation of the Certificate to their Customs Authorities upon request.

4. Does a NAFTA Certificate of Origin have to be notarized or certified by a government official, chamber of commerce or any other body?

No. A NAFTA Certificate of Origin does not have to be notarized or certified by a government official, chamber of commerce or any other body

5. What does the form cover?

The NAFTA Certificate of Origin is used only for those goods originating under the NAFTA rules of origin. Certificates of Origin may, at the discretion of the exporter, cover a single importation of goods or multiple importations of identical goods.

6. What is a blanket Certificate of Origin?

Certificates that cover multiple shipments of identical goods are called blanket certificates. The exporter may designate the time period of the blanket certificate. In other words, the blanket period may be for 3 months, 6 months, or any other time period, up to a maximum of 12 months.

The NAFTA defines identical goods as "goods that are the same in all respects, including physical characteristics, quality and reputation, irrespective of minor differences in appearance that are not relevant to a determination of origin of those goods under the NAFTA rules of origin."

Once an exporter has executed a blanket NAFTA Certificate of Origin, the exporter should provide the blanket Certificate to the importer. The importer is then entitled to use the blanket Certificate to make a claim for NAFTA tariff preference for all products specified on the blanket Certificate of Origin imported within the blanket period.

7. Does a copy of the Certificate of Origin have to be filed with each entry?

A certificate of origin does not have to be filed with the Customs authorities with each entry, with the following exceptions:

When importing products into Mexico, the Certificate of Origin must be attached to the import documentation for all agricultural goods or merchandise subject to antidumping/countervailing duties. In any other case, the Certificate is not required to be included with the entry documents. It must, however, be provided to the Customs authorities upon request.

When importing goods into Canada, the Certificate is not required to be included with the entry documents. It must, however, be provided upon request to the Customs authorities.

For importations into the United States, the Certificate is not required to be included with the entry documents. It must, however, be provided upon request to the Customs authorities.

Many brokers handling an importation, particularly those into Mexico, will request a copy of the certificate for each entry for their own files in order to facilitate entry. Importers and exporters may find that it facilitates the importation process if a copy of the Certificate is included with their other shipping documents. Importers and exporters using a blanket Certificate may wish to ensure that the broker has a copy of the blanket Certificate.

8. When a Certificate of Origin is required to be submitted to the Customs Authority, does this have to be the Certificate with the original signature? What time period does the importer have to submit a valid Certificate of Origin when the authorities request it?

In no case is it necessary to submit the original of the Certificate of Origin to the customs authority. Photocopies or facsimiles are acceptable. The importer must be given a reasonable time period to submit the certificate. For importations into the United States, the importer is given 30 days to submit the Certificate. For importations into Mexico, the importer is given 6 days to submit the Certificate when requested during a verification visit. In any other case, the importer is given 15 days to submit the Certificate. For importations into Canada, the importer is given at least 5 working days to submit the Certificate.

9. Once an exporter has signed a NAFTA Certificate of Origin, how long is it valid?

The Certificate of Origin remains valid for NAFTA preference claims made up to four years from the date upon which it was signed.

10. Who keeps the original signed copy of the NAFTA Certificate of Origin?

Canada Customs recommends that the Mexican or U.S. exporter maintain the original Certificate of Origin and send copies to each importer who will claim preferential tariff treatment. The exporter must maintain a record of which Canadian importers have received a Certificate so that the importers can be notified of any changes to that Certificate.

In Mexico, the original signed copy should be kept by the Mexican importer.

In the US, the U.S. importer is required to maintain all documentation relating to the importation of the good, including a copy of the Certificate of Origin.

11. Can NAFTA Certificate of Origin forms, other than those printed by the Mexican, Canadian and United States government, be used?

The Certificate of Origin can be reproduced or reprinted by any person or company, but it must comply with all the requirements for its completion, as set forth in the NAFTA. The privately printed form must be clearly identified as the NAFTA Certificate of Origin and contain all other relevant elements and information.

For Canada Customs purposes, if the form is privately printed, the Canada and Revenue Canada name and logo must be removed from the form.

12. If a private company wishes to print a Certificate of Origin in a format that differs from the official format, is prior authorization required and to whom must the company submit the request? Should the company note such authorization on the Certificate?

Mexico will not accept a Certificate of Origin that differs from the official format.

For shipments to Canada and the United States, if the format of the privately-printed forms differs from the official format, a company should seek authorization from the country into which the importation is to be made. Canada and the United States do not require that such authorization be noted on the certificate.

In Canada, the request for approval should be made to:

Revenue Canada, Customs Programs
Origin Determination Directorate
Connaught Building, 6th Floor
MacKenzie Avenue
Ottawa, Ontario, K1A 0L5
Canada
Tel: (613) 954-6979
Fax: (613) 954-2224

In the United States, requests for approval should be made to:

US Customs Service
Office of Field Operations
Director of Trade Programs
1301 Constitution Ave NW
Room 1325
Washington D.C. 20229

13. How are Low-value Shipments treated? Is a Certificate of Origin required?

A formal NAFTA Certificate of Origin is not required for commercial or non-commercial importations shipments of a low-value. Mexico defines low value to be $1,000 or its equivalent in any other currency, Canada defines low value to be goods of value less than 1,600 Canadian dollars, and the U.S. defines low value to be $2,500. In Canada, non-commercial importations of any value are not subject to certification requirements so long as there is not any evidence to indicate that the goods are not the product of the United States, Mexico or Canada (e.g., country of origin marking).

For commercial shipments, however, the invoice accompanying the commercial importation must include a statement certifying that the good qualifies as an originating good. This declaration can be made by the producer, the exporter, or the importer and should be legibly handwritten, stamped or typed in an attached document or on the invoice itself. The Certificate of Origin will not be required in the above circumstances as long as the importation does not form part of a series of importations that may be reasonably considered to have been undertaken or arranged for the purpose of avoiding the certification requirement.

Mexico has special procedures for low-value shipments made via a courier service and when the requirement to use a Customs broker is waived. Subject to a $2000 value limit and numerical limitations on specified products, products from the United States and Canada are assessed a 20.8% customs duty if the products have marks or labels which distinguish them as originating in a NAFTA country or Chile, or are accompanied by a NAFTA certificate of origin. This duty is inclusive of a 10% value-added charge and the customs processing fee.

14. How are temporary importations treated -- is a Certificate of Origin Required?

A Certificate of Origin is not required for temporary importations, goods returned that have been repaired or altered in the United States, Mexico or Canada, and the entry of commercial samples of negligible value.

15. What happens if a NAFTA Certificate of Origin form is not ready at the time of importation?

Importers can make the claim for NAFTA tariff preference up to one year after the importation of a good and apply for a refund of customs duties paid as a result of the good not being accorded preferential tariff treatment.

In Mexico, in order to obtain a refund of duties paid, an application should be filed by the interested party before the corresponding Local Tax Collecting Administration, and should include a written declaration that the good qualified as originating at the time of importation The application may be made by either the importer, or by the customs broker that submitted the original entry on behalf of the importer. The following documents must be attached to the application:

a) Copy of the rectification to the entry document, submitted by the customs agent or broker;
b) Entry document and its annexes;
c) Copy of the certificate of origin (photocopy or facsimile).

In Canada, any person who paid the duties on the goods may apply for the refund within one year from the time the goods were originally accounted for. The application for a refund will be:

a) Made on a Canada Customs form B2;
b) Supported by a valid and completed Certificate of Origin;
c) Made at the customs office in the region where the goods were released or, where goods were imported by mail, at any customs office in Canada.

In the United States, importers should request refunds from the Customs District Director of the port where the goods were entered. Importers should file a post-importation claim which shall include:

a) A declaration that the goods qualified as originating goods at the time of importation;
b) A copy of the Certificate of Origin;
c) Other supporting documentation as required.

16. What happens if the producer, exporter or importer discovers that the Certificate of Origin is incorrect? Can the Certificate be corrected?

If an exporter, producer, or importer determines that a certificate of origin is incorrectly filled out, they must execute a corrected form and provide it to the party or parties to whom they gave the incorrect form. If the exporter or producer has provided a certificate of origin, and has subsequently determined that the product is not a NAFTA originating good, or, that the Certificate of Origin was completed incorrectly, then he/she must notify, in writing, the parties to whom he/she gave the certificate that the certificate is invalid.

The importer must notify the customs authorities if he/she has incorrectly made a NAFTA tariff preference claim. The importer will not be subject to penalties, if, in the case of:

a) Canada, the importer makes the corrected declaration within ninety days from the date on which the importer has reason to believe that the declaration is incorrect. This correction must be made on a properly completed Canada Customs form B2;

b) Mexico, the importer, using a Customs broker, makes the corrected declaration before the Customs Administration begins an investigation regarding an incorrect declaration or initiates the exercise of its auditing powers on the accuracy of a declaration or an inspection pursuant to the application of the random selection procedures;

c) The United States, the importer makes the corrected declaration within thirty days from the date on which the importer has reason to believe that the declaration is incorrect and such corrected declaration is made before the commencement of a formal investigation of the incorrect origin declaration. The corrected declaration shall include:

(i) The entry numbers and dates,
(ii) An amended written declaration as to whether or not the good qualified as an originating good at the time of importation,
(iii) The nature of the incorrect information.

17. How long should copies of the Certificate of Origin be retained?

In Mexico, Mexican exporters must maintain a copy of the Certificate for 10 years.

In Canada, Canadian importers and exporters are required to keep the Certificate for six years from the time of the transaction for the importer and six years from the date of signing for the Canadian exporter.

In the US, the exporter is required to retain a copy of the Certificate (or the Original) for five years from the date of signature. The importer is required to retain the Certificate and all other documentation relating to the importation of the goods for 5 years after the importation of the goods. The facts asserted in the Certificate must be supported by adequate records relating to the goods, their materials and production.

18. If, at the time of export, an exporter does not know whether or not the exported product "originates," what should the exporter do?

Exporters should not complete a NAFTA certificate of origin unless they are sure that their products "originate" under the NAFTA rules of origin.

The three NAFTA governments have prepared a publication to assist the trade community in understanding the NAFTA rules of origin. This publication is available:

In Canada as Trilateral Customs Guide to NAFTA (Contact the NAFTA Hotline: (613) 941-0965),

In Mexico as Guia del TLCAN (Contact INCAFI, (525) 14-28-86, 12-60-93, or 12-33-51); and

In the United States as NAFTA, A Guide to Customs Procedures (Contact the Government Printing Office, 202-512-1800). Stock no. 048-002-00122-2

In addition, there are resources in the governments of Mexico, Canada, and the United States to assist exporters and importers. This list of additional resources is attached.

If exporters and producers have reviewed the available information and still do not know whether or not their product qualifies as "originating" under the NAFTA, then they can request an advance binding ruling.

19. What is an advance ruling under the NAFTA?

Importers, exporters and producers of goods may obtain advance rulings from the Customs Administrations of Canada, Mexico and the United States for importations of goods into each country under NAFTA. Advance rulings will be issued on a wide range of NAFTA related issues, including:

Whether an imported good qualifies as an originating good and thus qualifies for preferential treatment under the NAFTA;

Whether a specific regional value-content requirement or tariff classification change requirement is met;

Whether the proposed marking of a good satisfies country of origin marking requirements.

For more information on advance rulings, you should refer to the NAFTA text, the guide to the NAFTA Customs procedures prepared by the three countries, or the Customs Administrations of the importing countries.

Canada has produced a short information pamphlet entitled Revenue Canada Customs NAFTA Advance Rulings. Individuals interested in requesting an advance ruling from Canadian Customs may request this pamphlet from the NAFTA Hotline at (613) 941-0965.

United States Customs has produced a information pamphlet entitled NAFTA: Advance Rulings, Customs Publication Number 594-10/94. The pamphlet is available from any U.S. Customs office.

20. If an advance NAFTA ruling is received, should this be noted on the Certificate of Origin?

For imports into Canada, an advance ruling number can be noted on the Certificate of Origin, the Canada Customs Invoice, or in the description field on the B3 accounting document. Although anyone importing the goods covered can use the number and is encouraged to do so, the ruling is only binding with regard to the person(s) to whom the ruling was issued.

For imports into Mexico, there is no provision to include the advance ruling number on the entry documentation, however, such a provision is currently under consideration.

For imports into the United States, the importer must ensure that a copy of the advance ruling letter is attached to the documents filed with the appropriate Customs office in connection with the transaction or, must otherwise indicate with the information filed for that transaction that an advance ruling has been received (See, 19 CFR 181.99 (a)(2)).

II. Completion of the Certificate of Origin

1. Field 3: This field requires information regarding the producer of the goods. If "unknown" is placed in this field, then how could an exporter know if the product originates or not under the NAFTA rules of origin?

It is important to note that although the producer may be unknown, the exporter must still be able to document that the product originates. An exporter, for example, may have goods from a number of producers in inventory. If, once those goods are mixed in inventory, the products become indistinguishable from one another, the exporter will not know who the producer is for the particular good being exported, and thus would state "unknown" on the certificate of origin. The exporter, however, must still be able to demonstrate that the exported good originates.

2. Field 6: What should an exporter/producer do if he/she does not know the HS number for the product? Can he/she submit a request for tariff classification as an Advance Binding Ruling?

Tariff classification is not a subject covered under the NAFTA advance rulings provisions. However, the Customs administrations of Canada, Mexico, and the United States have procedures set up, independent of the NAFTA, to provide classification information for imports into their territories.

Canada: Rulings on classification in Canada may be obtained by applying for a National Customs Ruling. Only Canadian importers may apply for such rulings. The application is made in writing by the importer to the Chief, Rulings and Appeals, Customs Assessment Division (CAD) in the Customs regional office nearest the importer.

Non-binding information on any matter can be obtained by phoning or writing any Customs office in Canada. Classification information is usually obtained from 1) any port of entry into Canada, 2) The Customs Assessment Divisions in one of the 6 Customs regions in Canada, or 3) the Tariff Programs Division of the Tariff Administration Branch at Headquarters in Ottawa.

For imports into Canada, reference to a National Customs Ruling is made in the comments section of the entry documentation (Customs Form B3).

Mexico: For products imported into Mexico, the broker handling the importation normally provides the tariff classification. Any party, Mexican resident or non-Mexican resident, can, however, independently request rulings on tariff classification. These rulings are legally binding.

The contact for such requests is:

For non-Mexican Residents:

Administración Especial Juridica de Ingresos
Ave. Hidalgo 77, Modulo 4 Piso 5o.
Col. Guerrero, México D.F. C.P. 06300
Atn. Eduardo Diaz Guzmán
Tel. (5) 521-5341/510-0292
Fax. (5) 228-1102

For Mexican Residents:

Administración Local Juridica de Ingresos
(corresponding with the domicile of the applicant)

For a specific address residents should call:

Telephone: (5) 228-3798

For imports into Mexico, there is no provision to include the advance ruling number on the entry documentation, however, such a provision is currently under consideration.

United States: For products imported into the United States, contact:

National Import Specialist Division
United States Customs Service
6 World Trade Center
New York, New York, 10048

For imports into the U.S., under the binding rulings program, a copy of the ruling should be submitted with the entry summary package, or furnished to the U.S. Customs office responsible for processing the entry summary package.

3. Field 7: What should exporters and producers do if they are not sure of their "preference criteria?"

Exporters and producers must not complete the Certificate until they are sure that the good qualifies as originating under the NAFTA rules of origin.

Exporters requiring additional information regarding the NAFTA rules of origin should refer to the guide to NAFTA customs procedures prepared by the three governments. In addition, there are resources in the governments of Mexico, Canada, and the United States to assist exporters. This list of additional resources is attached. If exporters and producers have reviewed the available information and still do not know whether or not their product qualifies for "originating" under the NAFTA, then they may wish to request an advance binding ruling.

4. Field 7: If a product qualifies as "originating" using the de minimis provision in the NAFTA, can criterion "A" be placed in this field?

No, if the de minimis provision is used, the good originates under preference criterion "B."

5. Field 9: What should be placed in this field?

This field can not be filled out until the producer or exporter has determined the "preference criteria" for its products as required in field 7.

If the producer or exporter has met the requirements of one of the "preference criteria" in field seven and did not calculate "regional value content" in order to do so, then he/she would indicate "NO" in field 9.

If the producer or exporter has met one of the preference criteria using the transaction value methodology of calculating regional value content, then "NO" should be placed in field 9. If the producer or exporter has used the "net cost" methodology of calculating regional value content to determine that their good qualified for NAFTA preference under one of the preference criteria in field 7, then he/she would indicate "NC" in this field. If the exporter or producer has calculated regional value content over a period of time, he/she must also indicate the beginning and end dates of that period.

6. Field 10: What are the Marking Rules referred to in the instructions?

The "marking rules" should not be confused with the NAFTA rules of origin. NAFTA rules of origin are used to determine whether or not a product has sufficient North American content to qualify for NAFTA tariff preference. A second set of rules, the "marking rules," also known as the "non-preferential" rules of origin, are used to determine country of origin. Marking rules are based entirely on tariff-shifts -- there are no value content requirements.

If an exporter or producer has qualified his/her products for NAFTA tariff preference based on production and inputs that originate in just one of the three NAFTA countries, then the country of origin in field 10 would be the country in which the production has taken place.

However, if production has taken place in one or more NAFTA party, (for example, a good is assembled in Mexico, with inputs from the United States), then exporter/suppliers may need to refer to the "marking rules" in order to be able to fill out the country of origin field of the NAFTA Certificate of Origin.

For imports into Canada, the marking rules are used only to determine the tariff treatment for some agricultural and textile goods. For more information concerning the Canadian marking rules, please refer to Revenue Canada, Customs, Excise and Taxation Memorandum D11-3-1 available from the NAFTA Hotline at (613) 941-0965. Canada does not use the marking rules to determine the country of origin (tariff treatment) of any other goods. In order to determine which tariff treatment is applicable to goods produced in or containing materials from more than one NAFTA party, please refer to the NAFTA Hotline at (613) 941-0965.

For imports into Mexico, refer to the "Acuerdo por el que se establecen reglas de marcado do pais de origen para determinar cuando una mercancia importada a territorio nacional se puede considerar una mercancía estadounidense o canadiense de conformidad con el Tratado de Libre Comercio de América del Norte," published in the Diario Oficial de la Federación on January 7, 1994. The publication is currently available from Mexico's government printing office.

For imports into the United States, parties should refer to the marking rules published in the Federal Register on January 3, and February 3, 1994. These publications are currently available from the government printing office.

7. Is there an "official" continuation sheet that must be used if all products will not fit on one Certificate of Origin?

No, there is no "official" continuation sheet that must be used. The U.S. Customs Service has designed a continuation sheet that may be used. This U.S. Customs form will be accepted by the customs administration in all three NAFTA countries. However, any form, as long as it contains the required information, will be acceptable.

Information Source: Governments of Canada Mexico and U.S.