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Frequently Asked Questions

Certificate of Origin: NAFTA

Upon ratification of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), Canada, Mexico and the United States created a uniform Certificate of Origin to certify that goods imported into their territories qualify for preferential tariff treatment. Only importers who possess a valid Certificate of Origin can claim this preferential tariff treatment. The Certificate of Origin substantiates that claim that goods qualify as originating and should therefore receive preferential tariff treatment.

In order to fill out a NAFTA Certificate of Origin, first you must determine if the product qualifies for preferential tariff treatment under the NAFTA rules of origin. After you have determined that your product qualifies for NAFTA, the below information will help you complete the NAFTA certificate.

The exporter is responsible for filling out the NAFTA Certificate of Origin, not the importer. If the product is valued at less than $1,000 USD a NAFTA Certificate is not required. In these cases, the exporter simply needs to make a written declaration on the commercial invoice stating that the product is NAFTA qualifying. Once the Certificate is completed, the exporter needs to send the original or a copy of the Certificate of Origin to the importer. It is recommended that a copy of the Certificate of Origin is also included with the shipment.

A considerable amount of research into the inputs in the production of the goods may be required in order to determine origin. Many exporters and importers believe that the only time that the declaration of origin can be provided is at the time the shipment clears customs, creating a sense of urgency in determining the origin of the goods. An exporter may find that multiple shipments of identical goods are being sent to the same importer in Canada or Mexico. In these cases, it is not necessary to create new written declarations of origin for each individual shipment. The exporter can fill out the blanket period section of the form with two dates up to one year apart, and during that time period, the importer can present the same certificate to Customs for each shipment.

The issuer of the NAFTA certificate of origin is required to have written documentation available, in addition to other supporting documentation used in demonstrating that the good qualifies as originating under the NAFTA rules of origin, for a period of five years from the date of importation of the good for products going to Canada and for a period of ten years from the date of importation of the good for products going to Mexico.

Justin Taylor