When shipping internationally, shippers need to be aware of the customs regulations concerning exports from the US.

Failure to follow these guidelines can lead to penalties, fines, or other serious consequences.

It is important for shippers to understand what a US Shipper's Export Declaration (SED) is and when it is mandatory for the international shipping process.

SED Explained

A US shipper's export declaration is a document that a US shipper uses to verify that the goods they are shipping are not restricted by U.S. laws and regulations, such as the Export Administration Regulations (EAR), Export and Import Control Act (EIC) or the International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR).

A US shipper's export declaration also ensures that the goods U.S shippers are handling are not controlled for reasons other than their country of origin. These restrictions can include child labor, human trafficking and other unethical practices.

A US shipper's export declaration is required if a shipper sends anything with a value of more than $2,500 to an address outside of the US.

Even in other cases, it is recommended that shippers file an export declaration if there are any concerns about whether the goods being shipped will be subject to any U.S. laws or regulations.

Purpose and Use of the SED

The US Shipper’s Export Declaration was created by the Census Bureau to ensure collection of the necessary data about the US exports, which also includes the type and value of each commodity getting exported.

US export regulations were complied with, requiring exporters to put in the information about their export license.

The use of export declaration is for export control which is used to help locate and prevent the export of certain commodities to unsanctioned destinations or by unauthorized parties.

At the port of export, shippers submit an export declaration form. This form provides the necessary details on the shipped goods, such as their value, type, and number.

The customs export authorities use the information generated from the export declaration to gather statistics about US foreign trade.

Requirements for Filing of SED

A shipper must have a valid ITN (Internal Transaction Number) before the cargo is delivered to the ocean carrier's port when shipping internationally.

If a freight forwarder is tasked with filing a SED on behalf of the exporter, they can do so by gathering information mentioned in the valued packing list or commercial invoice.

US citizens should have a US federal tax ID, and for non-US citizens, a copy of the foreign passport of the consignor with a visible passport number is also a requisite.

Suspension of the SED

As stated by the United States Census Bureau, more than half of the shipper’s export declaration submitted by the exporters were ridden with errors making the data collection on export inaccurate and problematic.

To help improve the ease of data collection and its accuracy, the Automated Export System (AES) was developed for the electronic collection of shippers’ export declaration information which in turn converted shipper’s export declaration to Electronic Export Information (EEI) which is filed on AES.

Electronic filing of the export data enhances the ability of the US government to prevent any illicit parties to export to unauthorized destinations or final consumers, as AES helps in __locating suspicious shipment__s before it is exported.

AES helps in providing paperless reports on export and strengthens the quality, coverage, and timeliness of export statistics making it an information hub for Census Bureau and CBP (U.S. Customs and Border Protection).

Avoidance of the SED

The SED has been declared as void and has been replaced by EEI for a number of reasons:

  • If the FTR (Foreign Trade Regulations) asks to submit the export information, it must be done electronically through AESDirect (Automated Export System). Filling of SED which is a paper document has now become redundant and the Census Bureau will no longer accept it.

  • Under the current foreign trade regulations, the SED does not provide all the necessary information fields required.

If the exporter is paying a third-party or freight forwarder to file through AESDirect, the old SED form may be used as the shipper’s letter of instruction so they can access the data needed to file the exporter’s form.

Although the information may be inaccurate or not enough.

  • If the third party does not have all the necessary data, then they might contact the exporter making the delivery delayed or adversely making a calculated assumption for the missing data field, putting the shipper’s company at risk.

As the shipper is legally bound to provide accurate information to file the AES, any inaccuracies will lead to certain legal consequences.

How to create an AESDirect Filing

Step 1- Setting up ACE Account: The first step is to procure an ACE (Automated Commercial Environment) user identification and password. ACE is a filing tool and is the primary way for exporters to submit their EEI on the AES.

Step 2 - Logging into ACE: Once the exporter’s account is created, they need to log into the ACE account and accept the certification statements of AESDirect.

Step 3 - Filing through AESDirect: The exporter can either directly login from the CBP website or make use of export documentation and compliance software.

Step 4 - Uploading of Data on AESDirect: The last step for the exporter is to fill in all the information fields accurately before submitting it.


  1. How long is an export declaration valid for? As such there is no validity period of an export declaration. However, if the shipment has not left the customs office 150 days after its release, it may then be considered as invalid.

  2. How many copies of the shipper’s declaration are required? Two signed and completed copies of the declaration must be handed over.

  3. Can I do my own custom’s declaration? There is no legal obligation for one to hire custom broker for clearing goods. Although, most importers do prefer to hire one as it provides them convenience. These custom brokers are licensed by CBP to conduct the duties of clearing goods for importers.