What is a Carnet?
From US Council for International Business website

Carnets are "Merchandise Passports." They are international customs documents that simplify customs procedures for the temporary importation of various types of goods. In the U.S., two types are issued: ATA and TECRO/AIT Carnets.

ATA Carnets ease the temporary importation of commercial samples (CS), professional equipment (PE), and goods for exhibitions and fairs (EF). They facilitate international business by avoiding extensive customs procedures, eliminating payment of duties and value-added taxes (minimum 20% in Europe, 27% in China), and replacing the purchase of temporary import bonds.

TECRO/AIT Carnets, used between the U.S. and Taiwan only, appear similar to, and serve the same function as the ATA Carnet. TECRO/AIT Carnets result from a bilateral agreement between the US and Taiwan, covering only commercial samples (CS), and professional equipment (PE). Merchandise entering countries in addition to Taiwan may also be accompanied by an ATA Carnet.

Benefits of Carnets

Carnets save time, effort, and money. They:

~ May be used for unlimited exits from and entries into the U.S. and foreign countries (Carnets are valid for one year),
~ Are accepted in over 75 countries and territories,
~Eliminate value-added taxes (VAT), duties, and the posting of security normally required at the time of importation,
~ Simplify customs procedures. Carnets allow a temporary exporter to use a single document for all customs transactions, make arrangements in advance, and at a predetermined cost,
~ Facilitate reentry into the U.S. by eliminating the need to register the goods with U.S. Customs at the time of departure.

(Be aware that Carnets do not exempt holders from obtaining necessary licenses or permits.)

Merchandise Covered by Carnets

~ Virtually all goods, including commercial samples, professional equipment, and items for tradeshows and exhibitions, including display booths.
~ Ordinary goods such as computers, tools, cameras and video equipment, industrial machinery, automobiles, gems and jewelry, and wearing apparel.
~ Extraordinary items, for example, Van Gogh Self-portrait, Ringling Brothers tigers, Cessna jets, Paul McCartney's band instruments, WorldCup class yachts, satellites, human skulls, and the New York Philharmonic.

Carnets DO NOT cover: consumable or disposable goods (e.g., food and agriculture products) giveaways, or postal traffic.

Carnet Countries
(Countries in capital letters represent members of the European Union)

Carnet Countries
Algeria India Norway
Andorra Ireland POLAND
Australia Isle of Man Portugal
Austria Israel Puerto Rico
Balearic Islands Italy Reunion Island
Belgium Ivory Coast Romania
Botswana Japan Russia
Bulgaria Jersey Senegal
Canada Korea Singapore
Ceuta Lebanon SLOVENIA
Chile (eff. 10/01/05) Lesotho South Africa
China Liechtenstein Spain
Corsica LITHUANIA Sri Lanka
Crete Luxembourg St. Barthelemy
Croatia Macao St. Martin, French side
CYPRUS Macedonia St. Pierre
CZECH REPUBLIC Malaysia Swaziland
Denmark MALTA Sweden
ESTONIA Martinique Switzerland
FINLAND Mauritius Tahiti
FRANCE Mayotte Taiwan*
French Guiana Melilla Tasmania
GERMANY Miquelon Thailand
Gibraltar Monaco Tunisia
Greece Mongolia Turkey
Guadeloupe Morocco UNITED KINGDOM
Guernsey Namibia United States
Hong Kong NETHERLANDS Wallis & Futuna Island
HUNGARY New Caledonia
Iceland New Zealand

Countries are added to the ATA system periodically. Call to determine if the country to which the goods are traveling accepts Carnets. TECRO/AIT Carnets are accepted for goods traveling between Taiwan and the U.S. only.

Fees and Processing Time

There are three basic components to the Carnet application process:

1. General list

2. Carnet application, and

3. Security deposit.

Basic processing fees are determined by the value of a shipment. Fees range from $200-$330 and the normal processing time is two working days, says the US Council for International Business. As the National Guaranteeing Association, USCIB is required to take security, usually 40% of shipment value, to cover any customs claim that might result from a misused Carnet. Payment can be made in the form of a check, money order, or credit card (up to $1000 on Visa, AmEx, Mastercard).

The timeframe for this paperwork is just a few days but I'd start several weeks ahead of the trip, just in case.
To apply for a Carnet, visit the Council at

Or, visit for another service that comes well recommended.

Further info with some real-life examples can be found here in an article in a national business publication.

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