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What is an ATA Carnet? When You Need One and How to Acquire

An importer applying for an ATA carnet on a computer
An ATA Carnet can be a useful resource when importing commercial products for temporary use. Find out when a carnet should be used, how much it costs, how to get one, and more.
Josh Kimble
October 5, 2021
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Last Modified: April 21, 2023

What is an ATA Carnet and under what circumstances is one required? If you’re planning to do business internationally, there’s a good chance it involves importing goods and the necessary equipment to do the job. Depending on how much you plan to bring, the duty required on those items can add up quickly and the paperwork can become a logistical nightmare. The solution to that problem may be an ATA Carnet.

According to the United States Council for International Business (USCIB), an ATA Carnet allows businesses to temporarily import goods used for commercial purposes into a country, duty-free. It can be used indefinitely over a 12-month period and is accepted in more than 80 countries worldwide.

Read on to learn more about ATA Carnets, including how they work, how much they cost, and the advantages of using them.

What is an ATA Carnet?

An ATA Carnet (pronounced kar-nay) is often referred to as either a merchandise passport or a passport for goods. This is because carnet holders can temporarily import goods and equipment into multiple countries through a simple and quick process. The carnet also enables goods to be imported duty-free and tax-free.

An ATA Carnet simplifies the import and export process between participating countries by allowing easy entry and exit of goods used for commercial purposes. However, if you’re not able to present each of the goods listed on your carnet at every point of entry and exit, you may be charged 110 percent duty on those items.

What does ATA stand for?

ATA stands for a combination of the French and English words “Admission Temporaire/Temporary Admission.”

The system was established by the International ATA Convention in 1961. It was officially adopted in 1963 and is now jointly governed by the World Customs Organization (WCO) and the International Chamber of Commerce’s (ICC) World Chambers Federation.

Dock workers at a cargo port ready to accept imports

How Do I Get an ATA Carnet and How Long Does it Take?

In order to get an ATA carnet, importers must apply for one through the USCIB or from two other officially-appointed carnet service providers. An ATA carnet application may take up to two business days to process.

Who Issues ATA Carnets?

In the U.S., Roanoke Trade and Corporation for International Business (also known as Boomerang Carnets) issue ATA Carnets on behalf of the USCIB. U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) has designated USCIB as the guarantor of the carnets, meaning USCIB would be liable for payment in cases in which the terms of the carnet were violated.

ATA Carnet vs Temporary Importation Bond

Like an ATA Carnet, a Temporary Importation Bond (TIB) can be used to temporarily import commercial goods into and out of a country. However, unlike a carnet, a TIB is only good for one entry into a country and must be repurchased for every re-entry into that country, or for each entry into another country.

A TIB also requires the individual or business to file a CBP Form 3461 (Entry/Immediate Delivery) or CBP Form 7501 (Entry Summary), as well as to secure a customs bond from a surety or Licensed Customs Broker. 

A carnet can be used as many times as necessary during the 12-month period that it’s valid and can be used in any country that accepts ATA carnets. Additionally, no other documents are required upon entry other than the carnet.

If you plan on temporarily importing your goods multiple times within a calendar year, or if you plan to use those goods for commercial purposes in multiple participating countries, an ATA Carnet can save you time and money that a TIB would not.

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What are the Advantages of Using an ATA Carnet?

An ATA Carnet provides a number of benefits for travelers needing to temporarily import and export items intended for commercial use.

With a carnet, you’ll only have to pay one predetermined cost for the year, in addition to a security deposit. Without the carnet, you would have to pay customs duties and taxes on every item you import, or purchase a separate TIB for each entry into a country. A carnet eliminates those costs, including value-added taxes (VAT)

Additionally, carnets simplify the import and export process by including all information needed in one document, eliminating the need to file multiple documents or go through additional procedures at each customs point.

This document provides cost savings and eliminates the need for additional work and stress.

Rows of computer monitors

What Goods Can be Entered Under an ATA Carnet?

All items covered by an ATA Carnet must be documented on the carnet’s ‘general list’ and fall under at least one of three accepted categories in order to be allowed tax-free entry into a country.

The three categories of goods accepted under a carnet are:

  1. Commercial Samples
  2. Professional Equipment
  3. Exhibitions and Fairs

While goods that fall under one of these categories are typically accepted by most participating countries, there are some countries that differ on what they choose to accept under a carnet.

Some countries will allow additional goods to be covered, even if not listed under one of the categories. Other countries may choose not to accept certain goods, even if those goods fall under one of the three categories. Prior to your travel, check with the customs agency in each country you plan to temporarily import to in order to verify whether or not your goods will be accepted.

Generally speaking, most items used for commercial purposes are covered, but some of the most common examples of goods covered by an ATA Carnet include:

  • Electronics, like computers and cameras
  • Audio/Visual production equipment
  • Industrial equipment and tools
  • Staging equipment and musical instruments used in live acts and concerts 
  • Sporting gear
  • Items used in trade shows, exhibitions, circuses, etc.

What Goods Are Not Covered?

Goods that an ATA Carnet does not cover include goods intended only for personal use, consumable items, disposable items, and goods intended for resale. All goods imported under the carnet must be accounted for at each entry and exit point or you risk the chance of being charged 110 percent duty on the missing items.

Can I Add Goods to an ATA Carnet?

Once a carnet is issued, the general list can no longer be amended. That means that additional goods cannot be added, nor can you remove any goods from the list. However, carnet holders may add additional countries to the carnet if they were not listed at the time it was issued.

What is Contained in an ATA Carnet Document?

An ATA Carnet consists of four sections, each identified by a different color: green, yellow, white and blue.

The cover section of a carnet is green and contains information such as:

  • Name of the carnet holder 
  • Issue date 
  • Carnet number 
  • National guaranteeing association
  • Countries in which the carnet may be used
  • Description of the goods the carnet covers

The yellow sheets are for exportation from and re-importation to the issuing country. White sheets are used for temporary importation to, and exportation from, the destination country. Blue sheets are used for transit through countries.

Each section contains both counterfoils and vouchers. Counterfoils remain in the carnet and are used to document the actions taken by CBP at every entry and exit point. Vouchers contain a list of the goods covered by the carnet and are kept by CBP. It’s worth noting that U.S. carnets do not include yellow vouchers.

Overhead view of a cargo ship and port at night

ATA Carnet Fees: How Much Does an ATA Carnet Cost?

The cost of a carnet depends on the total value of items listed on the general list. Carnet holders will be charged a base fee that will cover the first page of the general list and up to four sets of counterfoils and corresponding vouchers.

If your general list requires more than one page, you can purchase additional pages for $10 per page. Additional counterfoils and vouchers can also be purchased for $20 per set. The base cost of the carnet can be calculated below:

List of Basic ATA Carnet Fees

General List ValueBasic Fee
$0 – $9,999$235
$10,000 – $49,999$280
$50,000 – $149,999$340
$150,000 – $399,999$385
$400,000 – $999,999$435
Over $1,000,000$475

Do Carnets Require a Security Deposit?

The USCIB requires a security or bond amount of 40 percent of the total value of goods covered by the general list. Some countries, like India (55 percent) and Brazil (60 percent) require a higher security amount. In the case of vehicles covered by an ATA Carnet, you may be required to pay 100  to 150 percent of the value for the security deposit. Security deposits are typically refunded four to six weeks after the carnet is closed.

How Long is an ATA Carnet Good For?

An ATA Carnet is valid for one full year from the date that it’s issued and allows the carnet holder to temporarily import goods into foreign countries as many times as necessary during that time, duty-free. Technically, carnets cannot be extended, however, it’s possible to file for a replacement carnet instead. 

If you plan to purchase a replacement carnet, you must apply and be accepted prior to your original carnet expiring. Otherwise, you’ll need to export your goods before the original carnet expires and then apply for a new carnet. It’s also important to note that not all countries accept replacement carnets.

Additionally, there are a handful of countries that don’t allow the temporary export or import of items for the full 12 months, including Mexico, Singapore, Malaysia, Korea, and China.

What Countries Accept Carnets?

ATA Carnets are accepted by more than 80 countries and territories worldwide. If you purchase a carnet, you will be able to temporarily import your items into, and export out of, any carnet countries as many times as needed for 12 months (unless otherwise stated).

A dock worker looking over paperwork next to a stack of cargo containers

Do I Need an ATA Carnet?

If you need to temporarily import goods multiple times in a 12-month period or into multiple countries, purchasing an ATA Carnet is absolutely recommended. They can save you time, money, and the hassle of having to deal with foreign customs documents and procedures for each country and at every point of entry and exit.

With a carnet, you’re only required to pay for the initial cost of the carnet and the security deposit. And you’re allowed unlimited entry to, and exit from, a network of more than 80 countries and territories for a full year.

Hire a Customs Broker to Help Prepare Your ATA Carnet

At USA Customs Clearance, our Licensed Customs Brokers are here to assist importers during every step of the process, from determining what an ATA carnet is to how they can get one. 

In addition to our customs brokerage services, we can offer:

If you’re a new or inexperienced importer, we even offer bundles designed to provide you with everything you need to begin importing successfully.Contact our team today or call us at (855) 912-0406 to take the next step in your importing journey.

30 Minute Licensed Expert Consulting Will Personally Guide You
Need Help Importing Your Goods?

Worried about the Strict Regulations? Ask Our Experts.

Our 30 Minute Licensed Expert Consulting Will Personally Guide You.

Contact our Licensed Expert Consultant >
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