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Everything You Need to Know About USMCA Certificates of Origin

Posted June 30, 2020

Among the differences from the 26-year-old North American Free Trade Agreement that importers and their suppliers will be dealing with immediately when the new United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement replacing it takes effect tomorrow, is the way in which the origin of goods is certified for purposes of claiming duty-free treatment.  

Flags of Canada, Mexico and USA

Like most other “Next-generation” international trade and economic agreements these days, the USMCA (aka CUSMA in Canada and in Mexico, El Tratado entre México, Estados Unidos y Canadá or T-MEC for short) adopts a more flexible approach to the certification process than its predecessor, one that better reflects the commercial realities of modern supply chains. 


New Method of Certifying Origin

Under NAFTA, certification could only be made using a standardized document in a prescribed format, uniform across all three countries — the NAFTA Certificate of Origin that everyone is familiar with. Also, this document could only be completed by the producer or exporter of the goods.

By contrast, with the USMCA, certification does not require a specific document and may take any format provided that certain “minimum data elements” are included. More importantly, in addition to the producer or exporter, the certification can be now also be made by the importer. 


Importers Now Allowed to Complete Certificates of Origin

A new provision in the USMCA allows importers to complete certificates of origin and claim duty-free status for their goods, subject to certain requirements. For example, customs authorities in Canada and the U.S. may:

  • Require the importer to provide documents or other information to support the certification;
  • Establish certain conditions that an importer must meet to complete a certification of origin, and prohibit the importer from providing its own certification if it fails to meet or no longer meets those conditions; or
  • Prohibit the importer from: (1) issuing a certification, based on a certification or a written representation completed by the exporter or producer; and (2) making a subsequent claim for preferential tariff treatment based on a certification of origin completed by the exporter or producer.

Note: Canada and the United States will begin allowing importers to complete certificates of origin immediately upon the USMCA’s entry into force. However, Mexico will have up to three years and six months after the USMCA’s entry into force to implement this requirement.


USMCA Certificates & Required Information

As noted previously, there is no prescribed format for origin certification under the USMCA.  It can be included on the commercial invoice or sent as an attachment in either a hard copy or electronic document, provided that it contains all the required information. 

Like with NAFTA, certification under USMCA may be for a single shipment, or it can be a blanket certification covering shipments for a period of up to one year.

In terms of the information that must be included on the certification, according to the recently published Interim USMCA Implementation Instructions, the “minimum data elements” required are as follows:

  • Name, address, and contact info of producer, exporter or importer
  • Certifier’s name, title, company and contact info
  • Description of product(s) and HTS classification to at least 6 digits. The description must be sufficiently detailed to verify that it covers the articles in the shipment
  • The origin criteria under which product qualifies
  • If single shipment the invoice number of the goods
  • If a blanket certification the blanket period
  • Signature, date and certification statement

Additionally, the certification must contain the following statement signed by the certifier:

“I certify that the goods described in this document qualify as originating and the information contained in this document is true and accurate. I assume responsibility for proving such representations and agree to maintain and present upon request, or to make available during a verification visit, documentation necessary to support this certification.”

(Name, title, signature, date)

Note: For the convenience of clients and others, GHY has developed a Certificate of Origin that includes all of the required information. Click here to download our Certificate of Origin (Excel file).


Low-Value Exception

Under the USMCA, origin certification is not required for non-commercial shipments and imports valued at less than $2500.  

Note: Should evidence disclose that the importer is valuing a series of shipments at less than $2,500 in order to evade compliance with the certification requirements, customs authorities may require certification for all the importer’s shipments, regardless of value.


Be Prepared for Subsequent Verification

To ensure accuracy of the certification being submitted to Customs, regardless of whether being provided by the producer, exporter, or importer, the person completing the certificate of origin is expected to exercise “reasonable care” when doing so.

Part of this responsibility includes agreeing to maintain any supporting documentation needed to back up the certification for a period of five years. This corroborating information may include the following:

  • Priced bills of material
  • A process description for production of the imported article
  • Manufacturer’s affidavits or origin certifications for parts and materials claimed to be of North American origin
  • If the party exporting to the United States or Canada is not the producer, a certification or detailed information from the actual producer


Need More Information?

If you have any questions about changes in the certification process and how we can assist “self-certifying” importers to most efficiently obtain blanket coverage for their shipments, don’t hesitate to contact one of our knowledgeable trade experts today. 


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