Exporting for SMEs: customs declarations and other formalities

The closed door of a cargo container (of goods)

Swiss SMEs exporting products overseas need to consider a certain number of formalities, including a mandatory export declaration.

In Switzerland, SMEs exporting products are required to draw up an online customs export declaration. Accredited exporter status seeks to confer more flexibility and geographic independence on regular exporters. 

Export declaration

Swiss export companies are required to draw up a customs export declaration (CED) for any goods dispatched beyond its borders. To do this, they use:

  • E-dec exportation, an online application which makes it possible to send the CED to the Federal Customs Administration (FCA) electronically. The main advantage is to accelerate customs procedures. E-dec exportation concerns only permanent exports. Exporters wanting to use it have to register with the FCA.
  • NCTS Export. The New Computerized Transit System (NCTS) is for goods placed in a transit system. The aim of this system is to simplify exchanges with customs offices.

The goods must, in principle, also be accompanied by an invoice and/or delivery note.

More information about e-dec exportation and NCTS/National transit can be found on the FCA website (Forms for commercial traffic).

Controls and sanctions

In Switzerland, the control of goods agreed upon at the international level is governed by the Federal Law on War Material (in French) and the law on Protection of Federal Information.

The export of war material is authorized if it complies with international public law as well as the principles of foreign policy and international obligations of Switzerland.

Goods that can be used in the production of ABC weapons and their delivery systems or contribute to the conventional armament of a state that poses a threat to regional or global security, are denied.

Digital products and services are subject to export controls just like physical goods. A comprehensive guide has been developed by the University of Applied Sciences of the Grisons.

More information can be found on Export Controls and Sanctions (admin.ch), Trade Compliance-Management der digitalisierten Wertschöpfungskette - Fachhochschule Graubünden (fhgr.ch) and Small and Medium Enterprises – Export Controls and Sanctions under Control? | S-GE.

Questions to ask about exporting

When exporting goods outside Swiss borders, companies are advised to ask a certain number of questions about the formalities to be completed:

  • Are the goods subject to presentation of an export license? For the exporting of certain products such as weapons or explosives, companies have to obtain a license from the Swiss State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO), see Export Controls and Sanctions or another federal office.
  • Are the goods covered by a free trade agreement? If so, can I draw up a movement certificate? Is another certificate necessary for this country and these goods, such as an approval certificate (for cars, for example)?
  • What formalities need to be completed in the country of destination?
  • What will be the total customs duties, VAT and other taxes applied to the goods in the destination country?
  • Does the destination country require specific documents for these kinds of goods (import license or attestations on invoice, for example)?
  • Do I need to draw up a document for transit between the Swiss customs export office and the customs office in the destination country?
  • How can I be sure of being paid? Do I need to request bank credentials?

EDa procedure

Regular exporters have the option of acquiring accredited exporter status (EDa). The EDa procedure enables accredited exporters and forwarding agents to complete the process of declaration and initiation of transit in places approved by the FCA. The main advantages of this system are:

  • Flexibility in terms of opening times. In some cases, goods can be deposited or collected outside normal opening hours of the relevant customs office.
  • Geographic independence. Consignments do not have to be deposited at a customs office.
  • Reduction in risk of holdups at the border. Availability of vehicles is facilitated.

Acquiring EDa status is subject to certain conditions. Companies wanting to acquire this status will find all the necessary information on the FCA website.

Help and information

To ensure the smooth progress of an export operation, companies are advised to contact professionals in the sector, for example forwarding agents, who are familiar with the formalities to be completed. A wealth of information about exports is also available on the websites of the FCA, S-GE and Swiss Export.


Last modification 23.11.2023

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