ATA Carnet

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ATA Carnet
ATA Carnet.png
Main pages of an ATA Carnet
Date first issued 30 July 1963
Valid in 78 countries and customs territories (as of 1 August 2018)
Type of document international customs document
Purpose tax-free and duty-free temporary admission of nonperishable goods into multiple countries
Expiration 1 year after issuance (max)

The ATA Carnet, often referred to as the passport for goods, is an international customs document that permits the tax-free and duty-free temporary export and import of nonperishable goods for up to one year. It consists of unified Customs declaration forms which are prepared ready to use at every border crossing point. It is a globally accepted guarantee for Customs duties and taxes which can replace security deposit required by each Customs authorities. It can be used in multiple countries in multiple trips up to its one year validity. The acronym ATA is a combination of French and English terms "Admission Temporaire/Temporary Admission." The ATA carnet is now the document most widely used by the business community for international operations involving temporary admission of goods.

The ATA Carnet is jointly administered by the World Customs Organization (WCO) and the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) through its World Chambers Federation.[1][2]



In 1955, Charles Aubert (the first director of the Chambres de Commerce Suisses) had a vision to create a document to simplify and accelerate the temporary use of goods in another country. He based his idea on the Triptych System, a bilateral system between Switzerland and Austria to facilitate the temporary admission of commercial samples. This idea was supported by the Customs Cooperation Council (CCC), the forerunner organization of the World Customs Organization (WCO), and the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC). Inspired by the Triptych System, the "Customs Convention regarding ECS Carnets for Commercial Samples" entered into force on 3 October 1957 with the joint efforts of the Customs Cooperation Council and the International Chamber of Commerce. The initials E.C.S. stand for the combined English and French words: Echantillons Commerciaux - Commercial Samples.

The ATA Convention[edit]

ATA Convention
Customs Convention on the A.T.A. Carnet for the Temporary Admission of Goods
Signed 6 December 1961 (1961-12-06)
Location Brussels, Belgium
Effective 30 July 1963
Depositary Customs Cooperation Council

In 1961 the Customs Cooperation Council adopted the Customs Convention on the ATA Carnet for the Temporary Admission of Goods (ATA Convention) which then entered into force on 30 July 1963.[1] ATA Carnets are seen as upgraded version of ECS Carnets, which are no longer limited to commercial samples.[3] More specific conventions for each type of applicable good were subsequently worked out and agreed on by the CCC.

"The States signatory to this Convention, convinced that the adoption of common procedures for the temporary duty-free importation of goods would afford considerable advantages to international commercial and cultural activities and would secure a higher degree of harmony and uniformity in the customs system of the Contracting Parties." - (Preamble of the A.T.A. Convention)[2]

The Istanbul Convention[edit]

Istanbul Convention
Convention on Temporary Admission
Signed 26 June 1990 (1990-06-26)
Location Istanbul, Turkey
Effective 27 November 1993
Depositary World Customs Organization

Between 1950 and 1970, there was a proliferation in the number of international Conventions, Recommendations, Agreements and other instruments on temporary admission, creating confusion for the international business community and complicating the work of Customs. In the early 1990’s the WCO decided to take draft a world-wide Convention on temporary admission to combine, into a single international instrument, 13 existing temporary admission agreements. Hence, in order to simplify and harmonize temporary admission formalities provided in various Conventions, the Convention on Temporary Admission, i.e. Istanbul Convention, was adopted at WCO on 26 June 1990 and then entered into force on 27 November 1993.[3][1] Its objectives and principles are :

  • To devise a single instrument for the simplification and harmonization of temporary admission formalities, replacing all the existing Conventions or Recommendations dealing solely or principally with temporary admission. The subjects covered by the former Conventions are now covered by the Annexes to the Istanbul Convention.
  • Each Annex authorizes the temporary admission of goods imported for a specific purpose, e.g. Annex B.1. covers goods for display or use at fairs or exhibitions.
  • Goods imported duty-free cannot remain indefinitely in the country of temporary importation. The period fixed for re-exportation is laid down in each Annex.
  • The goods must be reexported in the same state. They must not undergo any change during their stay in the country of temporary importation, except normal depreciation due to the use made of them.
  • Economic prohibitions or restrictions at importation are not applied since they generally relate to goods cleared for home use, thus serving as a national protection measure.

Recent developments[edit]

In recent years the International Chamber of Commerce has been studying the possibility to digitize the ATA Carnet.[4][5]


In every country in the ATA Chain, a guaranteeing association (NGA)– approved by its respective Customs and the ICC World Chambers Federation – administers the operation of the ATA Carnet System. The role of a national guaranteeing associations is to guarantee to its Customs administration the payment of duties and taxes due when ATA Carnets have been misused on its territory (non or late re-exportation of goods, for instance). The national guaranteeing organisation can also, with the prior consent of its Customs administration, authorise local chambers to deliver ATA Carnets on its behalf. In major trading nations, dozens of local chambers have that authority. Within ICC World Chambers Federation, a World ATA Carnet Council gathers the national guaranteeing organisations from all countries where the ATA Carnet is in force today.[6] In short:

  • Holders can use ATA Carnets as Customs declarations and guarantee
  • National Customs authorities through which the goods are admitted into are allowed to claim Customs duties and taxes against NGAs within 1 year after the expiration of ATA Carnets
  • National Guaranteeing Associations act as a chain to guarantee Customs duties/taxes plus 10 % penalty
  • The World Customs Organization (WCO) monitors the international Conventions that govern the ATA system.
  • The International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) , through its special department, the World Chambers Federation (WCF), organizes the internal procedures and administrates the members of the guarantee chain.

Member countries[edit]

In the early 1960s, the ATA system was in use in Ivory Coast, France, Yugoslavia, Switzerland and Czechoslovakia. In 1982 there were 36 countries.

Today, the ATA Carnet System is in force in 78 countries and territories.[7] Beside the 28 member states of the European Union and member states of the European Free Trade Association, the ATA Carnet is in force in Albania, Algeria, Antarctica, Andorra, Aruba, Australia, Bahrain, Belarus, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Botswana, Canada, Chile, China, Côte d'Ivoire, Gibraltar, Hong Kong, Iceland, India, Indonesia, Iran, Israel, Japan, Republic of Korea, Lebanon, Lesotho, Macau, Macedonia, Madagascar, Malaysia, Mauritius, Mexico, Moldova, Mongolia, Monaco, Montenegro, Morocco, Namibia, New Zealand, Pakistan, Puerto Rico, Russia, Senegal, Serbia, Singapore, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Swaziland, Tahiti, Thailand, Tunisia, Turkey, Ukraine, United Arab Emirates and the United States of America.

Countries/Territories issuing ATA Carnets[7] Website
 Bosnia & Herzegovina
 Cote d'Ivoire
 Czech Republic
 Hong Kong, China
 South Korea
 Macau, China
 Madagascar N/A
 New Zealand
 South Africa
 Sri Lanka
 United Arab Emirates
 United Kingdom
 United States

Carnet usage[edit]

The ATA Carnet allows the business traveller to use a single document for clearing certain categories of goods through customs in several different countries without the deposit of import duties and taxes. The Carnet eliminates the need to purchase temporary import bonds. So long as the goods are re-exported within the allotted time frame, no duties or taxes are due. Failure to re-export all or some of the goods listed on the Carnet results in the payment of applicable duties and taxes. Failure to remit those duties results in a claim from the foreign customs service to the importer's home country.

The ATA Carnet comprises a front and back cover and includes two sheets for presentation at each foreign country you are visiting and two sheets for presentation to customs when leaving and returning to your home country. One sheet is to give to the foreign customs officials when entering the country and the other when you leave it. The same applies when exiting and entering your own country.[2] ATA Carnets are in A4 paper format.

ATA Carnets cover the usual and unusual: computers, repair tools, photographic and film equipment, musical instruments, industrial machinery, vehicles, jewellery, clothing, medical appliances, aircraft, race horses, art work, prehistoric relics, ballet costumes and rock group sound systems. ATA Carnets do not cover perishable or consumable items, or goods for processing or repair.[8]

Most common uses include but not limited to:

  • exhibitions and fairs
  • professional equipment
  • commercial samples and goods for testing purposes
  • sports equipment
  • goods for educational, scientific or cultural purposes

ATA Carnets may not be used for all purpose determined by the Istanbul (ATA and others) conventions in every member state of the ATA Carnet system, as they might not have acceded to the respective convention.[9]

Individuals or firms wishing to use a carnet to move goods in and out of foreign countries must submit an application and the necessary collateral to their home national guaranteeing organization. The application, among other things, lists all countries of intended transit and all applicable goods with their assigned values. If the application is properly completed and submitted with the applicable fees the national guaranteeing organization will issue a carnet specifically tailored to that itinerary. The carnet document has two green cover pages denoting country of origin with instructions. Within the covers are counterfoils and vouchers for each country to be visited or transited. The vouchers act as receipts for entry and re-export in foreign countries and are kept by foreign customs officials. The counterfoils are stamped by the foreign customs services and act as the carnet holders receipt.

CPD China-Taiwan Carnet[edit]

A system similar to the ATA Carnet System called Carnet de Passages en Douane China-Taiwan (CPD China-Taiwan) operates on the basis of bilateral agreements between Taiwan (under the name of Chinese Taipei) and a certain number of ATA countries including the EU member states, Australia, Canada, Israel, Korea, Malaysia, New Zealand, Norway, Singapore, South Africa, Switzerland and the United States of America. Other than a different colour code to distinguish it from the ATA Carnet, the conditions for its use, the goods for which it can be used, and customs procedures are identical.[10] The CPD China-Taiwan Carnet is not to be confused with the also named CPD Carnet used to temporarily import motor vehicles into foreign countries.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "World Customs Organization". Retrieved 2018-09-05.
  2. ^ a b "ATA carnet at work - ICC - International Chamber of Commerce". ICC - International Chamber of Commerce. Retrieved 2018-09-05.
  3. ^ ALLIANCE DES CHAMBRES DE COMMERCE SUISSES. "Histoire". Retrieved 2018-09-06.
  4. ^ "ATA Carnet advances towards digitisation - ICC - International Chamber of Commerce". ICC - International Chamber of Commerce. 2017-07-05. Retrieved 2018-09-06.
  5. ^ "ATA Carnet steps into the digital age with new pilot project - ICC - International Chamber of Commerce". ICC - International Chamber of Commerce. 2018-06-20. Retrieved 2018-09-06.
  6. ^ "ATA carnet at work - ICC - International Chamber of Commerce". ICC - International Chamber of Commerce. Retrieved 2018-09-05.
  7. ^ a b "ATA carnet in your country - ICC - International Chamber of Commerce". ICC - International Chamber of Commerce. Retrieved 2018-09-05.
  8. ^ "ATA Carnet | Dubai Chamber". Retrieved 2018-09-07.
  9. ^ "About ATA Carnet". Retrieved 2018-09-08.
  10. ^ "London Chamber of Commerce and Industry - ATA Carnet". 2017-09-19. Retrieved 2018-09-07.

External links[edit]