How to use an ATA Carnet

By The Media Training Hub Team Posted at 18/02/2021 Travel

This article deals with how to use an ATA Carnet as you travel, the procedure at departure, on arrival and departure from your destination and what to do when you get back home.

If you want to know more about what an ATA Carnet is for and how to get one, read our in depth article here:

Filming overseas with an ATA Carnet

Once you have received your ATA Carnet ...

Sign the front page 

You've already decided who the Carnet Holder is and this will be written in Box A on the front page. The Carnet Holder must now sign in box J on the front page.

Make some photocopies 

It's a good idea to make a few copies of the front page showing the document number and the equipment list and distribute these around members of the team who are travelling as well as keeping a copy in the office. At least then, there is a record of the carnet if it gets lost.

Give the ATA Carnet to someone who is travelling

 This will be a person you have already nominated and their name will be written in box B on the front page. This person is now officially known as the "Carnet Representative"

Present your Carnet to customs before you check in 

When you arrive at your departure airport allow yourself or your crew enough time to complete the carnet and get it stamped BEFORE they check-in. We recommend that you are inside the airport terminal at least 3 hours prior to departure.

Fill in the yellow exportation voucher 

At customs, the carnet representative fills in the front of the yellow exportation voucher:

Customs officers will want to inspect the equipment 

There is no point turning up at Customs to have the carnet stamped if the cases have gone to baggage handling already – the customs official may want to spot check items and you won’t have them any longer!  Worst case scenario is they wish to unpack every single case, so expect the worst and allow sufficient time. 

The General List

On the back of the voucher is the "general list" - a list of all your kit, serial numbers and values. Turn up at customs with the entire carnet, your flight ticket and your passport. The customs officer will disappear with your carnet and passport, tear out and keep the exportation voucher for their records and return shortly (although it can take up to 30 mins for some unknown reason) with a stamped receipt in your carnet. Congratulations! You have completed stage 1! You now have proof that you have exported your kit and customs have kept a record of what you have exported. Now all you have to do is complete this process every time you enter and exit a country on your trip!

Clearing customs at your destination 

On entry to your first country, have your Carnet ready for customs to inspect. Have all your information to hand. You'll need your flight number and knowledge of which items on the General List your are actually importing. Usually this is all of the item numbers but on occasions, you might not have everything on this particular trip. 

See our ATA Carnet Training Course for more detail

A nice smiley face ready to make this as easy as possible for the customs officer will work wonders for an easy importation of camera equipment.  You don’t want the entire contents of 30 filming cases spread out everywhere or the delay that goes with it. Remember, some customs officials have either never seen a carnet before or don’t want to see one, they’re hassle, so try to make it an easy process for them.

More countries in your trip 

Just repeat this process at each point of entry and exit throughout your filming trip.  Make sure you come back to your home country with an entry and exit stamp for each country you've visited, and a stamped voucher for re-entry to your home country.

Not just airports 

The procedure is the same for land and sea border crossings too.

Finalising your carnet when you return 

Have one last check of the carnet in the comfort of your office before you book a secure courier or secure postal service to return it to the issuing authority for redemption.  This doesn’t mean you get any money back, but it does mean that your government, which backed the carnet, doesn’t come after you for the cost of your “non export” of equipment from one of the countries you visited. 

A word of caution 

If your Carnet is not completed properly, then a country you visited may claim that you did not export the equipment from them and charge you import duty.  This can be costly because for some countries, it’s more than 100% of the total value declared on the equipment list.

If you can't get your Carnet stamped by customs 

There are occasionally times when you simply cannot get the carnet stamped in time for your flight and missing the flight may not be a comfortable option. If this happens, then in theory, the country you left does not have a record of you exporting the items and you may be liable for import duty.

Tell your Carnet issuer as soon as possible 

Once all the vouchers have been returned and married up, one will be missing and the carnet issuing authority will wait for the foreign country to makes its claim. It then is a question of proving that you did not leave the items in that country and, providing you successfully re-imported the items into your home country and have a stamped voucher to prove it, the carnet issuer can present this to the foreign country as evidence and that may well suffice.

If you've lost your Carnet completely 

If you have completely lost the carnet, and a claim is made, then you can arrange for customs officials to visit your premises and do a "physical check" and provide a "certificate of location" - basically look at the items and serial numbers to prove you brought them home. This should avoid having to pay the full amount of duty but there may well be an administration charge.

If anything like this happens, contact your carnet issuer for advice as soon as possible.

Lost, damaged, destroyed waiver

Some Carnet providers offer a Lost / Damaged / Destroyed waiver policy which can be purchased and will cover any costs you incur as a result of your Carnet being lost or damaged or destroyed.


Step by step summary of how to raise and use a carnet.

  1. Check if your trip includes a "carnet" country. See Carnet Countries
  2. Draw up an equipment list including serial numbers, values and countries of origin 
  3. Get dimensions and weights of the flight cases
  4. Decide who is the “Carnet Holder” – usually the production company
  5. Nominate a representative(s) who will be travelling with the Carnet
  6. Apply for your carnet and pay the fee
  7. Lodge the monetary security with the carnet issuer - bank guarantee, bond, cash or their own scheme
  8. Carefully check the carnet when it arrives
  9. Get the carnet holder to sign the carnet. Box J on front page
  10. Make photo copies of the carnet - keep a copy at base plus copies for travelling crew
  11. Go to customs BEFORE you check the bags in
  12. Fill in the first yellow "exportation" voucher and get its counterfoil stamped.
  13. Check the stamped counterfoil - make sure the voucher number is correct
  14. Check your bags in for the flight, go airside and relax - you've completed stage 1
  15. On arrival at your destination, reclaim your bags and check that nothing is missing
  16. Go to customs and tell an officer that you have an ATA Carnet
  17. Fill in the white “importation” voucher in front of the customs officer
  18. Customs officers might want to check some items and their serial numbers
  19. Make sure they customs officer fills in and stamps your importation counterfoil. The customs officer will keep the white “importation” voucher for their records.
  20. Repeat this process every time you leave or enter a carnet country

See also: Filming overseas with an ATA Carnet


Related Posts

Search this blog

Popular Posts

This article deals with how to use an ATA Carnet as you travel, the procedure at depar...
What is an ATA Carnet?A carnet is an international shipping document that allows you t...
This is cinema re-imagined. We're all so used to the horizontal landscape format f...
If you're going to operate a television or film camera professionally or you want ...
The 2020 public health crises has impacted everything we do. And in few other industri...