Understanding SLI, EEI, and AES: Key Export Documents and Their Significance

Understanding SLI, EEI, and AES: Key Export Documents and Their Significance

The Shipper’s Letter of Instruction (SLI) is a document issued by an exporter to their agents or freight forwarders that contains details about the shipping terms, including instructions on how to handle, store, load, and unload the shipment without causing damage to the products. It also allows the transport company to issue an air waybill or Bill of Lading (BOL) on behalf of the exporter. In addition, the SLI facilitates export control and reporting by enabling the agent to file Electronic Export Information (EEI) and send it to the Automated Export System (AES).

It is the responsibility of the exporter or shipper to complete the Shipper’s Letter of Instruction with all relevant information and detailed instructions on how to process the order. This letter serves as a guide for the freight forwarder/agent to process the order according to the agreed-upon terms and conditions of the shipping term, which ensures the smooth movement of goods.

While the Shipper’s Letter of Instruction is not a legally binding requirement, it is necessary for all export shipments as it formalizes how and where to handle the export shipment. Additionally, it authorizes the forwarder to act as an authorized forwarding agent for export control and customs-related processes. The need for an SLI may vary by country and depend on country-specific rules and foreign trade regulations. Exporters must complete this document before sending out the goods.

Completing a Shipper’s Letter of Instruction is considered one of the most secure methods for sharing shipping information with freight forwarders, minimizing the chances of miscommunication between the exporter and agent. It helps ensure an efficient export process.


Next, what is an EEI?

Per Trade.gov: The Electronic Export Information (EEI) is a necessary document when exporting a commodity with a value over $2,500 or when an export license is required for the commodity. The exporter is responsible for preparing the EEI and the carrier will submit it to the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) through the Automated Commercial Environment (ACE), specifically AES Direct.

To prepare for exporting, the exporter should obtain the Schedule B number for their commodity, which must be included in the AES. The Census Bureau can provide this number at 1-800-549-0595, Option 2.

If the exporter is sending baggage or containers containing personal or household goods worth over $2,500 to a foreign destination, excluding Canada, they must file the EEI and provide the International Transaction Number (ITN) to the carrier according to the required timeline.

If the U.S. Principal Party in Interest (USPPI) is using the U.S. Postal Service to send goods, they must file the EEI only if the shipment is valued over $2,500 per Schedule B or requires an export license. In this case, the exporter should provide the ITN or exemption citation to the post office.

However, some instances do not require the EEI, such as shipments with an ultimate destination of Canada, shipments to U.S. possessions, or if the shipment contains rough or uncut diamonds. But if the shipment is bound for the U.S. Virgin Islands or Puerto Rico, the EEI must be filed. Additional exemptions can be found in the FTR Sections 30.36-30.40.


We learned above that AES stands for Automated Export System. This is the system where U.S. exporters electronically declare their international exports, to the Census Bureau to help compile U.S. export and trade statistics, as well as for trade enforcement. 

If you don’t file the above information, or file false information, that can lead to hefty fines, up to $10,000 and/or jail time. Check out CBP’s Quick Reference Guide for more information.


While you should be informed, your best bet to make sure it’s right is having an experienced logistics partner like Future Forwarding on your side. Reach out to us today to see how we can take the freight off your shoulders. 

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