Small Business Development Center Network

Exporting FAQs

Q. Do I need a license to export?

A. You either as an individual, or a company, do not require a license to export. As an individual, you must be a legal resident of the USA. However, certain products or services with proprietary technology, or that have military applications, or critical materials in short supply, do require an export license from the Bureau of Export Administration. Also, exports are restricted into some countries like Cuba and Libya, and if permitted, require a license.

Q. How do I determine the best markets for my product?

A. There are a variety of resources both public and private available to help you research the best markets for your products or services. One of the most comprehensive is the National Trade Data Bank (NTDB) available on the internet ( or by purchasing it on CD ROM (202-482-1986). Forty government agencies contribute information to the NTDB & it is updated monthly by the U.S. Department of Commerce.

Q. How do I find reliable business contacts in foreign markets?

A. There are a variety of programs offered by the U.S. Department of Commerce, to find a reliable distributor or agent representative. These include the Agent Distributor Service (ADS) and the Gold or Silver Key Services. International trade shows are an important resource for contacts. More information on finding contacts is available in Export Fundamentals.

Q .What do terms like FAS or FOB mean?

A. These are incoterms used in the transportation of product, both by air and ocean carriers, that define the obligations of buyer and seller in the shipping process. The official incoterms are published by the International Chamber of Commerce and are used to describe the terms of shipment in documents such as your contract, Pro Forma Invoice and Letters of Credit (LC's). They are the only terms recognized in international arbitration and legal jurisdictions.

Q. How do I prepare shipping documents?

A. There is no short answer to this question. However, if you are beginning to ship product to foreign markets, you will need the services of a good freight forwarder. You can find them listed in the Yellow Pages under Freight Forwarders. Make sure that they are experienced, particularly with your industry and the destination market of your shipment. By all means, get references!

Q. How do I get a loan to export?

A. Have you spoken to the loan officer of your bank? Is your loan officer familiar with the SBA Export Loan Guarantee Program? If not, contact your nearest Small Business Administration (SBA) office. You can find their number in the Government Pages of your local phone book, under Government Offices-United States. In Dallas/Fort Worth, the number for the SBA is 817-885-6500 and the number of the Export Loan Officer is 214-767-0533. An alternative option is the Export-Import Bank or EximBank (202-565-3946). Actually this is not a bank. EximBank is a public corporation created by executive order of the President. It makes guarantees and insures loans to help finance U.S. exports. In Dallas, the EximBank representative can be reached at 214-712-1934.

Q Is there a way to find out if my buyer is creditworthy?

A. The International Division of most major banks have facilities for checking the credit of foreign buyers. Credit reports are available for a reasonable fee. In most markets, the Department of Commerce's Commercial Office at the U.S. Embassy can prepare a credit report, called an International Business Profile, for a nominal fee.