Certificate of Free Sale

A Certificate of Free Sale is a document that provides proof that a product is being freely and legally sold without restriction. It is sometimes also called a “Certificate for Export” or “Certificate to Foreign Governments.”

When Is a Certificate of Free Sale Needed?

A Certificate of Free Sale is needed if you are exporting from the US to another country; but not all importing countries require one.

You can check the requirements of different countries at trade.gov. Search for “import requirements” and then filter by the country to which you want to export (there are options in the left column).

The information provided for that country should also include any special requirements for labeling of cosmetic products (sometimes called “personal hygiene” products). Many countries also require that the labels be in their language.

Products that are purchased retail and are being shipped to another country normally do not require a Certificate of Free Sale. The most common use is when products are sold wholesale, to be shipped to and imported into the other country for retail sale there.

A Certificate of Free Sale is not required for products made and sold in the United States.

How Do You Obtain a Certificate of Free Sale?

Normally you procure a Certificate of Free Sale from the state in which you are making and selling your products. Each state has different methods for obtaining the certificates, so search within your state government’s website. They are typically issued for free or for a small fee.

The Certificate lists the product(s). Some states require a copy of the label as part of the application process.


Texas:  Certificates of Free sale for cosmetics are issued by the Texas Department of State Health Services (512) 834-6626.

California: The California Department of Public Health, Food and Drug Branch, issues Export documents.  They charge $25 plus an additional notarization fee (if notarization is required).

Illinois: Illinois Department of Public Health issues Certificate of Free Sales, but not to cosmetic manufacturers as the IDPH does not inspect those facilities.

FDA: The FDA is not required to issue export certificates for cosmetics, but they “intend to continue to do so as resources permit.” See the Cosmetic Export Certificates FAQ for details on how to apply. They have a $10 fee.

If you are a member of the Personal Care Products Council (PCPC) or the Independent Cosmetic Manufacturers and Distributors (ICMAD), you can get a certificate from those organizations.

Allow Sufficient Time

If you are planning to export your products, be sure to check the requirements in your area and allow sufficient time to request and receive your certifcate(s). It seems to take a minimum of “several weeks” and up to 8 weeks to receive a Certificate of Free Sale (depending on the providing agency or company).

Navigating the Rules and Regs book by Marie Gale

Besides labeling, there are many other laws and regulations that apply to handcrafters. To find out which ones apply to you and how to comply with them, buy my book and keep it handy!


5 responses to “Certificate of Free Sale”

  1. I would like to export essential oils and fragrance oils form USA. to whom I will apply for a free sale certificate, if they are not for cosmetic use purpose?

    1. Marie Gale

      You should be able to contact the company from which you purchase the essential oils to find out about a certificate of free sale.

  2. Christine Farmer

    We are the manufacturer of a pharma product. We do not ship nor export any products, all picked up at our dock. Our customer is asking us to provide a certificate of free sale. From what I’m reading the forwarder should be responsible for this task, not us the manufacturer. Can you please confirm?

    1. Marie Gale

      I do not profess to be an expert in international trade. I did find this on the export.gov site:

      Many countries require a Certificate of Free Sale, sometimes called a “Certificate for Export” or “Certificate to Foreign Governments.” The certificate of free sale is evidence that goods, such as food items, cosmetics, biologics, or medical devices are legally sold or distributed in the open market, freely without restriction, and approved by the regulatory authorities in the country of origin (United States).

      That would imply that the manufacturer would need to get the Certificate of Free Sale, not the freight forwarder.

      You can go to https://www.trade.gov/export-solutions and search to see how to get a certificate of free sale for your area.

      As a final note, there may well be differences for pharma products.

  3. Hilda Bahner

    Thanks for the valued information you send to us. I appreciate it very much!

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