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 export.gov. Search for “import requirements” and then filter by the country you want to export to (there are options in the left column).
The information provided for the 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.
How do you get a Certificate of Free Sale?
Normally you get a Certificate of Free Sale from the state in which you are making and selling your products. Each state has different methods for getting the certificates, so search within your state government website. They are typically issued for free or 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, 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 (depending on where the providing agency or company).