El Salvador Customs


Digitization of ATA Carnets: from pilot to implementation

25 June 2024
By the International Chamber of Commerce

Some years ago, the WCO took the initiative to bring together key stakeholders to discuss the creation of an electronic ATA Carnet (eATA) solution. ICC presented its eATA concept to the WCO back in 2016 and, with the support of the Organization, implemented an eATA pilot project in four countries. The test phase having been finalized, stakeholders can now start preparing the transition to a digital ATA Carnet via the ATA Carnet System. This article explains what moving to a digital process requires from the Customs side.

Accepted in 81 countries and Customs territories, the ATA Carnet is the document most widely used by the business community for international operations involving temporary duty-free admission of goods. It enables countries, businesses and border agencies to expedite the Customs process by utilizing unified, ready-to-use declaration forms and eliminating the lodging of a guarantee, bond or cash deposit in the country of temporary importation or transit.

The ATA Carnet is still a paper-based document today but, in 2019, the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) launched a digital ATA Carnet System in the form of a pilot version. The System was introduced to WCO News readers in an article published in February 2021. Following continued enhancement from 2019 to 2023, the pilot version of the ATA Carnet System was upgraded to production standard in July 2023. The upgrade marked a shift from the eATA project pilot phase to the global transition preparation phase, during which stakeholders could start preparing the official acceptance of digital ATA Carnets. This article looks more specifically at the various steps Customs should take to be part of the System.

What is the ATA Carnet System?

In each one of the countries or territories having implemented the ATA Carnet procedure, the Customs authority appoints a National Guaranteeing Association (NGA) which guarantees payment of import duties and taxes in cooperation with foreign NGAs around the world. Under the NGA’s umbrella, there can be multiple issuing associations (IAs) in each country to process Carnet applications. Processing fees apply, as well as a security deposit/bond which is returned if the Carnet has been used correctly. The International Chamber of Commerce (ICC), the institutional representative of over 45 million companies worldwide, is responsible for administering the global guarantee chain affiliated with all NGAs.

An operation under an ATA Carnet therefore involves various parties: ATA Carnet holders and representatives, issuing associations, National Guaranteeing Associations and Customs authorities. As a result, the ATA Carnet System was built as a set of various digital tools, tailored for a range of stakeholders.

It includes:

  • A smartphone application, the ATA Carnet app, enabling Carnet holders to carry and declare digital versions of their Customs documents.
  • An application called “ATA Carnet Customs” (ACC), enabling Customs officers to verify Carnets and approve digitally declared transactions.
  • The ATA Carnet Core, the central engine of the digital ATA Carnet System and a global database used by NGAs.
  • The ATA Gateway, a lightweight issuing module made available to NGAs and IAs to issue paper and digital Carnets.

The digital process, from the issuance of a Carnet to the declaration and the processing of the digital Carnet , is as follows:

Step 1: A National Guaranteeing Association (NGA) generates a digital ATA Carnet from its National Issuing and Claims System, which is integrated with the ATA Carnet Core.

Step 2: The requester (ATA Carnet holder) then downloads onto their smartphone the ATA Carnet app. The ordered Carnet will need to be stored in the app wallet. If necessary, the Carnet can be shared with a Customs representative. For security purposes, the Carnet is encrypted and never transmitted in ‘open format’ on the network.

Step 3: Every time he crosses a border, the ATA Carnet holder, or his Customs representative, prepares a declaration using the ATA Carnet app. A QR code is generated for each declaration to present to the Customs officer upon travel.

Step 4: The Customs officer then scans the QR code using a built-in device camera or an external QR code reader. He then has access to the eATA Carnet data via the ACC application and is able to determine if the declaration is correct or not. Data in the Customs app and data declared by holder are automatically matched, but the officer will still need to conduct some checks, for example to confirm that the goods and their intended use are acceptable. If the declaration is accepted, the Customs officer validates/commits the transaction via the application. If the officer is not equipped to read the QR code, he has to type the alphanumeric transaction code manually into the application.

Step 5: The transaction is recorded and a confirmation is sent to the holder or Customs representative’s smartphone.

How Customs can prepare

As already explained, the ATA Carnet System provides a dedicated turnkey application – ATA Carnet Customs (ACC) – for Customs to process and manage digital Carnets. The various steps Customs should take to use the application are explained below.

Preliminary step: Designate a single point of contact

We strongly recommend that each country/Customs territory assign a single point of contact (SPOC) who will act as a project manager. The SPOC should be able to communicate well in English as he or she will oversee coordination among all parties involved in the project and be the sole communications contact point for ICC and WCO.

Customs should notify the National Guaranteeing Association (NGA) of the SPOC’s given name, surname, email address, phone number and job title. This will enable the NGA to create relevant accounts for administration and support purposes.

Step 1: Set a provisional digital date

The term “digital date” refers to a start date from which all Carnet declarations made in a given country/Customs territory will have to be made digitally using the ATA Carnet System, as deployed by ICC. Each Customs administration should review its preparation status, estimate the time required for its preparations, and then set a provisional switch date. This date must be communicated at least five months in advance, via email, by the SPOC to ICC and WCO.

Step 2: Administrative preparation

The administrative preparation refers to the work carried out by Customs administrations to make sure that Customs officials have sufficient knowledge of how ACC is to be used and what needs to be done if there are technical issues, and can access the application through individual accounts.

Three major tasks are covered under this step:

  • Update training framework: training programmes should include courses on how to process digital Carnets and monitor them.
  • Update support framework: Customs officials having issues with ACC should have clear instructions as to how to request support via the eATA global support channel established by ICC.
  • Set up the national ACC web portal, providing data on regions, offices and users in charge of the ATA Carnet in a given country/territory. Each administration has the choice of creating regions, offices or user accounts one by one; a bulk import function is also provided. ACC is an online application exposed to the Internet. User accounts must be properly managed and protected. Best practice includes individual accounts and activating one of the multifactor authentication (MFA) options provided within the tool.

Step 3: Equipment

ACC is a ready-to-use web portal provided as a turnkey application. Customs administrations do not need to invest in its development or maintenance. Officials simply require the Internet and basic equipment to start using it:

  • Internet access.
  • Device such as a PC, laptop, smartphone or tablet.
  • QR scanner (optional).

Step 4: Training

Once training and support frameworks are updated and user accounts prepared, Customs can begin organizing training sessions for officials. It is strongly advised that thorough walkthroughs be conducted and practical exercises implemented to avoid any surprises when dealing with actual digital transactions at the border.

Some Customs administrations will have more offices and more officers to train. It is the responsibility of the SPOC to coordinate internally to determine the list of trainees, the scale of the training, and the frequency of the training. Based on feedback given by pilot countries, small-group training sessions, with devices and demo Carnets, is much more effective than large-group training sessions without actual practice. Training groups of 15 people were preferred. Regular knowledge refreshers are essential for success.

Training materials are available in the ACC within the “help” section. Customs should feel free to reach out to their National Guaranteeing Associations for assistance in training the initial group of officers. These first trainees can then serve as trainers to expedite the training process for other officers. This approach, based on feedback and experience, is significantly more efficient and effective than relying on a single trainer for everyone.

Step 5: Readiness checklist and confirmation of digital date

When all previous steps are completed, the Customs administration is almost ready for eATA, and it is time to confirm the digital date using the template text which has been approved by the WCO ATA/Istanbul Convention Administrative Committee. To properly manage all tasks, we recommend that the designated SPOC create a checklist to monitor every work item. A sample checklist is available at https://iccwbo.org/business-solutions/ata-carnet/eata-carnet.

To confirm the digital date, the SPOC should send an official email to ICC and WCO three months before the provisional digital date. In the event that Customs preparations are not completed on time, the SPOC should notify ICC and WCO that the provisional digital date cannot be adhered to and provide a new provisional digital date. Readiness should be confirmed again three months before the new provisional digital date.

Step 6: Go live

“Go live” refers to the official acceptance of digital Carnets via ICC’s ACC. The “Go live” date is the official “digital date”.


We hope this article helps Customs administrations to better understand the necessary steps to take towards ATA Carnet digitalization. A detailed Customs Preparation Guide is also available on the ICC website at iccwbo.org.

We hope the first group of Customs can be ready for eATA by 2025, with a view to onboarding all other ATA countries by 2027, the timeline expected by the WCO ATA/Istanbul Convention Administrative Committee.

The ATA Carnet is the most widely used temporary admission document since 1963. As such, we look forward to this joint effort with Customs to ensure that the ATA Carnet keeps pace with the digital era.

More information
eATA Carnet – ICC – International Chamber of Commerce (iccwbo.org)