The letter of credit process

The process described below is for a sight letter of credit, with negotiation of documents by the Advising bank.

Settlement procedures in letters of credit can be complex, and there are many variations on this.

describes the entire process in more detail.

Buyer and seller agree terms, including means of transport, period of credit offered (if any), latest date of shipment, Incoterm to be used.
Buyer applies to bank for issue of letter of credit. Bank will evaluate buyer's credit standing, and may require cash cover and/or reduction of other lending limits.
Issuing bank issues L/C, sending it to the Advising bank by airmail or (more commonly) electronic means such as telex or SWIFT.
Advising bank establishes authenticity of the letter of credit using signature books or test codes, then informs seller (beneficiary). Advising bank MAY confirm L/C, i.e. add its own payment undertaking.
Seller should now check that L/C matches commercial agreement, and that all its terms and conditions can be satisfied, (e.g. all documents can be obtained in good time.) If there is anything that may cause a problem, an AMENDMENT must be requested.
Seller ships the goods, then assembles the documents called for in the L/C (invoice, transport document etc.) Before presenting the documents to the bank, the seller should check them for discrepancies with the L/C, and correct the documents where necessary.
The documents are presented to a bank, often the Advising bank. The Advising bank checks the documents against the L/C. If the documents are compliant, the bank pays the seller and forwards the documents to the Issuing bank.
The Issuing bank now checks the documents itself. If they are in order (and it is a sight L/C), it reimburses the seller's bank immediately.
The Issuing bank debits the buyer and releases the documents (including transport document), so that the buyer can claim the goods from the carrier.
Glossary of terms