How Does a Standby Letter of Credit Work? A Step-by-Step Guide

December 11, 2023

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In the intricate landscape of international trade and finance, a Standby Letter of Credit (SBLC) serves as a powerful financial instrument providing assurance and security in transactions. Here is a step-by-step guide on how a how does a standby letter of credit work:

Request and Application

The process begins with the applicant (buyer) approaching their bank to request an SBLC. The applicant provides details about the transaction, including the amount, terms, and conditions. The bank assesses the creditworthiness of the applicant and, upon approval, agrees to issue the SBLC.

Issuance of the SBLC

Once approved, the issuing bank formally issues the Standby Letter of Credit. This written instrument outlines the terms and conditions under which the bank agrees to make payment to the beneficiary (seller) in the event that the applicant fails to fulfill their financial obligations or meet specified conditions.

Agreement on Terms

The terms of the SBLC, including specific conditions for payment, are agreed upon by both the applicant and the beneficiary. These terms are crucial and must be clearly defined to avoid misunderstandings during the course of the transaction.

Presentation of Documents

When the beneficiary completes the agreed-upon conditions, they submit the required documents to the issuing bank. These documents typically include invoices, shipping documents, and any other paperwork specified in the SBLC.

Bank Examination

The issuing bank carefully examines the documents presented by the beneficiary. The examination is to ensure that the documents comply with the terms and conditions outlined in the SBLC. If the documents meet the requirements, the bank proceeds to the next step.

Payment by the Issuing Bank

Upon successful examination of the documents, the issuing bank is obligated to make payment to the beneficiary as stipulated in the SBLC. This payment serves as a guarantee to the beneficiary, ensuring that they receive the agreed-upon amount even if the applicant is unable to fulfill their financial obligations.

Reporting to the Applicant

After making the payment, the issuing bank provides a detailed report to the applicant, outlining the documents received, the examination process, and the payment made to the beneficiary. This transparency ensures that all parties are informed and the transaction is executed smoothly.

Closure or Renewal

Once the transaction is completed, the Standby Letter of Credit may expire. If the beneficiary has not presented documents within the specified validity period, the SBLC becomes null and void. If needed, the SBLC can be renewed or extended for an additional period.

Key Considerations

Independence and Irrevocability:

  • The SBLC is an independent instrument, separate from the underlying transaction. Any issues with the transaction do not affect the validity of the SBLC.
  • The SBLC is typically irrevocable, meaning it cannot be canceled or amended without the agreement of all parties involved.

Compliance with International Regulations:

  • The process of issuing and utilizing SBLCs must comply with international financial regulations and standards.


In conclusion, a Standby Letter of Credit operates through a structured and transparent process, providing a secure mechanism for international transactions. Each step in the guide ensures that the terms and conditions are met, mitigating risks for both the buyer and the seller. As businesses engage in global commerce, a comprehensive understanding of this step-by-step guide becomes crucial for leveraging the benefits of Standby Letters of Credit effectively.

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