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Your Essential Guide to the Import License Process in Singapore

Your Essential Guide to the Import License Process in Singapore

An import licence in Singapore is an official authorisation provided by the Singapore Customs, which is essential for bringing goods into the nation. This document is obligatory for all imports except those explicitly exempt. For businesses considering to set up company in Singapore, understanding the import licence process is crucial.

Prior to the arrival of the goods in Singapore, the permit must be secured and then shown to the customs officials upon entry. The acquisition of an import permit is a critical component of cross-border trading, underscoring the significance of thoroughly comprehending the rules and regulations associated with it.


The Role of an Import Permit

The Role of an Import Permit in Singapore
The primary objective of an import permit is to confirm that all goods entering Singapore comply with the nation’s legal and regulatory frameworks. This encompasses ensuring that the merchandise is neither banned nor subject to any restrictions. Moreover, it meets the necessary safety guidelines and ensures relevant duties/taxes have been settled.

It also serves to guarantee adherence to the statutory requirements for both importing and exporting goods, accentuating the necessity for strict conformity with regulations, irrespective of whether the goods are incoming or outgoing.


Securing an Import License in Singapore

Securing an Import License in Singapore

The procedure for securing an import licence in Singapore involves several steps:

  1. Acquire a Unique Entity Number (UEN): Businesses and organisations must obtain a UEN from the Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority (ACRA). However, individuals may use their National Registration Identity Card (NRIC) or passport number.
  2. Activate Your Customs Account: With a UEN in hand, activate your Customs Account online via the Singapore Customs portal or by visiting a Customs office.
  3. Determine if Your Goods Require Control: Check if your goods are subject to control using the Singapore Customs’ Tariff Search tool online.
  4. Set Up an Inter-Bank GIRO (IBG): An IBG allows for the payment of duties and GST on imported goods and can be established at any Singaporean bank.
  5. File an Import Permit Application: Submit your application through TradeNet, the electronic trade system of Singapore Customs, detailing the goods’ description, quantity, value, and origin.
  6. Pay for Your Import Permit: Fees vary based on the nature of the imported goods and can be paid online or at a Customs office.
  7. Collect Your Import Permit: Following approval, the permit will be sent electronically and must be shown to customs officials upon arrival.

Extra Points to Consider

  • Engage a Declaring Agent: A licensed individual or company can be appointed to obtain customs permits on your behalf.
  • Importer’s Guarantee: A bond may be necessary to assure payment of all relevant duties and GST for certain imports.
  • Meet Additional Requirements: Other obligations may include securing licences for certain imports, adhering to Singapore’s labelling standards, and ensuring goods meet safety regulations.

Essential Documentation for Import Permit Applications

Grasping the import essentials is key to assembling the required paperwork for submitting an import permit request via TradeNet. This includes supplementary documents like lab reports or health certificates, which might be mandatory for certain food items. The necessary documents for an import permit can differ based on the merchandise being imported.

Commonly required documents typically encompass:

  • Commercial Invoice: This document offers a comprehensive breakdown of the imported merchandise, detailing the quantity, value, and country of production.
  • Packing List: This lists the various packages included in the cargo.
  • Certificate of Origin: This verifies the merchandise’s country of production.
  • Bill of Lading or Air Waybill: This serves as the agreement between the shipper and the carrier.

Further Considerations

Beyond securing an import permit, importers must also adhere to additional stipulations, such as:

  • Duty and GST Payments: Duty refers to the tax levied on imported goods, while GST is the goods and services tax applicable to most transactions in Singapore.
  • Short-Payment Permit: If an importer is unable to pay the full duty and GST during import, they may require a short-payment permit.
  • Storage in Free Trade Zones or Licensed Warehouses: To defer duty and GST payments, goods can be stored in free trade zones or licensed warehouses until they are needed for consumption.

Determining the Need for an Import Permit in Singapore

The necessity of an import permit in Singapore hinges on the type of goods being imported. All goods entering Singapore must be reported to Singapore Customs, but not all necessitate an import permit.

Goods Exempt from Import Permits

The following categories of goods are exempt from import permits in Singapore:

  • Non-controlled or unprohibited goods
  • Non-controlled goods with a value under S$400
  • Goods imported for personal use, not intended for trade
  • Goods brought into a free trade zone (FTZ)

Goods Requiring an Import Permit

Goods falling into the following categories must have an import permit in Singapore:

  • Controlled goods, including alcoholic drinks, tobacco, and vehicles
  • Prohibited items like firearms, narcotics, and explosives
  • Goods valued at S$400 or above
  • Goods imported for trade purposes

Verifying the Need for Import Permits

Like earlier stated, to determine whether your imports necessitate an import permit, utilise the TariffSearch tool provided by Singapore Customs online. For additional guidance, reaching out to Singapore Customs directly is recommended.

Key Points to Remember

  • Engaging a Declaring Agent: You have the option to designate a declaring agent who will be responsible for securing customs permits on your behalf. These agents are certified professionals or businesses with the authority to manage customs paperwork and requests.
  • Importer’s Guarantee: For imports that are dutiable or subject to GST, you might be obliged to furnish an importer’s guarantee. This serves as a financial assurance for the payment of all relevant duties and GST.

Adhering to the import regulations of Singapore is vital, regardless of whether an import permit is necessary, to sidestep possible fines or the revocation of import and export privileges.

For detailed information regarding import permits in Singapore, consider visiting the Singapore Customs official website or consulting with a customs broker.


Cost of Import Permits in Singapore

In Singapore, the cost of an import permit is denominated in Singapore dollars and varies based on the category and value of the imported items.

TradeNet Permit Application

  • Processing and messaging fee: S$2.18
  • Statutory fee: S$2.18

Certificate of Origin application together with a Customs export permit application

  • Statutory fee (export permit application): S$0.90  
  • Statutory fee (certificate of origin): S$4
  • Processing charges: S$1.98 for each application

Understanding Singapore’s IG Permit

An IG Permit, formally known as an Inward Goods and Services Tax (GST) permit, is a regulatory document necessary for importing goods into Singapore. It enables businesses to declare their imports and manage the GST obligations associated with these goods. As a value-added tax, GST is levied on most goods and services within Singapore, including imports.

The IG Permit plays a pivotal role in the importation process, and here’s how:

  1. Goods Declaration: The IG Permit is a formal declaration for imported goods, specifying essential details such as type, quantity, and value. It is noteworthy that trade samples valued under S$400 are not subject to GST or permit requirements, which marks an exception to the standard protocol.
  2. GST Computation: The permit aids in determining the GST due on imports. Currently, the GST rate stands at 8% in Singapore.
  3. Payment of GST: Through the IG Permit, importers are prompted to pay the calculated GST to Singapore Customs, which is a prerequisite for the release of goods into the market.
  4. Digital Application Process: Applications for IG permits can be made through TradeNet, the electronic service of Singapore Customs, streamlining the process for businesses.
  5. Permit Validity: IG permits come with a specific validity period, during which the goods should be imported and GST settled.
  6. Regulatory Compliance: Obtaining an IG permit is fundamental for adhering to the GST regulations set by Singapore for imported goods.

In essence, the IG Permit is a critical element in the importation framework of Singapore, facilitating the lawful declaration and taxation of goods subject to GST. It is instrumental for importers to meet their tax responsibilities and contribute to the nation’s fiscal health.


Obtaining an Import Goods Permit in Singapore

For anyone engaged in importing taxable goods into Singapore, acquiring an Import Goods (IG) permit is a mandatory step. This requirement spans across various entities including businesses, individuals, and any other organisations involved in the importation process.

Here’s a rundown of the categories of goods that necessitate an IG permit:

  • Spirits and alcoholic products
  • Tobacco-related items
  • Automobiles and other vehicles
  • Edible items and drinks, encompassing fresh produce
  • Garments and fashion accessories
  • Consumer electronics
  • Home furnishings and domestic devices
  • Beauty products and personal care items
  • Kitchen and culinary equipment

If there’s any doubt about the need for an IG permit for your goods, it’s advisable to consult with the Singapore Customs or engage the services of a customs brokerage expert.

For the application of an IG permit, it’s essential to prepare and submit the following details:

  • Personal and contact information of the importer
  • A detailed description of the imported merchandise
  • The quantity and declared value of these items
  • The origin country of the merchandise
  • The Goods and Services Tax (GST) registration number, if registered

The IG permit application can be conveniently processed online through TradeNet, the electronic service platform of Singapore Customs. New users will need to register an account and input their details to start the application process.

Upon application submission, you will receive an email notification regarding the approval status of your permit. If granted, the permit can be printed and must be presented to the customs authorities upon the importation of your goods.

The fee for obtaining an IG permit is a nominal S$0.90. Additionally, the GST for the imported goods is payable.


Overview of Cargo Clearance Permit in Singapore

In Singapore, a Cargo Clearance Permit (CCP) serves as an essential document authorised by Singapore Customs to regulate the import and export of goods. It is a compulsory document for all goods, with certain exemptions. The CCP must be acquired before the goods’ arrival in Singapore and must be shown to the customs officials upon entry.

Objective of a CCP

The CCP is designed to ensure that all goods entering or leaving Singapore adhere to the nation’s laws and regulations. This includes confirming that the goods are not prohibited or under restriction, meeting all safety and quality standards, and that all relevant duties and taxes are accounted for.

Types of CCP

There are several CCP variants in Singapore, tailored to the nature of the goods being imported or exported. The most common CCPs include:

  • General Cargo Clearance Permit (GCCP): This permit is widely used for goods that are not under specific control or restriction.
  • Restricted Goods Cargo Clearance Permit (RGCCP): This is necessary for goods that face certain restrictions, such as alcohol, tobacco products, and vehicles.
  • Prohibited Goods Cargo Clearance Permit (PGCCP): This permit is required for goods that are completely banned from import or export in Singapore, like firearms, narcotics, and explosives.

Securing a CCP

The CCP can be applied for and obtained through Singapore Customs’ TradeNet system, electronically. The application process is streamlined and usually takes a few days to be completed.

Documentation for CCP Application

The documents needed for a CCP application can vary with the type of goods. Commonly required documents include:

  • Commercial Invoice: This document offers a comprehensive breakdown of the imported or exported merchandise, detailing the quantity, value, and country of production.
  • Packing List: This document itemises each package included in the cargo.
  • Origin Certificate: This document verifies the production country of the goods.
  • Lading Bill or Air Waybill: This document serves as an agreement between the shipper and the carrier.

Further Considerations

Beyond securing a CCP, importers and exporters might be subject to additional obligations, such as:

  • Duty and GST Payments: Import duties are taxes levied on goods brought into the country, while GST is a tax on most goods and services within Singapore.
  • Short-Payment Permit Acquisition: Should an importer or exporter be unable to pay the full duty and GST at the time of import or export, they may require a short-payment permit.
  • Goods Storage in Free Trade Zones or Licensed Warehouses: To defer duty and GST payments, goods can be stored in designated zones or warehouses until they are ready for market release.
  • Non-compliant goods identified during inspections may necessitate a re-export in accordance with specific CCP stipulations to comply with Singapore’s import and export regulations.

FAQs About Importation in Singapore

    • Chewing Gums
    • Electronic Smoking Devices
    • Obscene materials, literature, movies, digital discs, and computer programs
    • Unauthorised copies of copyrighted materials like movies, digital discs, laser discs, records, and tapes
    • Materials that incite sedition or treason.
    • Machinery and Transport Equipment
    • Miscellaneous Manufactured Articles
    • Chemicals and Chemical Products
    • Manufactured Goods
    • China with a share of 13.2% (62 billion US$)
    • Malaysia with a share of 12.4% (59 billion US$)
    • USA with a share of 10.8% (51 billion US$)
    • Korea with a share of 6.44% (30 billion US$)
    • Japan with a share of 5.61% (26 billion US$)

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InCorp Content Team

InCorp's content team includes talented copywriters from our regional group and globally. We contribute informative, thought leadership, and market-trending articles to guide aspiring business entrepreneurs to a higher level across the Asia-Pacific region.

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