Singapore is located very strategically in Southeast Asia. Recognizing the geographical advantage it has, the government has worked hard to capitalize on it. Over the years, an elaborate transportation network has grown around the island, connecting it to the rest of the world. Within Singapore, abundant facilities exist that encourage traders to look no further than Singapore when looking for a good transit hub in the region.

How to get an import license in Singapore?

Import licenses can refer to many things.

  1. License for the entity to do import/export activities
  2. License from Customs to import cargo
  3. License from other governmental agencies to import cargo

Getting a license to do business in Singapore

Companies need to first apply for a Unique Entity Number or UEN. This number is assigned to companies that register themselves with ACRA. ACRA is short for Accounting & Corporate Regulatory Authority. Depending on the type of company being registered, several requirements must first be met.

For example, if the trader is registering a private limited company:

  1. Anywhere between 1 to 50 shareholders must be identified
  2. There must be a minimum of 1 director with Singapore residency status
  3. A Singapore resident secretary
  4. The registered address used must be in Singapore
  5. The paid0up capital must be more than 1 Singapore dollar

Getting a license from Singapore Customs for cargo

The Customs license is referred to as a cargo clearance permit or CCP. In reality, very few people refer to the permit as such and instead refer to it simply as an “import permit”. In fact, this term is so rarely used that even long time traders might not know what you are talking about if you mention “CCP”.

  1. Traders must activate their Customs account.
  2. Set-up Inter-Bank Giro. You may not need to do this step in some cases, but in most cases you will.
  3. Appoint a nominated Customs broker authorized to make import declarations on your behalf.
  4. Provide your broker with shipping documents such as invoices, Bills of Lading, packing list and MSDS. Your broker will be able to make a Customs declaration with this information.
  5. After the declaration is approved the CCP will be available and the goods can be imported into Singapore.

The type of CCP to be declared may vary depending on several factors. A competent declarant will be able to identify the correct type of permit to declare to Customs.

Do not declare the wrong permit type, as it may result in unnecessary costs and inefficiencies.

Competent Authority (CA) import licenses

Some cargo is controlled for import by other agencies such as Singapore Police Force, Singapore Civil Defense Force, Infocomm Media Development Authority or the Ministry of Health. A single cargo can be controlled by several agencies. Depending on the HS code of the product, your declarant should be able to advise you on any other possible licenses you may need. If the information found online is unclear, traders can reach out to directly to the CA to check on licensing requirements for their cargo. If the cargo requires the approval of a CA prior to import, the CCP will not be approved until the CA approves the import license.

A final note

Procedures and processes related to import and export activity in Singapore are straight forward. The Singapore Customs website provides abundant information for traders to refer to. There are also many avenues available for traders to clear any doubts they may have. When appointing a Customs declarant, it is important to hire a declarant who is registered with Customs . This means it is important to check that the person doing the declaration is qualified and not an untrained employee of the firm using a common log in to process permits. Although Singapore ranks highly on the ease of doing business, failing to adhere to regulations can still result in penalties and fines. In extreme cases of non compliance, the entity may find itself facing close scrutiny on all imports and exports processed, which may in turn add several days to the clearance lead time of shipments.

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