Starting an Import / Export Business in Singapore
If you want to imports goods from overseas to retail in Singapore, you are required to apply for both import permits and licenses for ‘controlled goods’.
To begin, you will need to make sure your business is already registered with the Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority of Singapore (ACRA). Your business, may be retail, must register as a sole proprietorship, partnership or a private limited company.
Two more things have to happen before you can start importing goods into Singapore. First, after you have the business registered with ACRA, you will then activate your Custom Accounts using ACRA assigned Unique Entity Number (UEN) and Singpass. Second, you will have to be registered as a trader with Singapore Customs. As a trader you will be able to apply for permits using TradeNet® for each shipment of goods.
Generally most goods are considered ‘non-controlled goods’ such as clothes and shoes. You do not need license to import ‘non-controlled goods’. However, if you are going import “controlled goods” such as food and animal products, drugs or telecommunication items, you will need to apply for appropriate license for each category from the ‘competent authority’. An example would be importing animals and birds products, you have to apply for a license from the Agri-food and Veterinary Authority of Singapore.
Be forewarn that there is a significant amount of paperwork to submit for application of import permit for each shipment with the addition of customs documentation and clearance; insurance papers; and paperwork for ‘controlled goods’. There are also taxes, duties and fees to pay. You can do all the paperwork as you are also a registered trader with access to TradeNet®, however, most businesses choose to relegate the task to freight forwarders and cargo agents since the import procedure is quite complex.
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