Import licenses, procedures- All you need to know about imports in the European Union

You will be considered an importer in the EU only if you import goods from a non-European Union country, like Vietnam, India or China, to an EU Member State. You are not an importer if you move goods from one EU country to another.

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July 5, 2022

All members of the European Union (EU) have adopted a common trade policy towards imports from third countries. Just like the United States, the EU has a relatively liberal import regime and only certain products require import licensing.

Import licenses are issued immediately by the competent authorities in all the member states of the EU. However, you will be considered an importer in the EU only if you import goods from a non-European Union country, like Vietnam, India or China, to an EU Member State. You are not an importer if you move goods from one EU country to another.

What is an import license?

An import license is a permit that allows you to import a certain kind of product into the country’s borders. In the EU, applications for import licences are submitted to the relevant department of the member states, on a prescribed application form. The application should be accompanied by an original export document provided by the supplier and a copy of an invoice.

To import goods in the EU from other than member countries, the company or the importers needs to make an import declaration to customs and pay import duty and import VAT (plus VAT on the import duty).

What permits are required in the EU?

The EU has a common import declaration form for all the member countries, which is called the Single Administrative Document (SAD). It is in accordance with Regulation (EU) No 952/2013 and Commission Delegated Regulation (EU) 2016/341.

The SAD contains, the data of the parties involved in the operation (importer, exporter, representative), custom-approved treatment (release for free circulation, release for consumption, transit, temporary importation), data of the goods (TARIC code, units, weight), location and packaging, means of transport, data about the country of origin, country of export and destination, list of documents associated to the SAD (import licenses, document of origin, inspection certificates, transport document, commercial invoice), commercial and financial information (Incoterms, exchange rate, invoice value and currency, insurance) and the declaration and method of payment of import taxes (tariff duties, excises, VAT).

What are the import restrictions in the EU?

The EU has quantitative restrictions in place with respect to certain products coming from various countries. In particular, Hong Kong traders should be aware of the quotas established on certain categories of textiles from the Chinese mainland. In addition, the importation of other products (e.g., many agricultural products) may also be subject to tariff quotas.

What products require additional documents in the EU?

1. Several products require CE ‘certificate’, test reports, and a declaration of conformity for some imported goods. These documents mean that the product complies with the New Approach Directives. Here’s a list of these products:

- Toys for children under 14 years of age

- Appliances burning gaseous fuels

- Explosives for civil uses

- Devices and protective systems intended for use in potentially explosive atmospheres

- Household refrigerators and freezers

- Hot-water boilers

- Low voltage devices/electrical appliances

- Machinery

- Medical devices

- Measuring instruments

- Noise emission in the environment

- Personal protective equipment

- Pressure equipment

- Radio equipment

2. For the import of flora and fauna specimens, the EU demands CITES certificate. It applies to other goods containing products derived from plants or animals.

3. In terms of movements of excise goods, document Administrative Accompanying Document (AAD) is required.

4. While importing wooden pallets or wooden items, a certificate of fumigation issued by the customs or phytosanitary authorities is mandatory.

5. Declaration of the customs value, especially when the customs value of goods exceeds 20 thousand EUR per consignment.

6. Other certificates, licenses, and documents. For example, dangerous goods require appropriate import licenses.

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