Importing & Exporting in Singapore

Importing & Exporting in Singapore

Importing & Exporting in Singapore

In accordance with Singapore’s reputation for its business-friendly and clear regulatory environment, import and export procedures are relatively simple and efficient, and acquiring the requisite permits and licenses can be done quickly.

Find out what you can do to acquire the necessary documentation and government protocols, to engage in importing and exporting in Singapore.


All goods imported into Singapore are regulated under the Customs Act, the Goods and Services Tax (GST) Act and the Regulation of Imports and Exports Act.

Imported goods are subject to GST and/or duty payment. A customs permit is required to account for the import and tax payment of the goods.

Dutiable goods, which incur both GST and duty, are:

  • Intoxicating liquors
  • Tobacco products
  • Motor vehicles
  • Petroleum products

Ad valorem or specific duty rates may be applied for dutiable goods.

All other goods are non-dutiable and incur GST only. GST is levied at 7% of the CIF (cost, insurance and freight) value, which includes duties (if it is a dutiable good) and other charges, costs and expenses incidental to the sale and delivery of the goods into Singapore, whether or not shown on the invoice.

In order to participate in import activities within Singapore, including applying for import permits or certificates, importers are advised to adhere to the following steps:

Step 1. Register for UEN and Activate Customs Account

If you intend to engage in import activities in Singapore, you will need to need to register with the Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority (ACRA) or the relevant Unique Entity Number (UEN) issuance agency to obtain a UEN and activate its Customs Account.

Step 2: Check if Your Goods are Controlled

Next, it is recommended for you to check if the goods you intend to import are controlled goods or goods subject to restrictions.

You can check by searching the goods’ Harmonized System (HS) code or CA product code in the Singapore Customs’ database. If the item is subject to control, the name of the CA will be indicated next to its HS code. You may check directly with the respective CAs on their licensing requirements.

Step 3: Apply for Inter-Bank GIRO Account

In order to make payment for duties, taxes, and other fees and charges, you must maintain an Inter-Bank GIRO (IBG) account with Singapore Customs.

To create an account, you will need to mail the completed Application for Inter-Bank GIRO form to Singapore Customs’ address as indicated in the form. Relevant GST and/or duty payments are made through the IBG once the customs import permit is approved.

Step 4: Furnish Security

Security is required to be furnished for undertakings involving dutiable goods, temporary import of goods for approved purposes, and for the operation of licensed premises (including warehouses and excise factories). Bank or finance company guarantees and insurance bonds are acceptable forms of security.

Step 5: Apply for Customs Import Permit

As an importer, you are required to apply for a Customs import permit prior to the importation of the cargo to account for the import and tax payable.

If your company is registered in Singapore, you can choose to submit permit application on your own or outsource. In order to apply permit on your own, your company needs to activate a declarant agent account (Customs Account Activation ( The authorised person in your company must enrol for and pass the Customs competency test for declarants.

All permit applications must be submitted via a TradeNet® Front-End software by an approved software vendor or the Singapore Customs TradeNet® Front-End Application. TradeWeb, operated by GeTS, has been offering this service and other value-added services to traders since 2006. GeTS’ services process 24 million transactions annually.

You can also outsource your trade declarations. It is often referred to as Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) service. This frees up your time to focus on your core activities while leaving regulatory compliance documentation to professionals. You can enjoy a reduction in running costs, receive your approved permits at a faster turnaround time and be assured of complying to Singapore Customs’ rules and regulations.

For overseas sellers venturing into the Singapore market or eCommerce seller on Fulfillment by Amazon in Singapore, appointing an Importer of Record (IOR) is a convenient and cost-effective way to ensure that your goods are properly documented and declared. The IOR acts on your behalf to import the goods, liaise with the authorities and make relevant duties and tax payments.

About GeTS

GeTS (Global eTrade Services), a global leading trade and supply chain orchestration platform company, is shaping the future of trade and supply chain with its innovative use of technology and deep G2B and B2B domain expertise. GeTS enables the orchestration of physical logistics, compliance and financial requirements of trade and supply chain seamlessly, smartly and securely. GeTS has linkages to 60+ Customs nodes, 90+ ocean carriers & NVOCCs, 50+ ports across the world, while providing trade advisory on 180+ countries.

Step 6: Prepare Documents for Cargo Clearance

Various documents must be submitted to checkpoint officers when cargo is being cleared at an entry point.

For both conventional cargo and containerized cargo, a printed copy of the approved Customs permit and supporting documents such as the invoice, the packing list, and the Bill of Lading or Air Waybill are required for submission.

If importing containerized cargo by sea, these documents do not need to be immediately presented to checkpoint officers at the entry point.

For a consignment which requires partial clearance, the same customs permit should be presented each time for endorsement till the whole consignment is completely cleared.

Step 7: Retain your Trade Documents

You are required to retain your Customs permits and relevant supporting documents such as commercial invoice, packing list, house AirWay Bill for a minimum period of 5 years from the permit approval date. These documents can be stored as hard or soft copies as are required to be produced to Singapore Customs for audit purposes upon request.

With regards to the retention of your trade documents, TradeWeb, can assist you with your trade documents records keeping. It has a Trade Document pouch feature that retains the Customs permits and supporting documents such as invoices, packing lists and house airway bills/bill of lading for ease of retrieval. Its case management feature helps keep you on track on what to do. You can also self-configure reminders for tasks such as monitoring of license expiry date and permit conditions, which you will need to adhere to avoid Customs compound.


Exporting goods from Singapore falls principally under the Customs Act, the Regulation of Imports and Exports Act, and the Strategic Goods (Control) Act.

All goods exported from Singapore must be declared, though they are not subject to GST and duty. A certificate of origin can be acquired for any exported good created in Singapore through the online TradeNet® platform.

Step 1. Register for UEN and Activate Customs Account

As with importing, if you intend to engage in export activities in Singapore, you will need to need to register with the Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority (ACRA) or the relevant Unique Entity Number (UEN) issuance agency to obtain a UEN and activate its Customs Account.

Step 2: Check if Your Goods are Controlled

Similarly, exporters should confirm whether the goods in questions are governed by any restrictions, based on the same Singapore Customs classification database.

Step 3: Obtain Customs Export Permit

Procuring a Customs Export Permit follows the same process as obtaining a Customs Import Permit through Singapore Customs’ TradeNet system.

Likewise, you may appoint a declaring agent to apply for Customs export permits on your behalf, or apply on your own.

Permit applications can be submitted electronically via TradeNet®, or via an approved solution provider like TradeWeb, operated by GeTS

Step 4: Prepare Documents for Cargo Clearance

If stated in the permit conditions or if the cargo being exported is a dutiable good, certain documents must be presented to checkpoint officers at the point of cargo lodgement. In such instances, both containerized cargo and conventional cargo require the approved customs export permit and supporting documents including the invoice, packing list, and the Bill of Lading/Air Waybill, in addition to having the permit number at hand.

A customs export permit is required for cargo clearance in the following instances:

  • Export of dutiable goods from licensed warehouses;
  • Export of goods from bonded warehouses;
  • Export of goods under the Temporary Export Scheme; and
  • Re-export of goods previously imported under the Temporary Import Scheme.

Step 5: Retain your Trade Documents

As is the case with import documents, all the relevant supporting documents relating to export of goods generally must be retained physically or digitally for five years from the date of approval of the customs permit.

Similary, TradeWeb, can assist you with records keeping of your trade documents.

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