An import licence is required to be produced when you are importing ‘controlled goods’. What we mean when we talk about controlled goods or controlled items, are products over which a government department or agency exercises governance, over and above the national customs authority.
Items such as weapons, or other military hardware would obviously fall under this category and require you to have an import licence in place in advance of import. Less obvious to many, the import of items such as some foodstuffs, tableware, toy guns, chocolate coins, and plants are also very often restricted.
The implications of failing to produce an import license for your goods at the time of import could lead to significant custom penalties, delays or confiscation of your goods or, in very serious cases, imprisonment.
Difference Between Import Licence and Import Permit
Unlike an approved cargo clearance permit which is issued by customs at the time an individual import shipment is declared, the import licence might cover a period of time, usually between a month and a year, during which a certain number of the controlled goods may be imported.
In most cases both are required. You need to apply for the import licence in advance as the importer, and then once it’s granted you can go ahead and arrange the inbound transport of the goods. When the goods arrive in your country of destination your customs broker will make a customs declaration, referencing the import licence obtained, and the cargo clearance permit for the import is approved.
Sample List of Controlled Goods
The below list is an example of goods that may be controlled in your country for import:
- Animals, birds and their by-products.
- Endangered species of wildlife and their by-products.
- Meat and meat products.
- Fish and seafood products.
- Fruits and vegetables.
- Arms and explosives.
- Bullet-proof clothing.
- Toy guns, pistols and revolvers.
- Weapons, spears and swords.
- Films, video and video games.
- Publications and audio records.
- Telecommunication and Radio Communication Equipment.
Each of these will be governed by a particular government department or agency. Many countries have a food standards board and that organisation will issue import licences for the various kinds of food and food products you may wish to import.
In some countries import of arms and explosives may be regulated by a division of the national police force, for example, while in others it may be the national ministry of defence.