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Part 2: Importing/Exporting to China – Shipping Requirements

Posted by: Fabia Meinhold
Category: Economy & Trade, Tax and Regulations
Importing-Exporting Shipping Requirements

Importing a product into China or exporting it out of China can cause many problems if the shipping and documentation requirements are not met. That is why thorough preparation is a must for any import/export business dealing with China.

Have you read our previous article? Part 1: Importing/Exporting to China – Taxes & Duties

You certainly don’t want your imported/exported goods to be stuck at the Chinese customs, so keep reading to learn how to prepare adequately.

Import/Export Licenses: What to ship or not to ship

According to Chinese import regulations, a good is either categorized as prohibited, restricted or permitted. Therefore, make sure to take a look at the official list of prohibited and restricted imports/exports in China.

Import Licenses

Permitted goods: Automatic import license

Generally, permitted goods are automatically licensed upon application. Such an automatic license is usually valid for 6 months and for one single batch. However, for some goods, the license can cover up to 6 batches. It is also possible to apply for several licenses at once.

Be aware: Some allowed products are subject to monitoring and may therefore also need a special license in addition to the automatic import license.

It is usually the Chinese importer who has to apply for this license with the Ministry of Commerce (MOFCOM) at least 2 weeks before customs clearance.

Restricted goods: Non-automatic import license

They either require special licenses on an annual basis or are subject to tariff rate quotas. These methods have been implemented to limit the imported quantity of goods that are said to endanger state security or natural resources.

Here again, the Chinese importer is the one in charge of applying for the license which is issued by the MOFCOM. It is usually valid for 6 months after issuance.

Export licenses

These licenses are necessary to any shipment of goods out of China. The Chinese exporter has to apply for it, and the MOFCOM issues it. In order to get an export license, the exporter has to fulfill the following conditions:

  • The MOFCOM recognizes the company as an exporter
  • The company is registered as a Foreign Trade Company (FTC)
  • It has applied for an export license

There are two types of export licenses.

General export license

In this case, the license is valid for 6 months for any transaction within the business scope. Therefore, there is no need for the exporter to apply for a new license each time he exports. However, small manufacturers in China often don’t have general export licenses, in this case they often use license-holding FTCs to export goods on their behalf.

Special export license

It concerns restricted items and has to be applied for every time a new shipment is planned.

Import Certificates and Standards

In China, this matter is managed by the China National Certification and Accreditation Administration (CNCA). The CNCA has established different standards and certificates for some products before they enter the Chinese market.

One of them is the China Compulsory Certificate (CCC, or 3C). An official list determines which goods have to pass the certification before being imported, sold or used in China. The concerned products are mainly technical goods.

You should also be aware that there are other Chinese standards when it comes to food, medicine and cosmetics for example.

Standards and industry-specific labeling requirements often differ from international standards and may change frequently. Therefore, you should have a look at the CNCA website and regularly check for changes.

How to ship: Documents to provide & Shipping Instructions

Import/Export Documentation Requirements

Documentation requirements upon importation/exportation of goods may vary depending on the type of products. Though, generally, the importer has to provide the following standard documents along with the shipped goods in China:

  • Bill of lading
  • Shipping list (the original if possible)
  • Commercial invoice (usually duplicate)
  • Sales contract
  • Customs declaration
  • Insurance policy
  • Where applicable:
    • Certificate of origin
    • Import quota certificate
    • Import license
    • Inspection certificate

However, these requirements may be subject to modifications. Therefore, it is advisable to regularly check this list with the competent authorities in China.

Specificities for International Mail Shipping

Maximum weight: 20 kg. Documents to provide:

  • Customs Declaration
  • Specification of the customs value

Make sure to add the Chinese version of the shipping address to ensure delivery.

Also, the PRC has adopted the “Harmonized Commodity Description and Decoding System”. Therefore, it is also necessary for international courier shipments to specify the HS code of the goods on the shipping documents.

Furthermore, imports and exports to and from China generally require the Customs Registration number (CR number) of the Chinese importer or exporter. This number is issued to every Chinese company that is acquiring an import or export license.

Packaging instructions

If you want to know what provisions on marking and packaging apply in China and what documents are required, you can have a look at the Product Quality Law of the PRC.

You should also be aware that some labeling requirements apply to different categories of goods such as textiles, food, cosmetics and medicine.

Do you need help for you importing/exporting business in China? Get in touch with our team for a consultation and follow us on social media to receive the latest news.

Our experienced team has the necessary expertise and the know-how to support you with your business – have a look at the services we offer.

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Author: Fabia Meinhold

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