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A Quick Guide to Getting Import License in China

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A Quick Guide to Getting an Import License in China

If you’re exporting to China, chances are you’ll need an import license.

Applying for this license is pretty easy. But without it, you’ll find it impossible to get customs clearance. It makes sense to know beforehand if this is something you’ll need.

This post explains all of the essential things every exporter should know about Chinese import licenses. Here we go!

What exactly is an import license?

Import licenses are mainly designed to control the inflow of imported products.

They are non-tariff barriers which in most cases, are put in place to ensure that import quotas are adhered to. Import quotas, on the other hand, are government-imposed trade restrictions that limit the amount or monetary value of goods that may be imported within a specified period.

This is meant to ensure that imports do not become a threat to local production and the economy. Your Chinese importer must have an import license in the first place.

The Ministry of Commerce, MOFCOM, is tasked with handling applications and issuing import licenses.


Automatic License: What is it?

An automatic license is needed for ‘permitted goods.’

This type of license is mainly used for statistical reference. Non-automatic licenses on the hand are used to monitor and control import quotas. However, there are still a few automatically ‘permitted goods, ’ which, although only require an automatic license, still need further licensing since they are being monitored.


If you’re able to get an automatic import license, there will be no limitation to the amount of import licenses you can get. You’ll only need to apply for the licenses continuously

An automatic license is valid for six months and, most often, for a single batch of imports. There are exceptions, however, where you can get to use the license for several batches, and get several import licenses when you apply for an automatic import license.


Products that need an import license in Chinese

Goods imported to Chinese are generally classified into four classes;

  • Restricted goods;
  • Prohibited goods;
  • Permitted goods (no monitoring); and
  • Permitted goods that are monitored


Restricted goods

Restricted goods are under import limitations, and so you’ll need a non-automatic license to import these into China. Products in this class include;

  • Food and feed products that carry certain health risks
  • Used electronics or mechanical products; and
  • Products that may


Prohibited goods

Import license or not, products in the ‘prohibited goods’ cannot in any way be imported into the country. Common examples include;

  • Lethal poisons;
  • Counterfeit currencies;
  • Arms, weapons, and explosives’
  • Food or feed products imported from disease-infected areas, etc.


Permitted goods

Permitted goods can be easily imported into China once you have an automatic license. Products like these include;

  • Clothing and textile products; and
  • Meat products like beef and pork, etc.

But then, while most permitted products can be imported with just an automatic license, some permitted products under monitoring require additional licenses to pass through.

Examples here include;

  • Wines;
  • Poultry products;
  • Vegetable oils; and
  • Electrical and mechanical goods


To avoid unpleasant surprises, you should endeavor to speak with your importer to be sure of what type of license may be applicable to your imports.


How to apply for an automatic import license

Application, processing, and approval will take about two weeks on average, but this should be done before customs clearance. If you want your imports to be cleared on time, you’ll have to consider doing this earlier as well.

You’ll have to visit the official website of MOFCOM to download the form.

However, your Chinese importer will be the one to send the application to MOFCOM. All things being equal, the review and approval should be concluded within two weeks.


How much does this cost?

Well, applying for an automatic import license is practically free in China.


What info will the import license contain?

The license will contain several details that include;

  • Name/company number of importer
  • Import license number/expiry date
  • Importer’s consignee in China
  • Country or region of exportation
  • Country or region of the product’s origin
  • Terms of trade and foreign exchange
  • Place of clearances
  • Uses, description, and product code of the goods
  • Product’s specification, unit, quantity, and price
  • Other supplementary details, and
  • Issuing authority stamp carrying the text ‘automatic import license’ in Chinese along with the city of issuance.



Importing goods to China will most likely require an automatic import license.

Most products for import will only need an automatic license if they are under the ‘permitted goods’ category. The non-automatic import license, on the other hand, is required for products under import quota restrictions, but more often are merely used for statistical references.

Applying for an automatic license is free and should be done by your Chinese importer. Within two weeks, the Ministry of Commerce would help review, process, and approve your application.

If you need assistance with reducing logistics costs, you can reach out to our specialists – hello(a) or submit an enquiry here.


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