• How to Get an Import License in China: A Complete Guide

    Posted on 10 Comments

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    Before you start exporting to China, it’s important to know whether an import license is required.

    Without an import license, you won’t pass the customs clearance, even if the application can be done fairly quickly, you should know in advance what an import license is and how to get one.

    In this article, I explain the details you need to know about import licenses in China.

    What is an import license?

    Import licenses, also referred to as non-automatic import licenses, are used to keep control of imported products and the import quotas.

    The license is used as a non-tariff barrier and for countries that simply wants to protect the local economy and producers, restricting the amount of products that are imported.

    There’s a limited amount of import licenses and you should make sure that your Chinese importer has one prior to exportation.

    Which authority handles applications for import licenses in China?

    An application should be made to MOFCOM (the Ministry of Commerce).

    What is an automatic import license?

    Most products are treated as ‘permitted goods’ and only need an automatic import license.

    So what’s the difference between a non-automatic import license and an automatic import license?

    While non-automatic import licenses are used to control the import quotas (volumes) of products for example, an automatic import license is rather used as a tool for trade statistics.

    Still, some products that only require an automatic import license are monitored (like poultry) and therefore need additional licensing.

    Once you’ve managed to get an automatic import license, you’ll have no restrictions to the amount of import licenses you can receive, you just need to apply for it continuously.

    Each automatic import license can be used for a time period of 6 months, and normally for imports of one batch.

    However: sometimes one license can be used for imports of several batches, and you’ll also be able to receive several import licenses, each time you apply for an automatic import license.


    What products need an import license?

    Products imported to China are divided into 4 different categories:

    • Permitted goods
    • Permitted goods that need to be monitored
    • Restricted goods
    • Prohibited goods

    Let’s have a look at each category and what license is required for each one of them.

    Permitted goods

    Some products fall under the category permitted goods, and only need an automatic import license.

    Products that fall under this category include, for example:

    However, even if most products only need an automatic import license, some might be subject to monitoring and therefore need additional licensing.

    These can be:

    • Poultry
    • Vegetable oils
    • Wine
    • Electrical and mechanical products

    Contact your importer to confirm what license applies to your specific products.

    Restricted goods

    Products covered under this category has import limitations due to quotas set by the government, hence a non-automatic license is required prior to importation.

    Products that are considered to be restricted include:

    • Electronic or mechanical products that have been used
    • Substances that squander the ozone layer
    • Food, fibre, and animal feed products that have some health risk

    Prohibited goods

    Goods that fall under the category ‘prohibited products’ cannot be imported into China.

    Some products under this category include:

    • Arms, ammunition and explosives
    • Counterfeit currencies
    • Lethal poisons
    • Animals, food or plants coming from disease-stricken areas

    When should I apply for an automatic import license?

    You can apply for the automatic import license before the customs clearance. It normally takes up to 2 weeks before the application is processed and approved.

    Adding some extra time can be a wise choice to make sure that your products can pass the customs clearance timely.

    What information should be included on the automatic import license?

    Normally, the following information is included on the import license:

    • Importer’s company name and company number
    • Consignee in China
    • Automatic import license number
    • Automatic import license expiry date
    • Terms of trade
    • Terms of foreign exchange
    • Place of clearance
    • Country/region of exportation
    • Country/region of origin
    • Use of goods
    • Description of goods and product code of goods
    • Specification, unit, quantity, unit price
    • Supplementary details
    • Issuing authority stamp (the stamp include the text “automatic import license” in Chinese and the city of issuance)

    China import license application

    You can visit MOFCOM’s website and download the automatic import license application form.

    Should I or the Chinese importer apply for an import license?

    Normally, your Chinese importer should send the application to MOFCOM. They will review and approve the application thereafter.

    How much does it cost for an automatic license?

    You can apply for an automatic import license for free.


    If you plan to export products to China, you most often need to apply for an automatic import license.

    Compared to a non-automatic import license, that’s required for a few product categories, most products falls under the category “permitted goods”, and therefore only need an automatic import license.

    Worth mentioning is that non-automatic import licenses are used to restrict import quotas, while automatic import licenses are merely used for trade statistics.

    Your Chinese importer should apply for the automatic import license, this can be done for free and it normally takes up to 2 weeks for MOFCOM (the Ministry of Commerce) to review and approve the application.

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  • 10 Responses to “How to Get an Import License in China: A Complete Guide

    1. Christina Lovejoy at 10:32 pm

      Hello Marcus, Thank you for this very helpful guide to Chinese Import Licenses. I need to import Glass beads from Austria into China to be made into finished product and then shipped from China to the USA for retail. What is the best kind of import license for this type of importing / exporting?

      1. Marcus Sohlberg at 5:45 am

        Hello Christina,

        I can only reply to import licenses used for imports into China (keep in mind that an export license might be needed in Austria, before exporting to China).

        It sounds like your products are covered under permitted goods, hence you should need an automatic import license.

        But it’s important that you consult with your Chinese importer as well. Have you had any contact with them regaring this matter? (they are responsible to apply for the import license).

        Is the glass beads produced in Austria, or imported from somewhere else? Keep in mind that an import license might be required in the US for your specific products.

    2. Tina at 8:09 am

      As the china government institutional reform,the overseas company want export meat to china still need apply the approve by china State administration for market regulation,the overseas approve will be divided into two distinct parts,one is for documents inception, another is go to the overseas factory do the inception, there are much mor detail in http://english.aqsiq.com/list.php?fid=77

    3. Favio at 4:32 pm

      hi All,

      In our case we need to export finished wood fornitures to china, do we need some special license? the importer are seeking more information and this would be needed before any action. I will appreciate if you have more information about this items specifically.

      My best regards,

      1. Marcus Sohlberg at 3:44 am

        Hello Favio,

        Yes, normally you need to seek special permissions when importing wooden products. This is an issue exporters often unexpectedly need to deal with when using wooden crates/packaging for example, even if the product itself is not made of wood.

    4. Kim Ponting at 3:29 pm

      Hi Marcus

      We are an Australian company. We have a glass baby bottle made and manufactured in China. A component of the bottle is the natural rubber teat made in Malaysia. We are wanting to import the teat into China for packaging with glass and distributed to Europe and South Korea. What licence is required and do I need to apply of the Chinease company making the glass component ?

      Thankyou in advance.

    5. Eddie Wearing at 11:43 am

      Hi Marcus

      I am importing personal items that are not for resale.

      Do I still need to get a licence?

      All the best

      Eddie Wearing

      1. Marcus Sohlberg at 1:51 am

        Hi Eddie,

        When you say personal items, do you mean that the clients import via the personal parcel route? If you sell via cross-border e-commerce, which it sounds like you do, import licenses are generally not needed.

    6. Kumar at 6:02 am

      Dear Sir,

      What is full form or meaning of SIF license in export import?

    7. Prity Saraswati at 10:45 pm

      Hi Marcus,

      I am looking into importing sugar to Qingdao. Can we use this automatic import license ?

      And do you facilitate a project with their import needs as well ?

      Looking forward for hearing from you.

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