A Guide To Import And Export Procedures In Vietnam

Posted: 10th September 2021 09:04

Importing and exporting products can be a challenge for businesses in Vietnam. Vietnam Briefing outlines a general step-by-step guide for import and export procedures in Vietnam. We also look at registration, license permit requirements, customs procedures, and duties applied.

Once among the smallest economies in Southeast Asia, Vietnam has now emerged as one of the world’s fastest-growing markets. Currently, the country is the EU’s 16th largest trade partner and the second-largest trade partner within ASEAN. Vietnam is also China’s sixth-largest trading partner and in the first half of 2020, was the second-largest exporter to the US.

With foreign investors showing significant interest in Vietnam, it is important for them to clearly understand the country’s import and export procedures.      

Registration, Legal Entity, And License Permit Requirements

Vietnam does not require a company to have a separate import or export license to engage in import and export activities in the country.

The most common entity for investors looking to engage in import and export activities, as well as engage in domestic distribution of goods, is to establish a trading company. This is an inexpensive establishment option with no minimum capital contribution required.

However, in case an importer would like to sell imported products to Vietnamese consumers, they must obtain an additional trading license must be obtained to legalize the process. Establishing a trading company takes approximately three months while acquiring a trading license can take one to three months.

In practice, companies that want to import to Vietnam without setting up a local legal entity can utilize an importer of record to facilitate the process. This strategy allows foreign businesses that have time constraints, wish to test the market, or only import a few times to cope with logistical, regulatory, and language barriers.

Certain goods do require companies to obtain permits from the government. In addition, petroleum oil is banned from exports while goods banned from imports include cigars, tobacco, petroleum oils, newspapers and journals, and aircraft.

Customs Procedures 

All goods imported or exported in Vietnam are subject to the Vietnam customs clearance standards, which effectively check the quality, specifications, quantity, and volume of the goods. Among these, certain imported goods are subject to inspection.

For example, imported pharmaceuticals must undergo testing and include documents detailing product use, dosage, and expiration dates (written in Vietnamese), which must also be included in or on the product packaging.

Currently, the Vietnam custom standards are set out under Law No. 54/2014/QH13.

Customs Documents Required In Vietnam 

Companies that import or export goods must submit a dossier of documents, which includes at least the company’s business registration certificate and import/export business code registration certificate to the customs authorities. Depending on the imports or exports in question, authorities may request the following additional documents:

Documents required for importing goods include:

The documents required for exporting goods include:

Export shipments can be completed on the same day while import shipments typically take around one to three days to complete for full container loads (FCL) and less than container loads (LCL), respectively.

According to Vietnamese Customs, companies that regularly export and import the same exact goods within a given period may use a single customs declaration form for carrying out the relevant customs procedures if the goods are listed under the same purchase and sales contract and are delivered within the delivery time listed on the purchase contract.

Priority Customs Treatment

For those seeking to reduce customs compliance costs in Vietnam, it is possible to apply for priority treatment. Under this scheme, qualifying companies will become eligible for a range of benefits including:

There are several conditions companies must adhere to for preferential customs treatment. These are outlined under Decree No. 08/2015/ND-CP:

Duties Applied To Import And Exports

Tax Applicable On Imports

Vietnam imposes a tax on almost every type of product that is imported into the country, including import tax, value-added tax (VAT), and, for certain goods, special consumption tax (SCT). The import tax rates range depending on the type and origin of the goods. For example, consumer products and luxury goods are highly taxed while machinery, equipment, and raw materials tend to be subject to lower taxes and even tax exemptions.

In terms of the origin of the products, the duty rate for imported products can be divided into three types, namely preferential rates, special preferential rates, and standard rates:

Import tariffs can be found on the official portal of Vietnam Customs. Import duties declarations are required upon registration of customs declarations with the customs offices and must be paid before receipt of consumer goods.

Tax Applicable On Exports

In contrast to imported goods to Vietnam, most goods and services being exported from Vietnam are exempt from tax. Export duties (ranging from zero percent to 45 percent and computed on free-on-board (FOB) price) are only charged on a few items, mainly natural resources, such as minerals, forest products, and scrap metal.

Many goods are subject to VAT. In addition, the Law on Special Consumption Tax (SCT) stipulates that those exporters who purchase SCT tax-liable goods for export but instead sell the products domestically are liable for SCT. Export duties declarations are also required upon registration of customs declarations with the customs offices but can be paid within 30 days of registration of customs declarations.

Tax-exempt Goods 

In certain situations, imported and exported goods are exempt from tax. These include the following:

Optimizing Your Customs Experience

Vietnam’s customs procedures are complex and subject to change with little to no warning. For up-to-date information on clearance regulations, processing times, or applying for the priority program, it is advised to consult with government officials or a professional service firm that can guide the business with any cumbersome procedures and legalities.

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