|The Vietnamese economy is seeing strong growth on multiple fronts. The country’s domestic consumer market is developing by leaps and bounds, and it is predicted to increase at a rate of 20 percent per year. With a population of over 90 million and South East Asia’s fastest growing middle income earning population, Vietnam clearly represents an important market for foreign goods.
So how can you get in on this trade?
The new Vietnam Trade Information Portal—which will be fully launched later in 2017—will be able to help you.
Let’s assume you’ve been on international buying trips and collected unique items that you want to sell in Vietnam. Or, without even leaving your desk, you’ve discovered an inexpensive source of supplies for your business out of the country. All you need now is to know how to import in to Vietnam.
Here is our ‘mini-guide’ for you.
1. Register your business
If you don’t already have one, you will need to register a business before you can start importing into Vietnam. Thanks to the National Business Registration Portal, you can now register your business online from the comfort of your home or office.
2. Ensure you are NOT importing prohibited goods
Before importing goods ensure that they do not fall into the category of ‘prohibited’ goods, which cannot be imported, transited, sold or circulated in Vietnam. Examples include weapons, narcotics, psychotropic substances and hazardous chemical substances. The upcoming Vietnam Trade Information Portal features a full list of goods prohibited for importing.
3. Do you meet product licensing requirements?
Before importing goods into Vietnam ensure that these goods do not require any licensing. In case they do, you have to submit documents for licensing or certification, after which you can submit an electronic Customs Declaration. The upcoming Vietnam Trade Information Portal lists goods that are subject to specialized inspection prior to import or export.
4. Do you meet import licensing requirements?
Importing certain products requires a license from one or more ministries in Vietnam. Some licenses are generated automatically via the National Single Window, while others require a manual procedure. Check back to Vietnam Trade Information Portal to find a list of ministries where you would need to submit required documents to get an import license.
5. Do you meet sanitary or phyto-sanitary requirements?
Some imported goods are subject to special regulations such as sanitary or phyto-sanitary compliance. The upcoming Vietnam Trade Information Portal has a full list of goods under these specialized inspections. The portal also features search options on ‘measures and standards’ for commodities.
To comply with these regulations, submit an import declaration to the General Department of Vietnam Customs. The department, at a later stage, will also ask for an import certificate of goods under sanitary/phyto-sanitary or technical measures before providing you with a clearance.
Relevant procedures, process maps, forms and required documents for an import permit or certificate can be found on the upcoming Vietnam Trade Information Portal’s ‘procedures’ pages. You will also be able to contact the SPS/TBT inquiry points through the portal, if you have questions regarding sanitary and phyto-sanitary requirements.
6. Do you meet other technical requirements?
Importing certain types of products requires obtaining a permit certifying that the product conforms to certain Vietnamese technical standards administered by the Directorate of Measures, Metrology and Quality under the Ministry of Science and Technology and other related Ministries.
Vietnam Trade Information Portal will feature a list of commodities that are subject to these special technical requirements. Once the Portal goes live, you will be able to search on dedicated ‘measures and standards’ pages, and find more procedural details on the ‘procedure’ pages.
7. Declare your imported goods
You must declare all goods that you import into Vietnam and pay duties unless they are covered by an exemption or a suspension. You can declare electronically on the National Single Window or the Vietnam Automated Cargo and Port Consolidated System within 30 days of the cargo’s arrival date together with transport documents such as the Bill of Lading.
Alternatively you also can submit a completed and signed customs declaration paper form—together with a commercial invoice, a Bill of Lading or Air Way Bill, a packing list (if available), Certificate of Origin from the exporter, and any relevant import licenses or permits—to declare your goods at your nearest Customs branch or check-point offices. Check back on Vietnam Trade Information Portal for a full list of all customs offices.
8. Declare imported goods in advance
For faster clearance you can submit a pre-arrival customs declaration 15 working days prior to the date of arrival of your imported goods. For an advance declaration, in addition to following the regular declaration procedures, you should submit the ‘Bill of Lading’, which notifies the customs department of the loaded cargo. You have to pay the duties at the time of arrival of the goods.
9. Ensure proper classification and valuation of your goods
It is an importer’s responsibility to declare goods with the correct classification, origin, value, quality and quantity. If in doubt, you can seek advice from customs branch offices or the General Department of Vietnam Customs.
Customs Duty on imported goods is calculated based on a percentage of their declared value, which varies according to the commodity classification and the country of origin. Commodities are classified using an eight-digit ‘harmonized system (HS) code’—which is maintained and, from time to time, amended by the World Customs Organization.
Since calculation of duties takes into account the actual transaction value of the goods (as indicated by commercial invoices or other contract of sale documents), goods of undetermined value are assigned a value by customs department using methods in line with Article 7 of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT 1947).
You will be able to avoid causing confusion or paying penalties, and take care in providing the right information with the help of Vietnam Trade Information Portal—check back regularly for tariff classifications and rates.
10. Pay the duties
Payment of duties is expected after the General Department of Vietnam Customs accepts your declaration. You can make the payment at a State Treasury or at a specified bank. If you are at a major border post, you can pay duties at a bank nearby. At other border posts, the customs checkpoint cashier accepts cash only. Show the receipt to the customs in order to receive your clearance.
11. Take advantage of importing goods under the ‘bonded warehouse’ scheme
If you do not intend to release your goods for immediate circulation in Vietnam, then you can import them under the customs warehouse regime. That way you are not expected to pay duties for as long as the goods are in the warehouse. To do this, submit an import declaration when you bring the goods into the warehouse.
There are two types of warehouse in Vietnam: Bonded Warehouse and Suspension Warehouses, which are approved by the General Department of Vietnam Customs or Ministry of Finance. For more information visit the upcoming Vietnam Trade Information Portal for relevant articles on the Vietnam Customs Laws.
12. Import ‘temporarily’ for goods meant for re-exporting
Some goods can be imported under the ‘temporary import’ regime given that they are necessary for manufacturing, processing, assembling, transforming or repairing items which will subsequently be re-exported; vehicles and materials that are necessary for supervising projects, tourism or business visit purposes but will be re-exported within an allotted time; and materials for exhibitions, educational or scientific purposes.
For this type of imports submit a declaration under temporary imports together with any required documents or permits. Contact the General Department of Vietnam Customs to find out what documents you need to submit.
To temporarily import a vehicle, in addition to declaring it under the temporary imports regime at the border crossing, you have to provide a valid registration certificate for that vehicle. Ensure that the vehicle is re-exported within the allotted timeframe to avoid penalties. Although you don’t have to pay any duties on these temporary imports, a bond is payable to the customs department which is refunded when the goods are re-exported.
13. Take advantage of any duty exemptions
Exemption from customs duties and other obligations are available for goods imported under special circumstances, such as, government investment promotion schemes, economic zones and diplomatic missions. Contact General Department of Vietnam Customs to find out how you can take advantage of these exemptions.
Personal belongings of passengers arriving in Vietnam are also exempted from customs duties. The upcoming Vietnam Trade Information Portal lists rules and regulations about what passengers can bring in.
14. Hire a customs broker
If you are finding this list of things-to-do slightly overwhelming, why not hire a customs broker to carry out the import formalities on your behalf? The upcoming Vietnam Trade Information Portal features a guide to finding the right customs brokers for your import business—so look out for a launch alert in our upcoming newsletters or visit the pre-launch page for more information.