Import and Export Licensing Procedures in India

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Editor’s Note: The article has been updated as per the latest import, export regulations.

India’s import and export system is governed by the Foreign Trade (Development & Regulation) Act of 1992 and India’s Export Import (EXIM) Policy. Imports and exports of all goods are free, except for the items regulated by the EXIM policy or any other law currently in force. Registration with regional licensing authority is a prerequisite for the import and export of goods. The customs will not allow for clearance of goods unless the importer has obtained an Import Export Code (IEC) from the regional authority.

Import Policy

The Indian Trade Classification (ITC)-Harmonized System (HS) classifies goods into three categories:

  1. Restricted
  2. Canalized
  3. Prohibited

Goods not specified in the above mentioned categories can be freely imported without any restriction, if the importer has obtained a valid IEC. There is no need to obtain any import license or permission to import such goods. Most of the goods can be freely imported in India.

Licensed (Restricted) Items
Restricted items can be imported only after obtaining an import license from the relevant regional licensing authority. The goods covered by the license shall be disposed of in the manner specified by the license authority, which should be clearly indicated in the license itself. The list of restricted goods is provided in ITC (HS). An import license is valid for 24 months for capital goods, and 18 months for all other goods.

Canalized Items
Canalized goods are items which may only be imported using specific procedures or methods of transport. The list of canalized goods can be found in the ITC (HS). Goods in this category can be imported only through canalizing agencies. The main canalized items are currently petroleum products, bulk agricultural products, such as grains and vegetable oils, and some pharmaceutical products.

Prohibited Items
These are the goods listed in ITC (HS) which are strictly prohibited on all import channels in India. These include wild animals, tallow fat and oils of animal origin, animal rennet, and unprocessed ivory.

Export Policy

Just like imports, goods can be exported freely if they are not mentioned in the classification of ITC (HS). Below follows the classification of goods for export:

  • Restricted
  • Prohibited
  • State Trading Enterprise

Restricted Goods
Before exporting any restricted goods, the exporter must first obtain a license explicitly permitting the exporter to do so. The restricted goods must be exported through a set of procedures/conditions, which are detailed in the license.

Prohibited Goods
These are the items which cannot be exported at all. The vast majority of these include wild animals, and animal articles that may carry a risk of infection.

State Trading Enterprise (STE)
Certain items can be exported only through designated STEs. The export of such items is subject to the conditions specified in the EXIM policy.

Types of Duties

There are many types of duties that are levied in India on imports and exports. A list of these duties follows below:

Basic Duty
Basic duty is the typical tax rate that is applied to goods. The rates of custom duties are specified in the First and Second Schedules of the Customs Tariff Act of 1975. The First Schedule contains rates of import duty, and the second schedule contains rates of export duties. Most of the items in India are exempt from custom duty, which is generally levied on imports.

The first schedule contains two rates: Standard rate and preferential rate. The preferential rate is lower than the standard rate. When goods are imported from a place specified by the central government (CG) for lower rates, the preferential rate is applicable. In any other case, the standard rate will be applicable. If the CG has signed a trade agreement with the country of origin, then the CG may opt to charge a lower basic duty than indicated in the first schedule.

Countervailing Duty
In addition to the basic duty on imported goods, a countervailing duty (CVD) is also applicable to imported goods. The rate of duty is equal to the rate of excise applied to goods manufactured in India. If the article is not manufactured in India, then goods of a similar nature are used to determine the correct duty amount. If there are different rates of duty on similar goods, then the highest rates of the known products will be applied to the article in question. All products imported by Special Economic Zones (SEZ) enjoy zero percent CVD.

Special Additional Countervailing Duty (known as Special CVD)
Special CVD tax is application on all items. It is levied at the rate of 4 percent of the basic and the excise duty on all imports in order to countervail the VAT or sales tax on local goods in India. This duty can be refunded to traders who sell imported goods in India after charging VAT/Sales tax.


Anti-Dumping Duty

This is levied on specific goods imported from specified countries – including the US – to protect Indian industries. India can impose duties up to, but not exceeding, the margin of dumping, or the difference between the normal value and the export price.

Safeguard Duty

A safeguard duty is a tariff designed to provide protection to domestic goods, favoring them over imported items. If the government determines that increased imports of certain items are having a significantly detrimental effect on domestic competitors, it may opt to levy this duty on those imports to discourage their proliferation. However, the duty does not apply to articles imported from developing countries. The government may exempt imports of any article from this duty. The notification issued by the government in this regard is valid for four years, subject to further extension. However, the total period cannot exceed 10 years from the date of first imposition.

Education and Higher Education Cess

The education cess, simply put, is a tax designed to fund education and healthcare initiatives. An education cess at the rate of 2 percent and higher education cess of 1 percent are levied on the aggregate of duties of customs. However, the aggregate of customs duties does not include the safeguard duties, countervailing duty on subsidized articles, anti-dumping duty, or countervailing duty equivalent to VAT.


Customs duty is payable as a percentage of ‘Value’ which is known as ‘Assessable Value’ or ‘Customs Value.’ The Value may be either:

  • ‘Value’ as defined in Section 14 (1) of the Customs Act; or
  • ‘Tariff Value’ described under Section 14 (2) of the Customs Act.

Tariff Value – the Tariff Value is fixed by the Central Board of Excise & Customs (CBEC) for any class of imported goods or export goods. Authorities will consider the trend of value of the goods in question while fixing tariff value. Once fixed, the duty is payable as a percentage of this value.

The value of imported goods for the assessment of duty is determined in accordance with the provisions of Section 14 of 1962 and the Customs Valuation (Determination of Value of Imported Goods) Rules, 2007. According to the rules, the assessable value equal the transaction value of goods as adjusted for freight and cost of insurance, loading, unloading and handling charges.

In the assessable value, the following criteria are included:

  • Commission and brokerage;
  • Cost of container, which are treated as being one with the goods for customs purposes;
  • Cost of packing – labour or materials;
  • Materials, components, tools, etc. supplied by buyer;
  • Royalties and license fees;
  • Value of proceeds of subsequent sales;
  • Other payment as condition of sale of goods being valued;
  • Cost of transport up to place of importation;
  • Landing charges; and
  • Cost of insurance

The following costs are excluded from the assessable value:

  • Charges for construction, erection, assembly, maintenance or technical assistance undertaken after importation of plant, machinery or equipment;
  • Cost of transport after importation;
  • Duties and taxes in India; and
  • Types of duties on exports and imports in India are covered in the Customs Tariff Act 1975. The Act provides all the laws and regulations related to customs in India.

Customs Handling Fee

The Indian government assesses a one percent customs handling fee on all imports in addition to the applied customs duty.


This article is an excerpt from the October 2015 issue of India Briefing Magazine, titled “Importing and Exporting in India“. The information has been updated on November 2016. In the magazine, we examine India’s import and export landscape, basic import and export procedures, as well as the customs duties. We note that India’s import-export figures have remained stable despite significant economic changes, summarize the steps that importers and exporters must follow in India, and provide an illustration that financial administration teams may examine to gain a rough estimate of potential duties calculations.

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62 responses to “Import and Export Licensing Procedures in India”

  1. Very good article. Additionally, you may even want to hire service of import export experts such as Global4PL. It helps businesses to apply for necessary import/export licenses or permits.

  2. Wong Hao says:

    I would like to import semi-conductors from China to India. What are the India import duties?

  3. Gunjan says:

    @ Wong Hao, Import Duty for Semi-Conductors is 29.28%.

  4. Tim Burgess says:

    An interesting article, thank you. Is it possible to sell auto components into India exported from China? Does it matter which India Port I send them too? Plus what are the VAT and GST tax rates? Thanks.

  5. Gunjan Sinha says:

    Thanks Tim, I am glad you liked our article. You can sell auto-components imported from China, the port chosen for imports does makes a difference, for facts, the port charges and services provided for clearance of goods, vary. The current duty on import of Auto components is 26.85%.

    Best Regards

  6. Zhang Ying Jia says:

    Please be answering what is the import duty in India for rechargeable batteries and solar powered lights

  7. Gunjan Sinha says:

    Hi Zhang Ying Jia,

    Import duty of 29.28% is levied on rechargeable batteries and solar powered lights.

    Best Regards

  8. Nilesh says:

    pl. let me know what is the pre requisite to import a food processing machinery in India. we don’t have IEC. Is it compulsory to take IEC for this one time capital machinery import ? or we can have other alternate for the same?

    Is food processing machinery import is free in India or some approvals needed for the same?

    pl. also provide how much duty is applicable to such machinery.

    Thanks & Regards,


  9. Gunjan Sinha says:

    Hi Nilesh,

    It is a pre-requisite to avail IEC before executing any transaction of export/ Import in India. The present effective rate of custom duty on food processing machines is 23.26%.


  10. Karthik says:

    Hi Guys,

    I am planning to import cheese from Australia.

    Just wondering if cheese come under restricted,canalized or prohibited items at all ?

    Is there any special document requirements for importing cheese ?

    You advise will be much appreciated.

    Thanks in advance


  11. Nishanth says:

    Hi Gunjan, this is a really informative site, much appreciated. i would like to know the procedure of importing building materials like floor & wall tiles/kitchen accessories and bathroom accessories to to india for personal use and the rates of import duty and various taxes. kindly advise. thanks.

  12. Gunjan Sinha says:

    Hi Nishanth,

    Thanks for your Appreciation!

    To import for personal use, import permission need to be secured from government authorities. The nature of the permission i.e. General or specific imparted by the government in accordance with the need and requirement of the importer. Upon receipt of goods at port the commodities have to be cleared from custom authorities by submission of requisite documents like import permission, receipt of duty paid and likewise.
    The applicable rate of Import duty on ceramic tiles is @ 22.13 % and Sanitary Ware is @ 29.57 %. Post importation, the product is liable for transportation and port charges.

    Best Regards

  13. Gunjan Sinha says:

    Hi Karthik,

    Import of cheese is not subject to prohibited or canalised items, there is no apparent notification/ circular restricting the import of this product. Further, the import of Food items is subject to test check at the time of import, for any adulteration, you need to secure a Food License for trading in food items in India.

    Best Regards

  14. syed says:

    What is the best way to import limited container loads from China into India, especially is we are in a land locked place? What are the applicable duties on hardware items like cutting discs and stereo headphones? What paperwork required to consummate the process with relative ease? We have obtained an IE code.

    Appreciate a quick response.
    BTW, this is a very well written article with amazing clarity. Well done.

    Best regards,

  15. Gunjan Sinha says:

    Hi Syed,

    Thanks for your appreciation, we are glad that you liked our article.

    The goods are advised to transport to nearby sea-port as importing goods by road or airway may prove dearer. The shipping charges and custom clearance costs are based on the size of container and may vary for ports. The customs duty levied on cutting discs and Headphones, shall be 29.59 %.

    Following documents are mandatory:

    1. Bill of Entry;
    2. Commercial invoice;
    3. Bill of Lading;
    4. Certificate of Insurance;
    5. Letter of credit
    6. Importer’s license

    Please also note the document requirement varies for different ports, you are advised to ensure all the necessary checks are conducted in this respect.

    Best Regards

  16. chintan says:

    Hello Gunjan

    This is Chintan from Mumbai.I m planning to import 3d scanner from china. I have IEC code , VAT/TIN, what will be the custom duty for same. is it possible to bring this scanner while returning from china to Mumbai? the total weight is around 15kg.
    Thanking you.


  17. Gunjan Sinha says:

    Hi Chintan,

    The Custom duty applicable on 3D scanner is 18%; For the commodities brought along with are governed by Baggage rules issued by Customs Department, items which have been utilized for personal use can be brought without any payment of Taxes, subject to satisfaction of officials that the product has been used earlier, and need to be satisfied with the customs authorities.
    However, new items cannot be brought without the payment of duty.

    Best Regards,

  18. kaushik says:


    We are in planning of import the over issued the news paper from south africa to india.

    pls. guide us that there is any import duty or only landing charges on it.

    pls. also guide tha HS code for the same.


  19. Gunjan Sinha says:

    Hi Kaushik,

    There is import duty on the import of newsprint print paper import. The present rate of import duty is 10.40%; government is likely to consider changes in this.
    The HS Code is 48010090 for scrap newspapers and for general news papers the HS code is 49021010; there are restrictions implied by Director General of Foreign Trade on the import of news papers for general use.

    Best Regards

  20. Sonal says:

    Hi Gunjan,

    What will be the documents required to import industrial electrical items and iron materials (casting & others) from china. Till now I only hv the Vat & cst no. With me and which all taxes and how much will be the tax % charged???


  21. Abishek says:

    Please let me know if I need an export license for exporting textiles, jewellery and bags from India.
    Also, if my export quantities are very small, example net profit is only Rs 30,000 do I still need an export license?

    Please let me know at the earliest. Great Site.


  22. Gunjan Sinha says:

    Hi Abhishek,

    The import export license is required for all imports or exports out of India.

    Best Regards

  23. Gunjan Sinha says:

    Hi Sonal,

    For importing, you may require an import export license as basic requirement, the taxes will be charged on the basis of the product’s classification as per HS codes, the tax of 24.5 % – 29.114 % may be charged on the goods.


  24. Hi Gunjan

    I went through abv articles & all are really very nice, tips are correct & very informative.
    Good job & really appeciated !

    I just wanted to know some products which are easy to export from india without any more customs interference or intervene, should be free flow export products & also want to know duty on heavy eaerthmoving equipments parts/ like crane parts, hitachi & JCB Spare parts etc

    Also is it necessary to have a plant for import HMS 1 / 2 ? also want to know how LC works under import or export both. Pls advise.

    God bless u, Keep it up ……… Regards … Mukesh

  25. Sanjeev says:

    Hi Gunjan,
    Is 3D printers considered as restricted entity requiring me to have an import license or IEC. I would like to import 3D printers but we are not importers.
    Please advise.

  26. Gunjan Sinha says:

    Hi Sanjeev,

    The 3 D printers require an additional BIS certification to import them, the relevant HS code for 3D printers is 8471 6029.


  27. Gunjan Sinha says:

    Hi Mukesh,

    Most of the products are free to export from India, unless, they are listed on the restricted schedule, which is a ‘negative list’ of exports.

    The following are some of the top export items from India-

    1. Jewellery
    2. Vehicles
    3. Electronic items like TV
    4. Iron & Steel
    5. Organic chemicals/fertilizers.

    Major import of HMS is under the code 7204 4900 (Iron steel – Other). This item is free to import. There are no requirements for a machine or plant.

    For automobiles and earth moving equipments, rate of Duty = 12%

    Letter of credit is issued by the bank of the buyer to the seller, assuring the latter that he will be paid on successful shipment of the goods


  28. Charles says:

    Hi Gunjan
    i have planned to import laptop accessories from china and sell it in india, i am having IEC,please let me know that,
    1. Should i have to get any patent/IPR/details regarding dealership from a chinese manufacturer for selling products in india.
    2. What will be the approx. Cost of custom duty if the gross cost of the materials is Rs. 72000, which includes transport charges.

    Thanks & Regards,

  29. Gunjan Sinha says:

    Hi Charles,

    HS CODE: 84713010
    Portable digital automatic data processing machines, weighing not more than 10 kg. Consisting of at least a central processing unit, a keyboard and a display: Personal computer
    Rate of Duty = 0%.

    Patent details of the product will be helpful in getting the clearance with customs in India, a copy of all relevant documents must be preserved for future use.

    Best Regards

  30. Rama says:

    Hi Gunjan,

    This is a wonderful ,informative article. Great effort. Many many thanks.

    what is the procedure and official requirements to import sun glasses/lenses/eye glasses from London/America/china .
    what is the tax% on these items. Eagerly wait for your reply.

    Your help is much appreciated.


  31. Gunjan Sinha says:

    Hi Rama,

    Thank you, i am glad that you like our articles.

    The import duty on Spectacles, goggles and the like. (HS Code – 9004 1000)
    Rate of import duty = 29%


  32. Eric says:

    Hi Gunjan,
    excellent article and very informative replies! Thanks so much for sharing your expertise with us!

    My question, like Mukesh, is about the import of HMS 1 & 2.
    What would the Effective Duty Rate be for this? The information available via the internet is often outdated and can be confusing. I have seen that in May 2013, the Indian Government raised the rate from 0% to 2.5% on this, but surely this is not the effective rate.
    Your help and expertise are much appreciated!

  33. Andy says:

    Hi Gunjan,

    Very informative articles and a useful website.

    Like most people here I also have some questions to ask. I have a registered business and an IEC code and now I am trying to get into trading/importing Waste Paper and Metal Scrap from US, UK and Dubai.

    I do have a silly questions that I very confused with. I do not understand how this process of supplying this scrap to end clients in India on CIF basis work?

    I buy the material from overseas supplier, and the overseas supplier ships the consignment to my requested port. Then from the destination port how do I supply it to my client on CIF basis? Wouldn’t the shipment be under my or my company name? How could I supply it to my end clients on CIF basis without disclosing my overseas contact or supplier information to them? wouldn’t the end client need that information for custom clearance and tax & duty purposes?

    Thank you in advance for helping me out Gunjan.


  34. Tarun Manik says:

    I can answer your questions as follows:

    (1) Wouldn’t the shipment be under my or my company name? – TM: Yes the shipment will be in your company name.

    (2) How could I supply it to my end clients on CIF basis without disclosing my overseas contact or supplier information to them? – TM: Non-disclosure is not possible in this scenario.

    (3) wouldn’t the end client need that information for custom clearance and tax & duty purposes? – TM: Yes the end client will need this information.

    Best regards;
    Tarun Manik (TM)

  35. Andy says:

    Hi Tarun Malik (TM),

    I appreciate your help.

    Does that mean if I sell my imported consignment on CIF basis at the destination port to my end client… i have to disclose my Base Purchase Price to my end Client? I also have to disclose my source of import to my end client? what if on next transaction my end client decides to bypass me and buy directly from my supplier? how to i keep myself in a safe position without disclosing my supplier and my base price?

    Any suggestions? Any idea how people normally sell their consignment on CIF basis generally for example for scrap import?

    Please help
    Best Regards

  36. Jay says:

    I want to Import branded mobile phones from hong kong -Touch screen. (Samsung, Google nexus, HTC)
    Value of about 1 lakh INR (Shipping included)
    What would the rate at which Duty is calculated?

    Any help will be appreciated.


  37. Tarun Manik says:

    @Jay: Duty will be calculated on cell phones @ 1.04%

  38. Gagan says:

    Hi Gunjan,

    I must apprciate your help provided agaist earlier queries.

    I need your advise since i am planning to get an export license to export automotive spare parts and agriculture spare parts.

    What is the procedure to get export license in Delhi and what are the overhead expenses i have to be aware of while exporting goods.

    Lastly, what kind of documents i need from the buyer.

    Appreciate your help

    Keep on the good work in enlighting fellow collegues

  39. Manohar says:

    I want to export agricultural products from india(Tamil nadu). What is the procedure for getting export licence ie,IEC code. And what are the licence we have to get.
    Thank you

  40. Anirban says:

    Hi Gunjan,
    I want to import ornamental fishes either from singapore or malaysia. Cost of the total shipment including freight charges approx 1,50,000/- What will be the import duty for the shipment. Apart from that I want to know that is there any mandatory rules that i have to import 12 times in a year or any particular amount in Rupees.

  41. Abdul sattar says:

    Hi this is abdul sattar from karnataka
    I need what are the procedure to bring the recycle plastic from sauide Arab and what are the customs rate of recycle material and for scrap import

  42. abhay says:

    hi gunjan,

    i am planning to import pharmaceutical raw material (medicinal drugs) from china, what would be the formalities required for that? and what are the duties applicable on that?

    looking for your reply.. and yes, this is a very well written article.

  43. sheik umarudeen says:

    hi gagan

    we are running a manufacturing industry in tamilnadu and we have customes throught the nation and now a days we are getting enquiries from foreign buyers and we are not aware of the policies , fob , shipping and documents . can u please help me with the details for exporting and the nature of our manaufactuing goods are all kinds of service station equipments i.e. car washers , hydraulic lifts , air compressors etc

  44. kranthi says:

    i need help ? can i send saree(cotton cloth) from india to brazil ? can you reply .

  45. Manirul says:

    I am planning to import ready made garments from Bangladesh, I dont know the process, please help me by stating steps to be taken. What types of documents need to be made from my end.

  46. Priya says:

    Do we require an import license to buy apparel from China? How much would be the tax? Please advise.

  47. Thatikonda Raghavender says:

    Good article sir, well I am planning to the export business of jumbo bags to Australia. Its requires any licence of export buss please tell me the details. Its helpful for me. Thank you sir.

  48. Sridhar says:

    For supply of HMS1&2,should the Seller of this Scrap get registered with DGFT,India?

    Is there any procedures that has to be followed by the Seller or Buyer before commencing the transaction?

    Also please mention whether there is any Base price at which this HMS Scrap should be imported to India.

  49. Rakesh says:

    Hi ,

    I need to start my own business of Ready made garments shops, I am planning to import clothes form Hongkong china and singpaore in India in a small scale business . I need to know will i require a Import license for doing this business in Inda if yes where i need to apply for the same looking forward for your help on this

  50. Rob says:

    We are exporters of gaming meat, grains and pulses (Like Field peas, Chick peas , Lentils .etc.,. ) from Australia.
    Can you please let us know if India allows game meat / Deer meat into India? It is supplied legally with health certificate from relevant Govt depts.
    Your post above says wild animals are Prohibited Goods, does it include meat as well?
    Your response greatly appreciated.
    Mob: +61 438011991

  51. Rob,

    Thank you for your interesting question. We will reach out to you separately now.

    Thanks again,

    Dezan Shira & Associates – India

  52. girish says:

    I would like to know how to apply for an IEC and import expor licence.The standard procedures for applying export licence? Where are the regional offices are located?
    Your valuable advice is expecting.

  53. Bart Huffman says:

    We are planning to ship unglazed porcelain tiles from the U.S. to India for a project there. Are there import restrictions imposed on this? What would we expect for duties/VAT, etc. to clear the shipment? Thank you for a good article and your anticipated assistance.

  54. Mohan says:

    how can i import electronic products/kits from china? what are the applicable duties/taxes? for personal use/ for commercial purpose?

  55. Aliciya Dias says:

    I own a printing factory, i need to know the formalities to be completed to export my products. which licences and duties will i have to acquire to start as early as possible. Thank you in abundance

  56. Shanmuga sundaram says:

    We are planning to export busniess from india to Malaysia,
    Can anyone please explain me how to apply for an IEC and import expor licence.The standard procedures for applying export licence? Where are the regional offices are located?
    Your valuable advice is expecting.

  57. Monika Stoeva says:

    What is the validity of Export license once obtained? For example I would like to export biscuits from India. Once I obtain export license, when I should renew it?

  58. Sajeer. K. A. says:

    Am planning to import size wood and wooden doors, windows from Indonesia, Malaysia .any suggestion or advice from your side

  59. Sachin says:

    Which type of license is required to import pet bottle scrap, where I have to apply for it.
    Thanks for excellent article

  60. Neeraj says:

    I want to import food supplements like protein powder from US and want to know the pre-requisite for the same.
    Like what is import duty
    How to get import license?
    Thank you.

  61. Ashish Gupta says:

    Dear team,
    i had to import one power supply from USA for my equipment in india.power cost me $80.00 and seller is provide the shipping of $ much import or custom duty is liable to pay.and i have IEC certificate.

  62. Bala says:

    Hi, I want to export fruits from India (Bangalore) to Sri lanky like Apple etc., please let me know duties how much need to pay and what are the licences I need to take. Same time what are the documents importer need to have. I got contact. But no idea about it. Please give me Co tact details. So will speak in person. Thanks Bala

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