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Import and export is a quite broad field, so it’s difficult to summarize it in the content of one article. To simplify, I will only give a summary of the procedures for importing a shipment, under the condition of import for business.

For other types such as processing import, export production, investment, temporary import for re-export, etc., the import procedures will be more complicated and will be presented separately in other articles.

What types of businesses require import procedures?

First of all, let’s understand what import by business type means. Simply put, import by business type refers to importing goods to Vietnam under a purchase and sale contract for domestic sale or for use as raw materials for production (to produce goods for domestic consumption).

Here are some examples of import by business type for your reference:

  • Importing sports equipment, kitchen appliances, electrical wires from China to Vietnam for sale at stores
  • Importing plastic beads from Thailand to produce plastic products for domestic consumption in Vietnam
  • Importing wood from Laos to produce wooden furniture for domestic use
  • Importing beef from Japan to sell at supermarkets
  • And so on…

Assuming that you want to import goods under the business type, for example, NKD01 (new code in VNACCS is A11), you should check whether your goods belong to the category…

Thủ tục nhập khẩu hàng hóa - nhập khẩu ô tô tại việt nam

Image: Import procedures for automobile goods

Prohibited goods, need permission?

Clearly, when preparing to import goods, you need to answer the following questions:

Is the goods prohibited from being imported? Is there a need for an import permit? If so, from which agency? Is there a need for quality inspection? If so, from which agency?

This research is important to avoid importing prohibited items or not having enough time to obtain a permit.

To specifically understand which items are prohibited or require permits, you can read Decree 187/2013/ND-CP (note the appendices) and Circular 04/2014/TT-BTC.

After checking the above steps, if the desired item is not prohibited, does not require a permit, or arrangements can be made to obtain a permit, you can confidently move on to the next steps of the import procedure.

Below, I summarize the sequence (approximately) for easy tracking. This is also how I usually advise clients who are not familiar and want to learn more in detail.

Sign an international trade contract

The first step is to negotiate and sign a purchase contract with a foreign partner. Accordingly, the two parties will agree on related conditions, including some main terms as follows:

Name of goods Specifications of goods Quantity/weight of goods Price Packaging method

And some other important terms:

Delivery terms (CIF, FOB, EXW, etc.), Delivery time Payment: deadline, payment method (by telegraphic transfer or letter of credit)… Documents that the seller must send to the buyer Transportation of goods

At this stage, the two parties will arrange for the transportation of goods according to the agreed conditions. The responsibilities of each party will be determined according to the provisions in the contract.

You can rely on the delivery terms mentioned above (FOB, CIF, etc.) and refer to the International Commercial Terms (Incoterms) (2000 or 2010 version) to know when the goods are transferred to you and what your responsibilities are.

A brief summary of four common delivery terms is as follows:


Buyer’s responsibility


  • Inland trucking from export country
  • Custom at export country
  • Oceản freight
  • Insurance
  • Custom clearance in VN
  • Delivery in VN
Buyer’s responsibility is the most.
  • Ocean freight
  • Insurance
  • Custom clearance at VN
  • Delivery in VN
  • Custom clearance at VN
  • Delivery in VN
DDU Providing documents for buyers to do import clearance

Specifically, under CIF terms, the seller hires a shipping company (e.g. a shipping line) and purchases insurance for the goods, delivers the goods to the port of discharge (e.g. Hai Phong). You, as the buyer, will handle customs clearance in Hai Phong and arrange your own land transportation to your warehouse.

Under FOB terms, you will arrange the ocean transportation and purchase insurance for the goods yourself. It is also important to note that under both conditions, the seller’s responsibility ends when the goods pass the ship’s rail at the port of loading.

Under other conditions, such as ExWorks, DDU, etc., the responsibilities of both parties will change. By consulting Incoterms, you will know what you need to do.

Customs clearance

For imported goods under FOB and CIF terms, you are required to go through customs clearance in Vietnam by yourself or through a customs clearance service provider.

For other terms such as DDU, DDP (or DAP), the seller will handle the customs clearance process for you and deliver the goods to your warehouse. However, as an importer, you must provide the necessary documents for customs declaration.

To complete the customs clearance process, you need to have a set of documents for customs clearance. Usually, after the goods are loaded onto the ship at the foreign port, the seller will send you a set of original documents.

The number and type of documents required will be clearly stipulated in the purchase contract, and typically include the following:

  • Bill of Lading: 3 original copies
  • Commercial Invoice: 3 original copies
  • Packing List: 3 original copies
  • Certificate of Origin (CO): may follow the D, E, AK templates to enjoy import tax preferences. In addition, there may be other documents such as Certificate of Quality (CQ), Certificate of Analysis (CA), Insurance certificate, Fumigation certificate, Inspection certificate, etc. if applicable.

Based on the information on the commercial documents above, you will declare customs for importation in accordance with current regulations. This declaration is currently carried out through electronic customs software, which means that data is entered and transmitted via the internet.

Starting from the beginning of 2014, alongside with the online customs declaration, you still need to prepare the original customs declaration along with the paper documents to go to the customs office (port management office or CFS warehouse). Of course, depending on the result of the customs clearance process (Green Lane, Yellow Lane, or Red Lane), the number of paper documents required may vary. If you are inexperienced, you should prepare all the necessary documents as in the case of a Yellow Lane declaration.

At that time, the customs dossier includes:

Customs declaration & appendices (if there are multiple items): 02 original copies

Declaration of taxable value: 02 original copies

Sales contract: 01 certified copy

Commercial invoice: 01 original copy (replaced by a certified copy according to new regulations in circular 128)

Bill of lading & delivery order: 01 certified copy

Tax payment documents: 01 certified copy & 01 original copy (for comparison purposes)

Other documents: CO, quality inspection certificate, etc.

You bring the dossier to the correct customs office for customs clearance. The next step is to go to the port to change the order and submit the customs clearance at the gate or warehouse. That completes the import procedures related to the customs authority.

Transporting goods to the warehouse

After completing the import customs procedures, you just need to arrange for land transportation to take the goods to your warehouse.

Usually, the shipper can hire a container truck or a small truck (for less than container load – LCL), and give them the delivery order issued by the ocean freight transport unit (shipping line or forwarding company). The carrier will go to the port or CFS warehouse to pick up the goods and transport them to the destination for you.

Many shippers are concerned about the various handling steps and want to find a comprehensive freight forwarding company to handle all the service procedures: ocean freight transport, customs procedures, and land transportation.