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Importing Controlled Goods Into Singapore

The import of certain “sensitive” goods into Singapore are subject to the control of Controlling Agencies and are known as controlled goods. This article provides an overview of the licensing requirements for importing controlled goods into Singapore.

Goods subject to import control in Singapore

The following goods are subject to control by relevant authorities in Singapore and require an import permit or authorization from the relevant government agencies. According to the Singapore Customs Department, a broad list of controlled goods includes the following:

  • Animals, birds and their by-products.
  • Endangered species of wildlife and their by-products.
  • Meat and meat products.
  • Fish and seafood products.
  • Fruits and vegetables.
  • Arms and explosives.
  • Bullet-proof clothing.
  • Toy guns, pistols and revolvers.
  • Weapons, spears and swords.
  • Films, video and video games.
  • Publications and audio records.
  • Pharmaceuticals.
  • Medicines.
  • Poisons.
  • Telecommunication and Radio Communication Equipment.

For a comprehensive list of controlled items, please click here.

Import permit

In order to import controlled goods into Singapore you must obtain an IN Permit through TradeNet® (Singapore’s electronic trading platform) prior to importing the goods into Singapore. However, since controlled goods are subject to control by ‘Controlling Agencies’, they must be authorized by the respective controlling authority.

Import of animals

Import of animals, birds, small mammals as personal pets

  • The import of animals into Singapore is regulated under the Animals and Birds Act.
  • In order to import pets such as dogs, cats, ornamental birds, rabbits, guinea pigs etc., an import license from the Agri-Food & Veterinary Authority of Singapore (AVA) must be obtained 30 days prior to the consignment’s date of arrival.
  • The import licence is valid for 30 days from the date of issue and the fee is S$50 per licence.
  • The import of dogs, cats, small mammals, birds and other pets are subject to the AVA’s veterinary conditions which includes requirements such as health certification, quarantine and inspection by AVA.
  • The import of reptiles, spiders and insects as pets into Singapore are not allowed.
  • Import of animals, birds, small mammals as commercial pets
  • Only AVA (Agri-Food & Veterinary Authority of Singapore) licensed traders can import animals for commercial purposes.
  • A company that wishes to import livestock i.e. poultry, sheep and goats must obtain a ‘License to Import Domestic Birds, Table Eggs, Sheep and Goats’ from the AVA. The license is a one time registration with AVA and no fee is required.
  • An importer of pet animals for commercial purposes must have AVA licensed premises to keep the animals.
    In order to import animals (except for domestic birds, day-old-chicks and day-old-ducklings  or goslings) for commercial purposes, an AVA import license and Customs Clearance Permit (CCP) must be obtained prior to importation.
  • The AVA import licence is valid for 30 days from the date of issue and the fee is S$87 per consignment.
  • The import of dogs, cats, small mammals, birds and other pets are subject to the AVA’s veterinary conditions which includes requirements such as health certification, quarantine and inspection by AVA.

Import of lab animals

  • Only AVA (Agri-Food & Veterinary Authority of Singapore) licensed institutions that use animals for scientific purposes are allowed to import laboratory animals.
    Lab animals must be imported only from AVA accredited exporters.
  • An AVA import license and Customs Clearance Permit (CCP) must be obtained prior to importation of lab animals via the LicenceOne (AVA e-Licensing) website.
  • The AVA import licence is valid for 30 days from the date of issue and the fee is S$87 per consignment.
  • The import of lab animals are subject to the AVA’s veterinary conditions which includes requirements such as health certification, quarantine and inspection by AVA.

Import of ornamental fish

  • Ornamental fish refers to the ornamental varieties of marine, brackish water or fresh water fishes, crustacea, aquatic mollusca, turtles, marine sponges, trepang and any other form of aquatic life and the young and eggs thereof. It excludes fish and fish products intended for human consumption.
  • Importers who satisfy certain criteria must obtain an import license from the AVA (Agri-Food & Veterinary Authority of Singapore) prior to importation of ornamental fish. The licence fee is S$350, and is renewable on an annual basis.

Import of animal feed

  • Every consignment of animal feed must be accompanied by an import permit from the AVA (Agri-Food & Veterinary Authority of Singapore). The permit fee is S$22 for every consignment.
  • For Animal Feed/Feed Supplement/Feed Premixes, the importer should provide technical information on the ingredients used in the feed for AVA’s evaluation prior to importation.
  • Pet food containing meat or meat products from Australia, New Zealand, United Kingdom, Canada & United States of America may be imported into Singapore, provided the consignment is accompanied by a certificate from the veterinary authority of the exporting country.
  • The pet food consignment must also comply with AVA’s labeling requirements.

Import of plants and plant products

  • The import of plants, plant products (seeds, endangered timber such as Aquilaria (agarwood) spp, Gonystylus (Ramin) spp, and American ginseng), foliages, potting medium (soil, potting mix, peat moss, sphagnum moss, etc.), fertilisers of plant origin, insects and microorganisms of agricultural importance and cut flowers from the American Tropics are subject to the AVA’s (Agri-Food & Veterinary Authority of Singapore) regulatory requirements.
  • A phytosanitary certificate from the country of origin and a Cargo Clearance Permit (CCP) from the AVA are required for the import of plant and plant products into Singapore. The Permit valid for 2 weeks and costs S$11.
  • Note that the consignment must comply with the AVA plant health import requirements.
  • Imports may be inspected by the AVA.
  • Import of agricultural pests such as crickets, grasshoppers and silkworms; organic fertilisers of plant origin; and microorganisms of agricultural importance require prior approval of the AVA.

Import of endangered species of plants or animals

  • All import of CITES-listed animal and plant species for commercial and personal purposes require CITES permits.
  • A Singapore CITES import permit must be obtained from the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) one week prior to the import.
  • Import applications must be accompanied by the CITES export/re-export permit from the exporting country.
  • The CITES import permit is S$12 per species.

Import of food products

For details on the import of meat and meat products; fish and seafood products; fruits and vegetables, please refer to our Guide on Importing Food Products into Singapore.

Import of arms and explosives, weapons, toy guns

  • An ‘Arms and Explosives License’ must be obtained from the Singapore Police Force in order to import any gun, arms, explosives, poisonous or noxious gas or noxious substance into Singapore.
  • All goods will be inspected by the Police Licensing Division immediately upon Customs clearance.
  • Armed escorts are required for the conveyance of arms or explosives within Singapore.
  • The licensing fee varies depending upon the type of arms and explosives that are being imported.
  • Imported toy guns must be approved by a Licensing officer from the Arms and Explosives Division (A&E) of the Singapore Police Force. Any toy gun that resembles a real gun will not be approved. No licence is issued for toy guns. For unapproved toy guns, the A&E unit will either advise the owner to surrender those toy guns for disposal, or to re-export them out of Singapore.
  • A samurai sword can be imported through a forwarding agent. It will be inspected at the point of entry.
  • Importation of hunting knives or survival knives must be approved by the A&E unit.

Import of films, video games, audio/video records, publications

  • An import permit endorsed by the Media Development Authority (MDA) of Singapore is required in order to import publications. There is no requirement to pay a fee or obtain any other license for importing publications into Singapore. If required, the MDA may request a sample of the publication or list of all the titles being imported into Singapore.
  • Audio CDs that are imported for commercial purposes must be declared through the TradeNet® system. Furthermore, the audio CDs must not contain undesirable content which is prohibited, obscene or objectionable under the ‘Undesirable Publications Act’.
  • Films may be imported into Singapore, provided an import permit approved by the Media Development Authority is obtained for facilitating customs clearance.
  • In order to import videos into Singapore for commercial purposes, a valid import permit must be obtained through the TradeNet® system. Permit declarations will be routed to the Board of Film Censors (BFC) for endorsement. Importers may be required to provide information on the type of consignment that is being imported.
  • Approval from the Media Development Authority and an import permit are required for the importation of video games into Singapore.
  • A dealer’s license issued by the Media Development Authority is required for importing broadcasting apparatus into Singapore. The license is valid for one year and is renewable thereafter. The license fee is S$330.

Import of pharmaceuticals, medicines and poisons

Import Licence (for Authorized Agent) for Medicinal Products

  • Under the Medicines Act, importers of medicinal products who do not hold the relevant product licences may apply for an ‘Import Licence (for Authorized Agent) for Medicinal Products’ issued by the Health Sciences Authority of Singapore (HSA), to import registered medicinal products into Singapore.
  • Note that the ‘Import Licence (for Authorized Agent) for Medicinal Products’ will only be issued to local importers who have been authorized by the product licence holders to import licensed products on their behalf.
  • Only authorized medicinal products can be imported into Singapore.
  • The importer must comply with the HSA’s Good Distribution Practice standard in order to be issued with the import license.
  • If the importer intends to sell registered medicinal products to others for purpose of resale (s)he will have to apply for a ‘Wholesale Dealer’s Licence for Medicinal Products’.

Import Licence for Chinese Proprietary Medicines

  • An importer must obtain an ‘Import Licence for Chinese Proprietary Medicines’ from the HSA (Health Sciences Authority of Singapore) in order to import Chinese Proprietary Medicines (CPM) into Singapore.
  • The importer must ensure that the CPM is registered and approved for sale in Singapore prior to importation.
  • The importer must comply with the HSA’s Good Distribution Practice standard in order to be issued with the import license.
  • If the importer intends to sell registered CPM to others for purpose of resale (s)he will have to apply for a ‘Wholesale Dealer’s Licence for Chinese Proprietary Medicines’.

Form A Poisons License

  • A ‘Form A Poisons License’ is required for the import of poisons into Singapore.
  • The Form A Poisons License holder must be a registered pharmacist if the company that is importing the poisons deals with active pharmaceutical ingredients that are intended for local sales, medicinal products, or controlled drugs.
  • The licensee will be accountable for all transactions related to the poisons.
  • The importer must comply with the HSA’s (Health Sciences Authority of Singapore) Good Distribution Practice standard in order to be issued with the license.

Import License for Medicinal Products on Consignment Basis

If the importer is neither a licensed product holder nor an authorized agent for medicinal products, an ‘Import License on Consignment Basis’ must be obtained from the HSA (Health Sciences Authority of Singapore). As the name suggests, the importer can import a registered medicinal product on a per consignment basis.

Approval to import Unregistered Medicinal Products On Named-Patient Basis

Medicinal products that are not registered in Singapore can be imported on a named-patient basis by obtaining approval from the HSA (Health Sciences Authority of Singapore). The importer must disclose product details, patient and physician details as well as importer details. There is no approval fee chargeable. The importer must maintain records on the supply and use of the medicinal product.

Approval To Import Medicinal Products For Re-Export

Prior approval from the HSA (Health Sciences Authority of Singapore) is required for the import of medicinal products that are meant to be re-exported to other countries. The consignment must be exported from Singapore within 2 years from the date of import.

Import authorization for Restricted/Psychotropic Substances and Controlled Drugs

A dealer must obtain import authorization for the import of restricted/psychotropic or controlled drugs into Singapore. Only a registered pharmacist can apply for the import authorization. Additionally, the applicant must hold a valid poisons license. The consignment must be imported with 6 months from the date of authorization.

Import of telecommunication equipment

  • If telecommunication equipment is imported for the purpose of sale or lease in Singapore, the importer must first obtain a dealer’s license from the Infocomm Development Authority (IDA) of Singapore.
  • The imported telecommunication equipment must comply the IDA’s technical specifications i.e. Line Terminal Equipment Standards or Radio-communication Equipment Standards.
  • The importer must ensure that the telecommunication equipment that is being imported is not prohibited under Third Schedule of the Telecommunications (Dealers) Regulations.
  • Approval from IDA for importing telecommunication equipment is only required for certain telecommunication equipment or devices that are prohibited from entry into Singapore. Some examples include: voice scramblers, military equipment, and scanning receivers/transmitters.

On a final note

In order to import goods into Singapore or conduct trading activity you must incorporate a trading company, register with the Singapore Customs Department, register for GST, etc. The steps involved include the following:

Once the company has been incorporated, most trading companies prefer to engage the services of freight forwarders or cargo agents to help them import consignments, as the service providers are well versed with the import licensing requirements, customs clearance procedures, etc.

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