Brief overview on Imports from non-EU countries

Despite a continuous lowering of customs duties in recent years, trade with non-European Union member countries, still requires special attention. The special points to be observed are, however, only a problem in the event that they are neglected prior to the business transaction. The following notes should help you to avoid any difficulties.

Prerequisites for conducting import business

  • Registration of business at the local public order office
  • Registration in the Commercial Register for companies exceeding a certain size, however always in the case of limited liabilities companies (AG, GmbH), or partnerships (OHG, KG)
  • Citizens from non-EU member countries require a residence permit that also permits such individuals to be self-employed.

What special points have to be observed?

It goes without that on receipt of an order, it has to be verfied wtether those conditions negotiated have been complied with 


Terms of delivery

When trading with non-EU member countries, costs and risks arise (transport, insurance, customs). The sharing of such costs and risks has to be regulated in advance between the exporter and the foreign importer. These delivery terms are often internationally standardized by the application of INCOTERMS 2000.

Terms of payment

The payment terms range from payment in advance to payment subject to a long-term payment target. The German importer is, of course, interested in a long-term payment target. A letter of credit, or payment against documents, is also a possibility. Other possibilities should be discussed in advance with the house bank.

United Nations Convention on Contracts for the International Sale of Goods (CISG)

The CISG was introduced especially for the international movement of goods. It frequently applies even without a specific agreement, and can act as a common basis for the contractual parties. Individual provisions can be amended. The CISG is available in all major trading languages. The trading partners should be aware of the contents and consequences.

goods tariff number

All goods are ”ranked" in the Warenverzeichnis für die Außenhandelsstatistik [Goods directory for Foreign Trade Statistics], a harmonized system for classification purposes. This directory is available in bookshops, and is updated on a yearly basis. If you do not have such a goods directory, then you can refer to it at the Chamber of Commerce. The German customs call centre at:
​​​​​​​Informations- und
Wissensmanagement (IWM) Zoll

Carusufer 3-5
01099 Dresden

Telefon: 0351 44834-530
Telefax: 0351 44834-590
Monday to Friday, 08:00 -17:00 Uhr

is also a source of qualified information, albeit non-binding, where experienced customs officers are available to answer your questions.
If you would like to receive binding details about the goods tariff number (customs tariff number), you can apply for free-of-charge tariff information. The form can be found in the left column. All customs office activities depend on the correct classification of goods in the customs tariff (tariff classification), such as
  • The level of assessment rates (customs duties, agricultural components, excise taxes, import turnover tax)
  • Use of quotas
  • Any possibly required import or export permits, certificates of origin or other documents
  • Applicability of various regulations pertaining to prohibitions and restrictions.

Import duties

  • Duties: Standard customs duties are often reduced, if the imports have been produced in countries with which a preferential tariff agreement has been concluded, or with which unilateral preferential treatment has been granted (for example, developing countries).
  • In exceptional cases, punitive duties or anti-dumping duties may be imposed on products from certain countries.
  • Import turnover tax: This is a special form of sales tax / value-added tax, and has the same rate as the current 19 percent regular VAT. In general, the import turnover tax can be deducted by companies as input VAT.
  • Consumption taxes (for coffee, alcohol, tobacco, mineral oil)
  • In the agricultural sector there are, in addition, special duties for individual agricultural products.
These duties are imposed by the customs when conducting import clearance. Note: Information on the import tariff rates can be obtained from the customs data banks.

When are special permits required?

As a rule, no special permits are required. However some sectors, especially the agriculture and textile sectors are subject to quantitative restrictions and import licensing requirements. The import list or the Deutsche Gebrauchszolltarif [German Working Customs Tariffs] provides details of those products affected. The licensing authority responsible for the agricultural sector is the
Bundesanstalt für Landwirtschaft und Ernährung (BLE)
[Federal Institute for Agriculture and Food],
Tel.: 0228 6845-0
Bundesamt für Wirtschaft und Ausfuhrkontrolle (BAFA)
[Federal Office of Economics and Export Control],
Tel.: 06196 404-0,
whilst the authority for commercial goods is the In individual cases, in the case of food, checks are carried out during import clearance.
For example, there are special prohibitions and restrictions in the case of protected animal and plant species, as well as products thereof. There are also restrictions related to environmental protection, human health and public safety.

Import documents required for customs clearance

In general, the following documents are required:

  • Commercial invoice of the foreign suppliers (without foreign sales tax)
  • Import declaration: A written customs declaration has to be submitted for the import and consequential clearance for free movement (or for any other customs procedures) for an item whose value is 1,000 Euros or more, or the weight is 1,000 kilograms or more. In general, this may not be made in handwriting. Import registration may be made at
  • Customs value declaration: This is necessary for goods from non-EU member countries liable to customs duty if the goods value is10, 000 Euros or more per shipment.
  • In the case of regular import business, individual applications for a customs number are to be made to the Bundeszollverwaltung [Federal Customs Administration]:
  • Certificates of origin (only in stipulated exceptional cases, for example the textile / clothing sectors)
  • Import permits, import monitoring documents, import control declarations.
  • International goods received certificates / end-use declaration: These are required for military goods, goods for nuclear purposes and goods of strategic importance (e.g. particularly powerful computers or precision machine tools). In this case, the importer is required by his supplier to issue this certificate.

Customs savings:

  • Certificate of origin according to Form A (when taking advantage of tariff preferences for imports from preferential developing countries)
  • Movement certificates (EUR. 1 / EUR-MED / declaration of origin, A.TR) for tariff reductions in the case of countries with such agreements.
The standard forms are also on sale at the Bremen Chamber of Commerce. As an alternative it is possible for a service provider, for example a forwarder, to handle the import clearance.
A simple procedure applies when importing commercial samples with a value of up to 50 Euros.
Imported goods have to comply with German and European standards. The importer is responsible for ensuring such compliance. If no special agreements have been made, then it is considered that the exporter has fulfilled his obligations if the product satisfies the standards in the country of the seller. This compliance with EU standards is, for example, certified by the CE mark (toys, electrical products, machinery). The marketability of the goods should in any case be checked out in advance, and cleared with the supplier, as for example, is the case with food. There are regulations governing labelling, as well as the requirement that operating instructions are to be written in German in a clear and understandable manner.