Requirements for import

  • Generally, no special permit is required
  • Register your trade with the local regulatory authority (make sure to comply with any company naming requirements)
  • Trade register entry required from specific size categories and always for corporations (AG, GmbH) or partnerships (OHG).
  • Apply for an EORI number. This must be provided when registering the import from the first import process.
  • Citizens of countries outside the EU require a residence permit that also allows them to perform independent business activities.

Delivery terms

Costs and risks are incurred when trading with third countries (transport, insurance, customs duties), and the exporter and importer must agree in advance how to split these costs. These delivery terms are often standardised internationally using INCOTERMS® 2020

Payment terms

Payment terms can range from payment in advance to invoices with a long payment term. Longer payment terms are in the interest of the German importer. Bank credits or payments in return for documents are also possible.
You should discuss any other options with your bank in advance.


UNCISG was created specifically for the international transfer of goods. It often applies without requiring a special agreement and can form a joint basis for contract partners. Individual provisions can be amended. UNCISG is available in all important trading languages. The trading partners should be familiar with its contents and consequences.

Goods declaration

A customs tariff number/ goods number is required for customs registration. To allow goods to be allocated, they must be declared precisely to the Customs Office in accordance with the Goods Register For Export Trade Statistics. The customs tariff number also determines any further customs formalities that may need to be observed. In addition, importers must apply for an EORI Number which must be provided during customs registration.

Import duties

Customs duties: Standard customs duties are frequently discounted if the imports can be shown to have been manufactured in countries with which a preferential customs treaty has been concluded, or which grant unilateral preferential treatment (e.g. developing countries).
In exceptional cases, punitive tariffs or anti-dumping duties may be charged for goods from specific countries.
Import turnover tax: This is a special type of turnover tax/VAT charged at the same rates (currently 19 percent standard rate). Companies can normally deduct import turnover tax as input tax.
Consumer taxes (on coffee, alcohol, tobacco, mineral oil)
Agricultural products are subject to special customs duty in the agricultural industry.
These duties are charged by customs during import processing.
Note: You can find out more about import duties from the customs databases (electronic customs duties or Taric).

Requirements/provisions in the EU – do I need any special permits?

Normally you will not need special permits. But you may be hampered by import restrictions and may need permits in relation to volume, particularly in the agricultural and textile industries. Customs tariffs also state which individual goods are affected. The Federal Office for Agriculture and Food (BLE) in Bonn is the approval authority for agriculture, Tel. 0228 6845-0 Website:, and the Federal Office of Economics and Export (BAFA) in Eschborn that for commercial goods, Tel. 06196 908-0, Website:
In individual cases, food products may be subject to sampling obligations during customs processing.
Special prohibitions and restrictions e.g. apply to protected animals, plants and products. Some restrictions are also aimed at protecting the environment, public health and public safety.

TIP: Trade Helpdesk, a free database made available by the EU, can help you to research the requirements/provisions for the relevant EU member state.

Documents required for customs processing

Generally speaking, you will need:
  • Commercial invoice of the foreign supplier (excluding foreign VAT)
  • Import registration: You must submit a formal customs registration for import and subsequent processing for free trade (or a different customs process) from a goods value of EUR 22 or a weight of 1,000 kg. You can submit this electronically using the ATLAS system or online customs registration. Alternatively, you can also submit the import on paper (form: Single Administrative Document). However, you are not normally permitted to complete this by hand.
  • Customs value registration: required for goods to third countries subject to customs duties from a goods value of EUR 20,000.
  • EORI number: required from the first import transaction. You can apply for the customs number/EORI number from customs administration.
In individual cases:
  • Certificates of origin (only in prescribed exceptional cases).
  • Import permits, surveillance documents, import control declarations.
  • International receipt for goods/end-use certificates: These are required for munitions, goods used for nuclear purposes and goods which are of strategic significance (e.g. especially high-performing computers or precision machine tools). In such cases, the supplier will ask the importer to issue such documents.
Saving on customs duties:
  • Certificate of origin as per form A / Declaration of origin from Registered Exporter (REX) (to claim preferential customs duties when importing from preferential developing countries)
  • Movement certificates (EUR.1 / EUR-MED / Declaration of origin, A.TR) for discounted customs duties for countries where a corresponding treaty has been agreed (Overview under "Additional information”).
The export trade forms are available from our Service Center.
Alternatively, a service provider can be used for import processing, particularly hauliers. A non-binding database of service providers is available here.
It is easy to simplify the import of samples, these must not exceed the value of EUR 50.
Imported goods must meet the German and EU standards. The importer is responsible for ensuring compliance. Unless specifically agreed otherwise, the exporter has completed its service if the goods meet the standards applicable in the seller’s country.
This compliance with EU standards is e.g. demonstrated by the CE Declaration of Conformity (toys, electrical products, machinery). In any case, you should verify in advance that the goods are appropriate for sales and discuss this with the supplier, e.g. for food products. Labelling requirements apply alongside the requirement to provide clear operating instructions in German.
Stand: 19.04.2024