Thailand, a strategic place for import/export companies

With access to the Pacific Ocean and Indian Ocean, Thailand’s Eastern Seaboard is a thriving hub of international shipping traffic. The countries strategic position is being strengthened by expansion of ports and addition of new deep-sea ports. This US $3 billion project will expand port capacity in the Eastern Seaboard areas and include a cruise ship port in Sattahip, as well as upgrades to major shipping ports in Laem Chabang and Map Ta Phut.

Upon completion in 2023, Laem Chabang port will have an annual capacity of 18 million TEUs, up from 7.7 million annually in 2018. New port facilities will be able to support Super-Post Panamax ships up to a maximum of 100,000 DWT, capable of carrying more than 10,000 TEUs. At present, the port handles 54% of Thailand’s overall import and exports traffic. That figure is expected to increase by 2023, when the port project is completed, as well as the new double track railway and an expansion of the 4-lane thruway connected with the port.

Company registration in Thailand is attracting more and more foreign entrepreneurs and business owners, especially to establish import/export companies. It can be explained by the advantages and requirements of operating an import-export company in Thailand. It is not subject to any restriction under the Foreign Enterprise Act of 1999. It means Thai government allows 100% foreign business ownership of a Thai company. However, in order to carry out your import-export activity, several administrative formalities will be necessary and a registration with the customs authorities under the Custom Act. B.E 2469 remains mandatory.

What is an import/export license?

Import and export licenses are administrative authorizations imposed by Thai laws and regulations to import or export certain products. Thus, when your products require an import or export license, you will be required to present your import or export license at the time of customs clearance, which is usually done at the land or air border crossing. These authorizations can be granted more easily for certain products such as: clothing, silk thread etc., on the other hand for other regulated products see defined as dangerous the procedure of obtaining a license of import-export can be more complex.

Also, some products are not allowed to be imported or exported in Thailand. These prohibitions are clearly stipulated in Articles 27 and 27 bis of the Customs Act B.E 2469 and concern mainly: Drugs, counterfeiting, counterfeit money, pornography, goods with the Thai flag etc.).

Obtaining the required license is one of the 7 steps to register a company in Thailand. The time required to obtain an import-export license may vary depending on the category of product concerned. It may be quick for products that do not require authorizations (immediate), then it may take up to 15 days for regulated products (licenses) and more for products classified as “high risk”.

Above all, it is essential to carry out your activity with a valid and not expired license. Indeed, administrative, financial and penal sanctions can be engaged against all persons not respecting the administrative regulations. Therefore, it is strongly recommended to be accompanied by professionals during the exercise of your activity of import-export in Thailand and to be regularly informed by your Thailand lawyers on the current customs regulations.

thailand import export license

How do I apply for an import/export license?

In order to proceed with your import/export permit application, it is important to follow the following steps:

Step 1: File an import/export declaration

Before filing your license, it is important to identify the products and goods you wish to import or export from or to Thailand. As a reminder, your license application and the documents necessary for its registration are related to the type of product or goods concerned.

In order to know if your product is subject to a specific regulation, you should contact a legal expert or consult the website of the Minister of Commerce. Thus, several additional licenses could be requested such as:

Licenses for the trade called: Food and Drug Administration of Thailand and framing the pharmaceutical, food, cosmetics or other dangerous substances
Licenses by the Department of Fine Arts and concerning registered or unregistered art objects
Licenses by the Ministry of Interior concerning weapons, ammunition, explosives, fireworks
➤ Licenses issued by the National Park Department of Wildlife and Vegetation Conservation, Ministry of Agriculture or Ministry of Fisheries for commercial activities affecting wildlife, flora, fish and others

Following the identification of your products and services concerned, your application for import and export license must be made online on the “e-Customs system” whose only language used is Thai.

Then, the competent authorities will ask you to authenticate your identity and documents by an electronic signature (digital certificate). Therefore, you will have to provide information about your identity either as a natural person (for Thai nationals only) or as a legal entity (company). Once you have received the registration ID, you will be able to file your import or export declaration.

Step 2: Prepare the supporting documents

When you proceed with your application, you must first make sure to transmit all the details of your products and give all useful information for its registration (type of material, quantity, ingredients, formula).

Following the submission of this information, a response will be sent to you on your license request according to the category of the product, red or green category. The products listed in the red category are considered as risky products. On the other hand, for products in the green category, the procedure will be carried out very quickly. Finally, you can also register for the “gold card” program to benefit from preferential treatment during customs clearance (e.g.: speed).

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For the red category, the following documents will be required:

🛬 "Red line goods" import:
➤ Road or air waybill (transport document)
➤ Commercial invoice
➤ Packing list
➤ Letter of credit
➤ Insurance certificate
➤ Import license (if required)
➤ Certificates of origin
➤ Other documents if needed

In this context, a physical inspection of the products will be carried out by the customs.

🛫 "Red line goods" export:
➤ Commercial invoice
➤ Other documents if needed

Step 3: Submit the declaration and supporting documents to Customs

When applying for an import or export permit, you must submit your declaration along with the following documents:

➤ Visa K1 (P1 and P2 application)
➤ Copy of the company affidavit
➤ Two copies of the value added tax certificate (the declaration indicates the product category and allows the calculation of the applicable customs tariff)
➤ Copy of first page of bank account and bank statement
➤ Copy of the official seal registration and signature
➤ Copy of passport
➤ Power of attorney (P3 of the K1 application)

Step 4: Pay the relevant import/export tax duties

The import tax custom duties will need to be paid either by electronic fund transfer with the Bank of Thailand (BAHTNET, KRUNGTHAI BANK and EDI) or directly to the Customs Department (either by cash, check, money order or bank transfer). Generally the customs duties are calculated according to one of these methods:

Classic procedure: Calculated on the value of the products
Specific procedure: By unit, volume or weight of the products
Both techniques: Combination of the classic and specific procedure

Other charges may be added to the customs duties through excise duties (indirect taxes on the sale or use of certain products) concerning certain products such as: gasoline, derivative products, automobiles, electronic devices, beverages, perfumes, cosmetics, carpets, granite, batteries, alcohol, tobacco, card games etc.

The average customs duty rate is about 7.2%. Indeed, one third of Thailand’s MFN tariff regime involves duties below 5% and 30% of tariff lines are MFN duty free. For example some tariffs are higher when it comes to agriculture 39.5% of the value, vehicles 80%, alcohol 54% to 60%.

Therefore, the procedure will be completed after the payment of the customs duties and you will be able to benefit from a license number valid for three years.

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