• Importing Products to Saudi Arabia: A Complete Guide

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    Importing Products to Saudi Arabia

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    If you are thinking about importing and selling your products to the Saudi market, read this guide to learn more import taxes, product regulations, labeling requirements, licenses and permits, and shipping to Saudi Arabia.

    Import Taxes in Saudi Arabia

    There are only two kinds of tariffs levied on goods imported to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, which will be referred to as the KSA in the following context. These are customs duty and value-added tax, which are charged on every import.

    Please see the chart below for an overview of the tax rate:

    TypeCustoms DutyValue-added Tax
    Tax Rate Range0% to 100%5%
    Customs Value*CIFCIF
    Average Tax Rate 4.85%5%
    Tax PayerImportersEvery member of the supply chain
    Tax CollectorKSA Customs AuthorityKSA Customs Authority
    Customs threshold**NoneNone

    *Learn more about customs value calculations in this article

    **From which tariffs are required

    Customs Duty

    The import duty rates in Saudi Arabia range from 0% to 100% and the average customs duty of products is 4.85%.

    Different duty rates apply based on the product, as you can see in this table:

    ProductTax Rate
    Tobacco products, energy drinks100%
    Steel, furniture, liquid detergents, and some electrical items20%
    Textiles12%
    Sugar, tea, rice, wheat, unroasted coffee, and meat0%
    Books, some electronic products like laptops0%

    Saudi Arabia has signed a number of trade agreements within the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) that gives member countries total exemption from customs duties (e.g. a zero percentage rate is applied). In addition to the member countries of GCC, Saudi Arabia also has a preferential policy that reduces customs duty to 10% on products imported from several Islamic countries, including Morocco, Libya, Kuwait, Jordan, and Tunisia.

    Value-added Tax

    A 5% VAT is chargeable on the import of goods shipped to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Importers will only need to pay VAT once they make formal import clearance to the KSA customs.

    Saudi Arabia Product Regulations

    The Saudi Standards, Metrology and Quality Organization (SASO) is responsible for formulating national standards for all daily necessities and products in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. SASO also regulates measurement systems and labeling of the products.

    The Saudi Arabian Ministry of Industry and Commerce and SASO require that products imported to Saudi Arabia must attain a SASO Certificate of Conformity when entering Saudi Customs.

    Products without a SASO certificate will be refused entry by Saudi Port Customs or sent to the SASO to conduct a compliance test. If the test fails, the products will be refused entry, and all costs will be charged to the importing enterprise.

    Well known third-party lab-testing companies such as Intertek, QIMA, and SGS can help importers and exporters with SASO certification.

    SALEEM Product Safety Standards

    SASO introduced the new Saudi Product Safety Program named “SALEEM”, which started to implement in January 2019. The SALEEM program ensures the safety of products imported to the Saudi market.

    The SALEEM program is implemented via an online system called “SABER”, a platform that enables manufacturers and importers to obtain the required Certificate of Conformity and Certificate of Shipment for consumer goods imported to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, upon registration in the system.

    Currently, a number of technical regulations (TR) are being implemented for many categories of products. Products that are covered by a specific TR, that is products that are are usually considered medium or high risk for consumers’ safety, require specific conformity documents, such as test reports, risk assessment reports, and other documents, in order to obtain the Certificate of Conformity.

    Conversely, for products not regulated by any TR, which are generally considered low risk, a self-declaration that complies with the SASO guidelines is sufficient.

    Once either the Certification of Conformity or the self-declaration is approved by SABER, the importer can obtain the last document, i.e. the Certificate, of Shipment, which allows the goods to enter the country.

    Technical Regulations (TR)

    Here a non-comprehensive list of products for which a TR is required (keep in mind that the system is new and, at the moment, the list of TR is updated often):

    • Children’s Toys
    • Textile Products
    • Jewelry Decorations and Accessories
    • Shoes and Leathers
    • Personal protective equipment and clothing
    • Papers and Related Products
    • Biodegradable Plastic Products
    • Telecommunications Devices
    • Low voltage Electrical Equipment and Appliances
    • Electrical Batteries
    • Building Materials
    • Packaging

    Click here for a list of technical regulations.

    Saudi Arabia Labeling Requirements

    The SASO has established different rules for labeling and markings of imported products. Importers should strictly adhere to the requirements of SASO when importing products to the country to avoid the risk of rejection of products by the customs.

    General Marking Requirements

    Warning labels and safety instructions on the products should be written in Arabic (it also possible to write them in both Arabic and English languages).

    For any other marking or labeling, one of the following methods shall be used:

    1. The product follows under an applicable SASO standard

    In this case, marking requirements shall follow the SASO standards. For Example, SASO ISO 13006/2016 Clause 8.1- Tiles and/or their packaging should bear the marking in Arabic or in both Arabic and English in an unremovable way (for instance carved or printed).

    2. The product doesn’t follow under any applicable SASO standard but follows under an applicable Regional/International Standard

    In this case, the guidelines of the applicable standard, for instance, IEC/ISO/GSO/EN/ASTM standards, shall be followed

    3. The product has no applicable SASO standard

    When the product has no applicable specific standard or no specific language requirements for marking, then the only guideline is that the marking language can be either in Arabic or English.

    Country of Origin Marking

    The Country of origin marking shall be in the format “Made in xxx” or “Manufactured in xxx”, in both Arabic and English languages.

    If the product is too small to contain the Country of origin marking, then the marking shall be included in the packaging.

    Additional Guidelines for Labeling

    The following information should be contained in the product packaging:

    a. Producer’s name and address;

    b. Production and expiration dates in Arabic and English languages (samples imported must be labeled at least in English).

    Also, these are additional matters importers should pay attention to when drafting label contents:

    a. Products should not bear any immodest or nude pictures;

    b. Products should not bear a cross or pictures not consistent with Islamic morals;

    c. The package should not bear Koranic or Islamic sayings;

    d. Products and the packages should not bear photographs or illustrations of pigs;

    e. If human figures are shown on packages, they should be in good taste;

    g. Permission must be obtained for goods to bear the Saudi Arabian emblem, which consists of crossed swords and a palm;

    h. Product information should be written in Arabic, or Arabic and English;

    i. When writing production or expiry date, insert the day of the month first, followed by month and year.

    Instruction Manual

    The instruction manual shall be in Arabic. Instructions in English can also be added, but it’s optional.

    Licenses and Permits

    Here is a list of documents importers ought to prepare for the purpose of customs clearance:

    a. Certificate of origin, which must be authenticated by a local chamber of commerce and translated into the Arabic language;

    b. Customs invoice, required for most imports into Saudi Arabia;

    c. Commercial invoice, indicating the country of origin, name of the carrier, brand, and quantity of goods, and description of the goods including weight and value;

    d. Bill of lading or airway bill;

    e. Insurance documents (if shipments are sent CIF); also, the original documents must be accompanied by a translation in Arabic language;

    f. SASO (Saudi Arabian Standards Organisation) Certificate of Conformity, issued by an authorized certification body in the country of origin;

    g. Food and medical product importers should also attain additional documentation such as ingredients and consumer protection certificates;

    h. Meat products should also specify that slaughtering procedures comply with Saudi regulations.

    Check the official website of the Ministry of Commerce and Investment of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia for the latest information.

    Restricted and prohibited items

    Some items are restricted/prohibited by Saudi Arabia customs, here are some examples:

    • Antiques (breakable and/or fragile)
    • Asbestos
    • Furs
    • Hazardous or combustible materials (as defined in IATA Regulations)
    • Alcoholic beverages
    • Gambling devices
    • Ivory
    • Postal envelopes
    • Soil samples

    Shipping from China to Saudi Arabia

    The Saudi ports network consists of 9 ports; 6 of them are commercial and the other 3 are industrial ports equipped with the latest necessary technologies and operational methods to welcome all types of maritime shipping modes.

    Saudi ports have been internationally recognized for their development and growth in all economic sectors, which is reflected in receiving the largest share of exports and imports around the world.

    Seaports in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia

    Here a list of the main shipping ports in Saudi Arabia:

    • Jeddah Islamic Port
    • King Fahad Industrial Port, Jubail
    • King Fahad Industrial Port, Yanbu
    • King Abdul Aziz Port, Dammam
    • Jubail Commercial Port
    • Yanbu Commercial Port
    • Jizan Port
    • Dhiba Port

    Shipping costs

    The shipping costs from China to Saudi Arabia mainly depend on the following factors:

    • Transportation Type (Sea or Air Freight)
    • Shipment Type (FCL, LCL, Express)
    • Incoterm (FOB, CIF, DAP, and others)
    • Commodity Type
    • Transport Package (Carton, Pallet, or Wooden Cases)
    • Weight and Size
    • Departure Port
    • Destination Port
    • Transit Time
    • Cargo Type
    • Carrier

    You can use an online tool such as the ones offered by Freightos or World Freight Rates to get an estimation. For instance, at the moment we write, from Hong Kong to Jedda we obtain the following cost estimation:

    • US$580 – US$650 for a 20’’ container
    • US$750 – US$840 for a 40” feet container

    How long does it take to ship from China to Saudi Arabia?

    Likewise, the average time it takes from China to Saudi Arabia depends on the transportation services and the departure and destination ports. It often takes 3-5 days by air freight service and 4-5 weeks by sea freight.

    List of China to Saudi Arabia Freight Forwarders

    In this section you can find a list of freight forwarder companies that are based in Saudi Arabia:

    • Crown International
    • Natco Middle East
    • Uniworld
    • Gulf System
    • Speed Trans Logistics

    Crown International

    Crown International is a freight forwarding and logistics company based in Dammam, Saudi Arabia with its branches in Jeddah and Riyadh. The company has affiliate offices in Hyderabad, Delhi India, Dubai, and the upcoming offices in the US, Singapore, and China.

    Crown International accepts freight such as textiles, toys, machinery, handicrafts, food and beverages, cosmetics, furniture, and electronics.

    Freight Services
    • Ocean Freight (FCL): Yes
    • Ocean Freight (LCL): Yes
    • Inland Truck Freight: Yes
    • Air Freight: Yes
    • Custom Clearance: No
    • Insurance: Yes
    • Warehousing: No
    Company Overview
    • Founded: 2011
    • HQ: Riyadh, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia

    Natco Middle East

    Natco Middle East was established in 2017 in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. Currently, the company has branch offices in Riyadh, Dammam, and Dubai.

    Natco’s services include ocean and air freight, land transportation, customs clearance, warehousing, and distribution.

    Freight Services
    • Ocean Freight (FCL): Yes
    • Ocean Freight (LCL): Yes
    • Inland Truck Freight: Yes
    • Air Freight: Yes
    • Custom Clearance: Yes
    • Insurance: Yes
    • Warehousing: Yes
    Company Overview
    • Founded: 2017
    • HQ: Jeddah, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia

    Uniworld

    Established in 2003 Uniworld Freight Services is one of the leading international freight forwarding companies delivering cost-effective solutions in Saudi Arabia. The company offers a comprehensive range of shipping and add-value services, including ocean, air, inland transportation, warehousing, and customs clearance.

    Freight Services
    • Ocean Freight (FCL): Yes
    • Ocean Freight (LCL): Yes
    • Inland Truck Freight: Yes
    • Air Freight: Yes
    • Custom Clearance: Yes
    • Insurance: No
    • Warehousing: Yes
    Company Overview
    • Founded: 2003
    • HQ: Jeddah, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia

    Gulf System

    GFS is an International Freight Forwarding company in Saudi Arabia specialized in the Sea and Air Freight forwarding.

    Their services include customs service, international freight forwarding, door to door express service, domestic transportation, warehousing, and distribution.

    Freight Services
    • Ocean Freight (FCL): Yes
    • Ocean Freight (LCL): Yes
    • Inland Truck Freight: Yes
    • Air Freight: Yes
    • Custom Clearance: Yes
    • Insurance: No
    • Warehousing: Yes
    Company Overview
    • Founded: 2003
    • HQ: Riyadh, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia

    Speed Trans Logistics

    Speed Trans Logistics is one of the leading logistics companies in Saudi Arabia, providing end-to-end design, implementation and operational capabilities in freight forwarding, contract logistics, transportation, and distribution management.

    The company optimizes clients’ overall supply chain by providing integrating multiple logistics functions starting from material and product collection, warehousing, value-added services, distribution, cross-docking.

    Freight Service
    • Ocean Freight (FCL): Yes
    • Ocean Freight (LCL): Yes
    • Inland Truck Freight: Yes
    • Air Freight: Yes
    • Custom Clearance: Yes
    • Insurance: No
    • Warehousing: Yes
    Company Overview
    • Founded: 2015
    • HQ: Jeddah, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia
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