Import License

Updated on April 23, 2024
Article byKhalid Ahmed
Edited byAlfina
Reviewed byDheeraj Vaidya, CFA, FRM

What Is An Import License?

An Import License refers to a government-issued document that allows the import of goods and services into a country. It acts as a shield to protect domestic industry and agriculture sector from indiscrimination due to cheaper foreign goods, as every such license is a non-tariff barrier to trade.

Import License

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Although most of the goods or services are imported into the U.S., some critical goods require import licenses as required by some government agencies. The license fixes the maximum limit and import quotas of every importable good from foreign. 

Key Takeaways

  • An import license is a documentary trade license issued by the government to individuals or firms to import goods or services from foreign nations in fixed volume within a fixed quota.
  • It helps the government of a country to safeguard its local industry and industry from the negative effects of globalization and multinational companies from creating unemployment and the destruction of agriculture. 
  • Certain conditions must still be met before certain products and services can be imported into the United States, such as insurance proof, pre-shipment inspection certificate, port expenditures & transportation invoice, etc.
  • It has the following importance – market expansion, no return filings, the monetary incentive to importers, exempted importers from annual compliance, and fulfilling the obligations of world trade organizations.

Import License Explained

An import license is a document officially issued by the government allowing a business or individual to buy certain goods from another country and bring them to the domestic market within prescribed limits and quotas. It is important to get approval from the appropriate government authority to import goods or services from foreign countries by producing and submitting all related necessary documents. 

The features of an import license are as follows:

  • It contains the limit on the volume of imports allowed.
  • This license stipulates the total import volume must not exceed the government quota.
  • It can be issued to firms at a certain fee. 
  • It gets even sold at a price determined by the government.

Nevertheless, these methods of issuance of import licenses also have certain limitations, which include the following:

  • The allocation methods may give rise to political lobbying.
  • It may also lead to a bribery culture.
  • Many fake and ingenuine companies may get an import license.
  • Promising and authentic individuals and firms desirous of imports may not get the license.

Moreover, the government also puts certain limitations and restrictions on the type and amount of goods and services imported by importers to protect domestic agriculture and local industry and safeguard entrepreneurship from getting gobbled up by multinational companies (MNCs). Many developing countries dependent on agriculture impose trade imports of agri-related products to safeguard their agriculture sector. 

Likewise, these countries also impose on an import-related local industry that may negatively impact the employment and livelihood of the local populace. 


The import license requirements across the globe differ for each country. The United States has the most importer-friendly business environment in the whole world. Most of the goods or services do not require any license for import. However, there still are certain requirements to import certain goods and services into the United States, as discussed below:

  • One must get familiar with the rules and regulations for U.S. imports.
  • One must keep the required informed compliance ready.
  • Firms or individuals need to fill up the Customs and Border Protection (CBP) entry forms within 15 calendar days of entry of articles into the U.S. port.
  • One must have the invoice.
  • They must possess any of the following- inland bill of lading, through bill of lading, Ocean bill of lading, and air waybill.
  • Companies must have insurance proof.
  • They must also have a pre-shipment inspection certificate. 
  • One must show port expenditures (if applicable)
  • They must have transportation invoices.
  • Firms must possess a certificate of origin (if applicable).
  • They need to have the packing list available with them.
  • Other certificates, if required, might be needed.

Besides these requirements, for importing perishable items like seafood products, one must have a sanitary health certificate issued by the country of import. Pharmaceutical goods must be registered with the Ministry of Health and Sports and approved by the National Pharmacology and Health Technologies Agency (AGEMED). The USA import license is handled by the U.S. Customs and Border Protection.


Let us take some examples to understand the topic.

Example #1

Suppose Alex is a mobile dealer specializing in the Android operating system. Many people like to use the latest mobiles from China. Hence, Alex applies for an import license from the federal government. As soon as he applied with all the required documents, Alex was granted the import license for importing mobiles.

Example #2

As per a report published online on October 13, 2023, India had to reverse its import restrictions on laptops. India introduced the new licensing to stop importing risky hardware and systems in India from China. However, due to stiff opposition from industry and also vehement criticism by the American government, it has been postponed for the next three months.

However, the reversal does not lead to the revival of the old import license protocol for laptops and computer accessories. It simply aims at including the interests and options of the industry stakeholders so that the threat from China is thwarted and genuine products from across the world come into India. Moreover, the new protocol was aimed at promoting local manufacturing, addressing all security concerns of spyware, and decreasing the dumping of cheap laptops from China.


The importance of import license can be summarized as follows:

  • It helps in the expansion of the market within the local area through new markets.
  • It does not require any return filings.
  • Sometimes, governments are willing to extend the monetary incentive to importers with valid licenses.
  • Governments in many countries have exempted importers from annual compliance and have valid import licenses.
  • In many countries, the government has simplified the process of getting import licenses to encourage imports.
  • Countries promote imports to fulfill the obligations of the World Trade Organization

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

How to get an import license in the USA?

For importing goods in the USA, one must have the following:

1. Bill of Lading
2. Packing List
3. Commercial Invoice Entry Manifest (CBP Form 7533)
4. Application and Special Permit for Immediate Delivery (CBP Form 3461)
5. Entry Summary (Form 3501)
6. Evidence of Bond

How to get an import license in Canada?

To get an import license in Canada, one must do the following: Applications for such an importing must complete the Export and Import Permits Act (EIPA) File Number along with the following details to DFAIT:

1. The Canada Revenue Agency (CRA)- issued business number
2. Applicant’s name,
3. Title,
4. Address,
5. Postal code,
6. Telephone number,
7. Facsimile number

How to apply for import license in the Philippines?

To apply for an importer license in the Philippines, one must furnish the following:

1. Application Form (notarized, completely filled and signed by the applicant)
2. SEC Articles of Incorporation and Updated GIS
3. BCOR Processing Fee (green copy)
4. BIR 2303
5. Import documents such as a. Airway Bill/Bill of Lading; b. Commercial Invoice; c. Packing List; d. Entry Declaration (pre-assessment) e. Import Permit, if any.
6. Valid government issued id of the applicant
7. Print out of CPRS application form (notarized) with a “STORED” email notification
8. Data Privacy Consent
9. Undertaking stating

Does one need an import license in Canada?

Yes, one needs to obtain an import/export account from the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) that will help get a Business Number (B.N.) before importing commercial goods from foreign nations into Canada. The import/export account has no charge to get, which normally takes some time for its issuance. Hence, a necessary license is a must for all imports into Canada.

This article has been a guide to what is Import License. Here, we explain the topic in detail, including its requirements, examples, and importance. You may also find some useful articles here –

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