What is temporary import?

Whether you're shipping paintings for an art show or sending equipment for repair – temporary import is useful as it allows goods like exhibition items or sports gear into a country for a short period of time. Since the goods will only be in the country temporarily, and will not enter that country’s market, they are exempt from import duties. 

What are the two categories of temporary import?

Temporary import allows goods to be brought into a country for a brief period of time. It’s beneficial for businesses who ship internationally because the import duties are totally or partially suspended.

There are different types of temporary import depending on the goods and reason for shipping. The first step in understanding which one applies to your goods is defining whether the products you are shipping will return unchanged or if they will be modified in some way.

Temporary import (unchanged)

If you plan to re-export your goods unchanged, you can make use of temporary import under ATA Carnet, Standard Temporary Import or Temporary Import under Bond.

This is useful for shipping artwork for exhibitions, promotional materials for trade shows or sports equipment for training or competition.

The conditions depend on the goods and vary for each country. Some general conditions that often apply are:

  • The goods must remain unchanged. They cannot be altered or processed without permission from customs authorities.*
  • The goods must leave the country within a set amount of time – usually (but not always) 12 months
  • The goods cannot be sold, leased, hired, given away or disposed of without informing the customs authorities

*If you're shipping goods to be repaired, altered or processed, you can make use of Temporary Processing procedure.

Examples of goods include:

  • Commercial samples – e.g. clothing, shoes or homeware samples
  • Exhibition items – e.g. artworks, cultural objects or display materials for exhibitions, trade shows or public events
  • Entertainment items – e.g. musical instruments, stage theatre props, and photographic, video or film material
  • Professional or scientific equipment – e.g. tools or instruments used for testing, exploration, manufacturing or repairs
  • Private touring vehicles – e.g. cars, motorcycles and motorhomes for temporary visitors such as tourists
  • Sports equipment – e.g. skis or golf clubs
  • Animals – e.g. horses or dogs for breeding or competitions

To check if your goods are eligible for temporary import, visit the customs website of the country you plan to ship to.

There are three types of temporary import (unchanged):

  • ATA Carnet
  • Standard Temporary Import
  • Temporary Import under Bond (TIB)

Make sure the type of temporary import matches the goods you're shipping and the requirements of the destination country.

The ATA Carnet is an international document that allows for duty-free temporary import and re-export of goods between 87 countries and territories. Also referred to as a passport for goods, an ATA Carnet is valid for one year and can be purchased for a fee at the chamber of commerce of participating countries. During this period, the ATA Carnet can be used in all countries that are part of the ATA-convention. Once the goods return to the country of origin, you'll be asked to present the Carnet at your chamber of commerce in order to complete the procedure.

Most merchandise, tools and equipment can be listed on a Carnet. However, consumable items such as agricultural products (food, seeds, fertilizer, pesticides), explosives, disposables and postal traffic can not be shipped under an ATA Carnet.

It's good to keep in mind that with an ATA Carnet, you may be asked to pay duties and taxes upfront.

If you’re shipping goods to a country that doesn’t participate in the ATA Carnet system or your goods aren’t suitable, you can apply for Standard temporary Import.

Under Standard Temporary Import, goods are imported duty free and are expected to be re-exported within a year. They’re commonly used for trade tools and samples.

TIB is the process of paying a security deposit to the customs authority of the country you are shipping to. This is to guarantee that the goods will be re-exported.

It's often used in countries such as the US for duty-free entry of promotional and display materials for trade shows.

When the goods leave the country, the deposit is refunded. If the goods are not re-exported (or destroyed) within the set timeframe, you will lose the deposit.

The TIB amount is usually double what you pay for the duties and taxes.

  • It's a good idea to check with your preferred carrier if temporary import is possible in the country you are shipping to
  • It's also worth finding out if the permanent or one-off permits are required and if you need a customs broker
  • Next, it’s important to figure out which temporary import you need. This depends on the type of goods you’re shipping and the customs regulations of the country you are shipping to.
  • If you plan to use an ATA Carnet, you need to apply for it through the chamber of commerce in your home country before shipping. An ATA Carnet can reduce delays and paperwork, but has stricter requirements and is not available for all countries.
  • If you plan to use Standard Temporary Import or Temporary Import under Bond (TIB), you need to follow the requirements of the customs authority of the country you are shipping to. A TIB can have fewer restrictions than an ATA Carnet, but may have a more complicated process and higher fees.

Temporary import (for processing)

If the goods will be processed, repaired or modified in any way, you can make use of a Temporary Processing procedure. 

If you are shipping parts to be assembled in a device, nuts to be shelled or equipment to be repaired, this could be the type of temporary to use.

The conditions depend on the goods and vary for each country. Some general conditions that often apply are:

  • The goods are entering the country to be repaired, altered or processed*
  • The goods must leave the country within a set amount of time – usually (but not always) 12 months
  • The goods cannot be sold, leased, hired, given away or disposed of without informing the customs authorities
  • The imported goods must still be identifiable in the final products that are re-imported

*If the goods you are shipping are leaving the country unchanged, you can make use of the temporary import.

IP allows you to bring goods into a country temporarily without having to pay customs duties and VAT.

It's for products that will be processed, modified, destroyed, repaired, packaged or simply (re)-packed before being released into free circulation or re-exported. The derived goods are called 'compensating products'.

Remember, that if the compensating products are released into the country's market, you will need to pay import taxes and duties. Waste derived from the processing of the goods may also be subject to local duties and taxes, unless it's re-exported together with the compensating products.

To use IP, you need to get an IP license with the customs authorities of the country you're shipping to. They will also determine how long the products can stay under IP conditions.

If the products have already entered the country under another temporary admission procedure, they may still be eligible for IP.

OP allows you to temporarily export goods for processing, modification, destruction, repair, or minor operations like packaging and (re)-packing. It's often used by national enterprises in order to reduce production costs.

The products can then return to the country without the full payment of import duties or be released into free circulation. The duties are calculated based on the value added by the processing

To use OP, you'll need to apply for an OP license with the customs authorities of the country you are shipping from. 

In some countries, the goods that have left the territory under OP and returned as compensating products, will be placed under Inwards Processing (IP).

  • It's a good idea to check with your preferred carrier if temporary processing is possible in the country you are shipping to
  • It's also worth finding out if the permanent or one-off permits are required and if you need a customs broker
  • Next, it’s important to figure out which temporary processing relief you need
  • If you plan to use IP, you need to follow the requirements of the customs authority of the country you are shipping to
  • If you plan to use OP, you need to follow the requirements of the customs authority of the country you are shipping from
  • When using OP, it's important to properly complete the export declaration stating on it that the goods are intended for OP

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