Importing Goods into Saudi Arabia from USA

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It’s true that importing goods into Saudi Arabia can be cumbersome, but the work is tolerable when the consignee is familiar with the procedures. Below are simple guidelines which could guide consumers about what to expect once their shipment arrives from the USA. These are general overviews, though. For more specific information, consignees are still advised to consult the Consulate of Saudi Arabia in the USA.

For household goods and personal effects in general

The biggest challenge than importers will face when shipping goods from the USA is the long list of restricted and/or prohibited items in Saudi Arabia. These include electronic gadgets with radio/wireless transmission, telescopic equipment including binoculars, statues of figures with human and animal form, games which could be used for gambling including chess, dice, etc., pornographic material and literature, politically sensitive items, stuffed animals, food, any items which are contrary to Islam faith, and other miscellaneous materials like fake pearls, blueprints and designs. Inclusion of these items in the shipment may result to losses and damages in the items shipped into the country. Literature and other informational items may be censored, if not destroyed, by the Customs Agency.

Having said that, all used items which are not prohibited or restricted by the government can be shipped custom duty-free into the country as long as they’re well accounted for in the inventory. The list must be prepared carefully and approved by the Consulate of Saudi Arabia in the USA before shipment. This list must also be translated into Arabic before reaching Saudi Arabia.

The owner of the items must also be in Saudi Arabia before the arrival of the shipment because his/her personal appearance is recommended during clearance. There are a number of documents which must be obtained for the items to be cleared including the consignee’s passport and visa, his/her resident and/or work permit, the original bill of lading or airway bills, and other documents proving that the consignee is healthy (does not have AIDS), the keys for locked containers for customs inspection, and other significant paraphernalia. These documents should have arrived at least a week before the shipment of the items into Saudi Arabia. Household items and personal effects cannot be shipped with vehicles. Electronics must also be accompanied by a SASO Certificate of Conformity.

For vehicles

Saudi Arabia allows the importation of one motor vehicle (automobile) per family for returning Saudi Arabian nationals. The vehicle must meet Saudi’s standards, and must not be older than 1974 models. Shipment of vehicles must be separate from household goods and personal effects. Upon shipping, all the necessary details of the vehicle and registration forms as well as proof of ownership must be provided to the shipping company so that they may in turn hand it over to the customs. The Saudi Arabian government reserves the right to impose more prohibitions for cars imported by foreign residents so it’s always advisable for consignees to check with the Consulate of Saudi Arabia first before shipping out the vehicle.

Aside from the USA registration of the vehicle, the title and the SASO Certificate, the passport of the owner, his/her resident permit, and valid Saudi driver’s license must also be presented for clearance. Immediate registration of the vehicle to Saudi Arabia after the clearance process is absolutely necessary.

There are no online resources detailing requirements for boat importation. It is not, however, a prohibited item in the Customs list. Consignees may just prepare similar documents of ownership and registration and consult the Consulate of Saudi Arabia for more details.

Currently, all industrial machinery may be imported to Saudi Arabia duty-free by industrial investors. Spare parts of these machines, provided that they pass the customs screening, may also be brought into the country. However, customs laws change all the time, especially in the Middle East, so it’s advisable to still compare this information with the instructions provided by the Consulate.

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