SINO Relocation – Moving department of SINO Group !


You plan to move to China but you don’t know how to proceed? This is exactly why the experts of Sino Shipping have created this article. Indeed, you will find reliable information about Chinese customs clearance when it comes to Household goods and personal effects and about how import them. If you have any further questions, don’t hesitate to ask to one of our experts.

1. How to get a permit to import personal effects into China?


In order to have the right to import household goods, that is to say to get an import permit, you have to provide those documents to Customs:


  • Original Passport
  • Original Resident Permit (1)
  • Original Work Permit (2)
  • Company Letter certifying the employment
  • Ocean Bill of lading and/or Airway Bill

It is not necessary that you should be present at the Customs Office during the application of the Import Permit. Indeed, our agent could act on your behalf to process this application.

Moreover, if you are a returning Chinese, the only way for you to import used household goods and personal effects is to show evidence that you have worked outside of China for more than one year such as a relevant work permit/visa of the country.

2. Customs Clearance


Legal requirements depending on your status

3 different statuses: foreigners, returning citizens, diplomats. Legal requirements for Customs Clearance depend on your status.


2.1 For foreigners


Required Documents for Customs Clearance:


  • Passport
  • Work Visa valid for 1 year
  • Residence Permit valid for 1 year
  • Employment Certification (preferable in Chinese) from employer’s registered office or Chinese host organization
  • Health Certificate, full examination with blood tests to prove absence of communicable diseases
  • Appointment Letter obtained from Representative Office at origin, notarized
  • Customs Permit (must be approved prior to arrival of goods)
  • Application for Customs Sealed Letter – three copies
  • Import Permit of Personal Effects valid for 3 months
  • Ocean Bill of Lading/Air Way Bill – Prepaid and fax copy in advance to Destination Agent
  • Arrival Notice – Ocean shipments; to be completed by client upon arrival at port of entry
  • Baggage Declaration Form – required for all shippers; obtain upon arrival at the airport and stamped by Customs Authority
  • Certificate of Origin (may be required)
  • Inventory list (in English or Chinese); items must be specifically listed and described

Inadequate descriptions on Pack Lists/Inventories will cause additional inspection, duties, demurrage and potential penalties. For further information, please contact us. 
Our SINO experts answer within 48h !

2.2 For diplomats


If you have the Diplomat Status, then:


  • Household goods, automobiles and motorcycles may be imported duty and tax-free and without inspection.
  • You have to be physically present in China prior to your shipment’s arrival to process Customs clearance. Clearance takes approximately 10 working days.


Required Documents for Customs Clearance:


  • Consulate Officer Certificate
  • Passport with Diplomatic Visa and Card
  • Import Permit (obtained from the Embassy)
  • Notification Letter from the ship line (available once the vessel arrives in port)
  • Ocean Bill of Lading and/or Airway bill – original
  • Detailed Inventory – translated in English or Chinese
  • Pro-forma Invoice

2.3 For returning citizen


To be considered to be a returning citizen, you must :


  • Have a visa from origin country
  • Have worked abroad at least 12 months to import household goods duty-free
  • Not have visited China more than one within 15 days of return

*If you don’t meet these criteria, you will be subject to pay Customs duty on the entire shipment.


Required Documents for Customs Clearance :


  • Chinese Residence Certificate
  • Passport
  • Visa/green card – verifying residency abroad for a minimum of 12 months
  • Baggage Declaration Form – obtained upon arrival, stamped


Clearance Procedure – Our Advices


During clearance, each shipment will be subject to extreme close scrutiny and thorough examination by Customs and Quarantine based on the packing list, and the applicable import taxes and duties are levied. Any items not properly declared on the packing list may be confiscated, detained, or incur penalties.

Ensure that :


  • All electrical and electronic items are clearly listed on the packing list with make and size
  • The type of sofa is clearly listed on the packing list (number of seaters, material).

*The Customs assessed value is dependent on the make and size of the particular item and will affect the final taxes and duties levied.


Any discrepancies between the packing list and the actual content of the packages may cause the shipment to be detained, confiscated or immediately returned to origin. Normally it will take around 5 working days to clear your shipment subject to all necessary import documents in order and available.


How long does the shipment take?


  • Sea shipments take approximately 10-15 working days to clear Customs.
  • Air shipments take approximately 3-5 working days to clear Customs.
  • If gross weight is over 300 kg, it may take approximately 10-15 working days to clear Customs in some cities, e.g. Shanghai.

3/ General Information when it comes to Import Duty and Taxes


  • Client must arrive into China prior to arrival of the shipment and be present during Customs the clearance process.
  • Duty rates for air shipments are typically 30% higher than sea shipments.
  • If you import more than one shipment, shipments must be declared together.
  • You are only entitled to import one air and one sea shipment for your personal and household effects. Any subsequent shipments are strictly prohibited, or subject to very heavy import tax and duty. If the Destination is Beijing, these permits must be applied for at the same time.


Furthermore, be careful when importing more than one of each type of the major appliances such as refrigerators or televisions etc. in the same shipment, Customs may consider the shipment containing commercial goods thus making clearance very difficult.

Additionally, items that were manufactured within the last six months may be subject to import taxes. Therefore it may be best to leave these items behind.

4. Dutiable and prohibited items


Prior to shipping your items, be sure to check if there are any restrictions, licensing, or special provisions on the import of your goods. If you have any doubt, don’t hesitate to contact one of our experts.

Shipping any prohibited items can delay your shipment and potentially run you into trouble with the local government.

4.1 Dutiable items

Major electrical and electronic goods (both new and used) are subject to import duties. The list of dutiable items includes: Computers, monitors, certain computer peripherals, televisions, video cameras, video players, video recorders, air conditioners, audio equipment, refrigerators, washing machines, cameras, fax machines, programmable switchboards, computers, telephone sets, wireless paging systems, electronic calculators, printers, typewriters and word processors.
All Furniture is dutiable.
Pianos are dutiable. Grand pianos and baby grand pianos are not allowed to be imported unless you can provide an adequate and appropriate professional certificate.
All lighting equipment is dutiable.
Audiocassette tapes, videocassette tapes, compact discs, DVD’s etc. (limited importation applies) will be inspected by customs officers.
Each shipper can import a maximum of 50 kg of foodstuff (rice, seed or any meat is forbidden to import) and beverages as personal effects. However, we recommend you not to include food in the shipment in order to avoid complications.
Oriental antiques and objects must be declared in detail, otherwise re-export might be prohibited.
One set of golf clubs can be imported duty free, with additional clubs dutiable at 30% of customs value.

4.2 Restricted items

Multifunction photocopiers can be imported as household goods or personal effects.
Food, medicine or other products from epidemic-stricken areas cannot be imported.
No printed or recorded material deemed detrimental to the political, economic or social interest of China should be included in any shipments.
Large CD collections, Stamp collections and libraries will require special customs clearance process.

4.3 Prohibited items

Weapons, firearms, ammunition, drugs and narcotics.
Counterfeit or pirated goods.
Pornographic materials.
Materials found to be morally or politically offensive, or anti-communist.
Endangered species, alive or dead, certain milk powder and meat products.
Plants and seeds.
Certain type of food products, wine, liquor, beverages and alcoholic drinks are prohibited in certain cities in China. When they are not prohibited, they are subject to high duties and taxes. That is why we strongly recommend you no to include wines or liquor in the shipment.
Animals and plants, including samples, including endangered species.
Cordless communication facilities.
Satellite systems and GPS systems.
Narcotics, drugs, medicines or anaesthetics may not be imported.
Motorcycles, unless if the owner is a diplomat. But even if it is the case, the motorcycle will need to remain in a bonded warehouse until it has been registered and issued with a number plate.
Photocopiers are prohibited.

*Note : Alcohol attracts very high import tax and duty and is prohibited to be imported in certain cities in China. It is strongly recommended not to import this item into China as heavy fines will be levied and the prohibited items will be confiscated.

5. Importation of pets


Only dogs and cats are allowed importation into China. One pet is allowed per adult passport holder and requires a special import permit and prior approval of Customs before importation into China.  Pets are subject to an examination by an inspector at the owner of the goods’ residence in China within 30 days following arrival. A small fee is required for the examination of pets by an inspector.


Required Documents:


  • Health Certificate – 7 days before departure
  • Original Certificate of Rabies Vaccination must be over 30 days and under 1 year
  • Entry Recorder – within 2 weeks

6/ Why choose to call on our services


  1. First of all, we can take charge of the packing of your goods in order to facilitate you the process.
  2. We can do all of the following type of removals: door-to-door, port to door, door to port etc. Don’t hesitate to ask us what it the most consistent service in your specific case.
  3. If you have any doubt about whether some of your goods are subject to any restrictions, taxes or duties or not, feel free to send us the inventory of your goods in order that one of our experts tell you their respective classification.
  4. Moreover, choosing us will insure you that all requirements are met prior to import, especially for discrepancies regarding air and sea shipments.
  5. Customs regulations may differ between cities. You can contact us for specific information before importing.
  6. We will be able to provide you with proper quote and best rates, adapted to your needs.

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Interested in our logistics services? Need further assistance & dedicated information?
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