Saudi Arabia Import and Export Procedures

Saudi Arabia is a member of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), an intergovernmental organization that also includes Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain, the UAE, and Oman. Being a member of the GCC gives special trade and investment privileges within member countries. Since 2003, there has been a Customs Union between GCC members, allowing for the free movement of local goods. A single currency and common market have been planned but are yet to be implemented. Saudi Arabia is also a member of the League of Arab States, which plans to negotiate an Arab Free Trade Zone.

In 2003, a Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) was signed between the United States and Saudi Arabia. This agreement establishes legal protections for investors, improves intellectual property protection, establishes transparent and efficient customs procedures, as well as greater transparency in government and commercial regulations.

If you are planning to export electronics, you need to be aware of the fact that Saudi Arabia’s residential electric power system is 127/220 volts, 60 hertz. This is unique and may cause export problems for some American firms. However, Saudi authorities accept electrical products as low as 120 volts, 60 hertz. The Saudi government plans to make 220 volts the only accepted standard.

General Customs Regulations

Customs Regulations Points of Entry

Saudi Arabia boasts a large number of customs points of entry. The major commercial ports are located in Jeddah, Dammam, Yanbu, and Jizan. There are also industrial ports in Jubail and Yanbu, as well as an oil port in Ras Tanura. There are also several other minor ports.

Saudi Arabia’s main international airports are the King Khalid International Airport near Riyadh, the King Abd al-Aziz International Airport near Jeddah, and King Fahd International Airport near Dammam. There is also a large number of smaller airports that are mainly used for domestic flights.

The Department of Customs at the Ministry of Finance is in charge of appraising all merchandise that moves through Saudi customs ports. The Saudi Food & Drug Authority (SFDA) also has representatives at nine Saudi ports of entry. Together with Saudi Custom officials, they control the entry of medical devices.

Therefore, medical devices can only enter Saudi Arabia through the three international airports, the two main seaports of Jeddah and Dammam, and three land entry points in Batha (UAE border), Hadithah (Jordanian border), and King Fahd Causeway (Bahraini border).


Importers can store goods for transshipment or entry into Saudi Arabian markets at special warehouses in Dammam and Jeddah. You will find links to these ports at the bottom of this guide.


Subject to approval by Customs authority, you may bring goods into the country on a temporary basis. For this, you will need to provide detailed information about the consignment, its purpose, and the intended date of re-export to customs officials. If the purpose is to use the goods at a trade fair or exhibition, the organizer may be asked to give information about the event. You will need to provide a security deposit covering the applicable duties and taxes, which will be refunded upon re-export.

The GCC, of which Saudi Arabia is a member state, has signed free-trade agreements with Singapore and the European Free-Trade Association. In addition to this, Saudi Arabia is part of the Greater Arab Free-Trade Area (GAFTA). This allows for easy, tariff-free export to other countries in the bloc, namely Bahrain, Egypt, Iraq, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Morocco, Oman, Qatar, Sudan, Syria, Tunisia, the United Arab Emirates, and Algeria.

Special Import Zones

Saudi Arabia does not have free trade zones. However, there are entrepôts for neighboring countries at Jeddah and Dammam. You will find links to these ports at the bottom of this guide.

Mail Shipments

If you’re exporting to Saudi Arabia by mail shipment, you are advised to get information on U.S. mail classifications and services, general conditions for mailing, general prohibitions, and restrictions here: You should also contact your nearest post office for additional information, including postage rates and fees.

Import Valuation

Import valuation is used for the purposes of collecting import duties and therefore in many cases does not reflect the actual transaction value. You need to bear in mind that Saudi customs valuation procedures are not based on invoice value, and do not follow WTO rules. Instead, minimum prices are used, with customs agents assessing import tariffs based on their own experience, and local prices and contact with manufacturers.

In the cases in which merchandise is imported by intermodal containers, the valuation of imported merchandise is the Cost-Insurance-Freight (CIF) value or carriage and insurance paid (CIP). The value of exported merchandise is based on Free On Board valuation (FOB). The Saudi tariff nomenclature is consistent with the Harmonized System. However, there isn’t a significant body of rule-making or documentation available. Appeals are frequently made orally before an appeals committee that meets under the Deputy Director-General of Customs.

Saudi Customs officers are not empowered to do investigative work on business premises and do not have enforcement powers. Instead, these powers belong to the Ministry of Interior.

The U.S. Government is working with the Saudi Arabian government to upgrade customs valuation procedures through a reimbursable arrangement. Pursuant to WTO accession, Saudi Arabia has committed to binding its tariffs on over three-fourths of U.S. exports of industrial goods at an average rate of 3.2% and 15% on over 90% of agricultural products.

Saudi Customs Authority

P.O. Box 3483, Riyadh 11197, Saudi Arabia
Tel.: (+966-11) 4013334 Ext : 1655
Fax: (+966-11) 4043412
E-mail: [email protected]

Import Requirements and Documentation

As a member of the World Trade Organization (WTO), Saudi Arabia is committed to putting in place a transparent and predictable import licensing system. The Saudi Arabian government requires that shipping documents be authenticated by the local US chambers of commerce.

In order to export goods to Saudi Arabia, you will need the following documents:

  • Original certificate of origin authenticated by the chamber of commerce of the exporting country;
  • Original commercial invoice (in triplicate), authenticated by the agency responsible for trade in the exporting country. This must state the country of origin, name of the carrier, brand, and quantity of goods, and describe the goods including weight and value;
  • Irremovable label stating the country of origin affixed on the commodity;
  • A clean bill of lading or airway bill;
  • Documents indicating compliance with health regulations, if applicable;
  • Insurance documents, if shipments are sent CIF (Cost, Insurance and Freight);
  • Packing list;
  • Certificate of conformity with applicable Saudi standards, if available.
  • An Arabic translation of a radiation certificate, if applicable.

Saudi exporters also need to show a copy of their commercial registration, indicating that they are allowed to export. They also need to submit a certificate issued by the Ministry of Commerce and Investment, attesting the origin of Saudi products.

There are a number of regulations concerning marking that need to be complied with. In general, marking requirements need to follow the Saudi-specific standard (SASO). If there is no applicable SASO standard, but there is an applicable Regional or International Standard, marking requirements should follow that standard. If there are no applicable standards, or if the standard does not specify a language, then the markings can be in either Arabic or English.

transport loading at warehouse

However, all markings concerning warnings and safety instructions must be in Arabic or in Arabic and English. The same applies to instruction manuals or pamphlets.

All containers are required to be marked with the gross weight and with either the initials or the name of the consignee. If a consignment includes two or more containers, they should be numbered consecutively. All containers should be marked with the country of manufacture (e.g., made in the U.S.A.).

For up-to-date information, please check the Customs Website.


For tariff classification purposes, Saudi Arabia uses the Harmonized Commodity Description and Coding System. Since it is a member of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), it applies the GCC common external tariff of 5 percent. This tariff is levied on most goods imported from countries outside the GCC.

Goods that compete with those produced domestically are charged duties at rates of 12 percent or 20 percent, depending on the industry. The 12 percent rate applies to certain textile imports, for example. Dates, on the other hand, are dutiable at 40 percent, whereas cigarettes and other tobacco products are charged a 100 percent duty.

However, some goods are exempt from the common external tariff. These include, for example, goods manufactured within the GCC states, which are exempt from any duties. There are also a few GCC-approved country-specific exceptions. Among these exceptions, there are 758 products that may be imported duty-free, including aircraft and most types of livestock.

For up-to-date information, visit:

From January 2018, the Saudi Arabian government has started charging VAT at a rate of five percent, on top of the excise taxes implemented in June 2017 on cigarettes (100 percent), carbonated drinks (50 percent), and energy drinks (100 percent).

Ad valorem duties are levied based on the CIF value. The methods for determining customs valuation of goods follow the WTO Customs Valuation Agreement (Article VII of the GATT). Imports are also subject to customs surcharge, cargo service fees, port fees, and import inspection tax.

Important Restrictions

There are also a number of other important cultural-specific restrictions. Goods cannot bear immodest or nude pictures; neither can they show a cross or any pictures inconsistent with Islamic morality. Packages cannot contain any Koranic or Islamic sayings. All human figures shown on packages need to be in good taste. Photographs or illustrations of pigs as well as wrappings simulating the skin of pigs are not allowed. The Saudi Arabian emblem (cross swords and a palm tree) can only be used subject to permission.

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