In part, this restrictive customs policy is due to Singaporean laws on public order (for example concerning cigarettes or chewing gum), the national Goods and Services Tax (GST), or health concerns (when you want to bring your pets). Below, we have compiled an overview regarding the restrictions of goods most commonly imported by expats.
The minute you land in Singapore, customs regulations will probably occupy your mind to a considerable degree. Hence, it is best to make sure well in advance that you do not pack anything restricted or illegal. Singaporean law has a reputation around the world for its rather harsh penalties, even for lesser offenses. There are better ways to kick off your expat assignment than being fined a hefty sum for something you unwittingly brought to the country.
Apart from the many restricted items and goods, there is also an extensive list of goods you cannot bring into Singapore under any circumstances:
The most common dutiable goods are cigarettes and liquor, and both are best left at home altogether. The amount you can bring for your personal consumption free of tax or customs duty would not last very long if you are a passionate smoker. However, the failure to declare even a single pack of cigarettes will cost you 200 SGD per pack for the first offense. Singapore Customs has compiled a very useful PDF overview on how to brave customs at Changi Airport.
If you are going to stay in Singapore for a longer stretch of time, it might be a good idea to have your personal effects, household goods, and other articles shipped to your new place of residence if you do not want to stay in a furnished apartment or spend lots of money on new furniture. Since it is quite common for people to bring their household items when moving to Singapore, the process is rather straightforward from a customs point of view.
You have to make sure that you document each and every item you have shipped to you in the correct manner so as to avoid having to pay GST for them. As a general rule, the items cannot be brand new: they need to have been in your possession for at least three months before you have them sent over. On the flipside, these items cannot be too worn down, either. Hence, you have to declare that you do not intend to dispose of the items within three months of importation. Furthermore, the GST relief is only granted if you transfer your belongings no later than six months after arrival in Singapore.
Once your belongings arrive in Singapore via air, ship, or road, you have to submit a so-called Declaration of Facts with the local freight forwarding agent. The declaration can be filled out and completed online at the Singapore Customs website. Make sure to hand in the following documents in addition to the declaration:
Only after all of the above have been handed in to Singapore Customs (either personally or by fax to 6250-9606) the Customs In-Non-Payment (GST Relief) declaration can be submitted. Make sure to follow all of these steps so as to not have to deal with any GST payments. If everything is in order, you can pick up your belongings after you have obtained the GST relief permit.
Please keep in mind that there is a wide array of controlled goods. These include, among many others, meat, fruit, pharmaceuticals, weapons (also of the decorative kind), and radio communication equipment (such as walkie-talkies or ham radios). Before being able to import them to Singapore, you have to acquire a permit from the appropriate authority on the matter. Singapore Customs offers an overview of controlled goods and the controlling authorities on their webpage.
The import of pets is unsurprisingly also controlled in Singapore. In order to legally bring your furry or feathered friends to the Lion City, you have to obtain an import license from the Agri-Food and Veterinarian Authority (AVA) at least 30 days before the arrival of the animal. You can license your pet on the AVA’s website, which will cost around 50 SGD.
Keep in mind that you must have been the owner of the pet for at least three months before you apply to have it shipped to Singapore. Furthermore, there are various veterinary conditions and quarantine requirements for the import of dogs and cats, categorized by the rabies risk in the country of origin. Please see the website of the AVA for all details on these quarantine requirements. The categories are:
Some expats might even have the idea of importing their vehicle to Singapore. However, this step is both highly unnecessary — local public transport is of excellent quality and availability — and extremely costly. You can expect to pay your car’s net worth multiple times over. If this fact was not enough to deter you, see this detailed page on the matter, provided by Singapore Customs, and read our article about driving and traffic in Singapore.
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