Singapore is one of the best places in the world to utilise a data centre. The country is politically stable, has a highly-educated workforce, and attracts large technological investments.

If you’re planning to ship IT equipment there, here’s what you should know. 

Requirements for importing Data centre equipment into Singapore

Singapore defines importing as the process of taking goods, either from a free trade zone (FTZ) or any other point of entry into a customs territory within the country’s jurisdiction or bringing overseas products into a Free Trade Zone for storage within the country’s jurisdiction for storage and/or export.


Like most countries, Singapore has several requirements for importing IT goods. If you’re planning to utilise a data centre in the country, here are guidelines you need to follow.

According to the IMDA, importers must;

  1. ensure that all telecommunication equipment imported for individual or company use complies with the relevant technical IMDA specifications, like Line Terminal Equipment Standards and/or Radio-communication equipment standards, before use.

  2. apply for the appropriate dealer's license if the goods to be imported are for sale or will be hired out. 

  3. ensure that the telecommunication equipment is registered with IMDA before selling or hiring it out for local use.

  4. Get proper licenses to use radio-communication equipment, except for exempted equipment. 

  5. ensure that the goods to be imported are not prohibited under Schedule Three of the Telecommunications Regulations


The import process

Here’s what you need to know about importing your goods into Singapore. 

Important points to note

Goods and services taxes (GST) are waived while goods are inside a free trade zone but will apply if the goods are distributed in local markets.


GST and customs duties are waived when goods are transferred to a licensed premise of the Singapore Customs Authority from a Free Trade Zone. These fees do not apply to goods that have been granted duty dispensation, goods and service tax relief, or received approval for import through the temporary import scheme under Customs and other appropriate Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore Schemes like; 

  • The major exporter scheme.

  • Import GST Deferment scheme

  • Suspension scheme (AISS)

  • The approved import GST. 

If your products do not meet the criteria for a tax waiver, but you still intend to import products into Singapore, here is what you should do.


Step 1: Request a Unique Entity Number, then activate your customs account.

All individuals or legal entities that wish to involve themselves in Singapore export and import business or engage in trading and shipment licenses must register for a unique entity number through ACRA and activate a customs account.


Step 2: Check if you’re importing controlled merchandise

you must verify if your goods are subject to any restrictions.  You can do so by checking the product's harmonised system code or checking the CA product code. (Singapore adopted the 8-digit HS Code model in the ASEAN harmonised tariff nomenclature, based on the World Customs Organisation  6-digit level HS codes). 


If you don't know your product code, the HS/CA product code search engine will help you find it. The system lets you search for HS codes, product codes, and descriptions of products within the Singapore Trade Classification, Customs and Excise duties. 

You can also use the platform to check if a product is restricted. If the product is controlled, the export, import, and transhipment columns of the search results will show the Competent Authority that regulates the product. Clicking the Authority’s acronym will reveal its contact information.


Tip: if all this doesn’t provide the information you need, you can also appeal for an official classification ruling. The application will cost $75, and the classification rulings will only be recognised within Singapore's jurisdiction.


Step 3: Submit an application for the inter-bank GIRO

you and your declaring agent may be required to open an IBG (an electronic means of money transfer that enables the exchange of funds between financial institutions without the need for supporting documents like cheques ) with Singaporean customs authorities. It will enable you to pay fees, duties, taxes, penalties, and any other payments.


You'll need to fill an IBG application form, then send it to the Singapore Customs address provided on the form. You may also delegate a Declaring Agent so they can use your Giro account to pay the goods and services tax and import fees associated with the account just a day after it has been approved. 


Step 4: Submit a security fee.

There are mandatory security fees for all Dutiable or Authorised provisional imported products.

The security fee may take the form of a guarantee from a financial firm, and insurance bond, and a banker’s guarantee.

Submit an application for a custom import permit

You, the importing agent, may 

  1. appoint a declaring agent to handle the application procedure.

  2. Apply for the license yourself, either on your behalf or for someone else.  

Either way, you will need to apply for TradeNet’s User ID while filing as a declaring agent.  You may access the tradenet system through an authorised provider of TradeNet’s front-to-end software or through the government's Front-to-end application.


Note: the standard cost for applying for a single permit is 2.88$. This does not include service charges like cargo forwarding and Declaring Agent fees. So, if you’ve already appointed a declaring agent, you should consult with them to know how much they charge.


Step 5: Ensure you have all the necessary documentation for cargo clearance

You are expected to present your customs permit and supporting documents such as packing lists, transportation receipts, and/ or invoices to the relevant officers. However, it is important to note that all permits issued for cargo clearance have an expiration date. So, you should always check to ensure your approved permits are still valid.


Step 6: preserve your trade documents

you need to preserve all documents concerning the sale, purchase, import, or export of your goods for at least five years after the time of endorsement.  It is recommended that you maintain an archive of all documents concerning your import transactions for 7 years. 

The most common way to store documents for this purpose is


  1. keeping hard copies in a secure location

  2.  or storing soft copies or images of the documents.

you must present these documents to the Customs Authority whenever you’re requested.


Do you need an importer of record?

It depends. As you've probably realised, Singapore's import process can be very complicated. If you're not familiar with the country's regulations, hiring an Importer of Record might be your best course of action, as it will spare you unnecessary fines and penalties for having incomplete/improper documentation. 

 You will also need to hire an importer of record if  

  1. you do not have a physical presence in Singapore

  2. you want direct sales but aren’t ready to establish a distributor, or you are an international company looking to set up a local presence in the country.


Why you should choose Blackthorne for your IOR needs

Blackthorne is one of the best third-party  IOR services in the world. We provide fast, reliable, and affordable IOR services for IT goods entering Singapore. With a decades' worth of experience, we will simplify the shipping process, so you don't need to worry about your goods' legal, regulatory, or customs requirements. Blackthorne are also a registered entity with IMDA for telecoms products.


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