The United States/Malaysia import and export business runs to over $400 billion a year. Successful businesses have to navigate import regulations in Malaysia, which the country set up to protect its native industries. To sell there successfully, you need to know which goods require an import license in Malaysia and how to apply for one.
TL;DR (Too Long; Didn't Read)
Look up Malaysia's import permit list to see if the items you want to ship there require a permit. If they do, you can apply online or submit a hard-copy application by fax or mail. Even items that don't require an import license in Malaysia may still require paying the nation's tariffs and import taxes.
Import Permit List
The first step to shipping goods into the country is knowing which goods require an import permit in Malaysia. The import permit list identifies several broad categories that require an import license:
- Agricultural products
- Animals, living or dead
- Iron and related products
- Heavy machinery
- Home-brewing equipment
Specific items in those categories that require a permit include rice, sugar, safety helmets, live fish, animal oils, saccharin, coral, bulletproof vests and toy guns. Other items are completely banned, so don't even try:
- Turtle eggs
- Clothing printed with verses of the Quran
- Poisonous chemicals
- Pens, pencils and "other articles resembling syringes"
- Anything the government considers indecent, including paintings, photos, books, films and lithographs
- Any device intended to be "prejudicial to the interests of Malaysia"
- Any species of piranha
- Processed meat and livestock products unless they're certified as halal – i.e., compatible with Islamic rules
Applying for Your License
Say your firm wants to ship heavy machinery for manufacturing to a business partner in Malaysia. To meet import regulations in Malaysia, you'll need to start the licensing process with the nation's companies commission. Submit the following documents:
- Application form
- Customs form JK69
- Basic information about your company such as the corporation charter, details on the shareholders and information about the directors and managers
- Some categories of imports require more information. Heavy machinery, for example, requires a certificate of origin from the country of origin showing that it's not more than five years old
- Some categories require other government agencies to weigh in. Chemical imports, for instance, have to be reviewed by the Ministry of Health.
- Even if your goods aren't on the import permit list, you'll still need a customs declaration, bill of lading, invoice, packing list and certificate of origin to get through customs.
The e-commerce portal Dagangnet is the one-stop shop for most of the permit applications and processing. The government says it will process online applications within five working days and hard-copy applications within seven. Keep in mind that Malaysia's public holidays are on a different schedule from the U.S., which may affect processing time.
Tariffs and Taxes
Even if you don't need an import license for Malaysia, you probably still have to deal with the country's tariffs and taxes on imports. The standard goods and services tax on imports runs 6%, while tariffs range from 0 to 50% but average around 6.1%.
The highest tariffs apply to goods competing with local Malaysian production and items that are frowned on by Muslims, such as pork. If you're shipping raw materials for use by Malaysian manufacturers, they may pay a reduced tariff or receive an exemption, especially if what you're selling is in short supply locally.
Malaysia has bilateral free-trade agreements with multiple trading partners, though not with the U.S. This may work out well for you if you have business partners in one of the nations that does have this relationship with Malaysia. You can look them up on the government's online guide to its free-trade agreement.
- ASEAN Briefing: Import and Export Procedures in Malaysia – Best Practices
- Ministry of International Trade and Industry: Guidelines to Apply for Import License For Controlled Commercial Products Under Customs Orders
- Royal Malaysian Customs Department: Import/Export
- Dagangnet: Home
- Easyship: Shipping to Malaysia: The Definitive eCommerce Guide
- Ministry of International Trade and Industry: Malaysia's Free Trade Agreements
Fraser Sherman has written about every aspect of business: how to start one, how to keep one in the black, the best business structure, the details of financial statements. He's also run a couple of small businesses of his own. He lives in Durham NC with his awesome wife and two wonderful dogs. His website is frasersherman.com