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 Importer Exporter Code (IEC)

 (necessary for both import and export)

The first requirement before you start an import or export business in India is to obtain an Importer Exporter Code (IEC) from the Director General of Foreign Trade (DGFT). An IEC Code is invariably necessary for import or export of goods. In case of import or export of services or technology, the IEC Code is required only in some limited circumstances, such as when the export or import is in ‘specified services’ or ‘specified technologies’, i.e. services or technologies in which international trade is restricted by the Government of India because they pertain to national security, such as dealing in nuclear weapons or automatic guns etc.

The IEC Code is not required under the following circumstances:

Import or export of goods is carried out for personal use, and which is not connected with trade, manufacture or agriculture.

Import or export by government ministries and departments, and certain notified charitable organizations.


Note: [See Paras 2.8 and 2.12(b) of the Handbook of Procedures, Volume 1 for situations where an IEC Code is not required]


Procedure for obtaining IEC Code

An application must be made in the Aayaat Niryaat Form 2A (ANF 2A) format to the Regional Authority of the Directorate General of Foreign Trade (DGFT) in the region where the registered office of the company is situated. The DGFT has provided online filing facility for obtaining IEC and other authorizations.

Form ANF 2A requires basic details of the business and its proprietors, partners or directors (as applicable), bank account details and a bank certificate (where the business has an account) stating the period for which the business has an account with the bank. 

NoteThe Permanent Account Number (PAN) is pre-requisite for grant of an IEC. Note that only one IEC can be issued against a Single PAN. The IEC issued is valid for all the branches or factories of the importer or exporter, as the case may be.
More details for obtaining an IEC Code can be found here.


Applications which are complete in all respects are normally disposed of within 2 days. For practical purposes, you may provide for a week’s time (after factoring the time required to make any changes in case your initial application is incomplete in some respect).


For exporters - membership of appropriate export promotion council (EPC) or Commodity Board (CB)

Different industry sectors have export promotion councils – e.g. Plastics Export Promotion Council, Services Export Promotion Council Sports Goods Export Promotion Council, Coconut Development Board. As per the FTP, exporters are compulsorily required to obtain a registration-cum-membership certificate (RCMC) from the EPC of the concerned sector. Software exporters must register themselves with Electronic and Software EPC.

 NOTE: A complete list of 37 EPCs can be found in Appendix 2 of the Handbook of Procedures (Volume 1) on the link.

While obtaining RCMC, an exporter must declare his main line of business in the application. Exporters are also required to furnish quarterly returns and details of exports of different commodities to the concerned EPC. Changes in the name or constitution of the exporter must be intimated to the EPC within one month from the date of change.

If a sector does not have any EPC or CB, an RCMC must be obtained from the Federation of Indian Exporters Organization (
FIEO). Multi-product exporters also have an option to obtain RCMC from FIEO.


Exporters of 14 specified services (listed in Annex A of this file) in the Handbook of Procedures are required to register themselves with Services EPC. Other service exporters must register themselves with FIEO.


Points of entry / exit from India for imported / exported goods

There are certain points of entry / exit into India from where import or export transactions can take place – that is, these are the points from where goods will cross Indian territory. These are called called ‘customs stations’ – import-export transactions cannot take place from any other location. The Central Board of Excise and Customs (CBEC) can notify any location as a customs stations. Suitable places in these areas can be selected by the Customs Commissioner for unloading and loading of goods.

Customs stations may allow movement into or out of the country by land, air or water and based on that are classified into the following:

  • customs port (goods arrive or depart by ship)
  • customs airport (goods arrive or depart by air transport)
  • land customs station (land customs station is usually a point between neighbouring countries which share a land boundary - goods can move across the border by road at this station) and
  • an inland container depot (ICD)

Note: An ICD is different from a land customs station – unlike a land customs station, it is not located at the land-border of two neighbouring countries – but is located inland within one of them. Goods are carried to an ICD in containers by land or water transport for customs clearance, from a gateway port, i.e. the port within the territorial boundary of the country where they are imported.
Locations where customs authorities can keep imported / exported goods before issuing clearance are known as ‘customs areas’ – these customs areas include customs stations and any other areas which are notified.

At the time of entry, the person-in-charge of the vessel or aircraft must submit an Import General Manifest (IGMprior to arrival of the vessel at the customs port or airport, and in case of a land-based vessel an Import Report, which must be submitted within 12 hours of arrival at the customs station. Unloading of cargo can start only after Customs Officer grants an ‘Entry Inwards’ permission.


Similarly, in case of an export of goods, an ‘Entry Outward’ permission is required before loading can begin. An ‘application for entry outwards’ (for the vessel) must be filed 14 days in advance for receiving permission for the vessel to leave the country. Exporters or their CHAs must submit ‘Shipping Bills’ for the specific export consignments.


Handling last mile deliveries and shipments in the import-export process through customs intermediaries

As you will find out below, the work related to clearance of goods for import export is fairly procedural and technical. It is not necessary for importers or exporters (or their business) to be directly involved to the last-mile stage in the import-export process. Further, many exporters / importers may not be located near a customs area and hence handling last mile deliveries on a day-to-day basis may be difficult for them.


Therefore, importers and exporters can appoint intermediaries to handle deliveries and receive shipments. These customs intermediaries are known as ‘Custom Brokers’ (earlier known as Clearing House Agents(CHAs)) – a Custom Broker is licensed for carrying out various import-export functions, such as filing a bill of entry or a shipping bill (along with supporting documents), helping with examination of goods, payment of duty on behalf of the importer / exporter and helping in getting warehousing or removal of goods from the warehouse.


Note: Custom Brokers are regulated under the Customs Brokers Licensing Regulations, 2013.


Door-to-door delivery by exporters – Door-to-door delivery in import-export transactions often involves use of more than one mode of transport (called multi-modal transport). Multi-modal transport services can only be provided by multi-modal transport operators who are registered under the Multi-Modal Transportation of Goods Act, 1993 (MMTG Act). Any exporter undertaking multi-modal transport can opt for the services of a registered multi-modal transport operator – shipping companies and freight forwarding agents operating as multi-modal transport operators are required to possess a valid registration under the MMTG Act.


Locating an appropriate customs house agent - The list of customs house agents and other intermediaries can be found on the website of the Customs Department or at the Chambers of Commerce of a particular city. For example, visit here for a list of agents in Delhi, or here for a list of agents in Chennai.

Do not rely exclusively on the list received from a Chamber of Commerce or any another non-governmental resource – it is always safe to obtain confirmations from the agent (or obtain a copy of his license) to satisfy oneself of that his license is valid.

Import through post and courier

Amazon US, eBay US and various other international websites are known to deliver goods to a customer’s doorstep in India. How do they achieve this?


Import / export of certain goods (explained below) can also be carried out through post – in such cases, customs formalities at the point of entry or exit are handled by the courier. This removes the requirement to ship the goods to a customs station and handle formalities at that station, or the need to appoint a broker or custom house agent (CHA) for an exporter and increases convenience for the exporter.


The courier company may require specific declarations to be made in respect of goods which are imported / exported by courier, and contents of the consignment may be subject to opening or verification by customs authorities.


As per India’s customs tariff, all dutiable items imported for personal use by courier or post attract a flat rate of customs duty at 35 percent (see heading 9804 on this link)

Restrictions on import / export of goods by courier

The following goods cannot be imported / exported by courier:

  • Goods where weight of the package is greater than 70 kg
  • Goods which are required to comply with specific conditions under the provisions of a special act (other than the Customs Act or Foreign Trade Development and Regulation Act)
  • Perishable commodities, maps, precious and semi-precious stones (greater than INR 20 lakhs), gold and silver.

    The following goods cannot be exported by courier:
  • Goods subject to export duty
  • Goods exported with the claim for duty drawback, under a duty exemption scheme or any export promotion scheme
  • Goods involving a foreign exchange transaction of an amount greater than INR 25,000 (except if specific permission or a waiver is obtained)

Only certain courier companies which are registered with customs authorities are allowed to undertake international courier business for importers / exporters – these are known as ‘Authorized Couriers’. For example, FedEx is an authorized courier.


Goods to be exported by courier are exported through certain cities where courier clearance facility is available (clearance is the responsibility of the Authorized Courier and not the importer or exporter) - as of July 2014, this is possible at the customs airports in Mumbai, Delhi, Chennai, Calcutta, Bangalore, Hyderabad, Ahmedabad, Jaipur, Trivandrum, Cochin, Coimbatore, Calicut and Trichirapalli and the land customs stations at Petrapole and Gojadanga.


Courier clearances are allowed both under manual mode as well as electronic mode, and are governed by two sets of regulations:

  • Courier Imports and Exports (Clearance) Regulations, 1998 (for manual processing)
  • Courier Imports and Exports (Electronic Declaration and Processing) Regulations, 2010 (for electronic processing).

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