The right to import goods into Kuwait on a commercial basis is restricted to Kuwaiti individuals and firms who are members of the Kuwait Chamber of Commerce & Industry (KCCI) and who have import licences issued by the Ministry of Commerce & Industry (MCI).

Import Licences
General import licences, which must be renewed annually, allow any amount of a variety of products from any country to be imported any number of times. But special licences are needed to bring in regulated products such as arms, ammunition and explosives, ethyl alcohol, drugs, pesticides, jewellery and precious stones, weights and weighing machines, vintage cars, etc; these too must be renewed annually. Special licences are also needed to import industrial equipment and spare parts; these are issued to industrial firms upon the recommendation of the Public Authority for Industry and are valid for a single use only.

To protect local morals, alcoholic beverages and materials used in making them, pigs, pork, pigskin products (such as handbags, wallets and shoes), narcotics and associated plants and seeds, pornographic and subversive materials, are, among other items, prohibited. To protect local trade and industry, items such as vehicles over 5 years old and goods manufactured locally are prohibited. Items injurious to health, such as air-guns, asbestos and cyclamates, are banned. Imports from Israel is banned absolutely.

All imports, as well as locally made items, must comply with Kuwaiti standard specifications (KSS). If there is no KSS for a particular product then Gulf standard specifications (GSS), a set of common standards being devised under the GCC's Unified Economic Agreement, apply, and if there is no suitable GSS, the product must adhere to international standards.

Import Documentation
To clear goods imported into Kuwait, a minimum of four documents are needed: (a) Commercial Invoice, (b) Certificate of Origin, (c) Official Delivery Order, and (d) Packing List.

The invoice, certificate of origin, and the delivery order (bill of lading or airway bill) must be in three original copies and must be certified by a chamber of commerce in the country of export, preferably a joint local-Arab chamber, and certified by the Kuwaiti consulate in that country. If there is no Kuwaiti embassy in the exporting country, the consulate of Saudi Arabia (preferably) or any other Arab country (except Iraq) is acceptable. As well as being shown on the packing list, the country of origin must also be marked on each packing unit.
To clear customs, many products must be accompanied by additional certificates showing that they comply with health and safety regulations issued by the Ministry of Public Health, the Municipality and the MCI. Goods failing to clear customs must be re-exported within a month. The minutiae of import regulations tend to change frequently and these changes are published in Al-Kuwait Al-Youm, the Official Gazette.

Import Duties
Kuwaiti customs duties are the lowest in the region, though there are protective tariffs on some goods. However commercial samples worth up to KD 5,000 may be brought in temporarily.

  • Duty is levied as a percentage of the CIF value of the goods up, but excluding unloading in, Kuwait. It is calculated and must be paid in Kuwaiti Dinar (KD). Where importers are invoiced in foreign currencies, customs use a list of 'standard' exchange rates to translate the CIF value into KD. These rates change frequently and a list in Arabic is available for 250fils from customs.

    The standard rate of duty is increased by 1 per cent to 5% from September 2003. The increase in the percentage of customs fees is in conformity with the Commercial Exchange Treaty of the GCC states. But most goods may be imported duty free, including:
  • food products, medicines, essential consumer goods, live animals, bullion, printed matter, etc, except where these (such as bread) are manufactured locally;
  • industrial and farm products from other GCC states provided they have at least 40% added value in the
    GCC exporting country; and
  • raw materials, semi-processed goods, equipment and spare parts for new industrial establishments provided exemption has been obtained.

But imported hydrocarbon products that are also manufactured locally, such as lubricating oils, are subject to duties of 100%. The duty on cigarettes and tobacco is 100%. According to Greater Arab Free Trade Agreement (GAFTA), which came into effect from January 2005, Kuwait will not levy any custom duty on goods imported from 16 Arab countries.

Many locally made products are protected by tariffs. To qualify for protection, an industrial firm must show that it meets, or will be able to meet, at least 40% of the demand in the local market for the products concerned. The tariff varies according to the value added by domestic production.