Definition of Import License

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Food is among products that usually require an import license
Food is among products that usually require an import license (Image: Food image by robootb from Fotolia.com)

An import license is a permit that allows a business or an individual to import goods from another country. This permit, which has limited duration, specifies which goods can be imported and in what amount. It is issued by relevant government agencies, depending on the type of goods.

Why Governments Require Import Licenses

Import licenses are most commonly used by governments to control entry of dangerous goods, such as weapons, explosives or chemicals. Also, by introducing import licenses, a government can control and restrict the outflow of foreign currency importers use to buy goods abroad.

Import License as a Trade Barrier

Sometimes import licenses help governments protect certain domestic industries from foreign competition. Through selective issuing of import licenses, a government can control imports of goods and thus protect domestic producers and hurt foreign ones.

U.S. Import License Items

An import license may be necessary if you wish to import food, animals and animal products, plants, certain drugs, firearms and ammunition, as well as petroleum and petroleum-related products. Although all imports into the United States are dealt with by U.S. Customs, permits are issued by relevant government agencies, depending on what is being imported.

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