U.S. exporters must be aware that their importers in Colombia must follow eight basic steps to complete an import transaction into Colombia:
• When required, obtain import permits from pertinent government agencies. For example: Ministry of Social Protection (for medicines), Ministry of Agriculture (for certain food products), and Civil Aviation Department (for aircraft).
• Buy and fill out the Import Registration form. File the Import Registration form with Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Tourism. The form requires a complete product description and tariff classification.
• Obtain approval from Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Tourism for the Import Registration Form or Import License (in the few cases when this is required).
• Make arrangements with a financial entity to pay for the imported goods.
• Ask the exporter to ship goods to a Colombian port.
• Request the Cargo Manifest from the transportation firm.
• Make arrangements with a Customs Agency to receive the merchandise and get it out of customs. The following are the main steps to be followed:
• Fill out the Import Declaration ('Declaración de Importación'). When the import value is equal or more than USD 1,000, Customs Agencies should do all the paperwork and get the shipment out of Customs.
• Fill out the “Andean Custom Value Declaration” (Declaración Andina de Valor en Aduana) when the import value is equal to or more than USD 5,000 FOB.
• Go to an authorized financial entity and pay the import duties, VAT, surcharges, and other fees.
• Present all documents to customs.
• Customs inspects the merchandise, when they consider it necessary, and then authorizes withdrawal of goods.
The importer must keep import documents for a period of not less than five years.
Import Declaration: The importer must submit an import declaration to the DIAN. This declaration includes the same information contained on the import registration form and other information such as the duty and sales tax paid, and the bank where these payments were made. This declaration may be presented up to 15 days prior to the arrival of the merchandise to Colombia or up to two months after the shipment's arrival. Once the import declaration is presented and import duties are paid, customs will authorize the delivery of the merchandise.
Customs officials are responsible for inspecting merchandise to verify that the description and classification are consistent with the importer's declaration. A customs inspection group often performs after-clearance random investigations to detect fraud, foreign exchange irregularities, and tax evasion. Major customhouse brokers have a customs office in their own bonded warehouses where most clearance procedures are completed before the merchandise is delivered to the customers. To carry out an export, the exporter must: 1) remit the pro-forma invoice, 2) obtain acceptance of conditions from the client (letter of credit, draft bill), 3) negotiate (through a local financial institution) the letter of credit/draft bill from the endorsing foreign bank, 4) present (to Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Tourism) a form known as “Registration as National (local) Producer, Export Offer and Determination of Origin”, 5) present the certificate of origin (when necessary) with copy of the commercial invoice, and other certificates required by the country of destination (textile visa, phytosanitary certificates, etc.), and 6) complete and present the export declaration form, also known as shipping authorization of final export declaration, with all attachments as required.
Products that require special documentation include: vegetables, plants, fruits, animals, gold, emeralds, oil, coal, nickel, platinum, textiles, products exported through the General System of Preferences (GSP), products exported through the ATPDEA, and products exported through any free trade agreement.
Most of Colombia’s foreign trade procedures have been streamlined through the VUCE (Unified Portal for Foreign Trade), which gives users access to forms, online payments and follow-up on requests and processes related to an import or export operation.