Understanding Saudi Arabia’s New Import Certification Scheme

This article was originally published in Global Trade Magazine on August 9, 2019

By JC Pachakkil, Senior Consultant, Global Trade Management

Global businesses exporting to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia will soon have some relief from the burdensome export documentation required by the country’s customs agency, and will soon be able to lean more on their import partners to acquire and complete mandatory certificates.

Saudi Arabia is in the process of implementing changes to the decades-old process for certifying consumer goods imported into the country.

The Saudi Standards, Metrology and Quality Organization (SASO) oversees the system for the development of standards applicable within Saudi Arabia. All imported consumer goods must be accompanied by a Certificate of Conformity establishing compliance with SASO standards and specifications, or the consignment is subjected to laboratory testing to verify conformity with SASO standards before clearing customs at import.

This means that businesses intending to export goods to Saudi Arabia must obtain a Certificate of Conformity for each shipment bound for Saudi Arabia. The certificates are usually issued by bodies accredited by SASO or an accredited laboratory. Accreditation bodies certified by members of the International Accreditation Forum (IAF) are also eligible to issue conformity certificates.

Most exporters to Saudi Arabia as well as traders in Saudi Arabia have long lived with the pain of the time-consuming process of obtaining a certificate of conformity for each shipment bound for Saudi Arabia. Once goods were ready for export, and invoices raised, exporters had to engage the services of an approved body to obtain a certificate of conformity before the shipment could leave for Saudi Arabia. This requirement, when combined with the requirements of attestation and legalisation of invoices and certificates of origin, led to a situation where considerable levels of inventory were being held immobile within the supply chain even after goods were ready for shipping with resulting undesirable increases to business in working capital requirements. Businesses have not shied away from referring to these process bottle necks as non-tariff barriers to trade.

The system is now bound for changes, albeit of an incremental nature.