Procedure For Import Clearance In India


Import as defined under the Customs Act, 1962 refers to bringing something to India from an outside location. Levying taxes on such imports is an essential feature of the import procedure. This tax or duty becomes leviable when the cargo enters the territorial waters of India.1 However, determination of such duty is a result of exposing the cargo to a strict import clearance procedure under the Customs Act, 1962. It not only helps levy proper duty but also assures the quality of the goods so imported. These procedures are also referred to as customs clearance. It involves preparation and submissions of the necessary documentation which substantiates payment of duties, assessment of the goods, keeps a check on import of illegal goods and maintains a record of the same. The details of the procedure are discussed below.



Under section 30(1) of the Customs Act, before the Cargo reaches the destination port, the person in charge of such vessel, aircraft or vehicle has to file a report based on the details of the cargo. This report is called an import manifest or Import General Manifest (IGM). It must be in consonance with the manner prescribed by the customs department and include details about the quality and quantity of packages, consignee, date of lading etc.2 In case of aircraft and vessels, the filing must be done either before or within 24 hours of their arrival whereas for vehicles, it must be filed within 12 hours of arrival. The person delivering the IGM has to make a declaration of the truth of the contents therein. The filing can be done manually by submission of floppies at the service centre or by means of Indian Customs Electronic Data Interchange System (ICEGATE) where Electronic integrated declarations are made.3 It is only in exceptional circumstances pertaining to non-availability of electronic means that manual filing is accepted.4


Under section 2 of the Customs act, a bill of entry (BOE) is a document required to be filed for warehousing or home consumption, as the case may be, under section 46. It is filed by the importer or his agent specifying details of the cargo.5 Under sections 52 to 56, the cargo which is meant for transit or transhipment and is mentioned in the IGM need not pay the customs duty while the others have to fulfil the requisite formalities and pay the customs duty.

For non ICEGATE system, the additional documents required are signed invoice, packaging lists, Lading bills, GATT Declarations, Importers’ declaration, license where needed, letter of credit, insurance document, industrial license, test reports where applicable, certificate of origin, Adhoc exemptions and other relevant documents.6 The importer gets the BOE noted in the concerned unit where a Bill of Entry (B/E) number is generated.

If the cargo is cleared via the ICEGATE system, the filing of Bill of entry is not required since it is automatically generated in the computer system. Even the documents so mentioned need not be filed, only signed declarations of such information made by the importers or their agents is required. After verification of the same a B/E number is generated within the system.


If the importer doesn’t wish to pay the duty immediately, he may get the goods stored in the warehouse of the customs department. For the same, he files what is known as the Bond Bill of Entry (Bond BOE). Similar documentation as above for the normal BOE is required. The purpose of such filing is to secure a duty in case the warehousing doesn’t take place and the goods are directed towards home consumption. When such a situation arises, the Ex Bond BOE is filed under section 68 of the Customs Act. Both the Bond BOE and the Ex BOE can be filed manually or via ICEGATE.


Assessment, as defined under section 2(2) of the Customs Act, includes self-assessment, re-assessment and provisional assessment.7 It also includes such assessments where the duty payable is declared nil.

As provided under section 17, the importer self assesses goods to determine the duty leviable.8 This assessment may be verified by a proper officer by examination of such portion of goods as necessary or by demanding documents required for the same. In case of any contradiction, such officer re-levies duty on the cargo. In cases where the importer cannot self assess the goods or the goods have to be urgently delivered or re-assessment is required, the proper officer may be requested to make a provisional assessment under section 18, in exchange of securities provided by the importer.9

For ICEGATE purposes, since the data is already present within the computer system, the system auto-generates the duty encapsulating the various modifications needed under government schemes. For both electronic as well as manual assessment, the final bill of entry is subsequently printed and submitted to the customs officer.


Under Section 2(17), examination involves measurement and weight of the goods which can be done by withdrawing samples as permitted under section 148 of the Customs Act.

Based on the importers’ desire or the assessing officer’s discretion the goods may be examined before assessment.10 Reasons may pertain to lack of complete information about the goods or improper documentation. The importer has to make a reasoned request while filing the bill of entry. This is known as the First Appraisement. The examination is done when the bill of entry is taken to the import shed. If the examination takes place after the assessment is called Second Appraisement.

In case of the ICEGATE SYSTEM, after assessment by the appraising group or for cases where examination is carried out before assessment, bill of entry needs to be presented for registration for examination of imported goods in the import shed by a proper officer.


As per section 59 of the Customs Act, in order to avail an absolute or partial waiver of assessment duty on warehoused goods under government schemes, the importer needs to execute the bonds previously registered along with the corresponding bank guarantee or security.11 Usually, the value of the bond is determined by the board or provisions of the Customs Act.

For imports made under specialized schemes, execution of bonds of the same value as the duty calculated along with the requisite bank guarantee is required. The bank guarantee is decided according to the status and worth of the importer. In case of any failure, no exemption is allowed.12


Payment of duty can be made in designated banks via TR challans. E-payments can be made in banks at major custom locations.13 For importers paying Rs. 1 lakh or more as per the Bill of Entry, or those registered under Accredited Clients Programme, e-payment is compulsory. A provision for deferred payments is also available for those registered under the tier two and tier three of the Authorized Economic Operator Programme.14


This allows correction of mistakes discovered in the documents already submitted. Requests for such amendment require the Deputy or assistant commissioner’s approval once such request has been made with relevant supporting documents. However, such mistakes must be bonafide in nature.


In cases of container ships, they are first taken to intermediate locations and then the cargo is unloaded into smaller or feeder vessels which are eventually dispatched towards the Indian ports. For the Bill of entry filed prior to arrival, the name of the mother vessel is filled and on its arrival, the name of the feeder vessel is added.15


Thus, the above-stated procedure of import clearance seems long and hectic but eventually accounts for efficient management of the cargo and its proper records for reference in any future disputes or inconsistencies. The government also maintains its dynamic stance with regular amendments to keep up with the evolving international standards and its own revenue generation schemes.


1 Everett (I) Pvt Ltd. vs Collector of Customs (Calcutta) 1986 (24)ELT 469.

2 Import General Manifest, How to Import Export, (Jan 04, 2019),–112.aspx.

3 Govt. of India, Ministry of Finance, Dept. of Revenue (Central Board of Excise and Customs), Notification No. 79/2011 (November 25, 2011), amended by Notification No. 45/2016 (April 1, 2016).


5 The Customs Act, 1962, No. 52 of 1962, § 46. [Hereinafter TCA]

6 Import Procedure, Air Cargo Mumbai Complex Systems, [HEREINAFTER IMPORTPROC]

7 TCA, supra note 5, § 2(2).

8 TCA, supra note 5, § 17.

9 TCA, supra note 5, § 18.

10 Customs Manual 2018, Central Board of Indirect Taxes and Customs, (2018) Pg No 22. [Hereinafter Customs Manual]

11 TCA, supra note 5, § 59.

12 IMPORTPROC supra note 6.

13 Customs Manual, supra note 10, at 23.

14Govt. of India, Ministry of Finance, Dept. of Revenue (Central Board of Excise and Customs), Circular No. 52/2016- Customs (November 15, 2017).

15 Customs Manual, supra note 10, at 23.

This article is authored by Vanshika Gahlot, Second-Year, B.A. LL.B (Hons.) student at Rajiv Gandhi National University of Law, Punjab. 

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