How to import
An import is the permanent or temporary entry of merchandise into the National Customs Territory from the rest of the world or from a Free Trade Zone for a specific purpose.
The main types of import in Colombia are:
- This is the most widely-used type of import, through which the importer in Colombia receives the merchandise in free circulation for permanent use once all customs and tax obligations have been verified.
- A bill of entry becomes final three years after the filling and acceptance date. It constitutes written evidence of the legal entry of merchandise into the national customs territory.
Temporary imports for subsequent re-exportation in the same state
These are imports of certain goods that, upon expiration of a specified period, must be re-exported in the same state in which they entered the national customs territory; that is, without having undergone any modification, except for the normal depreciation caused by use. This import category implies the suspension or deferral of payment of applicable import duties and taxes (customs duties and VAT). Therefore, restrictions on the disposition of such goods shall also apply.
Temporary imports for subsequent re-exportation in the same state can be subdivided into two (2) types:
- (i) Short term
This applies to imports of goods for specific needs, such as to be exhibited at trade shows, fairs, or cultural events; capital goods and spare parts needed for their operation as listed in Decree 676/2019, among others. The maximum import term is six months, which can be extended for an additional three-month term. In exceptional cases, the maximum term may be one (1) year. No import duties and taxes are payable for the duration of the temporary import.
- (ii) Long term
This applies to imports of capital goods, their accessories, parts, and spare parts as detailed under subheadings listed in Decree 676/2019 and its amendments. The maximum term for these imports is five (5) years. In this case, import duties and taxes are distributed in equal semiannual installments for the period said goods are expected to remain in the country. Payments shall be made in arrears, and the exchange rate in force for customs purposes at the time of payment shall be applied.
Temporary Imports for Inward Processing:
Under Colombia’s Customs Statute, the types of temporary imports for inward processing are:
Temporary import for inward processing of capital goods
Provides for the suspension of the payment of import duties and taxes on the temporary import of capital goods and their parts and spare parts, when the intention is to re-export them after having been subjected to repair or conditioning, in no more than six (6) months, which can be extended for an additional six-month period.
Temporary imports in development of special import-export systems (Plan Vallejo)
In order to promote foreign trade operations, Colombia incorporated special import-export systems, also known as “Plan Vallejo” (the Vallejo Plan), into its customs regime. This modality allows temporary importation of goods such as capital goods, raw materials, supplies, and spare parts with a total or partial exemption or suspension of import duties and taxes. The granting of said benefits will be subject to the special program beneficiary’s compliance with the commitment to export the acquired goods or final services.
Plan Vallejo benefits are granted to:
- By direct operation, to the importers of raw materials or supplies, capital goods, intermediate goods, or spare parts who effectively produce and export the finished goods without the involvement of third parties or who assume in their name the provision of the service intended for export.
- By indirect operation, to importers of raw materials or inputs, capital goods, intermediate goods, or spare parts, who do not directly carry out the production and export of the goods or do not assume in their name the provision of the service intended for export.
For more information about foreign trade and customs, visit Chapter 4 of the Legal Guide for doing business in Colombia.