In the dynamic landscape of global trade, the partnership between China and Germany has grown exponentially. With China’s manufacturing prowess and Germany’s robust market, many entrepreneurs have been drawn to explore the lucrative opportunity of importing goods from China to Germany. However, navigating the maze of import regulations, customs duties, and shipping logistics can be daunting. This article aims to guide you through these complexities, answering crucial questions like “how to import stuff from China to Germany” and “how to import merchandise from China.”

Understanding Import Duty and Tax

The first obstacle that an importer usually encounters is the “import duty.” Import duty, often also referred to as customs duty, is a tax imposed on goods crossing international borders. The import duty from China to Germany can vary depending on the product’s classification under the Harmonized System (HS) code. The European Union (EU), of which Germany is a part, generally imposes an average tariff rate of 2.8% on industrial goods. However, it can vary from 0% to 17% or more based on the specific item.

Import tax, or Value Added Tax (VAT), is another key factor to consider. Germany’s standard VAT rate is 19%. However, certain goods may be taxed at a reduced rate of 7%. The VAT is calculated based on the total value of the goods, including the cost of the product, insurance, and freight, plus the amount of import duty.

Shipping Costs from China to Germany

The shipping cost from China to Germany can fluctuate based on various factors including the size and weight of the goods, shipping method (air, sea, or land), and the freight forwarder you choose. The cost can range from a few hundred euros for small, lightweight packages sent by air, to several thousand for larger shipments sent by sea.

Choosing the most suitable shipping method is critical. Air freight is quicker but also more expensive, making it suitable for lighter, smaller, or time-sensitive goods. Sea freight is slower but much more cost-effective for larger, heavier shipments. Remember, the total landed cost of your product will influence its final price, and therefore, your competitiveness in the market.

The Import Process: How to Import Things to Germany

The process of importing goods from China to Germany involves several steps:

1. Find a reliable supplier: Use platforms such as Made-in-China or attend trade fairs like the Canton Fair to find reputable suppliers.

2. Ensure compliance with German standards: Products must meet the safety and quality standards set by German and EU regulations. For instance, many products need a CE marking to be sold in the EU.

3. Place your order and arrange shipping: Once you’ve settled on a product and supplier, place your order. Arrange shipping with a reliable freight forwarder.

4. Complete necessary paperwork: This includes the Bill of Lading, Commercial Invoice, and Packing List. Your freight forwarder can guide you through this process.

5. Pay import duty and VAT: The customs authorities will assess duty and taxes based on the goods’ classification and value.

6. Collect your goods: Once all duties and taxes are paid, the goods are released from customs and can be collected.

Import Permits and Licensing

In most cases, importing goods from China to Germany does not require a specific import license. However, for certain controlled goods like food products, pharmaceuticals, and hazardous materials, you’ll need special permissions or certifications. As an importer, it’s your responsibility to ensure your products comply with German and EU regulations.

Moreover, to operate as an importer, you need an Economic Operators Registration and Identification (EORI) number. It’s a unique ID assigned by customs to businesses that import or export goods within the EU.

Duty-Free Import Limits

There are certain limits up to which goods can be imported into Germany without having to pay duty or VAT. For goods sent by post, this limit is €22. If the value is above €22 but below €150, no customs duty applies, but VAT is due. For goods valued over €150, both customs duty and VAT apply. Please note that these limits apply per package, not per shipment.

Direct Importation from China

Direct importation from China can be a cost-effective and rewarding strategy, but it’s not without its challenges. Dealing with suppliers, navigating Chinese business culture, and managing logistics can be complex. Here are some steps to guide you:

1. Identify the products you want to import and find suppliers: Use platforms like Made-in-China to find products and suppliers.

2. Communicate with suppliers: Negotiate the terms of your agreement, including price, payment terms, and product specifications.

3. Ensure your goods comply with German regulations: This might involve getting a pre-shipment inspection, testing for compliance with safety standards, or obtaining necessary certifications.

4. Arrange shipping and handle logistics: Use a reliable freight forwarder who has experience with China-Germany shipments.

5. Prepare for customs clearance: Ensure all necessary documents are in order, and be prepared to pay any applicable duties and taxes.

6. Receive your goods: Once cleared by customs, collect your goods and begin selling!

Direct importation requires a significant investment of time and energy, but it can offer greater control over your supply chain and potentially higher profit margins.


While importing products from China to Germany involves navigating various regulations, duties, and logistical challenges, with the right knowledge and preparation, it can be a profitable endeavor. Understanding import duty, VAT, the import process, permits, and shipping costs is the key to success.

Frequently Asked Questions

How much does shipping from China to Germany cost?

Shipping costs can vary depending on the size, weight, and nature of your goods, as well as the shipping method. It can range from a few hundred to several thousand euros.

Do you need an import license to import from China?

Most goods don’t require a specific import license. However, certain regulated products like food items, pharmaceuticals, and hazardous materials may need special permissions.

How much can I import from China without paying duty?

For goods sent by post, you can import up to €22 without paying duty or VAT. If the value is above €22 but below €150, no customs duty applies, but VAT is due.

Remember, diligence and thorough research are your best allies in the journey of importing from China to Germany. Good luck!