Permission to Import
The Government of Argentina has established an import regime that significantly slows the flow of imports entering the country and affects payment timelines.
In October 2022, the Argentine Revenue Service Agency (Administración Federal de Ingresos Públicos, AFIP) issued General Resolution No. 5271/2022 (Spanish) creating the Argentine System of Imports (SIRA) and the Argentine System of Imports and Foreign Payments of Services (SIRASE). AFIP cited the need for an import licensing and approval system to provide greater predictability and traceability of import operations and payments for services coming from outside of the country. A key driver behind the system is an attempt to preserve the dwindling amount of hard currency reserves within the Central Bank.
All products and services are under the scope of the SIRA regime, requiring Argentine importers to submit a SIRA request for all imports before shipping products or contracting services from abroad. The SIRA approval process is a bureaucratic and opaque system.
On February 15, 2023, the Argentine Secretariat of Trade published its Guidelines for SIRAs (Spanish) in an attempt to explain the process, the status of an import declaration, and the terms to access foreign exchange to pay for imports. Many companies have reported differences between what is written and how the process is applied in practice.
Applying for a SIRA can take between 30 to 90 days for an approval decision, and if approved, the SIRA is valid for 90 days.
Delays in Accessing the Foreign Exchange Market: Once the importer has received an approved SIRA, they must wait until after the goods have cleared customs before they can access hard currency. For most products, the importer must wait up to 180 days, and for goods determined to be luxury items, the importer must wait 365 days before gaining access to hard currency. A recent update to these regulations is that if the importer is a micro or small Argentine company, it will be able to access funds in 60 to 90 days. Moreover, micro and small Argentine companies also have the ability to request up to $50,000 per year from the Central Bank that can be used for partial advance payments for imports.
This import regime structure prohibits an Argentine importer from paying cash in advance for its imports, with the only exception being if the company has their own hard currency in a bank account overseas and does not need to go through the Central Bank. Therefore, apart from U.S. suppliers providing their local partner with an open account, Letters of Credit have been used to offer some safeguards.
Beginning in the summer of 2023, some companies experienced difficulty accessing the exchange market on their date of payment, due to the dates of payment disappearing or changing in their SIRA and SIRASE records. Import approval delays and barriers to foreign exchange availability have strained local firms’ relationships with foreign suppliers in recent months. U.S. companies should consider the track record and level of trust developed with local partners before offering an open account. These challenges are likely to continue throughout 2023.
Exemptions to these regulations include donations, samples, diplomatic shipments, and courier/postal deliveries.
In addition to the aforementioned, on July 25, 2023, the Government of Argentina has imposed higher import taxes on most products and services. The establishment of this new tax includes the following elements affecting trade:
Economic and Financial Capacity (CEF) Requirement: The Argentine tax agency assigns importers an “economic and financial capacity” value, calculating on a monthly basis the value of imports permitted for that company. Beginning in 2023, some companies found that their CEF values were unexpectedly reduced or limited to one peso, resulting in inability to apply for SIRAs or SIRASEs while awaiting a reassessment of the company’s CEF. For more information, please visit this site. (Spanish)
PAIS Tax on Goods: A 7.5 percent tax will be applied to all imported goods, except:
- pharmaceuticals and firefighting materials, currently exempted by article 36 of Law 27,541;
- luxury goods, which already pay a 30 percent tax; and
- fuels, lubricants, and goods related to energy generation, as well as inputs and intermediate goods linked to the basic food basket, which will continue to be tax-exempt.
Taxes will initially be collected by banks when importers access the foreign exchange market, but they will not be applied if companies pay for their imports with their own dollars (i.e., outside of Argentina without accessing Argentine capital markets).
The tax will be applied to all imports, including those entering through Free Zones and the Tierra del Fuego Special Customs Area. However, temporary imports will not be affected if they are to be used to produce exportable goods. The government also specified that temporary imports covered by the scope of decrees 1330/2004 and 688/2002 pertaining to the automotive sector fall outside of the PAIS tax.
PAIS Tax on Services: A 25 percent tax increase will be applicable to all service imports, except:
- freight, to which a 7.5 percent rate will apply; and
- health and education, exempted by article 36 of Law 27,541.
The PAIS tax on services is also in addition to preexisting taxes on foreign airline and other tourism services (which already pay a 107 percent rate), streaming entertainment (8 percent), and in-person entertainment services, such as music concerts (30 percent).
Documentation Requirements and Restrictions
The Argentine government requires a certificate of origin and consularization for imports generally covering (but not limited to) consumer goods, textiles, apparel and footwear, printing machines, and machine tools. Consularization, or authentication by a consular office, is required for every country from which an integrated component is sourced. In order to receive the MFN tariff rate on a given product, a certificate of origin must be certified by an Argentine embassy or consulate or carry a “U.S. Chamber of Commerce” seal. Resolution 60/2018, passed in October 2018, eliminated the requirement for a certificate of origin for goods subject to antidumping or safeguard measures, instead requiring an online sworn declaration of non-preferential origin. The resolution also simplifies the process required to obtain a certificate of origin for most categories of products, except for textiles and footwear.
It is strongly advised that all exporters work with an Argentine customs broker or with a freight forwarder with an established relationship with a broker prior to shipping goods to Argentina.
The following documents are required for all maritime shipments, regardless of value:
- Commercial invoice (original and three copies)
- Bill of lading (minimum of one copy for customs purposes)
- Packing list (not generally required for bulk commodities or for articles that are identical in kind, characteristics, composition, weight, etc.)
- Insurance certificate (if insurance coverage is purchased by the exporter)
Air Cargo Shipments
These documents are always required for air cargo shipments, regardless of value:
- Commercial invoice (original and three copies)
- Air waybill (number of copies depends on requirements of the importer and of the airline used)
- Packing list
Freight forwarding and/or agents’ fees cannot be shown on airway bills; the fees must be prepaid. Argentina does not have a centralized platform for, and does not allow the use of, electronically produced air waybills, which would accelerate customs processing and the growth of electronic commerce transactions.
Commercial invoices must be presented in Spanish (one original and three copies) with the caption “Original Invoice.” Carbon copies, printed copies, or photocopied invoices will not be accepted in place of the original. In addition, a properly authorized member of the firm must provide an original signature in ink on each copy of the invoice presented (i.e., the original and three copies). The invoice should contain:
- Invoice number
- Place and date of execution
- Full name and address of the exporter
- Full name and address of consignee
- Full name and address of the agent/freight forwarder, (if any)
- Quantity, indicating measuring units invoiced
- Name and description of goods (in Spanish)
- Unit price and total
- Currency used in transaction
- Terms of payment and delivery, using INCOTERMS
- Origin and place/port of export of the merchandise
- Means of transport (specifying via ocean, air, or parcel post)
- Port or place of entry into Argentina
If the invoice is in English, the common practice is to show the Spanish translation just below the English text. The invoice must contain the following declaration in Spanish:
“DECLARO BAJO JURAMENTO QUE LOS PRECIOS CONSIGNADOS EN ESTA FACTURA COMERCIAL SON LOS REALMENTE PAGADOS O A PAGARSE, Y QUE NO EXISTE CONVENIO ALGUNO QUE PERMITA SU ALTERACION, Y QUE TODOS LOS DATOS REFERENTES A LA CALIDAD, CANTIDAD, VALOR, PRECIOS, ETC., Y DESCRIPCION DE LA MERCADERIA CONCUERDAN EN TODAS SUS PARTES CON LO DECLARADO EN LA CORRESPONDIENTE SHIPPER’S EXPORT DECLARATION.”
(Unofficial Translation: “I swear under oath that the prices on this commercial invoice are those actually paid or to be paid, and that no agreement exists that permits their modification, and all data pertaining to quality, quantity, value, prices, etc., and the description of the merchandise and its parts faithfully match what was declared in the corresponding Shipper’s Export Declaration.”)
A fax of the commercial invoice may be used as a working copy for Customs, but the original must be presented in order to complete entry. The commercial invoice must include payment terms, and the date on the commercial invoice must be prior to the bill of lading date.
Electronic documents with electronic signatures are acceptable if the certifying company has obtained eligibility by completing the licensing procedure. Electronic invoices are required for domestic sales or for Argentine exporters. Regarding importers, they need to present the commercial invoice that is issued by the overseas supplier. If the invoice is submitted electronically the importer and customs broker should sign it as an affidavit. The invoice can be in English. A translation could be required by Customs authorities. Annex I of General Resolution 2793 (Spanish) describes the supplementary documents required for import transactions.
Bill of Lading
The bill of lading should be issued (at minimum) in one negotiable copy; additional negotiable copies may be required by the importer, bank, steamship line, or other interested party (follow instructions from the importer or those given in the letter of credit or other contractual arrangement). Bills of lading must indicate the weight and volume of each package, as well as the total weight and volume of the shipment. All bills of lading must also show the amount of freight and a statement “Freight Paid” or “Freight Payable at Destination” as appropriate.
The bill of lading must show the following:
- Name of the ship
- Name of the ship’s captain
- Port of registry and registered tonnage (weight and volume)
- Name of the charter or the shipper
- Name of the consignee (unless it is “to the bearer” or “to order”)
- Number of packages, and specific description of the contents, the quantity, quality, and marks of the goods
- Port of loading and unloading, with a declaration of the port of call, if any
- Freight amount
- Place, method, and date of payment
- Date of preparation of the document and signature of the captain and of the shipper (signature of the shipping company and shipper should be signed manually; facsimile signatures are not acceptable)
- Container and seal number, and terms of shipment
- Invoice number suggested
Packing lists are necessary for customs clearance in Argentina and must describe the content of each package. Where the contents of a parcel are the same as those in other parcels of the same lot, one description on the packing list covering the lot will be sufficient. The packing list preferably should be in Spanish. No packing list is necessary for goods imported in bulk, such as coal, petroleum, sand, etc., or for articles identical in kind, characteristics, composition, weight, etc. It is suggested that the packing list be included in every air shipment.
Consular authentication of the packing list may be required in certain instances. Check with the importer for exact requirements.
At least three copies of the packing list should be included as part of the shipping documents sent to the consignee or the agent thereof. The exact contents of each package should be clearly identified. This should include each item’s gross weight and net weight and each package’s marks and numbers. The required information must be consistent with all information shown on the commercial invoice.
The U.S. exporter must request this document when purchasing insurance and should proceed according to the details provided by the importer. Marine insurance can be obtained from any insurance company.
Certificate of Origin
The certificate of origin is a document that may be required by Argentine Customs for consumer goods, textiles, footwear, apparel, printing machines and machine tools, organic chemicals, tires, bicycle parts, flat-rolled iron and steel, certain iron and steel tubes, air conditioning equipment, wood fiberboard, fabrics, toys, games, brooms, and brushes. This requirement by Argentine Customs falls under various circumstances:
Control of Preferential Origin
To claim preferential import duties when the country of origin has signed a trade agreement endorsing these preferences, as is the case of imports from member countries of MERCOSUR or ALADI (Latin American Integration Association). Argentine Customs authorities will require this document to grant preferential treatment at the importer’s request.
Control of Non-Preferential Origin
The Government of Argentina also requires a certificate of origin for certain products, such as textiles and footwear, regardless of their country of origin (Resolution MEOSP 39/96). This measure is in place to address import issues such as:
- Anti-dumping duties
- Countervailing measures
- Safeguard measures
- Import quotas
- Trade statistics
The certificate of origin requires the authorized signature of the local Chamber of Commerce Secretary in the United States, the seal of that organization, and the seal of legalization by the Argentine Consulate in the United States (located in Atlanta, Georgia, Chicago, Illinois, Houston, Texas, Los Angeles, California; Miami, Florida, New York, New York, and Washington, DC). Note that if the product to be shipped contains component parts manufactured in another country, the U.S. company must obtain signatures of the relevant chambers in those countries and have the document legalized by the Argentine Consulates in those countries.