Box with goods from Saudi Arabia in a warehouse

Navigating Imports to Saudi Arabia: An Overview for Manufacturers

As one of the fastest-growing economies in the Middle East, Saudi Arabia presents a lucrative market for businesses seeking to expand their operations. However, entering this dynamic market requires a thorough understanding of the country's import regulations and compliance procedures. In particular, importers must navigate the complex landscape of SASO (Saudi Arabian Standards Organization) certification, GSO G-Mark, and the SFDA (Saudi Food and Drug Authority) requirements.

In this article, we delve into these vital components of the Saudi Arabian import process, shedding light on the necessary steps and guidelines to successfully import goods into the Kingdom, ensuring compliance, and unlocking the vast opportunities that await savvy organizations.

Importance of Compliance When Importing into Saudi Arabia

Compliance with Saudi Arabia's import regulations holds immense significance for manufacturers. Here's why:

  1. Legal Adherence and Penalties: Noncompliance with Saudi Arabian laws can lead to legal penalties, including fines, product recalls, and potential legal action. By following the prescribed procedures, manufacturers safeguard themselves against legal consequences and maintain a strong standing within the market.

  2. Consumer Safety and Trust: Compliance measures prioritize consumer safety and well-being. Meeting the required standards ensures that products are safe, reliable, and meet quality benchmarks. For example, SASO manages the Saudi Product Safety Program called “SALEEM.” By prioritizing compliance, manufacturers demonstrate their commitment to consumer protection, fostering trust and confidence in their brand among customers.

  3. Market Access and Expansion: Compliance opens doors to the Saudi Arabian market and its potential for growth. Obtaining SASO certification, engaging with SALEEM, and securing product certificates of conformity grant access to a broader customer base. Compliance enhances market eligibility, enabling manufacturers to seize opportunities, expand their presence in the country, and tap into a vast consumer market.

  4. Brand Reputation and Competitive Edge: Compliance contributes to building a positive brand reputation, as consumers associate compliant products with quality, safety, and reliability. A strong brand reputation enhances customer loyalty, attracts new customers, and differentiates manufacturers from competitors. Compliance also gives manufacturers a competitive edge, positioning them as trustworthy and responsible market players.

Relevant Regulatory Standards: Importing to Saudi Arabia

Compliance with SASO, GSO and SFDA certification requirements is paramount for manufacturers and importers of a wide variety of product groups.

SASO Certification Process

The SASO (Saudi Arabian Standards Organization) certification process is a crucial step for importing goods into Saudi Arabia. It aims to protect consumers, enhance product quality, and regulate international trade.

  1. Register for SABER: SASO manages SALEEM, the Saudi Product Safety Program. Under SALEEM, product and shipment conformity programs are operated via an online system called SABER. All importers of regulated and non-regulated products are required to register their products in the SABER system in order to obtain their Certificate of Conformity. As of February 15, 2020, all shipments entering the Kingdom must have the required certifications via SABER.

  2. Identify Relevant Product Standards and Register Product: To obtain SASO certification, importers should first identify the applicable product standards (“technical regulations”) regulating their goods. These standards cover various sectors, including electrical appliances, textiles, building materials, and automotive products. Ensuring compliance with specific requirements outlined by SASO is essential. You can find a list of products regulated by Saudi Arabia’s technical regulations (TR) on the SABER website When registering your product in SABER, the system will verify if your product is regulated or not based on its category or HS code.

  3. Engage a Certified Body: Importers of regulated products need toengage a Certification Body accredited by SASO to perform conformity assessment. The SABER system contains a list of approved Certified Bodies. QIMA is a SASO-approved Conformity Assessment Body and is authorized to issue Certificates of Conformity for products imported from Asia, Australia, North and South America, Europe, Middle East and North African countries.

  4. Acquire Product Certificate of Conformity (PCoC): The Type Approval Certificate, also known as a Product Certificate of Conformity, is required for products regulated by Saudi Arabia's Technical Regulations (TR). Non-regulated products can proceed with a manufacturer declaration of conformity. The PCoC is valid for one year and issued through the SABER system after proving compliance with relevant standards through a SASO-approved Conformity Assessment Body. Manufacturers submit a technical file to demonstrate compliance to SASO regulations. Different technical regulations can vary in conformity requirements. The Certification Body may require additional product testing, factory inspections, and/or factory audits in order to approve a Certificate request. Upon successful completion, manufacturers will receive a Product Certificate of Conformity.

  5. Acquire Shipment Certificate of Conformity (SCoC): The Shipment Certificate of Conformity is required for all product consignments imported into the Kingdom. It can be obtained through the SABER system by providing either a Type Approval Certificate or a self-declaration as well as the appropriate shipment documents such as invoices and packing lists. Non-compliant shipments without a Shipment Certificate of Conformity will be subject to re-exportation.

SFDA (Saudi Food and Drug Authority) Requirements

For manufacturers involved in importing food, drugs, and medical devices, including cosmetics, compliance with SFDA regulations is crucial. The SFDA aims to protect public health by regulating and supervising the safety, quality, and effectiveness of these products. Importers must ensure compliance with SFDA requirements for registration, licensing, and product testing. A detailed Technical File containing documentation about the products, including ingredients, manufacturing processes, and relevant certificates of analysis, should be provided.

For example, all cosmetic products must comply with the SFDA GSO 1943 regulation before they can be imported into the Kingdom. Products imported or sold in the Kingdom must undergo certification from an SDFA-approved Notified Body like QIMA.

Read more: A Short Guide to Cosmetic Product Certification in Saudi Arabia

GSO G-Mark Certification

G-Mark Certification is a product certification scheme implemented by the Gulf Standardization Organization (GSO) across Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) member countries of Bahrain, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Oman, Qatar, and UAE. It is a mandatory certification program that aims to ensure the safety, quality, and conformity of products to relevant standards. Toys and Electrical/Electronic products entering GCC member states must show the Gulf Mark (G-Mark) and a QR code tracking the certificate.

To obtain a G-Mark certificate, manufacturers must engage a Notified Body like QIMA for the completion of a conformity assessment. Learn more about requirements and processes for obtaining a G-Mark: What to Know When Importing Toys Into Saudi Arabia

How QIMA Can Help

As an approved Conformity Assessment Body for SASO certification, GSO G-Mark certification and SFDA certification, QIMA can help you through every step of the importation process into Saudi Arabia.

Our global network of ISO 17025-accredited laboratories can provide product testing for products that lack a test report or have incomplete testing. Our team of experts can also carry out the necessary risk assessment for importers or manufacturers unsure of the risk assessment requirement, as well as label review to help brands avoid delays during the conformity assessment process.

Contact us today to learn more!

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