Customs Guide for Personal Effects Shipping to Saudi Arabia

Essential Documents & Customs Information For International Removals to Saudi Arabia

With its growing economy and employment opportunities, Saudi Arabia is a popular destination for UK Expat professionals who may enjoy higher salaries, tax benefits and a lower cost of living. If the possibility of moving to Saudi Arabia interests you, then you may also have personal household effects that you would like to take with you.

At 1st Move International we can provide you with all of the information you would need when shipping to Saudi Arabia, however, here is a quick reference guide to give you a heads up on the documentation that you may require to ship your household effects into Saudi Arabia.

Table of contents

What Are Personal Effects?

After a recent change in the regulations, approved by the governor of the Zakat, Tax and Customs Authority, who is responsible for the collection of Customs duties and taxes in Saudi Arabia, personal belongings and used household items brought by expats from abroad into Saudi Arabia will be exempt from Customs Duty.

To qualify for this relief in customs duty, the Personal Belongings and Household items;

  • must be for personal use only
  • must come from the place of residence of the person importing them
  • must arrive within 6 months of the person entitled to the exemption

Expats also need to have proof of residency, and proof that they are living there for the first time.

What Documents are Required to Import Personal Effects into Saudi Arabia?

Iqama – Residence Permit

Before an expat is allowed to live and work in Saudi Arabia, their employer must give them Visa sponsorship and apply for their residence visa, or Iqama. The Iqama application needs to be made within 90 days of entering Saudi Arabia, and is submitted by the employer/sponsor to the Saudi Ministry of Labor and Social Development (MLSD) or the Ministry of Interior (MOI).

Biometric data, including fingerprints and photographs, is required as part of the application process, as well as documents such as a passport, employment contract and letter from the employer.

You do not need your Iqama to export your household effects from the UK, but you will need it in place for the import Customs clearance in Saudi Arabia.

Valued Packing Inventory

This is a list showing the number, description and value of the goods that are being imported and this will need to cover all items that are being included in your shipment. 1st Move International will provide you with a blank valued inventory to complete once you have made your booking with us, and give you any assistance needed to complete it correctly.

You will need to present this to Customs in Saudi Arabia for them to review before they release your personal effects shipment for delivery to you.

Bill of Lading

A Bill of Lading is a legal document that acts as a contract between the shipper and the cargo carrier. Once your goods have shipped from the UK, the shipping line will confirm the sailing date and estimated arrival date, and then issue the Bill of Lading to your shipping agent.

This document includes the name of the owner of the goods as well as the addresses in the UK and Saudi Arabia. At 1st Move International we will issue an “Express Bill of Lading” which means that an original document isn’t required, and you can claim your shipment with the shipping agent in Saudi Arabia using a copy only, which will be provided to you.


Whether you have a UK or Saudi Arabian passport, or one issued elsewhere, we will require a good quality picture of the photo page. This must be in the same name as your shipping documents, such as the Bill of Lading and be valid at the time of shipping.

What Items Are Prohibited to be Imported into Saudi Arabia?

There are certain items that you are not allowed to bring with you to Saudi Arabia, and if these are found within your personal effects shipment they will be seized, and carry the risk of fines and the potential of other severe punishment. Once we are in receipt of your inventory, we can advise you of any items that may fall into this category, but they include;

  • Alcoholic beverages (including any food products containing alcohol)
  • Narcotics
  • Any religious books, other than any that are pertaining to Islam
  • Christmas Trees and Decorations
  • Books/Wine Making Kits or any other items used for the manufacture of alcoholic drinks and beverages
  • Fashion Magazines and other items of literature that include images of people wearing underwear or swimsuits

Bringing items on this list with you to Saudia Arabia will carry heavy penalties, especially alcohol, as this would be considered to be a smuggling attempt. As well as confiscation, there are heavy fines. For larger quantities the importer may be imprisoned.

Please ensure that your valued inventory is sent to 1st Move International as soon as possible, so that we can check that there aren’t any items that may cause issues for Customs clearance in Saudi Arabia and you can either remove them or we can remove them for you before releasing your shipment.

What Items Are Restricted to be Imported into Saudi Arabia?

There are some items that, if found in a shipment, may be re-exported at the importers expense. These include;

  • Military Uniforms or Equipment of any kind
  • Radio Transmitters or Communication Equipment
  • Stuffed Animals

All shipments being imported into Saudia Arabia undertake a full, physical inspection.

Other items will be removed from a personal effects and household goods shipment for censorship by Customs. If you plan on shipping any of these items, to reduce the time for clearance, pack them separately and clearly mark them on the inventory. You may even send them separately. These items include;

  • Personal Computers
  • Mobile Phones
  • Photographs and Exposed Film
  • Printed Matter
  • CDs/Videos/Cassettes/Records
  • Any other items that is able to store information

A penalty will be charged to the importer for any items confiscated after the censorship check.

Am I Able to Bring New / Unused Items to Saudi Arabia as Personal Effects?

Importing new items as part of your personal effect and household goods shipment to Saudi Arabia would attract further costs for Customs duty. These should all be accompanied with purchase receipts and invoices. Without these the Customs Authority in Saudi Arabia will assess the items and attach a value to the items based on the “local market value”

Can I Bring My Car With Me to Saudi Arabia?

If you would like to take your car or motorbike with you when you move to Saudi Arabia, please bear in mind that means of transport aren’t considered to be personal effects, and do not qualify for importation as duty free.

The Customs duty rate of cars is 15% of its Customs assessed value, and you are not allowed to import any vehicles that are over 5 years old. Saudi Arabia will not allow the importation of any Right-Hand Drive cars, expats are only allowed to bring in one car per qualifying person, and you are not allowed to ship any personal effects within the vehicle.

If you would like any further advice or information on shipping vehicles to Saudi Arabia, then we suggest making contact with a reputable car shipping company, such as Autoshippers. They have been shipping cars overseas for private individuals for over 25 years, and have extensive knowledge throughout their dedicated team.

Is There Anything Else I Should Know?

The owner of a shipment of personal effects and household goods to Saudi Arabia must be in the country at the time of Customs clearance, if not the shipment will not be Customs cleared. Attendance is not required during the Customs inspection and, as already advised, all shipments will be inspected by Customs before they are cleared and released.

Penalties for prohibited, restricted and censorship items include US$200.00 for a bottle of wine and US$135.00 for each CD and VHS after undergoing censorship. As well as the cost there is the potential for delays in Customs clearance resulting in additional storage costs, so please bear this in mind when deciding what you need to take with you to Saudi Arabia.

Saudi Customs regularly modify their regulations, so please make sure you have checked the most up to date information on the Zakat, Tax and Customs Authority and other official websites, before you complete your packing.

When you have your Iqama in place, you will need to authorise a Customs broker to clear your goods on your behalf through the Customs portal –

Shipping Furniture and Household Effects to Saudi Arabia

As you can see, shipping personal, household effects to Saudi Arabia comes with many different challenges. Using a shipping company such as 1st Move International with over 25 years experience and long-term relationships with reputable local Saudi Arabian Customs agents is a must.

Our team is on hand to help with any questions that you have, and to help make international removals to Saudi Arabia as stress-free as possible.

You can ask us for a quotation by completing the form on this page, giving us as much information as possible. Alternatively, you can call us on +44 117 982 8123 / 0800 389 0784 during UK office hours or e-mail on

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