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Difference between Import Export Code (IEC) and Import License

An import export code is a unique number allotted by the regional office of the director general of foreign trade (DGFT) to an applicant who wish to undertake any export or import activity. In business circles it is known as “Import Export Code, IE Code or IEC”. The IEC is a pan-based registration of persons with the DGFT and remain valid unless it is cancelled or surrendered. In other words, no person can start an Export or Import business unless an IEC is allotted and is valid. Difference between Import Export Code and Import License

Difference between Import Export Code and Import License

Following are the features of an Import Export code / IEC

  1. An IEC is a 10-character alpha-numeric number allotted to a person that is mandatory for undertaking any export/import activities
  2. The IEC is a Pan Based Number
  3. Only one IEC is allotted against one PAN Number
  4. The entire process of allotment of IEC is online
  5. In some cases, clarification may be filed in offline mode
  6. The application for IEC can be made only through digital signature
  7. No export or Import can happen without IEC
  8. IEC is a unique identification of the importer or exporter with the DGFT
  9. IEC code is always valid unless cancelled or surrendered.

Whereas the “License for Export or Import” is a permission from central government to undertake any activity of import or export in goods which is restricted. There are certain items which is not freely allowed to be imported in India as the government can impose restriction on their import to India. Following are the general principles based on which DGFT through a Notification imposes restrictions on the import of certain items. Difference between Import Export Code and Import License

  1. For protection of Public Morals
  2. To Protect life and health of human, animal and plants
  3. To safeguard Intellectual Property Rights
  4. For prevention of prison labour
  5. To protect artistic, historic or archaeological Value of National Treasure.
  6. To conserve natural resources
  7. To discourage and limit traffic in arms, ammunition and war related items
  8. Relating to export or import of Gold or Silver

In general, the export or import is freely allowed for all items except the regulated items as declared and notified by the central government from time to time. There are three categories of items which are regulated

  1. Prohibited Items for Import and Export from India
  2. Restricted Items for Import in India
  3. Items Reserved for State Trading Enterprises

An updated list is available in the download section of DGFT website. You may read more about Import Export Code, Documentation for IEC and step wise procedure to apply for IE Code

About The Author

Sanjeev Kumar

As Co-Founder of SETINDIABIZ & Partner at KPS Legal, I am passionate about Corporate Laws, Taxation, & Intellectual Property Rights. Always Love to meet entrepreneurs and work with them to ensure compliance with the legal regime at all time even if they don't like it!


  1. Mehdi Ravan

    Sir, is it mandatory to take import export code in case I am providing service out of India. Please guide.

  2. Versha

    Really awesome article..Thanks for sharing the information! It really helps me to start a blog.


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