In October, the cabinet approved a draft law allowing Egyptians living abroad — around 14 million according to 2021 figures — to import one private car per person into Egypt free of custom duties and taxes, including VAT. Anyone wanting to benefit from the scheme will be required to make a hard currency interest-free deposit with an Egyptian bank equivalent to the value of the saved custom duties and taxes which can be redeemed after a fixed period.
The initiative was introduced to help out with a hard currency crunch. Egyptians wishing to benefit from the programme were instructed to do so via the application Cars of Egyptians Abroad. But following complaints about the cumbersome nature of the procedures involved the government has decided to ease the regulations.
Expats wishing to take advantage of the initiative are now required to submit a bank statement for the six months preceding the date of the transfer of the due amount, showing deposit, withdrawal and transfer movements. The condition that the due amount be deposited in their bank accounts at least three months before transferring it has been cancelled.
According to Finance Minister Mohamed Maait, the requirement for applicants to authenticate their residence documents, bank account statement and vehicle data certificate at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs through embassies and diplomatic missions abroad has also been suspended.
Cars will be evaluated as basic, medium or high, with tables appearing on the application detailing the value of the cash deposit to be transferred in favour of the Ministry of Finance.
The application also allows Egyptians abroad to purchase cars in Egypt’s duty free zones which will then be subject to the same rules prescribed for importing a car from their country of residence providing that the cash deposit is transferred from abroad.
Customs clearance for cars now has a ceiling of LE3,000, head of the Egyptian Customs Authority Al-Shahat Ghatouri. He added that an operations room has been set up to ensure the quick processing of customs.
The initiative, which started on 15 November and will continue until 14 March 2023, applies to new cars manufactured in 2022, or used cars no more than three years old.
The Ministry of Telecommunications and Information Technology launched the mobile application in November for free on both iOS App store and Android App store.
After downloading the app, applicants register their accounts using mobile phone numbers and personal information including their national ID and Egyptian passport numbers. Users then submit a request to import a car for personal use, specifying the brand, model, year, and motor type. The app calculates the fees required and lists the documents required to finalise the import process.
The number of applicants reached 10,000 within 48 hours of the launch of the app and exceeded 30,000 after two weeks and Maait expects between 500,000 to one million Egyptian expats to take advantage of the scheme over the lifetime of the initiative.
Egyptians with dual citizenship, aged 16 and above with valid residence permit abroad, are eligible to apply for the scheme which the government hopes will attract LE50 billion worth of foreign currency.
Egypt has been suffering from a drop in foreign currency in recent months. According to figures from the Central Bank of Egypt, foreign reserves fell to $33.1 billion in September 2022, down from $40.9 billion in February.
*A version of this article appears in print in the 5 January, 2023 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly