Importing your goods from outside the European Union

Import declarations

Imports from outside the European Union (EU) into the UK must be declared to HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC). This is usually done using the Single Administrative Document (SAD), also known as form C88. SADs can be submitted either electronically using the Customs Handling of Import and Export Freight (CHIEF) system, or manually (although manual submissions may take longer to process). See our guide on UK's import and export processing system CHIEF.

To make the declaration the correct customs classification is required. See our guides on classification of goods and an introduction to the Tariff. Access the UK Trade Tariff on the gov.uk website.

The declaration also includes a customs procedure code explaining what is being done with the goods, eg import to free circulation or use of one of the customs procedures such as temporary admission. Together with the commodity code, this helps determine what rate or type of import duty is to be charged and how the goods are to be treated.

You can use an agent, such as a freight forwarder, to make the declaration on your behalf. This can make importing simpler and faster if you are not authorised to make electronic declarations yourself. You can register for some electronic Customs declaration processes such as Exports on the Government Gateway website.

See our guide on how to value your imports for customs duty and trade statistics.

New safety and security laws in force since 1 January 2011 mean that goods destined to arrive in the EU must be declared to the Office of First Entry to the EU - that member state's Import Control System (ICS) - within set time limits. The legal onus is on the Carrier of the goods to make the ICS declaration, however the Carrier may, with its explicit knowledge and consent, delegate this activity to the importer and/or his agent. As such, an Entry Summary Declaration must be made for your goods. UK ICS will provide the Carrier, or delegated declarant, with an Movement Reference Number for the goods.

Find guidance on the Import Control System and frequently asked questions on the HMRC website.

Community/common transit (CT) procedures

Community transit (CT) is a customs procedure which allows customs and excise duties and VAT on imported goods to be suspended until the goods either reach their point of destination in the community or are exported out of it. The community transit procedure can also be used for movements to and from the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) countries, and is then known as common transit. The EFTA countries are Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Iceland.

The New Computerised Transit System (NCTS) must be used for all community/common transit declarations except for private travellers (with goods in excess of their allowances) and for some authorised simplifications. Any potential taxes and duties on the goods must be guaranteed. Use of NCTS does not normally preclude use of other customs procedures such as customs warehousing.

Traders who are approved as Authorised Economic Operators can gain access to certain simplifications in customs procedures such as guarantee waivers and approval to start NCTS movements at their own premises (Authorised Consignors) or end the movements there (Authorised Consignees) without having to produce the goods to Customs.

If the journey begins outside the EU, the Transport Internationaux Routiers (TIR) procedure can be used for movements to and from countries that are contracting parties to the TIR Convention. The goods must travel by road in approved vehicles or containers under customs seal, accompanied by a TIR carnet document. You, or your freight forwarder, must be authorised to use TIR and the potential taxes and duties on the goods must be guaranteed.

All traders moving goods across the EU under TIR are required to submit a declaration using NCTS when the consignment reaches the frontier of the EU. Find details of TIR and NCTS and links to newsletters on Community/Common Transit and TIR on the HMRC website.

Download the European Commission Transit Manual for the TIR procedure from the Europa website (PDF, 245K).

See our guides on moving your goods and moving goods by road.