Licences and enforcement for international trading

Licences for importing and exporting particular products

Apart from the licences supplied by the main government departments, you may need many other licences to trade internationally in a wide range of products.

If your business includes trade in certain services you must make sure specific information is available about how you work to your customers before you complete contracts or make agreements.

Importing and exporting of medicines and medical devices is regulated by the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA).

Under Registration, Evaluation, and Authorisation of Chemicals (REACH) legislation, importers or manufacturers of more than one tonne of chemicals a year must register with the European Chemicals Agency and declare any dangerous chemicals placed on the market. Read about REACH legislation.

Strict rules apply to trading in biotechnology products. Biotechnologists, for example, must comply with export control regulations co-ordinated by the Department for Business, Innovation & Skills (BIS), particularly for materials which can be used in the manufacture of chemical warfare.

Worldwide trade in rough diamonds is controlled by the Kimberley Process.

Traders must register with the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) or the Forestry Commission prior to importation of any plant, forestry or timber product, including wooden packing materials. For controlled forestry or timber imports an advanced notification to the Forestry Commission is required.

A Quarantine Release Certificate obtained from the third country must also accompany import consignments of controlled products.

Department for Culture, Media and Sport licences are needed to export heritage items, including antiques, paintings or any collectible items. Read about the export licensing controls for objects of cultural interest.

Import licence quotas

These relate to set amounts or values of particular goods under reduced customs duties for a limited period. For example, many agricultural commodities cannot be imported into the European Union without a valid licence. Licences may also be used to restrict imports by imposing quantitative limits. However licences may also allow a reduced rate of duty on the goods they cover. Such licences are usually issued against financial security. Licences issued in other member states are valid in the UK.

The Tariff

To find out whether you need a licence for your product you should first identify its commodity code. A full list of commodity codes is available in volume 2 of the UK Integrated Tariff. To find out more about the Tariff and what to do with the information stored in it, see an introduction to the Tariff.

Access the UK Trade Tariff.