Licences and enforcement for international trading

Major import licences, permits and certificates

You need a licence if you are importing or exporting certain Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) commodities from or to a country not in the European Union (EU). Licences help to monitor and control these markets. These are issued by the Rural Payments and Inspections Division (RPID). Read more about importing CAP goods.

The Import Licensing Branch (ILB) of the Department for International Trade (DIT) issues the licences required when you import:

  • certain textiles
  • firearms and ammunition
  • nuclear materials
  • iron and steel from some countries

There are prohibitions on the import of anti-personnel mines, torture equipment and certain goods from specified countries. Read about current requirements for ILB licences.

The Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) issues licences required when you import:

  • meat, poultry, milk and other foodstuffs
  • livestock
  • blood
  • plant/plant products
  • endangered species
  • fur

Some food products, such as types of food colouring or products affected by avian flu, are banned.

Plant-health controlled fruit, vegetables, plants and plant products need a Quarantine Release Certificate (QRC) and/or import licence. Importers must also check if a product requires a Plant Health Movement Document.

If you trade in products made from endangered plant and animal species, these must be accompanied by a CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species) licence. Species affected are listed in three appendices to the Convention, according to the degree of protection they need.

You should also be aware that goods imported under DAERA licence regimes may also require licences by a competent authority from the country of export.

Northern Ireland Environment Agency (NIEA) administers controls on trade in ozone-depleting substances (ODS) and products and equipment containing those substances, such as:

  • refrigeration and air-conditioning products
  • fire-fighting and foam-blowing equipment
  • aerosols and solvents

To import ODS, you must have a quota licence from the European Commission under Commission Notice 2009/C132/12. You can request a licence from the European Commission's ODS-database.

Certain substances that potentially cause cancer, known as carcinogenic substances, or chemicals and animal hair, are prohibited from import unless you have a Health & Safety Executive (HSE) Exemption Certificate. For details of exemptions, email the HSE at Import of cat and dog fur is banned in the UK.

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 substances being placed on the market. Read about REACH legislation.

For some products, such as textiles, a prior surveillance import licence may be needed. Such licences are used to monitor future imports and change frequently. For the latest information on prior surveillance licences, read the 'Notices to Importers' section. Export licences are required for other products - for more information, see licences for importing and exporting particular products.

A full list of import restrictions and prohibitions is listed in volume 1, part 3 of the Integrated Tariff.

Access the UK Trade Tariff.