Rules of origin for imported and exported goods

Managing certification for preferential origin


Goods of preferential origin (attracting reduced or nil duty) must be certified before they leave the exporting country. Retrospective certificates can be issued under exceptional circumstances.

The certification needed depends on whether the preference scheme in the destination country is an autonomous one (applying to imports only) or reciprocal (applies to both imports and exports between the two countries).

Check with customs authorities in the goods' destination country or the Invest NI overseas trade division. Find out how to get help and advice on rules of origin.

It's the exporter's responsibility to ensure that all paperwork relating to each consignment of goods is accurate and authentic.

Autonomous schemes

You must ensure the goods you want to import are covered by a GSP (generalised system of preferences) Form A.

This is a certificate of preferential origin and must be stamped and signed by the customs authority in the exporting country. Each consignment of goods you import needs a separate certificate, and each certificate is valid for ten months from the date of issue.

Reciprocal schemes

Most commonly, goods are covered by Form EUR1 provided by the exporter and stamped and signed by the customs authorities in the exporting country.

In most cases, each form or declaration must only be used for one consignment of goods, and is valid for four, five, or ten months from the date of issue, depending on the country to which the goods are being exported.

Alternatively, the exporter can use a legally approved form of words to declare on the invoice that the goods qualify for preferential origin status. There is a value limit on such exports - unless the exporter is approved by HMRC.

For both schemes, you still need to use classification codes on the customs paperwork that accompanies the shipment as they are also used to collate international trade statistics.

Help for regular exporters

If you are a regular exporter you can apply to HMRC to become an Approved Exporter. This entitles you to put the required preference declaration on the invoice and removes the requirement for an EUR1 Certificate. You can call the HMRC VAT Helpline on Tel 0300 200 3700 for further information.

You may be able to speed regular shipments of identical goods through customs by using Binding Origin Information.

If you are taking your first steps as an importer or exporter, be aware that you have to be registered as such. Read more about Economic Operator Registration and Identification (EORI) Scheme.

Non-preferential certification

European Community Certificates of Origin (non-preferential origin) are issued by local Chambers of Commerce which are authorised by BIS on recommendation by the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC). This service is available to all businesses in the UK. Exporters can also apply online for an e-Cert (an electronic Certificate of Origin) through the BCC website.


HMRC regularly monitors goods that are being imported or exported under preference.

You must keep all relevant paperwork for up to three years. If you can't prove the origin of any goods you have exported under preference in the past three years, your customer may have to pay the full rate of duty on them. In this case, the customer may expect you to repay the duty to them.

If you're found to be exporting goods under preference incorrectly you could face customs seizures and penalties.