Export declarations and the National Export System

National Export System technical information

There are five ways of accessing Customs Handling of Import and Export Freight (CHIEF) to make your export declaration. One of these requires you to have a digital certificate. This is a small piece of software which verifies the identity of the user and which can be purchased for approximately £25 plus VAT from the approved certificate authority.

Find National Export System (NES) Digital Certificate information on the HMRC website.

Only one route into CHIEF requires an XML digital certificate. Find out about purchasing a digital certificate on the Chamber SimplySign website.

These are annual certificates so you should record renewal dates.

Web connection to CHIEF

Using this method you can be connected to CHIEF via the Government Gateway website. You can register to make electronic declarations on the Government Gateway website.

You'll need:

  • to register on the Government Gateway for 'Chip and Pin' recognition
  • a CHIEF role - a user identity, defined as the combination of a particular job done for a particular organisation
  • an email address

Once you are registered for NES and have your CHIEF role, you can log in online on the HMRC website. Use the online NES on the HMRC website.

As a web channel user, you can also use the NES facility to test new CHIEF functionality on the HMRC website (registration required).

You can apply for a web channel test 'role' by completing an application form, which you can obtain by contacting the CHIEF Operations Team on Tel 01702 366 800, on Fax 01702 366 825 or by emailing them at

Once you have made your declaration, you'll be told whether it's been accepted or rejected.

This option also allows you to request email updates about the system or other matters of interest. It's ideal for low-volume traders who are happy to input details of each individual consignment.

Email CHIEF declarations

You can make your declaration by sending an email containing the relevant information. If you choose this method you'll need:

  • a CHIEF role
  • a CHIEF-compatible software package (EDIFACT)
  • an SMTP (standard) or X400 (protocol standardised by the International Telecommunications Department) email connection

Please note email cannot be used for Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) declarations.

XML connection to CHIEF

If you're claiming export refunds under CAP, or need to be sure that you have a secure route into CHIEF (ie one that's firewalled), this option is best suited to your needs. You'll need:

  • a CHIEF role
  • a CHIEF-compatible software package (EDIFACT), including an XML wrapper
  • a digital certificate
  • an HTTPS internet connection (a more secure connection than HTTP)
  • an email address

Community Systems Providers (CSP)

  • CSPs run the major inventory-controlled ports around the UK. Freight agents buy annual badges to their systems and charge exporters a fee for entering goods for export on their behalf.
  • Customs do not charge for use of CSP systems and any charges are set by the freight forwarders direct.

Custom Input Entries (CIE)

  • In exceptional circumstances HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) staff will be able to input CIE declarations into CHIEF. For CAP entries, you must use form C88 (CAP) CIE.
  • The CIE facility at the National Clearance Hub operates 24 hours a day, 365 days of the year. After you have faxed your entry, HMRC will enter goods on your behalf, though this method may take longer to obtain clearance for your goods. Please allow three to four hours for this to be completed.

You must be familiar with - and have access to - an up-to-date version of the customs UK Tariff. Volume 3 part 1 provides guidance on making export entries. For more information, see our guide for an introduction to the Tariff.

For more information about accessing the CHIEF system, see our guide on UK's import and export processing system CHIEF.

For information on the steps to take when electronic access to CHIEF is unavailable via NES, see the page in this guide on National Export System fallback measures.