Sending parcels to and from Northern Ireland

Guide

Last updated 13 September 2021

Royal Mail Group (RMG) is the UK’s designated Universal Postal Union Provider.

An express carrier is a company that delivers parcels (express consignments) within a set timeframe, offering a door-to-door collection and delivery service. It may include:

  • express couriers
  • fast parcel operators
  • freight forwarders

While discussions continue on the proposals in the Northern Ireland Protocol: the way forward, you should continue to use the current arrangements. This guidance will be updated in due course and will give you time to prepare for any new requirements.

Temporary arrangements for moving goods from Great Britain to Northern Ireland

HMRC has adopted a temporary approach to applying declaration requirements for the movement of goods in parcels (including by the Royal Mail Group and express carriers).

The temporary approach recognises the unique circumstances of Northern Ireland, the impacts of any disruption to parcel movements in the context of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, and specific challenges for operators moving parcels. This guidance sets out the detail of this approach.

In almost all cases, goods sent to consumers will not require a customs declaration.

Declarations will only usually be required where the goods are either:

  • prohibited or restricted
  • being sent from a business to another business where the value of the good is greater than £135.00

The controls and requirements that apply during the temporary approach period are:

  • Controls through the Goods Vehicle Movement Service
  • Inventory systems at ports
  • VAT requirements

For business-to-business movements, these temporary arrangements will end on 1 October. More information on these movements can be found below. We will publish further guidance setting out longer-term requirements in due course.

For all other movement types, for example, business to consumer and consumer to consumer, we will not be making changes on 1 April as previously planned. Instead, businesses and carriers will have 6 months to prepare for new customs declaration requirements, from the date of the publication of guidance on these arrangements in due course.

Northern Ireland residents receiving goods from Great Britain
If you are a Northern Ireland resident consumer, you can continue to receive goods from Great Britain with no new requirements.

Individuals in Great Britain sending goods to Northern Ireland residents and businesses
You can continue to send goods in parcels to Northern Ireland residents and businesses in the same way you did before 1 January 2021. For example by using a Post Office, express service point or returning goods to businesses.

You can continue to send goods in parcels to businesses (such as returned goods) as you usually do with no new requirements.

The Post Office will have 12 months from the publication of longer-term requirements to prepare their systems for moving goods from one customer to another.

Northern Ireland businesses receiving goods from a business in Great Britain valued over £135
If you are a Northern Ireland based business receiving goods valued over £135 through the Royal Mail Group or an express carrier you will have to submit a declaration. However, you can delay when you do this and you will be able to use the free Trader Support Service (TSS) to do so.

You should speak to the TSS on when and how to make this declaration, and further details on how you will be able to submit this delayed declaration will be issued in due course.

You should prepare by:

You should also take steps to avoid the risk of needing to pay tariffs unnecessarily on these goods when you submit your declarations. You will need to keep additional records dependent on the tariff removal route appropriate:

  1. You could consider applying to join the UK Trader Scheme to become authorised to declare goods ‘not at risk’. You will need to meet certain criteria to do this, including being able to demonstrate the end-use of the goods.

  2. Proof that the goods meet Rules of Origin to benefit from zero tariffs under the EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement; or

  3. Evidence that you are within your de minimis State Aid allowance.

Dependent on your contractual arrangement with Great Britain sending business, they may complete the delayed declaration instead of you.

Northern Ireland businesses receiving goods from a business in Great Britain valued at £135 or less
If the goods you are receiving in a parcel have a value of £135 or less, then you can continue to receive these goods from Great Britain as usual with no new requirements. A declaration is not required for these goods.

Businesses in Great Britain sending excise goods to Northern Ireland residents and businesses
The temporary approach to declaration requirements now also includes excise goods that are already UK duty paid. This means that for as long as the temporary arrangements are in place, businesses sending excise duty paid goods from Great Britain to Northern Ireland by RMG or an express carrier, do not need to make a customs declaration.

There is still a liability to excise duty on arrival in Northern Ireland but you can offset this against the duty already paid in Great Britain. In the limited circumstances where the duty already paid is less than the liability, you will have to account for the duty. However, you will not need to pay an additional excise duty until the end of the temporary arrangements. You should keep records to be able to account for any excise duty at the end of the temporary arrangements as specified in Excise Notice 206.

We will publish further guidance on what businesses need to do to account for additional excise duty before the end of the temporary arrangements.

Northern Ireland businesses receiving excise goods from a business in Great Britain valued over £135
If you are a business based in Northern Ireland receiving excise goods valued over £135 from a business in Great Britain, you will have to submit a declaration in line with the arrangements for other goods set out above.

Businesses in Great Britain sending prohibited & restricted goods to Northern Ireland residents and businesses
If you are sending prohibited and restricted goods in parcels, you should inform the Royal Mail Group or your express carrier as a customs declaration will need to be made.

Your carrier will be able to tell you if they carry the type of goods you want to send. They may ask you to provide additional information or ask you to take additional steps you need to take so that a declaration can be made. It is your responsibility to comply with any licensing or reporting requirements for the goods that you are moving.

The details you give the Royal Mail Group or an express carrier about your consignment (including sender and recipients details) may be disclosed to HMRC and Border Force to support customs compliance.

Goods with restriction in place

The following list of prohibited and restricted goods include additional steps which are needed for sending parcels from Great Britain to Northern Ireland consumers.

Restricted goods require a customs declaration and specific steps before being moved. Prohibited goods cannot be moved. Links to relevant guidance on moving these items are included below, along with more detail on specific cases relevant to parcel movements.

Agrifoods, plants and seeds
Agri-foods, live animals, plants, plant products and seeds subject to a range of Sanitary and Phytosanitary (SPS) controls which may include certification requirements, checks at points of entry and prohibitions and restrictions. Categories of agri-foods products commonly sent in parcels include pet food, as well as food products, for consumption by humans. Live animals cannot be sent to Northern Ireland by parcel, as they must be presented at an appropriately designated point of entry. Find out more information about moving agri-foods into, out of, or through Northern Ireland.

Certain food, drink and feed products are exempt from certification or inspection at a point of entry. Products falling into these categories and commonly sent in parcels include certain types of confectionery, wine (where below 100l), chocolate and cakes. These would not require a customs declaration either. Find out how to export or move composite food products.

Plants, plant products and seeds may be subject to a range of Sanitary and Phytosanitary controls which may include certification requirements, checks at Points of Entry and prohibitions and restrictions. Find out how to export plants and plant products from Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

Certain products containing animal or plant products such as fruit and vegetables that have been processed and packaged to the point that they no longer pose a biosecurity risk, are exempt from Sanitary and Phytosanitary controls. These include most clothing products and certain processed plant products. These would also not require a customs declaration.

If you have any specific questions on moving goods subject to regulatory controls please contact the Movement Assistance Scheme helpline.

Betel leaves
Foodstuffs containing or consisting of betel leaves (‘Piper betle’) from Bangladesh are prohibited. Betel leaves are also banned in the UK.

Bisphenol A
Infant feeding bottles containing Bisphenol A are prohibited, they are also banned in the UK.

Civil explosives
Civil explosives must be accompanied by a document issued by the PSNI. Find more information about the transfer of explosives.

Cat and dog fur
Products containing cat and dog fur are prohibited in all circumstances.

Chemicals including pesticides subject to Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals (REACH) 
REACH controls the authorisation of chemicals for use in the EU market. Currently EU and UK REACH are the same, so any goods legal to sell in the UK or the EU will be legal to sell in Northern Ireland. No further action is required by retailers.

Chernobyl restrictions
Certain wild mushrooms and fruit of the genus Vaccinium (which includes blueberries and cranberries) require laboratory analysis for radioactive caesium and official certification. This does not apply to cultivated, or commercially grown, products.

Find more information about food from certain countries post-Chernobyl.

Cultural objects unlawfully removed from the country in which they were created or discovered
Cultural goods, other than those which were created or discovered in EU Member States, are prohibited from entering Northern Ireland from Great Britain and other non-EU countries if they have been unlawfully removed from the territory of the country in which they were created or discovered.

Find more information about cultural goods which have been unlawfully exported from the country in which they were created or discovered.

Dissostichus
Catch certificates are required for the Dissostichus species. The 2 variants, Dissostichus eleginoides and Dissostichus mawsoni are known as Patagonian toothfish and Antarctic toothfish. Dissostichus eleginoides is sometimes marketed under the name Chilean seabass.

Dried beans
Foodstuffs consisting of dried beans from Nigeria are prohibited (these are also banned in the UK).

Drug precursor chemicals
Trade between Great Britain and Northern Ireland is subject to licensing in accordance with the requirements in the precursor chemical wallchart for import and export authorisation.

Licensing requirements vary according to the category of drug precursor chemicals, which are industrial chemical substances to be shipped between Great Britain and Northern Ireland. Where a licence is needed, the importer or exporter needs to apply to the Drugs and Firearms Licensing Unit at the Home Office.

Find more information about trading in drug precursor chemicals between Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

Endangered animals and plants subject to Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES)
Goods made from endangered animals and plants are controlled by CITES and require CITES documentation, which must be presented for physical stamping at a CITES designated point of Entry/Exit (PoE) before they can be moved between Great Britain and Northern Ireland. While not conventionally sold in shops, specialist dealers may sell certain products, for example mahogany.

Check if you need a CITES permit.

Explosive pre-cursors
Substances that can be used to make explosives are already controlled in Northern Ireland and require a license to market and use. Find more information about explosive pre-cursors.

Fluorinated gases (F-gases)
You need to be registered and have a quota if you wish to move HFCs (the most common type of F-gas) into Northern Ireland.

Find out more information about moving F-gas between Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

Invasive Alien Species
It is illegal to trade in live invasive alien plant and animal species. The Invasive Alien Species list of plants and animals is the same in the island of Ireland as it is in the UK, so the plants prohibited to move into Northern Ireland are also illegal to sell in the UK.

Find more information about Invasive Alien Species of

Leg-hold traps
Fur from animals caught in the wild must demonstrate that it was not caught in a leg-hold trap. This regulation does not apply to furs from animals reared in captivity.

Find out more information about importing animal furs and skins.

Mercury
Movements of mercury are already controlled. You need written permission from Northern Ireland’s Department for Agriculture, Environment, and Rural Affairs to move mercury into Northern Ireland.

Ozone-depleting substances
You need to be licensed and have quota if you wish to move ozone-depleting substances into Northern Ireland (and be licensed to move it out of Great Britain). You should follow the guidance provided.

Persistent organic pollutants
Movements of persistent organic pollutants are already controlled. You need written permission from Northern Ireland’s Department for Agriculture, Environment, and Rural Affairs to move persistent organic pollutants into Northern Ireland.

Find more information about the movement of hazardous chemicals.

Prohibited plants
You cannot move certain prohibited plants from Great Britain to Northern Ireland.

Find more information about exporting high-risk and prohibited plants.

Radioactive waste and spent nuclear fuel
There is no change to the processes for shipments of radioactive sources and spent fuel from the Great Britain to Northern Ireland. These cannot be sent by parcel. The sender must continue to ensure that they are only moved to individuals in Northern Ireland in accordance with the guidance for shipping radioactive waste and spent fuel.

Rough Diamonds which subject to the requirements of the Kimberley Process
You will need a Kimberley Process certificate from the Government Diamond Office if you plan to move rough diamonds from Great Britain to Northern Ireland.

There are diamond products which fall outside the remit of the Kimberley Process, such as:

  • cut and polished diamonds
  • diamond dust
  • lab-grown diamonds

The commodity codes for rough diamonds are:

  • 7102.10
  • 7102.21
  • 7102.31

Seal products
Products made from seal fur or skin are prohibited unless they are for the personal use of travellers/family and of non-commercial quantities, or they result from traditional hunts by Inuit or other indigenous communities.

Find out more information about importing animal furs and skins - export of fish.

Swordfish, Bigeye Tuna and Bluefin Tuna
Swordfish, Bigeye Tuna and Bluefin Tuna have extra controls.

Find out more information about Importing or moving Swordfish, Bigeye Tuna and Bluefin Tuna into the UK.

Timber subject to Forest Law Enforcement Governance and Trade (FLEGT) regulations
FLEGT ocuments are only necessary for timber, and timber products, originating in countries that have signed voluntary agreements to combat illegal logging. Currently only Indonesian wood requires a FLEGT. However, FLEGT timber only comes by shipping container or plane, rather than parcel.

Find out more information about FLEGT licences

Waste
There are controls on the shipment of waste. This only refers to commercial waste and not sending old goods (for example DVDs) in the post.

Find more information about the import and export of waste.

Wine and Spirits
Orders of wine and spirits of over 100l must be accompanied by a VI-1 form. Find more information about importing and exporting wine.

If you are an express carrier

If your express consignment is controlled by the Goods Vehicle Movement Service
For further details on how an express carrier should use the Goods Vehicle Movement Service for goods eligible for these temporary arrangements, the carrier should email: nonfreightparcels@hmrc.gov.uk. Find out more about the Goods Vehicle Movement Service.

If your express consignment is inventory linked
The express carrier should speak to their existing Community System Provider about how to process goods movements eligible for these temporary requirements through the inventory linked systems.

For example, express carriers moving express consignments through Belfast International Airport or Belfast City Airport should speak to CCS-UK about how eligible goods movements can be cleared.

Moving goods from Northern Ireland to Great Britain

Find out more about moving qualifying goods from Northern Ireland to the rest of the UK.

Moving goods between Northern Ireland and the EU

There are no declaration requirements for goods moved directly between Northern Ireland and the EU.

Moving goods between Northern Ireland and the Rest of the World

Find out more information about declaration requirements for goods moving into or out of Northern Ireland from anywhere outside of the UK or the EU.