Customs regulations for your trip to United Kingdom

Last modified: July 24, 2023
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Import regulations:

Free import to passengers arriving with goods purchased within the EU which are for personal use only. Goods obtained duty and tax paid in the EU; unlimited if being for personal use, which includes personal consumption and gifts for family and friends.
However, if bringing large quantities of alcohol or tobacco and stopped by Customs, questions may be asked regarding journey, purchases and purpose of the goods, particularly if the amounts exceed:

Tobacco products:

  • 800 cigarettes;
  • 400 cigarillos (max. 3 grams each);
  • 200 cigars;
  • 1 kilogram of pipe or cigarette tobacco;

Alcoholic beverages:

  • 10 liters of spirits over 22%;
  • 20 liters of alcoholic beverages less than 22%;
  • 90 liters of wine (though no more than 60 liters of sparkling wine);
  • 110 liters of beer.

Free import to passengers arriving from non-EU Member States (including the Canary Islands, Channel Islands, Gibraltar and similar territories):

Tobacco products, for passengers 17 years of age and over:

  • 200 cigarettes; or
  • 100 cigarillos (max. 3 grams each); or
  • 50 cigars; or
  • 250 grams tobacco; or
  • a proportional assortment;

Alcoholic beverages, for passengers 17 years of age and older:

  • 1 liter of spirits over 22% volume, or non-denatured ethyl alcohol with more than 80% volume; or
  • 2 liters of spirits or aperitifs made of wine or similar beverages less than 22% volume, or sparkling wines or liquor wines; or
  • a proportional mix of these products; and in addition
  • 4 liters of wine; and
  • 16 liters of beer;

Other goods (for air travelers) up to a value of GBP 390.-.

Prescription drugs: Passengers carrying medication upon entry to the UK do not have to declare them by entering a red channel or present their license, but should be able to produce this if questioned.

An import license is not needed to import the majority of industrial goods into the UK or EU.  However, some industrial goods require import licenses issued by the Import Licensing Branch (ILB) as a result of controls imposed at national, EU or UN level. ILB publicizes these restrictions by issuing Notices to Importers.  The Department for International Trade’s (DIT) Import Licensing Branch is the UK licensing authority.  A list of EU licensing authorities is available by contacting the DIT Import Licensing Branch import controls: [email protected]. The Department of International Trade provide further guidance on import controls.

The documents required for shipments include the commercial invoice, bill of lading or airway bill, packing list, insurance documents, and, when required, special certificates of origin, sanitation, ownership, etc.

A copy of the commercial invoice should accompany the shipment to avoid delays in customs clearance. It is worth noting that imprecise descriptions are a common reason for goods being held without customs clearance, meaning that a clear description of the goods is essential and should be worded in such a way as to describe the goods to an individual who may not necessarily have an understanding of a particular industry or article. A clear description of goods should satisfy three basic questions as to what the product is, for what is it used, and of what it is made.

No special form of invoice is required, but all of the details needed to establish the true value of the goods should be given. At least two additional copies of the invoice should be sent to the consignees to facilitate customs clearance. Consular documents are not required for shipments to the UK. The UK government provides guidance on imports.

Restricted/Dutiable Items

Airport Tax

No airport tax is levied on passengers upon embarkation at the airport.

Customs duty is assessed on the fair market value of imported goods at the time they are landed in the UK. Import prices for products entering the UK from non-EU states generally consist of: Cost, Insurance, Freight and Duty, with standard VAT of 20% levied on the aggregate value. VAT is reduced to5% for some goods and services such as children’s car seats and home energy. VAT is further reduced to 0% for certain goods such as food and children’s clothing.  More information on VAT can be found by visiting VAT Rates.

The commercial invoice value is usually accepted as the normal price, but if a preferential arrangement has been established between the overseas supplier and the importer, or an unrealistic value has been declared, HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) reserves the right to assess a fair market value for duty purposes. The duty is payable at the time the goods are imported, but established importers can defer payment for, on average, 30 days. In addition to customs duties on imported goods, an excise tax is levied on in-country sales of alcohol, tobacco, and road vehicles, and on sales of oil and petroleum products.

The applicable import duty and excise tax rates can be obtained from U.S. Department of Commerce Export Assistance Centers.

The Integrated Tariff of the Community, referred to as TARIC (Tarif Intégré de la Communauté), is designed to show various rules applying to specific products being imported into the customs territory of the EU or, in some cases, when exported from it. To determine if a license is required for a particular product, check the TARIC.

The TARIC can be searched by country of origin, Harmonized System (HS) Code, and product description on the interactive website of the Directorate-General for Taxation and the Customs Union. In the UK, the Tariff database is maintained by HMRC.

  • Firearms – hunting rifles & ammunitions require a license, contact Service Agent for details
  • Radio transmitters (walkie-talkies, CB radios and cordless phones) that have not been approved for use in the United Kingdom
  • Endangered species, including birds and plants, whether alive or dead, and the goods made from them. Fur, ivory, and leather that have been taken from endangered species.
  • Plants and their produce – including trees, shrubs, bulbs and seeds etc
  • Alcohol, tobacco & perfume – incurs duty & excise tax of 10-20% & VAT of 20%: must be declared on Customs C3 Form
  • Wedding Gifts – are eligible for duty-free importation if the items are intended for the client and given by someone living outside the EC. Client
    • A marriage certificate is required.
    • Value of £800 per item maximum
    • Alcohol or tobacco gifts are excluded:
    • Gifts can arrive 2 months prior to the wedding and 4 months afterward.

Required Documents:

  • Customs Form C88. Enter the appropriate Customs Procedure Code in Box 37.
  • An Age Declaration. A written statement made by the shipper to read: “I declare that, to the best of my knowledge and belief, the articles on the form as imported were wholly manufactured or produced more than 100 years before the date of importation.”
  • Evidence of Age as proven by a certificate of age provided by the seller or by an independent expert in the country where the antique/work of art was acquired.

Prohibited Items

Prohibited:

Anabolic steroids and certain other performance-enhancing drugs, in the form of medicinal products, are prohibited unless they are imported by an individual for self-administration. For further details please consult: www.homeoffice.gov.uk/drugs/drug-law/.

Arms and Ammunition regulations:

Import of firearms (incl. sporting guns and shotguns) and ammunition must be supported by an appropriate license/certificate plus a permit. This permit can be obtained at the relevant police authority by a sponsor who is resident in the UK. The sponsor may be an individual or a representative of a club, shooting syndicate, country estate or national shooting organization. The completed permit will be sent to the sponsor who can forward it to the visitor. The sponsor may also produce the permit at the time and place of the importation by arrangement.

If a visitor has no permit, then the weapon will be detained by UK Border Agency until a permit is produced.

Weapons taken from passengers prior to embarkation for safe stowage in the aircraft must be returned to the passenger by a responsible officer of the airline or handling agent in the presence of an officer of UK Border Agency in the red channel of the arrival customs hall.

Furthermore such items must be clearly “identified” so that they can be presented to UK Border Agency for clearance in accordance with the prevailing instructions.

The use of a sticker/label will ensure that all firearms and ammunition therefore are quickly and easily identified on arrival, thus obviating difficulties with customs clearance.

Passengers are allowed to transship sporting guns and ammunitions via the United Kingdom under the open general transshipment license subject to the following:

  • weapons must travel with passenger as checked personal baggage;
  • if there is a stopover in the United Kingdom, weapons must be declared and must not remain in the United Kingdom longer than 30 days.

However, passengers are not permitted to transit through the United Kingdom with checked baggage containing sporting guns to the following destinations:

Iran, Iraq, Liberia, Libya, Montenegro, Myanmar, North Macedonia (Rep.), Rwanda, Serbia, Sierra Leone, Somalia and Sudan.
Important: All handguns are restricted under UK law and may only be carried on aircraft of British Airways (BA) with prior permission of the Security Duty Manager. Small arms ammunition for sporting purposes shall not be carried in passenger’s baggage in quantities exceeding 5 kilograms per person.

Prohibited: It is not allowed to import arms and ammunition from Russian Fed. and Syria. For more information see Sanctions map

Additional Information on regulations:

Prohibited: indecent or obscene books, films or videos.

Foodstuffs (for personal consumption):

the following may be brought into the UK if arriving from:

  • an EU Member State , Andorra, the Canary Islands, the Isle of Man, Norway and San Marino:
    meat and meat products, milk and dairy products (not applicable to unpasteurized milk and its products) and other animal products (e.g. fish, shellfish, honey, eggs) obtained in the EU and free from disease;
  • the Faroe Islands, Greenland, Iceland, Liechtenstein and Switzerland:
    5 kilograms max. combined total weight of meat and meat products, milk and dairy products (not applicable to unpasteurised milk and its products) obtained in these countries and free from disease;
  • generally 1 kilogram (rules vary per product/country) of other animal products (e.g. fish, shellfish, honey, eggs) free from disease;

All other countries:

  • generally 1 kilogram (rules vary per product/country) of other animal products (e.g. fish, shellfish, honey, eggs) free from disease. No meat and meat products, milk and dairy products are permitted.

All travelers may carry a limited quantity of powdered infant milk, infant food and special foods required for medical reasons, if items do not require refrigeration prior to opening and must be in commercially branded packaging, unopened unless in current use.
For full details and information on specific food products, consult www.defra.gov.uk. Tel: 44 20 7238 6951. If within the UK, Tel: 08459 335577.

Fruit, vegetables, plants and plant products (all for personal use and must be free from signs of pests and diseases):
the following may be brought into the UK if arriving from:

  • an EU Member State , Andorra, the Canary Islands, the Isle of Man and San Marino: all plants or plant products if they were grown in these countries;
  • other specific European Member States and other countries in the Euro-Mediterranean area and all other countries:
    a limited amount of certain fruits, vegetables, plants and plant products, with restrictions on many others.

For full details and information on specific food products, consult www.defra.gov.uk or Tel: 44 1904 455174.

Applicable in Northern Ireland:

Passengers having visited farms or being in contact with farm animals should contact the imports inspectors on arrival. All animals are subject to pre-importation conditions and license.

Import of all kinds of meat or poultry meat only allowed if:

  • packed in tins or sealed glass containers if these are capable of storage for extended periods; or
  • accompanied by a veterinary certification;
  • declared upon arrival to the Department of Agriculture (Northern Ireland) imports inspectors.

Miscellaneous (Pets, Motors, and others.)

Pets:

Pet cats, dogs (incl. assistance dogs) and ferrets entering the UK must meet the rules of Regulation (EC) 998/2003 and Regulation (EU) 576/2013 . This regulation is operated in the UK as the Pets Travel Scheme (PETS).

At present, carriers on certain routes are participating in PETS to transport pets. For detailed information on carriers/routes, updates and further information about pet entry to the UK please consult the UK Government website at http://www.defra.gov.uk. Passengers are also advised to contact their carrier for more information.

Pet cats, dogs and ferrets, which do not comply with the Regulation are subject to rabies control measures (quarantine).

Cats, dogs and ferrets must be accompanied by a “boarding document” as an indication that the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has issued an import license. When they enter UK , they will be vaccinated against rabies. This may be waived if they have already been vaccinated.
Pets, except assistance dogs, entering or transiting the UK must be carried in the hold of the aircraft in a “nose and paw proof crate or container” as manifested cargo covered by an Air Waybill. Prior advice by telex or other suitable means to the Cargo Department of the airline concerned at the station of arrival is mandatory prior to shipment. It should quote license number shown on “boarding document”, name of shipper and owner, species of animal, date and flight of arrival and departure.

Transit: Arrangements must be made prior to arrival. Pets arriving and departing from the same airport must do so within 48 hours or be transferred to an official quarantine by an authorized carrying agent. Pets may not pass the customs control. Pets arriving and departing from different airports within 48 hours require a transit license from the Animal Health, Specialist Service Centre for Imports. The pet must be transported from the point of landing to the point of export by an authorized carrying agent.

Prohibited: all imports of birds and bird eggs are subject to restrictions for reasons of animal health and some are also restricted under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES). Import of five or less pet birds may be permitted subject to certain conditions. For information regarding these restrictions and permitted imports please contact respectively the Specialist Service Centre for Imports (http://animalhealth.defra.gov.uk/about/contact-us/tradeimports.html) and the Wildlife Licensing and Registration Service (http://animalhealth.defra.gov.uk/about/contact-us/wildlife.html). The Specialist Service Centre for Export advise on all movements of performing animals (http://animalhealth.defra.gov.uk/about/contact-us/tradeexports.html)..

This prohibition also applies to transshipments via any airport in the United Kingdom.

However, above is not applicable if a specific dispensation for individual cargo consignments covered by an Air Waybill has been obtained from the Animal Health , Specialist Service Centre for Imports, Chelmsford. Tel: 44 1245 454860.

Warning: In case of illegal imports into Great Britain the owner may be fined up to GBP 5,000.- (or more if convicted in the Crown Court) and/or imprisoned and the animal destroyed. An owner who knowingly uses false documentation to transport a pet into Great Britain can also be fined up to GBP 5,000.- and/or imprisoned. An airline which lands an illegal pet in Great Britain (i.e., one that fails to meet the entry rules and does not have an import license) may be fined up to GBP 5,000.- (or more if convicted in the Crown Court). Note: different fines may apply in Northern Ireland.

With approval of the carrier trade dogs may enter the UK if the following conditions (Balai directive 92/65/EEC) have been met:
— dogs must be from registered establishments, must have microchip identification, rabies vaccination and blood tests. The dog has to be available for checking by a Veterinary Officer within 24 hours after arrival in the UK.

A red “rabies control” label (sent to all applicants for licenses) should be affixed to the crate/cage or container.

Motor vehicles

Documents Required

  • ToR1 Application
  • Original bill of lading / air way bill
  • Declaration form C384 (if less than 6 months old)
  • Copy of registration documents proving ownership
  • Insurance policy documentation (copies from country of origin proving use)
  • Utility bills / bank statements that prove place of residence was outside the European Union and exceeded 12 months

Specific Information

  • Duty-free entry is permitted if the vehicle has been possessed and used for at least 6 months outside the European Union before it is imported and will not be sold or otherwise disposed of for 12 months after the date of importation.
  • Owners of the goods register their intention to import a vehicle in advance to starting the process of shipping with the DVLA.
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