Customs clearance is the border check made by the government of all goods entering a country. Issues with customs can lead to delays, charges and additional paperwork, so you will need to be aware of your destination country’s rules and regulations when sending a parcel internationally.
Customs clearance is required for all international shipments, including shipments between the UK and the EU. Please see our Brexit page for more information.
This includes special and overseas territories linked to EU member states, such as the Channel Islands, Canary Islands, and Falkland Islands.
Courier and freight forwarding companies have absolutely no control over customs clearance. As the shipper, it is your responsibility to ensure that you abide by the customs rules of your destination country.
All shipments are subject to security screening, regardless of destination. Shipments will be X-rayed and their contents inspected to ensure that they are safe for transit.
What happens if my parcel is held by customs?
Your items may be held by customs if they are subject to customs duties and taxes, or if they are prohibited or restricted.
Import duties and taxes—including administrative fees—may be payable by the receiver depending on the commodity and value of the goods. In some (but not all) countries, personal effects are exempt from these charges.
Failure by the receiver to pay customs charges will result in the return or destruction of the shipment. Any charges applied as a result of this will be billed to the Transglobal Express account holder.
What are my responsibilities as a shipper?
As the shipper, you must:
Ensure that you send no prohibited or restricted items:
For example, some governments restrict certain foodstuffs from entering their country. Please view our list of dangerous and hazardous items that are universally prohibited.
Ensure that you have all of the necessary documentation:
All international shipments require a Packing List, also known as a Customs Invoice, which details the contents of your consignment. We will generate one of these for you, or if you are a business you can use your own. See our Packing List guide. (Until 31st December 2020, a Packing List / Customs Invoice is not required for shipments between the UK and the EU.)
Certain countries may require additional documentation depending on what you are sending; for example, if you are sending personal effects to Australia, New Zealand or the United States.
For full customs information, you can usually refer to a country's government website, or contact them directly. Please see our customs links in the right-hand menu, or at the bottom of the page if you are viewing on mobile or tablet.
Economic Operator Registration and Identification (EORI)
The EORI Number is a way of improving security and speeding up customs clearance for goods entering and leaving the UK and the European Union.
All UK companies that ship goods internationally should have an EORI number. Businesses need to make sure they have registered a UK-specific EORI number starting with the letters GB (or XI for Northern Ireland). You can register online.
The EORI number for most UK companies takes the following format: GB (or XI), followed by your nine digit VAT number, and ending with a three digit 000 suffix. For example: GB123456789000.
You will need a separate EU EORI number for any import or export declarations made within EU countries. For the EU number, you can make your application to whichever member state you deal with first. Check to see if your EU EORI number is valid by entering it into the EORI Number Validator.
Commodity codes are used to inform customs of the precise contents of your shipment, alongside descriptions of individual items. E.g. 4202321000 and "50 x plastic mobile phone cases".
From 1st January 2021, they will be required for all shipments to and from the UK. Previously they were not needed when shipping to and from EU countries, but this is set to change. Please see our Brexit page for more information.
While commodity codes are generally only required for commercial shipments, we advise that you should always provide descriptions of goods to ensure a smooth delivery.
You can use our Commodity Code Finder to search for commodity codes. We advise doing this ahead of your booking as it can take some time.
If you are shipping personal effects to the USA, Australia or New Zealand, completing the following forms ahead of time can help to speed up the customs clearance process. If you do not send them with your shipment, they will need to be completed by the receiver.
These files are in PDF format. Please right-click and "Save As" to download.
Shippers are required to make an application to HMRC prior to importing household goods and personal effects to the UK as a Transfer of Residence (ToR), in order to claim VAT and duty relief for importing personal belongings.
The shipper must complete and sign the application form and provide any supporting documentation.
The application must be made prior to shipping any consignments to the UK. If the applicant is successful in obtaining Transfer of Residence relief, the applicant will then be awarded unique declaration information in the form of an authorisation number, which can be included on the customs invoice (packing list).
Exporters may be entitled to claim a preferential tariff on the import of certain goods. Please see the HMRC website for more information.
Export licenses for controlled goods
For some controlled goods, an export license is required. This depends on the nature of the goods, the destination, and the end use - for example, military items or items that could be used for military purposes are likely to be controlled (if they aren't prohibited by carriers anyway).
The license requirement may also depend on whether the origin of your shipment is Great Britain or Northern Ireland.
You can apply for different types of license using SPIRE, the UK government's licensing system.
Licenses such as OGELs (general export licenses) are reusable licenses for exporters who regularly send certain types of item. Others, such as OIELs or SIELS (individual export licenses), are valid for fixed periods to named destinations.
Please refer to GOV.UK for more information, including a full list of license types.