Import Procedure (EU/UK) I

Transit to EU (or UK post Brexit)

Before commencement,  the exporter must issue an export declaration to it customs office responsible for the company in its country. After receiving approval from its customs authority, the company can ship the goods. The shipment is registered in the customs export system under an export registration number.

Following prior notice and the assignment of a unique standardised reference number, the goods are dispatched along with a commercial invoice, which needs to include more detailed information regarding the shipment, including identification numbers, an exact description of the goods, weight and content of the package as well as shipment and possible insurance costs.

Documents that prove the origin of the goods may also be required. These accompanying documents are included with the goods.

The delivery of the goods is commonly handled by a freight forward company which deals with the physical transportation of the goods and the subsequent declarations and customs procedures.

Prior Notice and SAFE System

The requirement for advance electronic information is part of the framework of standards to secure and facilitate global trade (SAFE). It is based on the customs to customs aspect of the framework.

The purpose is to promote the seamless movement of goods through international supply chains. It seeks to ensure the exchange of timely and accurate information to allow customs administrations to manage risk on a more effective basis. It seeks to enable customs to detect high-risk consignments and improve their controls.

Customs administrations must of necessity cooperate and use common and accepted standards. A notice must usually be given in advance of entry. Customs give a reference number and instructions as to entry in response.

The prior notice of movements allows control to commence prior to arrival in domestic ports. It may allow customs to screen a cargo or container prior to arrival. The advance electronic information allows the identification of high-risk containers for cargoes.

Entry Summary Declaration

While the goods are being transported, the freight forwarder issues an Entry Summary Declaration (ESD) to the port of entry  This declaration allows the customs authorities to conduct a risk assessment prior to the actual arrival of the goods at the port or point of entry, which assists the choice of the subsequent checks and inspections.

When the goods reach the EU’s external border  (or the UK’s border post Brexit in the reverse scenario) the export declaration (or the export shipment registration number) is provided to the customs authorities at the EU (or the UK’s border post Brexit, in the reverse scenario)customs at the place of arrival.

Upon arrival in the EU(or the UK’s border in the reverse scenario), the goods are declared to customs through an import declaration. At this point, the shipment may be subject to EU (or the UK post-Brexit in the reverse scenario) customs duties and possible import VAT.

Summary Declaration and Customs Control

The Import Control System is an electronic system for lodgings summary declaration in EU states. A summary declaration is submitted for acceptance at the office of first entry into the EU. It must be entered here irrespective of the final destination within the EU(or the UK post-Brexit in the reverse scenario).

It records information on the movement of cargo and undertakes common safety and security risk analysis. It notifies the office of subsequent entry within the EU, i.e. the member state of destination(or the UK post-Brexit in the reverse scenario). It allows entry or rejects entry of the goods.

Goods are subject to customs control on entry into the EU. They remain under supervision until the custom status is changed or ultimately discharged. Goods outside the customs territory of the EU may be subject to customs control under the terms of agreements entered with the third country.

Brought to Customs Unless otherwise Permitted

It is required that goods brought into the customs territory of the EU (or the UK post Brexit  in the reverse scenario) are conveyed by the person bringing them into the EU (or the UK post Brexit  in the reverse scenario)by the route specified by the customs authority in their instructions, if any, to the customs office designated or any other place designated or approved by the authority. The may be brought to a free zone in some limited cases where such exists

A person who assumes responsibility for the carriage of goods after they enter the customs territory of the EU (or the UK post-Brexit in the reverse scenario) is responsible for compliance with the above obligations.

Goods are channelled to the approved entry points, generally approved ports and airports and the permitted places within them for loading and unloading goods.

Where goods enter by road, there is an obligation on the driver to declare all goods being conveyed. This includes goods which are concealed even those of which they are unaware. The place of introduction into the customs territory of the EU, in the case of goods which are carried overland, the place where the first customs office is situated.

Effectively the obligation is to proceed to the first customs office. The carrier/importer must then present the goods to customs. They must be covered by a summary declaration. It must be lodged either by the person importing the goods into the EU or the person who is responsible for carriage

The goods are assigned to a customs-approved treatment or use. The immediate default is temporary storage under customs control. The goods may be unloaded with the permission of the customs authority only. The customs authority may require the persons holding the goods to provide security for any customs duties arising.

If by reason of unforeseen circumstances or matters outside the control of the person concerned, he /she is unable to comply with the above obligation, he must immediately notify customs authorities. The customs authority will give instructions on the measures to be taken.

Presentation of Goods

The default position is that goods entering the EU customs territory (or the UK post-Brexit in the reverse scenario) must be presented to customs by the person who carries them or arranges carriage. The person concerned must refer to the summary declaration or customs declaration previously lodged in respect of the goods.

The goods may be routed by customs so that physical inspection is not required. Goods traffic introduced and covered by a customs declaration may be subject to routing through a red, green or orange channel depending on the risk profile of the goods and assurance in relation to compliance with the customs obligations

In most cases, the traders or agents are established and trustworthy so that customs authority is satisfied from a risk management perspective, that the goods should be green routed.

There are separate rules in respect of goods carried by travellers. There are rules in respect of goods placed under a customs procedure but not presented to customs.

There is an exception in respect of goods in a means of transport passing through the territorial waters or airspace without stopping.

May be Examined

Once goods have been presented, they may be examined, detained for examination or assignment to a customs-approved treatment or use. Customs authorities may require goods to be unloaded and unpacked. The examination takes place only in a very small proportion of cases.

Goods were formerly placed in transit sheds imports pending inspection. The modern EU customs code status is the temporary storage procedure.

Once under customs control, goods must be unloaded or transshipped from a means of transport solely with the permission of customs authorities in places designated or approved by the customs authorities. Permission is not required in the event of imminent danger necessitating immediate unloading.


Transhipment involves the direct transfer from one means of transport to another. Some states allow for transfer or transhipment under customs control without duties. This is effectively a simplified customs procedure. It is similar to the transit system.

Transhipment does not apply to goods which are already under a customs procedure such as customs transit and which are transferred from one means of transport to another in the course of the procedure, subject to the terms of the consent for that procedure.

Goods may not be removed from their original position without customs authority. Customs approval of storage areas for entered goods is conditional on their not being moved interfered with.

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