Step 1: Purchase from Supplier

Points to consider at this stage:

  • Agree Incoterms with the supplier
  • Decide which mode of transport is most appropriate 
  • Consider how you will arrange payment (e.g. use of letter of credit)
  • Check what import duty rates will apply
  • Check if the goods require any import licences or additional controls
  • Obtain quotes from clearing agents
  • Obtain quotes from carriers (depending on Incoterm agreed)
  • Apply for and EORI number if this is your first import
  • Make sure insurance is in place

Step 2: Commercial Paperwork

Your supplier should provide you with the following documents in advance of the goods arriving in the UK. Often the original documents are held back until the supplier has received payment:

  • Commercial invoice
  • packing list
  • Certificate of origin/origin declaration (may be included on the invoice)
  • Preference certificate/preference declaration (may be included on the invoice)
  • Bill of lading / AWB / CMR
  • Other certificates e.g. phytosanitary, Health Certificates, conformance etc.
  • Insurance (if the supplier is arranging this)

Step 3: Goods are on their way

Once the goods have been shipped, you need to keep and eye on their ETA to ensure timely clearance on arrival:

  • Sea and airfreight can be tracked usually on the carrier website using the AWB/BOL number 
  • Your nominated clearing agent can also monitor the arrival once they have the documents
  • The carrier should email you a notice of arrival in advance of the goods arriving to confirm when they are due in the port of arrival
  • If any licences are required you should apply for these in advance of the goods arriving

Step 4: Import Entry

The customs agent will complete the Import declaration which is received by HMRC. The agent will require the following information at this stage:

  • Import name and EORI number
  • Commodity codes for each product
  • Country of origin for each product (ideally this should be clearly stated on the invoice)
  • CPC codes (or confirmation of the procedure required e.g. permanent import)
  • Method of payment (e.g. your deferment account number)
  • Commercial documents
  • Any relevant import licence details

Step 5: Goods arrive in the UK

Once your goods arrive, you have a limited period of time to arrange collection from port of arrival (typically 24 hours for air freight and 5 days for sea freight). 

  • Customs will determine if goods will be cleared instantly, or if they require a documentation check, x-ray, or physical examination
  • Other government departments may also place holds or examinations on the goods e.g. Port Health, Forestry or Trading Standards
  • Customs duty and taxes will be collected at this stage by Customs

Step 6: Delivery

Great news! Your order is cleared and on its way. Hauliers also tend to limit the time you have to unload your goods too, so don’t leave them waiting too long on arrival or you may end up with vehicle detention charges:

  • Make sure you check the condition and number or packages before you sign the driver’s delivery note. If damaged or missing, clearly state this on the receipt.
  • Make sure your agent provides you a copy of the Import declaration which you should keep for a minimum of 6 years (this can be digital)

Importer’ Responsibilities

  • Commercial Documentation
  • Instructions to Import Agent
  • Payment of Import Taxes
  • Valuation
  • Tariff Code
  • Country of Origin
  • Proof of Preference
  • Licences
  • Insurance
Contact Information

Registered number 11932140

VAT 320898980