Guidance

Check if Authorised Economic Operator status could benefit you

Find out what types of Authorised Economic Operator status you could apply for and their benefits if your business has role in the international supply chain.

Authorised Economic Operator status is an internationally recognised quality mark that shows your business’s role in the international supply chain is secure and has customs control procedures that meet Authorised Economic Operator standards and criteria.

Most businesses get someone to deal with customs and transport their goods.

Types of status

There are 2 types of status:

  • Authorised Economic Operator Customs Simplification (AEOC)
  • Authorised Economic Operator Security and Safety (AEOS)

You can apply for customs simplification or security and safety, or you can apply for both.

Authorised Economic Operator Customs Simplification

If you hold this status and are based in Great Britain (England, Scotland and Wales), you could benefit from:

  • a faster application process for customs simplifications and authorisations
  • a lower risk score which may reduce the number of checks customs carry out on your documents and goods
  • a guarantee waiver up to the level of your deferment account

If you hold this status and are a Northern Ireland trader, you could benefit from:

  • a faster application process for customs simplifications and authorisations
  • your consignments receiving priority treatment for customs controls
  • a lower risk score which may reduce the number of checks customs carry out on your documents and goods
  • a reduction or waiver of comprehensive guarantees
  • a 70% reduction in a business’s deferment account guarantee
  • a notification waiver when making entries into a declarant’s records
  • moving goods in temporary storage between different member states

Authorised Economic Operator Security and Safety

If you hold this status, you could benefit from:

  • a lower risk score which may reduce the number of checks customs carry out on your documents and goods
  • your consignments receiving priority treatment for customs controls
  • reduced declaration requirements for entry and exit summary declarations
  • reciprocal arrangements and mutual recognition

Where the status is recognised

If you have Authorised Economic Operator Security and Safety status you can benefit from Mutual Recognition Agreements (MRAs). The UK negotiates MRAs with other customs authorities.

The UK has negotiated agreements with:

  • EU
  • Japan
  • China
  • USA

The UK is working towards having agreements in place with other partners, please continue to check this page for further updates.

The benefits can include:

  • faster clearance at the frontier
  • less interventions
  • lower risk scores

Who can apply

To apply for Authorised Economic Operator status a business must:

You can apply regardless of the size of your business.

You can apply if your business is new to customs and can clearly show the processes and procedures you have in place.

This includes:

  • manufacturers
  • exporters
  • freight forwarders
  • warehouse keepers
  • customs agents
  • carriers
  • importers
  • port operators
  • secure freight parking operatives
  • airline loaders

You’re still eligible to apply if you use the services of an agent for your customs matters.

If you’re a trader in Northern Ireland

All Northern Ireland Authorised Economic Operator authorisations will continue to be recognised in the EU.

To be eligible to hold a Northern Ireland authorisation, you need to be:

  • established in Northern Ireland
  • have an EORI number beginning with XI
  • a person who in the course of their business is involved in activities covered by customs legislation in Northern Ireland

Checks HMRC will carry out against the criteria

HMRC will carry out the checks below to see if you meet the criteria for receiving the status. All businesses must meet the criteria. These checks will take place after you’ve applied and HMRC will take into account the size, nature and complexity of the business when carrying out the assessment.

Approval for Authorised Economic Operator status involves audit visits from HMRC staff. Before you apply make sure you’re ready for our officers to attend your premises. We’ll call you shortly after your application has been accepted to arrange these visits.

Tax and customs compliance

We’ll check your business has complied with tax and customs rules over the last 3 years. If your business has been running for less than 3 years, we’ll use the latest available information. We need to know if there have been any serious or repeated breaches of customs rules.

You’ll need to show evidence that you have:

  • procedures that identify and report any customs irregularities or errors to us
  • taken appropriate action to deal with any irregularities
  • procedures that report any customs business changes to us
  • clear procedures for handling controlled goods

Customs record keeping

We’ll ask to see an efficient system for managing commercial and in some cases, transport records.

When applying for the status you’ll need to provide evidence that you have:

  • a well-maintained logistics system with a full audit trail
  • methods to allow us to access your customs records
  • a logical administrative system
  • documented procedures to manage the flow of goods
  • internal controls that detect illegal or irregular transactions
  • procedures to handle licences and authorisations
  • archive and retrieval procedures in place
  • trained staff to tell us of any system errors
  • procedures for checking customs declarations submitted by third parties on your behalf
  • Information Technology security measures in place

If you’re a small or medium sized business, you do not need complex systems, but they must be appropriate to the size, nature and complexity of the business.

Proven financial solvency

We’ll check the financial records of your business covering the last 3 years. This is to make sure you have the ability to meet your commitments to both us and other creditors.

If you have traded for less than 3 years you can still apply.

We’ll need to:

  • see your full management accounts and projections
  • see your letter of conformity from your chartered accountant or bank
  • check if your business is subject to bankruptcy proceedings or liquidation

We expect your current net assets to be positive. We’ll take into account any special circumstances that mean it’s normal for you to have any net negative assets.

If your business is not required to file accounts, you can provide other financial statements to show us your proven financial solvency.

Practical standards of competence or professional qualifications

Before you make your customs simplification application, you must be able to show and give evidence of practical competence in customs matters for the previous 3 years. You’ll need to give evidence of how you’ve maintained the roles, responsibilities and competences.

If your business has been running for less than 3 years, we’ll use the latest available information.

If you have a small business, you must have at least one person with responsibility for customs matters. This can be part of their role and not dedicated solely to customs.

You can use a customs agent to deal with your customs matters. You must be able to give accurate information so the agent can complete declarations on your behalf.

Security and safety

When applying for this status, we’ll check the procedures you’ve put in place to protect your business and the supply chain from any risks. You’ll need to make sure your procedures are robust and appropriate to the size and nature of your business. For example, a small business with a secure outer fence and intercom may not need full time security staff.

If you apply for this status you’ll need to show evidence that you:

  • have a safety and security risk assessment in place
  • have secured external boundaries with documented procedures to control access to your premises
  • have measures in place to inspect and protect your cargo units
  • prevent unauthorised access to shipping areas, loading docks and cargo areas
  • check the security and safety of your goods during storage, manufacture and transport
  • agree appropriate safety and security measures with your suppliers
  • carry out security screening and procedures for prospective employees and contracted parties
  • train your staff in the security and safety requirements
  • have contracts for temporary personnel
  • have details of owners of cargo units
  • have all outsourcing contracts (including cleaning, security, maintenance and any others)
  • regularly check and review your processes

You can also provide evidence when we visit, that you have a safety and security certificate from one of the following:

  • an international convention
  • an international standard of the International Organisation for Standardisation

This means we may be able to carry out less checks on your application.

We’ll expect you to have a strong recruitment policy that stands up to scrutiny.

You should have a pre-employment check in place for all staff. This should cover the previous 3 years at least. You’ll need to show evidence of this.

A regulated agent or known consignor should have a 5 year employment history check.

If an employee is in a security sensitive position or a high risk area, they must have received security screening. The same level of background checks apply to agency workers you employ.

Before you apply

You must have:

  • read and understood the criteria and checks involved
  • gathered the information you’ll need to answer the questions
  • your EORI number
  • responsible customs managers and specific personnel available onsite for the audit visits
  • documented procedures available

How to apply

A responsible person, for example a Director, within the business should apply for the status. You’ll need to give up to date evidence of the person’s role, responsibilities and competences.

To meet the criteria, you must have evidence of your business procedure and processes. We’ll visit you to check your documentation and test your systems. The evidence of your business meeting the criteria should be available to see on our visits. Make sure your business is ready for the visits before you apply.

If you’re a group of companies, you need to submit separate applications for each legal entity.

After we receive your application, we’ll carry out our checks and aim to visit you as soon as possible. The status can take up to 120 days to approve.

You can find more information about applying for Authorised Economic Operator status.

Contact HMRC

You can contact HMRC by email: AEOapplications@hmrc.gov.uk or by telephone: 0300 322 9451.

Get more information

You can:

There’s also information on the World Customs Organisation website.

Published 21 September 2012
Last updated 14 January 2021 + show all updates
  1. China and the USA have been added to list of Authorised Economic Operators (AEO) Mutual Recognition Agreements (MRAs) that UK has negotiated.

  2. This page has been updated because the Brexit transition period is ending and the UK has deal with the EU.

  3. This page has been updated with information about changes from 1 January 2021.

  4. We have updated the steps you need to take on how you apply for AEO status.

  5. We are changing the way you submit an application for Authorised Economic Operator (AEO) status from 1 June 2020.

  6. HMRC's Authorised Economic Operator contact telephone number has been updated.

  7. Updated as HMRC no longer accept email applications for Authorised Economic Operator status.

  8. The address for the HMRC AEO Central Site has been updated.

  9. Information about how to make an AEO application by post has been added.

  10. Updated to show you must now apply online for Authorised Economic Operator status.

  11. Links to forms C117 and C118 forms and information about how and when to complete them have been added to the guide.

  12. The sections about recognition of AEO in other countries and types of AEO authorisation and the benefits have been updated.

  13. An advisory note has been added about sending sensitive data to HMRC by email.

  14. This guide has been updated to reflect the changes being introduced because of the Union Customs Code.

  15. Fixing references to specialist guides

  16. First published.