Guidance

Controlled drugs: personal licences

Information on carrying medicine containing controlled drugs for individual travellers entering or leaving the UK.

Controlled drugs are prescription drugs named in the misuse of drugs legislation. You can check for the most common ones on the controlled drugs list. You can also read the full lists in both the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 and schedules 1 to 5 of the Misuse of Drugs Regulations 2001.

This guide should not be used in place of the law and, if in doubt, you should take your own independent legal advice. You should check the control status of a drug prescribed to you with your clinician. You should also check which schedule the content of the controlled drug comes under, to decide if you can travel with your medication and need a licence. You should also find out if you can lawfully take your medicine out of the country you normally reside in – there are usually strict limits on the amount of controlled drug containing medicines you can have prescribed at any one time. This also applies to UK residents travelling abroad; many controlled drugs are not normally prescribed in quantities of greater than 1 month’s supply.

Personal licences

The personal import policy exists to enable prescribed controlled-drug containing medicines to be carried on your person when you visit the UK, without a licence being issued to you.

When you do not need a licence

You do not need a personal licence if you are travelling with:

  • medicine listed in schedule 5 of the regulations
  • medicine listed in schedule 4 (part II) of the regulations
  • less than 3 months’ supply or travelling for less than 3 months with any schedule 2 to 4 (part I) drugs which have been lawfully prescribed to you in your country of habitual residence.

Exclusions

If you are habitually resident in the UK and receiving medical treatment abroad, the personal import policy does not apply to you. This includes if controlled drugs are dispensed to you abroad.

If you are prescribed controlled drugs abroad and want to return to the UK with them, you need to email the Home Office dflu.ie@homeoffice.gov.uk. If you need to be medically repatriated, the relevant contracted company can contact the Home Office on your behalf.

Temporary residents in the UK, or visitors extending their stay (more than 3 months’ stay)

Temporary residents, for example students or those working in the UK, should travel with a small supply of any prescribed controlled-drug containing medication (meaning they can travel without needing a licence) and obtain further supplies by consulting a UK clinician.

Medicines containing controlled drugs which have been prescribed to you cannot be posted to you from overseas. They should be imported for you by a registered pharmaceutical wholesaler, who can apply for any licences needed. Medicines which are not ‘licensed’ in the UK by the Medicines and Healthcare regulatory Products Agency (MHRA) can still be prescribed by a UK clinician and made available as ‘specials’ or unlicensed medicines.

Please do not attempt to have further supplies posted to you, or to bring excessive quantities with you. We would not normally grant licences to allow this.

If you need to stay in the UK longer than you initially planned and are running out of your medicine you must obtain further supplies of medicine by consulting a UK clinician.

Charges may be payable for the services of a clinician or any prescription charges.

Schedule 1 drugs

As a UK or non-UK resident you cannot usually travel with drugs listed in schedule 1. Licences for schedule 1 drugs are limited to research or other special purposes. Schedule 1 drugs cannot be imported into the UK without a licence in any circumstances. A Schengen Certificate is not valid instead of a licence.

Apply for a licence

If you believe there are exceptional reasons why you need to import more than 3 months’ supply of medicine containing a controlled drug which has been prescribed to you, you should contact dflu.ie@homeoffice.gov.uk at least 15 working days before your intended date of travel.

Before getting in contact:

  • check whether the medicine you are prescribed contains controlled drugs
  • make sure you can legally travel from your home country with the quantities and types of medicine you have
  • know the full details of your medicine, including dose, strength and total quantity
  • ensure you have a letter from your clinician including their professional registration number
  • give full intended travel details, your address in the UK and purpose of visit

If we are able to consider granting you a licence we will send you an application form to complete.

Travelling outside of the UK

If you’re leaving the UK with medicine that contains a controlled drug you should be able to prove it’s yours with either a prescription or letter from your clinician.

Other countries have their own import laws for prescription medicine and controlled drugs.

You could get a fine or go to prison if you travel with medicine that is illegal in another country. Check with the embassy of the country you’re going to before you travel.

Email dflu.ie@homeoffice.gov.uk for more advice on leaving the UK with controlled drugs.

Contact details

Import and export licensing

Email dflu.ie@homeoffice.gov.uk

or call 0300 0724654

This address deals with the import and export of controlled substance into or from the UK, import and export licenses, applications, endorsements of licenses, or general enquiries about import and export licensing.

Domestic licensing

Email dflu.dom@homeoffice.gov.uk

or call 0300 105 4848

This address deals with domestic (UK) controlled substance licenses including precursor chemicals, applications, renewals, compliance visits, thefts and losses, surrender or returning licence, or general enquiries about domestic licensing.

Published 16 August 2019
Last updated 16 September 2020 + show all updates
  1. Guidance updated throughout.

  2. First published.