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.

Personal licences

You will need a personal licence if you are travelling with medicine:

  • lawfully prescribed to you in your country of habitual residence
  • that contains a drug listed in schedule 2, 3 or 4 (part I) of the misuse of drugs regulations

If you want to import any drugs into the UK not carried on your person, such as via international courier, you will need to apply for a Home Office import or export licence.

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.

Schedule 1 drugs

As a UK or non-UK resident you cannot usually travel with drugs listed in schedule 1. Licenses for schedule 1 drugs are limited to research or other special purposes. Schedule 1 drugs cannot be imported into the UK with a licence in any circumstances. A Schengen Certificate is not valid instead of a licence.

Apply for a licence

You should apply for a personal licence at least 10 working days before your travel date.

You will need your passport or identity document and details of the drugs you will be travelling with. As part of your application you will also need to include a letter from your clinician that contains:

  • their registration number
  • your name
  • travel itinerary
  • names of prescribed controlled drugs, including strength, dosages and total amounts of each to be carried

After you apply

It usually takes 10 working days to issue a licence. You will receive an email containing your licence and the conditions for use.

The licence lasts for one trip only. You will need to re-apply for a licence if you want to travel again with controlled drugs. Make sure you apply for the renewal at least 10 working days before your travel date.

Regulations in other countries

Other countries have their own import laws for prescription medicines 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.

Contact details

Domestic licensing

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.

Import and export licensing

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.

Published 16 August 2019