Customs declarations for goods you send out of the UK or EU

If you’re a UK-based business sending goods outside of the UK or EU, you must complete an export declaration to get your goods through customs.

From 1 January 2021
Businesses in Great Britain will need to follow these rules for all countries outside the UK.

If your business is exporting goods out of the UK or EU you’ll need to submit a customs declaration.

Completing a customs declaration is complicated and you may need software. So you may want to get someone to deal with customs for you.

How to submit

Most declarations are submitted electronically using the National Export System. If you’re going to do this yourself, rather than appoint an agent, you’ll need to register for the National Export System.

You might also need to buy third party software that can submit declarations.

There are different rules for:

When to submit

For most goods you’ll make a full declaration which must be made before the goods arrive at the port of export.

If you do not your goods could get stopped at the border.

However, there’s a different process if you’re using simplified declaration procedures.

Published 14 January 2019
  1. Step 1 Check if you need to follow this process

    There are other tasks you need to do before you can get goods through customs.

    1. Check the whole process for exporting goods to countries outside the EU

    Most businesses that export goods use a transporter or customs agent to make the declaration and get their goods through UK customs.

  2. Step 2 Set up your business for making customs declarations

    The business exporting the goods and any transporter or customs agent acting on their behalf both need an EORI number.

    1. Get an EORI number

    You'll use the Customs Handling of Import and Export Freight (CHIEF) system to make a declaration. To access CHIEF, you need to register for the National Export System (NES).

    1. Apply for access to NES

    You can apply for simplified declaration procedures and for Authorised Economic Operator status. These are most suitable for businesses that export goods regularly.

    1. Find out about using simplified declaration procedures
    2. Check if Authorised Economic Operator status is right for you
  3. and Register to export plant products or controlled goods

  4. Step 3 Submit the export declaration

  5. Step 4 Get the goods across the UK border

    Arrange for the goods to be taken to the port or location you named in the export declaration. Include the invoice and any licences or certificates for the goods.

    You or your transporter will be asked for the ‘master reference number’ of the export declaration. Staff at the port might check the goods and export documentation before allowing them to cross the UK border.

  6. Step 5 Get the goods released if they're held up at the UK border

    The goods may be held up at customs, for example if:

    • you do not have the right licences for the goods or business
    • they did not pass inspection
    • they've been combined with a shipment that has been held up

    If this happens you will be told why.

    1. Contact the National Clearance Hub to get help