Export art, antiques and cultural goods: special rules

How to apply for a licence to export cultural goods, including antiques, furniture and archaeological items.

You may need a licence to export certain ‘cultural goods’ over 50 years old. Whether you need a licence depends on the age and value of the goods.

Cultural goods include:

  • works of art
  • furniture
  • antiques
  • means of transport
  • manuscripts
  • archaeological items

Check if you need a licence by reading the Art Council’s guidance.

You may need a licence even if you’re exporting inside the EU, or on a temporary basis.

There’s a ban on supplying art works, collectors’ pieces and antiques to North Korea and Syria.

Some countries may have import rules for certain goods. You can check by talking to your importer or getting help researching your export market.

How to apply

  1. Contact the Export Licensing Unit to get an application form.

  2. Complete your application and send it to the Export Licensing Unit. If the object arrived in the UK in the past 50 years, include proof of import. Otherwise, include proof that it’s authentic (full provenance) and a photograph.

If you plan to export an item temporarily, you must include the date it will return to the UK on the application.

What happens next

Your application may be passed to an expert adviser in a national museum or gallery. If they’re against the export on the grounds of national importance, your application will be sent to the Reviewing Committee.

The committee will recommend whether the decision should be put on hold to let a UK institution or individual raise funds to buy the item.

You should get a decision within 28 days of your application being received.

If your application for an export licence is accepted, you may need to follow certain conditions.


Export Licensing Unit
Arts Council England
21 Bloomsbury Street
Telephone: 020 7268 9606
Find out about call charges

Published 7 November 2016