Export art, antiques and cultural goods: special rules

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

Temporary procedure due to coronavirus (COVID-19)

The Export Licencing Unit (ELU) has put in place a new temporary procedure to issue export licences during the current exceptional circumstances.

Please do not send applications to the ELU office. ELU staff are working remotely and they can no longer accept paper applications. Instead, you’ll need to complete an application form digitally and email it to them. They cannot accept forms that have been printed, filled in by hand and then scanned back in.

Full details of how to apply using the new digital procedure can be found on the Arts Council England website.

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

To download the application form and for guidance on applying for an export licence, please refer to the Arts Council England website.

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.

Published 7 November 2016
Last updated 14 December 2020 + show all updates
  1. Update on temporary COVID-19 procedure

  2. Please note the important coronavirus update to this page

  3. First published.

  1. Step 1 Check if you need to follow this process

    Follow these steps if you're moving goods permanently from:

    • England, Wales or Scotland (Great Britain) to a country outside the UK
    • Northern Ireland to a country outside the UK and the EU

    What you need to do is different if you are:

    1. Learn about exporting, including making export plans, on
  2. Step 2 Check the rules for exporting your goods

  3. and Apply for any licences you need to export your goods

  4. Step 3 Get your business ready to export

    You need an EORI number that starts with GB to export goods from England, Wales or Scotland.

    If you move goods to or from Northern Ireland you may need one that starts with XI.

    1. Get an EORI number
    1. Check if you need to register for VAT

    There are processes that can make clearing customs quicker and easier to manage if you export goods regularly.

    1. Find out about using simplified declaration procedures
    2. Check if you can use Common Transit to move your goods
    3. Check if Authorised Economic Operator status is right for you
  5. and Check whoever's receiving the goods can import them

    The business or person receiving the goods to may need:

    • to make an import declaration in their country
    • licences or certificates to receive goods from the UK

    Check whoever you are sending the goods to is able to import them into their country.

  6. Step 4 Decide who will make export declarations and transport the goods

  7. Step 5 Classify your goods

    You must find the right commodity code to classify the goods you're exporting.

    Your customs agent or transporter might be able to help you with this.

    1. Find the right commodity code for your goods
  8. Step 6 Prepare the invoice and other documentation for your goods

    The completed invoice and any licences or certificates must travel with the goods.

    When filling in the value of your goods on the invoice, use the price you’re selling them for. If you're not selling the goods, use the market value of the goods. List any freight or export insurance you included in the price separately.

    You may need proof of origin if exporting to a country where your goods have a reduced or zero rate of duty.

    1. Get proof of origin for your goods

    You might be able to zero rate the goods for VAT. This means you can charge your customers VAT at 0%.

    1. Check if you can zero rate the goods for VAT
  9. Step 7 Get your goods through customs

    If you've appointed someone to deal with UK customs for you, they'll make the declaration and get your goods through the UK border.

    1. Make an export declaration and get your goods cleared by UK customs

    You may need other documentation to get your goods into the destination country. Ask the person or business buying your goods what information you need to provide.

    1. Check how to bring goods back into the UK if they were rejected for import at another country’s border
  10. Step 8 Keep invoices and records

    You must keep commercial invoices and any customs paperwork.

    If you're VAT registered, record the goods in your VAT accounts even if they are zero-rated.

    1. Find out how to record the goods in your VAT accounts

    If you exported controlled goods, for example firearms, keep the paperwork that shows who owns the goods.