Guidance

Firearms and export control forms

Exporting firearms, ammunition and related equipment to other countries, including within the EU, for businesses and individuals.

The UK - like many other countries - controls the movement (or export) of certain specified items to other countries, including to other EU destinations. This applies even if the export is temporary - such as for an exhibition, a competition or for the purpose of a holiday.

The list of specified controlled items (known as strategic goods) includes firearms, ammunition and related equipment.

Depending on whether you are a business or an individual, you are likely to need to complete one or other of the following documents for customs purposes if you intend to take a firearm overseas:

  • an export licence issued by the Export Control Organisation (ECO)
  • EC3, EC4 and EC5 forms - valid documentation required in conjunction with particular export licence applications
  • Prior Import Consent (PIC) - obtained from the relevant authority in the destination country of import
  • a European Firearms Pass (EFP) - issued by the Firearms Licensing Unit of your local police authority
  • a Firearms Certificate - issued by your local police authority and proving ownership of the item

In many situations, the legislation will permit an export without the need for an export licence, provided certain requirements are met.

In other cases, you will need to apply for an export licence from the ECO. A breach of export controls is a criminal offence punishable with fines and/or imprisonment.

This guidance focuses on licensing requirements administered by the ECO if you intend to export firearms either within or outside the EU. It includes details of how you can apply for an ECO issued licence if necessary.

What firearms are subject to export controls?

Firearms are described by control entries ML1 and ML2 of Schedule 2 of the Export Control Order 2008, as amended. You can read entries ML1 and ML2 on the Legislation.gov website.

Schedule 2 is entitled ‘Military, security and para-military goods, software and technology and arms, ammunition and related material’, but is commonly known as the ‘UK Military List’ (which forms part of the UK Strategic Export Control Lists).

Even though ML1 and ML2 appear on the UK Military List, firearms and related goods are controlled even when they are designed for use in sport rather than for military use. For example, most shotguns and rifles will be specified by ML1.

Do I need to apply for an export licence or not?

If you wish to export items listed under the ML1 and ML2 control entries - even temporarily - from the UK, you will have to consider whether the ‘personal effects’ exemption applies (and in the case of exports to the EU if you can also use an EFP).  

If the exemption does not apply you will need to apply for an export licence issued by the ECO.

Depending on what type of exporter you are (business or individual) and depending on the exact nature of your export you might be able to apply (or register) for different types of licences such as an Open General Export Licence (OGEL), Standard Individual Export Licence (SIEL) or Open Individual Export Licence (OIEL).  

You should also note that the ECO’s licensing criteria does not include an upper age limitation. Firearms are still controlled even if they fall into the category of historic firearms. However, in cases where an export licence is required for these items, you may be able to use the OGEL (Historic Military Goods), if you can adhere to all the specified terms and conditions.

Any items over 50 years old also require separate licence coverage from the Arts Council who are responsible for licensing cultural goods.

The export of firearms by registered firearms dealers (RFDs) and other businesses

Any businesses, including registered firearms dealers (RFDs), that are exporting firearms within or beyond the EU - whether temporarily or permanently - will need to apply or register for an appropriate export licence issued by the ECO.

Apply for either an OGEL or a SIEL 

The ECO issues various different licence types which permit the export of specified goods to specified destinations. Depending on the exact nature of your export, you might be able to consider using an OGEL. OGELs are designed to licence controlled goods that are being exported to less sensitive destinations.

If you are unable to meet all the requirements of OGEL usage, you will need to apply for a SIEL

Apply for a Dealer-to-Dealer OIEL

The ECO also provides some more flexible licensing arrangements for registered firearms dealers, which avoids the need to apply for a new licence for every export. This option is known as a Dealer-to-Dealer OIEL, which is valid for 3 years. It authorises UK registered firearms dealers only to export certain categories of firearms and ammunition solely to other gun dealers in the EU.

If you wish to export firearms and ammunition to any other consignee in the EU, you must apply for a SIEL.

Dealer OIELs are only issued if the dealer can demonstrate a business need to use these arrangements and can satisfy the documentation needs.

For non-EU destinations, an OIEL may be applied for - to allow multiple exports over a period of usually 3 years - to cover sales to other registered firearms dealers, provided a business need can be demonstrated.

Further details about OIELs can be found in Open Individual Export Licences (OIELs).

Supporting documentation required for Dealer OIELs

All applications for OIELs, including those for temporary exports need supporting documentation. The documentation required can vary between applications and you should look at the separate guidance notes available in Strategic exports: when to request an export licence. You might also find it helpful to see the guidance on submitting export licence applications correctly.

Documentation requirements include specifying intended use and attaching a completed End-User Undertaking (EUU).

For instance, you should note that if you wish to exhibit, demonstrate or export - permanently or temporarily - any item included in Section 5 of the Firearms Act 1968 (as amended), you must hold an authority issued under Section 5 of this Act.

Using Dealer OIELs and requirements for EC5 forms and PICs

Before making each shipment under the authority of a Dealer OIEL, copies of valid documentation must be forwarded to the Home Office at least 2 working days beforehand.

For further information contact:

Home Office
Public Risk Unit
Firearms Section
5th Floor, Fry Building
2 Marsham Street
London SW1P 4DF

Tel: 0207 7035 1782

Fax: 0870 336 9030

Email: firearms@homeoffice.gsi.gov.uk

This includes copies of the EC5 form (a transfer declaration for Dealer to Dealer OIELs available from the ECO) and PICs (obtained from the relevant issuing authority in the country of import).

Download form EC5.

Where consignments are being exported under an OIEL, a document referring to that licence and giving details of the firearms being transferred must accompany each consignment.

Individuals exporting firearms

If you are an individual planning to take a firearm overseas, this is also considered an export. Depending on the nature of your export (for instance whether you are travelling to another EU country on a temporary or permanent basis) then you might be able to use the ‘personal effects’ waiver in conjunction with an EFP issued by your local police authority. If this is not an option you need to apply for an export licence issued by the ECO.

Temporary exports to the EU

For temporary exports to other EU member states - for instance on hunting and sporting trips - the personal effects waiver can normally be used, backed up by the possession of a EFP.

Permanent exports to the EU

The decision on whether to issue a EFP for a permanent export to an EU member state - for instance, where a UK resident is moving to live in another state and wishes to take their firearms with them - is one that is made by the local police force in the UK. If the local police force agrees to issue one, then the ‘personal effects’ waiver can be used and no export licence is needed to export the firearm from the UK.

What if my local police force is not able to issue an EFP?

Where the local police force in the UK is not able to issue a EFP, you will need to apply for a SIEL issued by the ECO.

Other considerations when permanently exporting a firearm to the EU

It is also important to remember that obtaining a EFP or export licence issued by the ECO does not absolve you of all of your export responsibilities.

You need, for instance, to:

  • notify your Firearms Licensing Office and provide proof of export
  • inform your ferry operator or airline; the company you are travelling with may have additional rules about carrying firearms, sporting guns or ammunition
  • declare carrying firearms to Customs
  • ensure that the import of the firearm is acceptable to the authorities of the destination country (by obtaining an Import Permit or PIC from the relevant issuing authority); this must be done before the personal effects export takes place

You should be aware that the ECO cannot be held responsible for any actions that authorities in the destination country might take if they believe relevant import regulations have not been satisfied.

This is particularly relevant for exports to France. French firearms import regulations oblige a person importing a firearm on a permanent basis to establish their credentials first with the police force in the locality of France where they intend to live.This process can take several months. Therefore, the ECO advises all exporters to go through the relevant procedures before they attempt to export any firearms, either as ‘personal effects’ or under cover of an export licence.

Temporary or permanent exports beyond the EU

For the temporary or permanent export of firearms beyond the EU, the personal effects waiver can normally be used. However, if your final destination - even if you are flying indirectly - is a country to which the personal effects waiver does not apply, you will need to apply for a SIEL from the ECO.

EFP and personal effects exemption for firearms exports

Details of personal effects waiver

The Export Control Order 2008 (as amended), which is the main legislation covering exports of controlled items, specifies a personal effects exemption for firearms. For details, see Article 16 of the Export Control Order 2008 on the Legislation.gov website.

As a result, export licences are not usually required where the holder of a valid firearm or shotgun certificate, or visitor’s firearm or shotgun permit takes firearms, shotguns, related ammunition and sights using non-electronic image enhancement for use therewith, abroad with them, or has them sent for their personal use as part of their personal effects, provided:

  • these items are entered on the certificate
  • the certificates are presented by the holder, or their appointed agent, with the items to an HM Revenue & Customs officer at the place of export

The waiver can normally be used for temporary or permanent export outside of the EU. However, you should note that the exemption does not apply (even if flying indirectly) to exports to Iran or to a country or destination specified in Parts 1, 2 and 3 of Schedule 4 of the Export Control Order 2008. You can read Schedule 4 of the Order on the Legislation.gov website. If this is the case you need to apply for an export licence issued by the ECO

The waiver can also normally be used for temporary or permanent export by individuals within the EU. If this is the case, then it can only be used where the exporter/owner possesses an EFP. For details see Article 15 of the Export Control Order 2008 on the Legislation.gov website.

Getting a European Firearms Pass

A European Firearms Pass (EFP) acts as proof to possess firearms and ammunition in your EU country of residence. It is a type of passport which is used when visiting another EU country. It does not automatically allow the possession of a firearm in the country you plan to visit, since there might be a ban on particular types of firearms in some countries.

To get an EFP you need to contact the Firearms Licensing Unit within your local police authority, well ahead of your planned travel date. The pass is issued free of charge.

In making your request for a pass, you need to specify which weapons you wish to include. The EFP will expire on the same date as the firearms or shotgun certificate it supports. In the case of an EFP including both firearms and shotguns, it will end with whichever certificate expires first.

For more details, you can find a directory of local UK police authorities on the Association of Police Authorities (APA) website.

If the local police force is not able to issue an EFP, then you need to apply for an export licence issued by the ECO

Applying for a SIEL for firearms exports

SIELs are issued by the ECO. You can apply for a SIEL using SPIRE.

An application has the following elements:

The completed SPIRE online application

This should be accompanied by supporting documentation (which should include technical specifications describing the goods to be exported and an EUU if required). For information on this, see end-user and stockist undertakings for SIELs and consignee undertakings for OIELs.

A copy of your Firearms Certificate or Section 5 authority

These demonstrate to the ECO that you legally hold the firearms that you intend to export.

A copy of the PIC

This shows that the destination country agrees to the firearm/s being imported there, before submitting an export licence application. However, many countries do not class some weapons to be firearms and hence an import consent is not issued. In this instance an EUU will be required, together with a letter or email from the relevant licensing authorities stating that a PIC or equivalent cannot be issued. Remember to research the import regulations of the destination country and get PICs or EUUs in place before you apply for a SIEL.

An EC3 form

This applies to exports to EU countries. It summarises the details of the export and is passed between EU member states to flag up the movement of firearms.

Note that the ECO cannot keep applications ‘on hold’ indefinitely and will withdraw applications if supporting documentation is not forthcoming in a timely fashion.

The ECO aims to provide a substantive response to SIEL applications within 20 working days of receipt of the application, provided that it has all the information required to process the application.

Further details are available in Standard Individual Export Licences.

More details are available about ECO’s progress in meeting annual report targets.  

Other licensing considerations for firearms exports

Sanctions and other restrictions

All arms embargoes cover the export of firearms. For details of embargoes in force, see our section on current arms embargoes and other restrictions. Please note that these details are subject to change.

The ECOWAS (Economic Community of West Africa States) moratorium places restrictions on the import, export and manufacture of light weapons in designated West African States. For more information - including the exact countries covered by the Moratorium - see embargoes and sanctions on West African States.

Availability of Open General Licences for exporting or transhipping firearms

Some exports may be made under an appropriate OGEL or OGTL. These are other types of licences issued by the ECO.

OGELs and OGTLs are designed to control items that still require an export or transhipment licence but are generally of a less restricted nature or going to less sensitive export destinations. Before using these licences, you need to carefully read, understand and ensure that you can adhere to all the specified terms and conditions. You then need to register to use the licence. Using an OGEL, if you can meet all its requirements, means that you would not have to apply for a SIEL - potentially saving you and your business time and money. See Open General Licences: an overview.

Open licences which may be available include:

  • OGEL (Accompanied Personal Effect: Sporting Guns) which allows - subject to certain conditions - the export of sporting firearms to Tanzania and Uganda. See the page on Accompanied Personal Effects: Sporting Firearms) in the guidance on other OGELs.
  • OGTL (Sporting Guns). This licence allows - subject to conditions - rifles, pistols and related ammunition and telescopic sights to be imported and subsequently exported via the UK, provided the items are for sporting or recreational use. See the page on Transhipment Licences.
  • OGEL (Historic Military Goods) . This licence allows - subject to certain conditions - the export of historic military goods from the UK or any other European Union (EU) member state, where the exporter is established in the UK, providing the goods are worth less than £35,000 and were manufactured before 1897. For more details see Historic Military Goods.

Export licensing requirements of the Arts Council

In addition to the ECO’s licensing requirements, a separate licence issued by the Arts Council is required for firearms over a certain age and monetary limit. This Arts Council-issued licence is required (unless certain exceptions apply) if exporting from the UK to both EU and non-EU destinations for cultural reasons. Depending on the nature of your export, you might be able to use the Arts Council’s Cultural Goods OGEL or an individual licence if you don’t meet the criteria. For more details see the page on OGEL (Objects of Cultural Interest)

For further information contact:

Export Licensing Unit
Arts Council
14 Great Peter Street
London SW1P 3NQ

You can telephone the Export Licensing Unit on 020 7973 5188/5228/5139/5387/5194/5241 or email them at elu@artscouncil.org.uk

You can also find information on exporting old or valuable firearms on the Arts Council website.

Frequently asked questions: firearms exports

I am taking my rifle or shotgun on a shooting trip - what do I need to do?

You may be able to use the ‘personal effects’ waiver. If you are travelling to a destination where the personal effects waiver cannot be used, you will need to apply for a SIEL.

If you need to apply for a SIEL, you should do so as soon as possible, together with all supporting documentation. This will allow you to make alternative local arrangements should the export licence application be refused.

I am emigrating and want to take my firearm with me. Do I need a licence?

You may be able to use the personal effects waiver, but if not, you will need to apply for a SIEL.

A firearm has been gifted to me and I now need to take it home with me, but I live outside the UK. What do I do?

See answer to question above.

What do I need to do if I am re-importing my firearm into the UK?

While this guide does not focus on importing, you should be aware of UK import legislation in relation to firearms. Find out more about the Import Licensing Branch’s Import Case Management System..

Further information

BIS ECO Helpline

020 7215 4594, Email: eco.help@bis.gsi.gov.uk

Arts Council Export Licensing Unit

020 7973 5188

Published 3 September 2012