How the government monitors imports into the UK.
The Trade Policy Group of the Department for International Trade (DIT) and HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) advise and deal with a range of trade policy, regimes, procedural issues governing imports into the UK.
See below for notices to importers and information on import licensing.
An import licence is not needed to import the majority of industrial goods into the United Kingdom or EU.
However, some industrial goods need import licences, issued by the Import Licensing Branch (ILB), as a result of controls imposed at national, EU or UN level. ILB publicises these restrictions by issuing Notices to Importers.
The UK is part of the EU Single Market and the European Commission has sole responsibility for the EU’s commercial policy. With limited exceptions (for example, on security or health grounds), the UK is unable to introduce national import controls.
National import controls
National import controls are imposed using the UK’s national import prohibition legislation Import, Export and Customs Powers (Defence) Act 1939. DIT controls its use within government.
All national import controls are listed in the Open General Import Licence (OGIL) made under it. For example, import licensing controls on firearms back up Home Office domestic legislation on the possession of firearms so that only those with authority to own firearms can import them.
EU import controls
Because of their effect on the EU single market, EU import controls are directly applicable in all EU member states, so further national legislation is not needed. They are imposed when the EU needs to carry out a measure agreed within the EU or internationally (for example, a UN Security Council resolution), or to carry out an EU trade policy decision.
Import controls can be imposed as a result of international obligations, such as UN Security Council resolutions. As these affect the functioning of the EU single market, their introduction is usually by EU regulation and directly applicable in all EU member states. Occasionally, they may be implemented as national measures where the OGIL is amended.
Sanctions against a particular country often include a range of measures including export and financial controls. For further information on current sanctions, please consult the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO), HM Treasury, or the Export Control Organisation (ECO).
Current import controls
There are 3 types of control:
- bans – where no import is allowed
- quotas - where the volume of goods is restricted
- surveillance – where the import of goods is monitored with licences
Goods currently subject to import bans and licensing controls are:
- UN ban on the import of anti-personnel mines
- EU quotas on textiles and clothing from Belarus and North Korea
- EU quotas on steel products from Kazakhstan
- EU ban on the import of torture equipment
- EU ban on the import of certain products from Iran
- EU ban on the import of certain products from Syria
- EU ban on the import of certain products from North Korea
- EU ban on the import of certain products from Russia and Crimea
- UK licensing controls on the import of firearms
Applying for an import licence
You can apply for an import licence at www.ilb.trade.gov.uk.
For further advice on import controls for which ILB is responsible, contact: email@example.com
Other government departments that control imports
You will find a full list of import controls and the government department responsible for them in volume 1 part 3 of the HM Revenue and Customs Integrated Tariff.
It is the responsibility of importers to ensure that they are aware of import restrictions and controls.
Certificates of Free Sale (CFS)
Certificates of Free Sale are also issued by ILB to exporters. This is increasingly necessary – mainly for goods that come into contact with humans such as cosmetics - in countries that by comparison do not have such stringent product safety standards and enforcement as the EU. CFS declarations effectively confirm that the goods listed meet the UK/EU’s high safety standards as they are being sold in the EU single market.
Please see our Notice to Importers 2857: ICMS update for Section 5 (Firearms) importers (PDF, 378KB, 1 page) . There are several government departments that issue Certificates of Free Sale:
- Defra issues CFS for goods that come into contact with animals (veterinary medicines for example)
- the Department of Health issues CFS for medicines
- the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) issues CFS for biocides
Notices to Importers
The Notices to Importers (NTI) listed below explain the import prohibitions and controls that are currently in force. Click to download the relevant NTI.
National import controls
|2897||UK Open General Import Licence (OGIL) and guidance on its use||4 December 2017|
|2896||UK ban on the import of bump stocks||4 December 2017|
|2891||Import licensing arrangements firearms and ammunition 2017||13 June 2017|
|2875||Deactivated firearms import licensing and EU transit arrangements||7 April 2016|
|2857||ICMS update for Section 5 (Firearms) importers||19 August 2014|
|2851||Firearms changes 2014||25 March 2014|
|2867||Office for Civil Nuclear Security (OCNS) import licence requirements for nuclear materials 2015||12 December 2014|
European import controls
NTI Textiles and clothing
|2892||End of EU regimes on imports of Belarussian textiles and clothing||13 June 2017|
|2886||Imports of restricted textile and clothing products originating in North Korea – 2017 arrangements||19 December 2016|
NTI Iron and steel
|2895||EU iron and steel prior surveillance import licensing regime update||22 August 2017|
|2893||2017 Steel prior surveillance changes||21 June 2017|
|2887||EU iron and steel prior surveillance import licensing regime tariff code changes||20 December 2016|
|2866||Notice to importers: EU Russia wood tariff quota - 2015 arrangements||5 December 2015|
|2874||Iran sanctions 2016||4 February 2016|
|2858||Russia: import restrictions||25 September 2014|
|2855||Crimea sanctions 2014||10 July 2014|
|2817||Myanmar sanctions 2012||25 July 2012|
|2820||Somalia sanctions 2012||22 August 2012|
|2803||Syria sanctions 2012||28 March 2012|
NTI international obligations
|2842||Import of torture equipment||25 April 2013|
|2841||Anti-personnel mines||25 April 2013|
|2872||Import Licensing Branch 2016 Christmas and new year closure dates||19 December 2016|
|2881||ILB documentation will now be issued in the name of the Department for International Trade (DIT)||11 October 2016|
|2880||ILB is now part of the Department for International Trade (DIT)||15 August 2016|
|2872||Import Licensing Branch 2015 Christmas closure dates||7 December 2015|
|2869||Modernisation of Import Licensing Branch update||13 March 2015|
|2868||Electronic certificates of free sale – progress update||12 December 2014|
|2856||Change to procedures for Certificates of Free Sale (CFS)||5 August 2014|
|2834||New Electronic Import Licensing System for Import Controls||25 April 2013|
Electronic import licensing system: Import Case Management System (ICMS) guidance
- Do I need to apply for an import licence?
- Import licences: how to register
- Outward Processing Trade (OPT) Import Licence: how to apply
- Firearms Specific Import Licence: how to apply
- Firearms Open Import Licence: how to apply
- Sanctions Derogation Import Licence: how to apply
- Iron and Steel Import Licence: how to apply
- Russian Wood Tariff Reduction Licence: how to apply
- Textiles and Clothing Import Licence: how to apply
Published: 12 December 2012
Updated: 5 December 2017
- Notice to importers 2896: UK ban on the import of bump stocks added to the National import controls section. Notice to Importers 2888: UK Open General Import Licence (OGIL) 2017 and guidance on its use replaced by Notice to Importers 2897: UK Open General Import Licence (OGIL) and guidance on its use
- Notice to importers 2895 Steel prior surveillance regime revision 22 August 2017 replaces Notice 2894 in the Iron and steel section
- Added notice 2894 EU iron and steel prior surveillance import licensing regime update. Removed notice 2889
- Added notice to importers 2893.
- Added notice 2891 and 2892. Removed notice 2862, 2863, 2861, 2883, 2884 and 2890.
- Notice 2890 added (notice 2890 replaces 2878). Removal of notice 2878.
- Notice 2888 and 2889 added (notice 2889 replaces 2887). Removal of notices 2853, 2859, 2870 and 2876 .
- New notices to importers added covering steel, Belarus quotas and Christmas closure dates.
- Notice to importers 2881 added
- Addition of Notice to Importers 2880: ILB is now part of the Department for International Trade (DIT)
- Added notice to importers 2878: imports of firearms and ammunition import licensing arrangements 2016.
- Updated notice to importers 2877: EU iron and steel prior surveillance import licensing regime.
- Added notice to importers 2877: EU iron and steel prior surveillance import licensing regime under 'NTI Iron and steel' section.
- Added notices to importers 2875 and 2876 under national import controls heading.
- Added notice to importers 2874, Iran sanctions, under 'other notices'.
- Added notice to importers 2872, under NTI general.
- Added Notice to Importers 2870 and replaced 2864 with 2871.
- Added notice 2869 'Modernisation of import licensing branch update' to the NTI general table.
- Updated notices to importers.
- Added notice to importers 2858 and 2859 on Russia import restrictions.
- Notice to Importers 2856: Change to procedures for Certificates of Free Sale (CFS) added to NTI general table. Notice to Importers 2857: ICMS update for Section 5 (Firearms) importers added to National import controls table.
- Notice to importers 2855 - Crimea sanctions published
- Notice to Importers 2833, 2850, 2851, 2852 and 2854 added.
- Notice to Importers 2843, 2844, 2845, 2846, 2847, 2848 and 2849 added.
- 'EU surveillance licensing on a range of steel products from all countries' has been removed from 'Goods currently subject to import import bans and licensing controls'.
- Guidance on using the new Import Case Management System (ICMS) added.
- Replacing NTI 2829 with accessible pdf
- First published.