Guidance

Import controls

How the government monitors imports into the UK.

Import controls

Import controls are imposed using either statutory instruments or the UK’s national import prohibition legislation Import, Export and Customs Powers (Defence) Act 1939.

The OGIL (Open General Import Licence) is a national trade control measure run by the Department for International Trade (DIT) that allows the import of all goods into the UK, subject to the exceptions it sets out.

Goods subject to import controls under the OGIL include:

  • firearms
  • anti-personnel mines
  • certain nuclear and chemical goods

Read Open General Import Licence - December 2020 (PDF, 883KB, 17 pages) for more information.

Import sanctions

The UK uses sanctions to fulfil a range of purposes, including supporting foreign policy and national security objectives, as well as maintaining international peace and security, and preventing terrorism. Sanctions measures can include arms embargoes and other trade restrictions.

The Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) is responsible for UK policy on sanctions. The Department for International Trade (DIT) implements trade sanctions, and has overall responsibility for trade sanctions licensing.

UK sanctions regimes are in force under the Sanctions and Anti-Money Laundering Act 2018 (the Sanctions Act).

It is your responsibility to ensure that you are compliant with the requirements of the legislation. You can access the legislation and read the related guidance here.

Import controls on tiered-priced medical products

The re-importation of certain tiered-priced products is illegal across the whole of the United Kingdom. The retained domestic version of Regulation (EU) 2016/793, as amended by the Prevention of Trade Diversion (Key Medicines) (EU Exit) Regulations 2020, establishes a system controlling the import of certain medicines into Great Britain.

These are called “tiered-priced products”. Tiered-priced products are destined for developing countries and sold to these countries at heavily reduced prices to avoid trade diversion.

Read the notice to importers 2938 - Import of equipment that could be used for torture (PDF, 209KB, 3 pages) for more information.

Import licensing

An import licence is not needed to import most industrial goods into the UK.

However, some industrial goods need import licences as a result of controls imposed at national or UN level. These are issued by DIT’s Import Licensing Branch (ILB).

ILB issues import licences for the import of:

  • anti-personnel mines (UN ban)
  • torture equipment (UK ban)
  • firearms (UK licensing controls)
  • certain goods subject to import sanctions

Certificates of Free Sale (CFS)

ILB also issue CFS to exporters. CFS are mainly needed for goods that come into contact with humans, such as cosmetics, from countries that have lower product safety standards and enforcement than the UK. 

CFS declarations confirm that goods meet the UK’s high safety standards.

Read the notice to importers 2940 - Applying for Certificates of Free Sales (PDF, 436KB, 5 pages).

Other government departments issue CFS for certain products including the:

  • Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs for goods that come into contact with animals (such as veterinary medicines)
  • Department of Health for medicines
  • Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) for medical devices
  • Health and Safety Executive (HSE) for biocides
  • Rural Payments Agency (RPA) for food, drinks or supplements

Apply for an import licence

You can apply for an import licence or CFS at www.ilb.trade.gov.uk.

Email enquiries.ilb@trade.gov.uk for advice on the import controls ILB is responsible for.

Read Starting to import for information on import licences and certificates.

If you import goods into the UK it is your responsibility to know about import restrictions and controls.

Notices to importers

The Notices to importers (NTI) listed below explain current import prohibitions and controls.

NTI Title Date
  Open General Import Licence (OGIL) 31 December 2020
  Explanatory note: Open General Import Licence 31 December 2020
2943 UK Open general import licence 2020 and guidance on its use 31 December 2020
2936 Import and export of cat and dog fur 31 December 2020
2937 Import of tiered-priced medicines 31 December 2020
2938 Import of equipment that could be used for torture 31 December 2020
2940 Applying for Certificates of Free Sales 31 December 2020
2941 Import of anti-personnel mines 31 December 2020
2942 Import firearms and ammunition 31 December 2020
Published 12 December 2012
Last updated 29 December 2020 + show all updates
  1. Replaced 'Open general import licence', 'Explanatory note: open general import licence' and 'Open general import licence 2020 and guidance on its use' with new versions.

  2. Removed out of date notices to importers and added new ones, and updated information relevant to the end of the transition period.

  3. Addition of NTI 2935: EU and UK prior surveillance import licensing regime update replacing NTI 2933.

  4. Addition of new open general import licence, explanatory note and notice to importers (NTI) 2934.

  5. NTI 2933 added to European import controls section replacing NTI 2930. Six tariff codes removed and 12 added relating to imports of aluminium extrusions from the People’s Republic of China.

  6. Addition of Notice to Importers 2932 - Current range of EU measures in force on steel. This replaces Notice to Importers 2929

  7. NTI 2925 EU prior surveillance import licensing regime updated by NTI 2930. Amendments to paragraph 1 and Annex A of the notice.

  8. Amendment to entry 14 of annex 1 and paragraph B of Annex 4 of Open General Import Licence (OGIL).

  9. Added notice to importers 2926 and 2927. Added 2928 which replaces 2918. Replaced 2921 minor revision.

  10. Notice 2919 has been updated and is now numbered notice 2925. This is a result of technical and not major changes with the coverage of the regime being unaffected. The changes from the previous notice are: notification of numerous tariff code changes, notification of change of country code for Serbia and notification that EORI numbers are now a mandatory requirement for the issue of import licences.

  11. Update of Open General Import Licence (OGIL) - removal of the temporary ban on the import of 'bump stocks'; the recent Firearms Act has made this item subject to a section 5 import licence.

  12. Addition of new NTI: 2918; 2919 replacing 2917; 2920; 2921; 2922 replacing 2903; 2923 replacing 2908.

  13. Added notice to importers 2917 - EU prior surveillance import licensing regime update.

  14. Added notice to importers 2915 and 2916, and details of the changes in OGIL amendment 1.

  15. Added: Notice to importers 2914 prior surveillance regime update.

  16. Updates to several import notices

  17. Update to EU prior surveillance import licensing regime - revision 3

  18. Notice to importers 2902 added - this updates Notice 2899 which has been removed.

  19. Renamed heading 'NTI Iron and Steel' to 'NTI Prior surveillance' and added notice to importers 2901.

  20. Added: notice to importers 2900 - Import Licensing Branch 2017 Christmas and new year closure dates.

  21. NTI 2895 - EU iron and steel prior surveillance import licensing regime update replaced by NTI 2899 EU iron and steel prior surveillance import licensing regime.

  22. Addition of Notice to Importers 2898 - import licensing arrangements firearms and ammunition 2017

  23. 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

  24. Notice to importers 2895 Steel prior surveillance regime revision 22 August 2017 replaces Notice 2894 in the Iron and steel section

  25. Added notice 2894 EU iron and steel prior surveillance import licensing regime update. Removed notice 2889

  26. Added notice to importers 2893.

  27. Added notice 2891 and 2892. Removed notice 2862, 2863, 2861, 2883, 2884 and 2890.

  28. Notice 2890 added (notice 2890 replaces 2878). Removal of notice 2878.

  29. Notice 2888 and 2889 added (notice 2889 replaces 2887). Removal of notices 2853, 2859, 2870 and 2876 .

  30. New notices to importers added covering steel, Belarus quotas and Christmas closure dates.

  31. Notice to importers 2881 added

  32. Addition of Notice to Importers 2880: ILB is now part of the Department for International Trade (DIT)

  33. Added notice to importers 2878: imports of firearms and ammunition import licensing arrangements 2016.

  34. Updated notice to importers 2877: EU iron and steel prior surveillance import licensing regime.

  35. Added notice to importers 2877: EU iron and steel prior surveillance import licensing regime under 'NTI Iron and steel' section.

  36. Added notices to importers 2875 and 2876 under national import controls heading.

  37. Added notice to importers 2874, Iran sanctions, under 'other notices'.

  38. Added notice to importers 2872, under NTI general.

  39. Added Notice to Importers 2870 and replaced 2864 with 2871.

  40. Added notice 2869 'Modernisation of import licensing branch update' to the NTI general table.

  41. Updated notices to importers.

  42. Added notice to importers 2858 and 2859 on Russia import restrictions.

  43. 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.

  44. Notice to importers 2855 - Crimea sanctions published

  45. Notice to Importers 2833, 2850, 2851, 2852 and 2854 added.

  46. Notice to Importers 2843, 2844, 2845, 2846, 2847, 2848 and 2849 added.

  47. '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'.

  48. Guidance on using the new Import Case Management System (ICMS) added.

  49. Replacing NTI 2829 with accessible pdf

  50. First published.