Import controls

How the government monitors imports into the UK.

After the UK leaves the EU on 31 January 2020 we will enter a transition period. This will apply until 31 December 2020. The import controls listed on this page will remain in force during the transition period.

The Trade Policy Group of the Department for International Trade (DIT) and HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) deals with trade policy, regimes and procedural issues governing imports into the UK.

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.

Import controls

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.

International sanctions

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 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
  • EU prior surveillance monitoring regime on imports of aluminium and steel
  • UK licensing controls on the import of firearms

Applying for an import licence

You can apply for an import licence at


Contact for further advice on import controls ILB is responsible for.

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 2913 Certificates of free sale (CFS) (ODT, 380KB). There are several government departments that issue Certificates of Free Sale:

  • Defra 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) for biocides

Notices to Importers

The Notices to Importers (NTI) listed below explain the import prohibitions and controls that are currently in force.

National import controls

NTI Title Date
  UK Open General Import Licence (OGIL) and guidance on its use 24 December 2019
  Explanatory note: Open General Import Licence dated 2 August 2019 2 August 2019
2927 Firearms import licensing – additional information requirements 17 September 2019
2926 EU firearms transfers 13 September 2019
2922 Imports of firearms ammunition import licensing arrangements 2017 16 July 2019
2921 Mandatory use of EORI numbers for import licences 2 October 2019
2920 Defence and Security International Exhibition (DSEI) 16 July 2019
  Signed import licence (DSEI 2019) granted by the Secretary of State 16 July 2019
2915 Office for Nuclear Regulation issues import licences for nuclear material and their application procedure 31 January 2019

European import controls

NTI prior surveillance

NTI Title Date
2932 Current range of EU measures in force on steel 29 January 2020
2930 EU prior surveillance import licensing regime update 3 January 2020
NTI wood
NTI Title Date
2907 EU Russia wood tariff quota arrangements 21 November 2018

Other notices

NTI EU sanctions Date
2923 Russia - import restrictions 16 July 2019
2909 Crimea - import sanctions 21 November 2018
2910 Syria sanctions 21 November 2018
2911 Iran sanctions - current import restrictions and derogations 21 November 2018
2912 North Korea import sanctions 21 November 2018

NTI international obligations

NTI Title Date
2906 Import of certain equipment and products which could be used for capital punishment, torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment 21 November 2018
2905 UK ban on import of anti personnel landmines 21 November 2018

NTI general

NTI Title Date
2913 Certificates of free sale 21 November 2018
Published 12 December 2012
Last updated 29 January 2020 + show all updates
  1. Addition of Notice to Importers 2932 - Current range of EU measures in force on steel. This replaces Notice to Importers 2929

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

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

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

  5. 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.

  6. 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.

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

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

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

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

  11. Updates to several import notices

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

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

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

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

  16. 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.

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

  18. 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

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

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

  21. Added notice to importers 2893.

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

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

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

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

  26. Notice to importers 2881 added

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  36. Updated notices to importers.

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

  38. 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.

  39. Notice to importers 2855 - Crimea sanctions published

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

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

  42. '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'.

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

  44. Replacing NTI 2829 with accessible pdf

  45. First published.

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

    There are several tasks you need to do before you can get goods through customs.

    1. Check the whole process for importing goods from countries outside the EU

    Most businesses that import goods hire a transporter or customs agent to make the import declaration and clear their goods through UK customs.

  2. Step 2 Set up your business for making customs declarations

    The business importing the goods and any transporter or customs agent acting on their behalf both need an EORI number.

    1. Get an EORI number

    You'll use the Customs Handling of Import and Export Freight (CHIEF) system to make a declaration. You'll need to both:

    You can apply for simplified declaration procedures and for Authorised Economic Operator status. These are most suitable for businesses that import goods regularly.

    1. Find out about using simplified declaration procedures
    2. Check if Authorised Economic Operator status is right for you
  3. and Register to import goods with restrictions

  4. Step 3 Set up a duty deferment account if you import regularly

    Set up a duty deferment account if you want to be able to make one payment of customs duties a month instead of paying for individual shipments.

    You must set one up if you use simplified procedures.

    1. Set up a duty deferment account
  5. Step 4 Arrange for the goods to be inspected

    You need to choose a place where the goods can be inspected if you import things like plant or animal products. This needs to happen before they’re allowed through the UK border.

    1. Find an inspection point for animals and animal products
    2. Find an inspection point for plants, plant products, seeds and wood
    3. Find an inspection point for high risk food and feed that is not of animal origin
    4. Find an inspection point for endangered species, or products made from endangered plants or animals

    You need to let the inspection point know when the goods are arriving. You might have to pay a fee for the inspection.

    1. Find out what rules you need to follow to get the goods inspected
  6. Step 5 Submit the import declaration

  7. Step 6 Pay VAT and duty

    HMRC will tell you how much to pay after you submit the declaration.

    1. Find out how and when to pay VAT and duty
  8. Step 7 Get the goods released if they're held up at the border

    The goods will be held at the border, for example if:

    • you have not paid the right amount of duty or VAT
    • you do not have the right import licences for the goods or business
    • they did not pass inspection
    • they've been combined with a shipment that has been held up

    If this happens you will be told why.

    1. Contact the National Clearance Hub to get help

Transition period

Find out what it means for you