Guidance

Import controls

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.

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 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.

Contacts

For further advice on import controls for which ILB is responsible, contact: enquiries.ilb@trade.gsi.gov.uk

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

NTI Title Date
2898 Import licensing arrangements firearms and ammunition 4 December 2017
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
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

NTI Title Date
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 Prior surveillance

NTI Title Date
2901 Advance warning of expansion of EU prior surveillance regime to cover aluminium products 6 April 2018
2899 EU iron and steel prior surveillance import licensing regime 14 December 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
NTI Wood
NTI Title Date
2866 Notice to importers: EU Russia wood tariff quota - 2015 arrangements 5 December 2015

Other notices

NTI EU Sanctions Date
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

NTI Title Date
2842 Import of torture equipment 25 April 2013
2841 Anti-personnel mines 25 April 2013

NTI general

NTI Title Date
2900 Import Licensing Branch 2017 Christmas and new year closure dates 18 December 2017
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
Published 12 December 2012
Last updated 6 April 2018 + show all updates
  1. Renamed heading 'NTI Iron and Steel' to 'NTI Prior surveillance' and added notice to importers 2901.
  2. Added: notice to importers 2900 - Import Licensing Branch 2017 Christmas and new year closure dates.
  3. 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.
  4. Addition of Notice to Importers 2898 - import licensing arrangements firearms and ammunition 2017
  5. 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
  6. Notice to importers 2895 Steel prior surveillance regime revision 22 August 2017 replaces Notice 2894 in the Iron and steel section
  7. Added notice 2894 EU iron and steel prior surveillance import licensing regime update. Removed notice 2889
  8. Added notice to importers 2893.
  9. Added notice 2891 and 2892. Removed notice 2862, 2863, 2861, 2883, 2884 and 2890.
  10. Notice 2890 added (notice 2890 replaces 2878). Removal of notice 2878.
  11. Notice 2888 and 2889 added (notice 2889 replaces 2887). Removal of notices 2853, 2859, 2870 and 2876 .
  12. New notices to importers added covering steel, Belarus quotas and Christmas closure dates.
  13. Notice to importers 2881 added
  14. Addition of Notice to Importers 2880: ILB is now part of the Department for International Trade (DIT)
  15. Added notice to importers 2878: imports of firearms and ammunition import licensing arrangements 2016.
  16. Updated notice to importers 2877: EU iron and steel prior surveillance import licensing regime.
  17. Added notice to importers 2877: EU iron and steel prior surveillance import licensing regime under 'NTI Iron and steel' section.
  18. Added notices to importers 2875 and 2876 under national import controls heading.
  19. Added notice to importers 2874, Iran sanctions, under 'other notices'.
  20. Added notice to importers 2872, under NTI general.
  21. Added Notice to Importers 2870 and replaced 2864 with 2871.
  22. Added notice 2869 'Modernisation of import licensing branch update' to the NTI general table.
  23. Updated notices to importers.
  24. Added notice to importers 2858 and 2859 on Russia import restrictions.
  25. 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.
  26. Notice to importers 2855 - Crimea sanctions published
  27. Notice to Importers 2833, 2850, 2851, 2852 and 2854 added.
  28. Notice to Importers 2843, 2844, 2845, 2846, 2847, 2848 and 2849 added.
  29. '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'.
  30. Guidance on using the new Import Case Management System (ICMS) added.
  31. Replacing NTI 2829 with accessible pdf
  32. First published.