Guidance

Import plants and plant products from non-EU countries to Great Britain

How to import plants, fruit, vegetables, cut flowers, trees, seeds and used agricultural machinery from non-EU countries to Great Britain (England, Scotland and Wales).

Applies to England, Scotland and Wales

‘Plant’ means a living plant or a living part of a plant at any stage of growth. This includes trees and shrubs. 

‘Plant product’ means products of plant origin that are unprocessed or have had a simple preparation. This includes wood and bark. 

Read separate guidance if you’re: 

If you’re importing fruit and vegetables from non-EU countries to Great Britain, you also need to follow quality and labelling rules and your goods may need to go through marketing standards controls.  

Plant health checks are carried out by:  

  • APHA (the Animal and Plant Health Agency) in England and Wales  
  • SASA (Science and Advice for Scottish Agriculture) in Scotland  

Risk categories for imports   

Plants and plant products imported from non-EU countries to Great Britain are categorised into high, medium and low risk categories, unless they are unregulated.   

Plant health controls apply to imports of high, medium and low risk plants and plant products from non-EU countries.   

Unregulated plants and plant products are exempt from plant health controls.    

High risk goods include:

  • all plants for planting
  • ware potatoes 
  • some seeds for sowing and other plant or forest reproductive material
  • some wood and wood products
  • machinery or vehicles that have been used for agricultural or forestry purposes

Medium risk goods include:

  • some common fruits other than fruit preserved by deep freezing
  • some cut flowers
  • root and tubercle vegetables

The assessment of plant health risk is ongoing, and risk categorisations may change.       

Check the full list of risk categories for plants and plant products from non-EU countries.

Plant health controls for high, medium and low risk goods 

If you import high and medium risk plants and plant products, you need to: 

  1. Register to import if you’re importing for the first time.  

  2. Get a phytosanitary certificate from your exporter.  

  3. Meet ISPM 15 international standards for any wood packaging material you use.  

  4. Notify the relevant authorities about your import.  

  5. Comply with documentary, identity and physical checks.  

  6. Pay fees for plant health checks.

If you import low risk plants and plant products, you need to: 

  1. Get a phytosanitary certificate from your exporter.  

  2. Meet ISPM 15 international standards for any wood packaging material you use.  

Register to import 

You must use one of Defra’s import IT systems to import high and medium risk plants and plant products from non-EU countries to Great Britain.  

If you’re importing goods for the first time, register to use IPAFFS (the import of products, animals, food and feed system).   

After you complete your registration, you’ll be officially registered as a professional operator to import plants and plant products.  

If you already use the PEACH (procedure for electronic application for certificates) IT system, you can continue to do so until 8 April 2024. From this date, you must submit import pre-notifications using IPAFFS.

Read Forestry Commission guidance if you want to register as a professional operator to import timber, wood products or bark

Get a phytosanitary certificate  

To import high, medium or low risk plants and plant products from non-EU countries, you must get a phytosanitary certificate for each consignment from the plant health authority in the country where your supplier is.  

A phytosanitary certificate is a statement from the plant health authority that the consignment:  

  • has been officially inspected  
  • complies with legal requirements for entry into Great Britain  
  • is free from quarantine pests and diseases  

Phytosanitary certificates for import purposes must have been issued no more than 13 days before or after the date the consignment left the country of export. There is no requirement for a consignment to arrive in Great Britain within 13 days of it leaving the country of export.  

If you need a phytosanitary certificate for your consignment, check that your exporter has provided one before the consignment arrives in Great Britain. Make sure you get a scanned copy from your exporter.  

If you’re importing high or medium risk plants and plant products, you’ll need to upload a copy of the phytosanitary certificate on your import IT system when you notify APHA or SASA about your consignment. 

Notify the relevant authorities about your import

If you’re importing high or medium risk plants and plant products, you must use your import IT system to:  

  • let APHA or SASA know in advance when your goods will arrive (this is known as ‘pre-notification’)  
  • upload any necessary documents - for example, a scanned copy of your phytosanitary certificate  
  • read any notifications about what documentary, identity and physical checks your goods will need 
  • follow the progress of your consignments  

You must give notice:  

  • at least 4 working hours before the goods land in Great Britain for air and ‘roll-on-roll-off’ freight  
  • at least 1 working day before the goods arrive in Great Britain for all other freight  

If you do not give enough pre-notification notice, your consignment may be delayed.  

After you’ve pre-notified your consignment, you’ll get a message on your import IT system to say what checks your goods will need.  

Get your goods inspected when they enter Great Britain 

If you’re importing high or medium risk plants or plant products from non-EU countries, your consignment must be presented for inspection when it arrives in Great Britain.  

APHA (England and Wales) or SASA (Scotland) will carry out identity and physical checks to make sure your consignment: 

  • includes all required documents  
  • contains the plants you have declared  
  • is free from pests and diseases 

The inspection can take place at either a: 

  • border control post (BCP) - a border inspection facility where goods first arrive 
  • control point (CP) - an inland inspection facility  

All plants and plant products must enter Great Britain at an airport or a port with a BCP that can handle plants. You can then transport your goods to a CP, if you wish to.  

Check a list of BCPs and CPs for plant imports.  

It’s possible to use your premises as a control point. To do this, your premises must be authorised as a temporary storage facility where plant health inspections can be carried out. You can apply for authorisation as either an: 

Fees for plant health checks  

These fees apply for plant health checks in England and Wales: 

Check the fees that apply in Scotland for plant health checks.   

Attach a UK plant passport  

After your consignment passes plant health controls, you can move it on. You’ll need a UK plant passport for movement of goods from the first place of destination if:  

  • they’re moved to another professional operator  
  • they’re sold to final users (those buying for personal use) under a distance contract - for example, online  
  • they’re moved to another one of your premises that’s more than 10 miles from the premises the consignment arrived at  
  • the phytosanitary status of the consignment changes - for example, if it’s reconfigured, such as 2 plants previously in separate pots planted in a new pot together  

Read how to issue UK plant passports to move regulated plant material in Great Britain. 

What happens if your consignment fails plant health controls  

If all or part of your consignment fails plant health checks, an inspector may be able to advise on what you need to do for the consignment to pass.  

If the inspector decides that the failed goods cause a risk to plant health, they may:  

  • destroy your goods  
  • ask you to return them  

If you need to return goods to the country you imported them from, they’ll be treated as an export. The plant health authority in the country you’re exporting to will explain how to do this.

Read more on how to export plants and plant products. 

Submit documents after your consignment arrives  

Within 3 days of a high or medium risk plant or plant product consignment reaching Great Britain (or as soon as possible), you must post the original phytosanitary certificate to APHA (England and Wales) or SASA (Scotland).  

For consignments landing at Heathrow or Gatwick, send the certificate to:  

Animal and Plant Health Agency  
1st Floor  
Building 4  
Heathrow Boulevard  
284 Bath Road  
West Drayton  
Middlesex  
UB7 0DQ  

For consignments arriving anywhere else in England and Wales, send the certificate to:  

Animal and Plant Health Agency  
Foss House  
1st Floor  
Kings Pool  
1 to 2 Peasholme Green  
York  
YO1 7PX  

For consignments arriving in Scotland, send the certificate to:

SASA
Roddinglaw Road
Edinburgh
EH12 9FJ

For wood, wood products and bark, you’ll need to provide the Forestry Commission with original phytosanitary certificates within 3 days (or as soon as possible) of the consignment arriving in Great Britain.  

Your local forestry inspector will agree with you which address you need to send the phytosanitary certificate to. View contact details for inspectors at the main points of entry into Great Britain.   

Read more on how to import timber, wood products or bark. 

Importing from non-EU countries to Great Britain through the EU  

If you import goods from a non-EU country to Great Britain through the EU, your goods may be treated as an EU import. While in the EU, they must have:  

  • entered into ‘free circulation’ (customs cleared and any VAT or duty paid) 
  • passed EU plant health checks  
  • been issued with a phytosanitary certificate from an EU member state, if applicable

They will be treated as a non-EU country import if they did not enter into free circulation and pass plant health checks in the EU. 

Read more about importing plants and plant products from the EU.  

Unregulated plants and plant products  

These unregulated plants and plant products do not need to go through any plant health controls:  

  • pineapple (fruits of Ananas comosus)  
  • kiwi (fruits of Actinidia spp. Lindl)  
  • coconut (fruits of Cocos nucifera L.)  
  • citrus (fruit and leaves of Citrus spp. L.)  
  • kumquat (fruit of Fortunella spp. Swingle)  
  • bitter orange (fruit of Poncirus L. Raf.)  
  • persimmon (fruit of Diospyros spp. L.)  
  • durian (fruits of Durio zibethinus Murray)  
  • cotton (bolls) (fruits (bolls) of Gossypium spp.)  
  • curry leaves (leaves of Murraya spp.)  
  • banana and plantain (fruits of Musa spp.)  
  • mango (fruits of Mangifera spp. L.)  
  • dates (fruits of Phoenix dactylifera L.)  
  • passionfruit (fruits of Passiflora spp. L)  
  • guava (fruits of Psidium spp.)  
  • any fruit and vegetables that are processed and packaged (for example, soups, salads, sandwiches or frozen material)  
  • composite products (for example, nut or seed butters that contain processed fruit or vegetables) 

Importing prohibited goods  

Some goods are prohibited from entering Great Britain from EU and non-EU countries if they can’t meet the import requirements for scientifically justified reasons.  

Check if your goods are prohibited.   

It may be possible to import prohibited goods into Great Britain with a scientific licence if they meet the qualifying criteria. Read more about moving specified plants, plant pests, pathogens and soil.  

Importing goods with wood packaging material  

If you import any goods using wood packaging material (WPM), or supply WPM to businesses, you need to meet ISPM 15 international standards.  

Importing endangered and artificially propagated plants  

You must apply for a permit to import plants and plant products of species listed by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). This includes artificially propagated plants listed on CITES.  

Use Species+ to find out if your plant or plant product comes from a species on the CITES list.  

You can email the APHA CITES team at wildlife.licensing@apha.gov.uk if you need more information.  

Complaints and appeals  

You can complain or appeal if you’re unsatisfied with the service you receive from APHA.  

Contact  

For more information on plant imports in England and Wales, email planthealth.info@apha.gov.uk or phone 0300 1000 313.  

For contact details and more information on plant imports in Scotland, visit the Scottish government’s plant health guidance.  

Help with your customs declaration

If you need help with your customs declaration, contact HMRC.

Published 21 December 2023
Last updated 31 January 2024 + show all updates
  1. Removed prompt about preparing for new import controls on 31 January 2024

  2. A prompt has been added to prepare for new import controls which begin on 31 January 2024.

  3. First published.