Import wood, wood products or bark from non-EU countries

How to register for trading, what documents you need, including certificate of clearance (form PHF28), and plant health inspection fees you have to pay.

You must meet UK import requirements if you’re importing regulated wood material to prevent the introduction of harmful pests.

Find out which wood and timber materials are controlled in Annexes XIII and XIV of Commission Implementing Regulation (EU) 2019/2072

You’re responsible for your material when it arrives in England, Scotland or Wales. You or your agent should make sure the supplier meets the import requirements and will cover any costs if they do not.

Any regulated wood, wood products or bark you import must have a phytosanitary certificate issued in the country of export.

There is a different process if you’re importing wood, wood products or bark into Northern Ireland.

Register as a professional operator

You or your agent must register as a professional operator with the Forestry Commission and notify them before the material arrives in England, Scotland or Wales. All regulated wood material has a plant health inspection on arrival.

Arrange an import inspection

You or your agent must complete a notice of landing form to arrange a timber import inspection.

You must complete this form:

  • for material brought by air, at least 4 working hours before the relevant material arrives
  • for material not brought by air, a minimum of 1 working day before the relevant material arrives into designated Border Control Posts or Control Points

The notification document relating to each consignment must include:

  • either the reference number of the phytosanitary certificate, the phytosanitary certificate for re-export or the industry certificate
  • the registration number of the professional operator

Notification of landing and import inspection are statutory requirements. If you fail to comply then you may get a fine, and the clearing of your consignment will be delayed.

Import documents

If you’re importing material by post you must fix certificates to the outside of the package.

Each consignment must have one of the following:

  • a phytosanitary certificate
  • a phytosanitary certificate for re-export
  • an industry or mill certificate

Phytosanitary certificates

These certificates state that the controlled material:

  • has been officially inspected in the country of origin (or country of dispatch)
  • complies with statutory requirements for entry
  • is free from quarantine pests and disease
  • is substantially free from other harmful organisms

Phytosanitary certificates must accurately describe the volume of material. Sometimes certificates declare types of wood not subject to inspection. If you do not identify the tree species of the wood, it will be subject to control at the discretion of an inspector.

You will not be charged for the part of the consignment where an inspector can identify from the certificate the:

  • volume and identity
  • lot
  • numbers of material

If it’s not possible to segregate uncontrolled goods, the whole consignment will be checked and you’ll have to pay for the check

Phytosanitary certificates for re-export

You must provide these if, after a phytosanitary certificate has been issued in the country of origin, the consignment has been stored, repacked or split in another third country before being imported to England, Scotland or Wales.

Industry and mill certificates

You can use industry and mill certificates instead of phytosanitary certificates for some sawn hardwood and coniferous wood products from Canada and the USA that are kiln-dried or heat-treated. The wood products that this exemption applies to are set out in Commission Implementing Decision (EU) 2017/204.

Get a plant health inspection

All imports of regulated material must be inspected and cleared by a plant health inspector. These inspections are independent of any checks by Border Force or HMRC.

Plant health inspectors usually work Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm (although local arrangements may be in place). They will inspect your goods on the day you notify that they’re ready for examination, or on the next working day.

You should aim to provide as much notice as possible if you want your goods to be cleared quickly. Customs clearance won’t be given until the satisfactory completion of a plant health inspection.

Where your goods are inspected

Plant health inspections take place at approved points of entry. A port or airport authority must meet certain requirements to get approved status.

You should be aware that:

  • for containerised material, it takes time for port operators to bring material forward for inspection, open the container doors and conduct fumigant gas checks
  • port operators will charge for these commercial consignment handling services
  • inspectors will only perform inspections if it’s safe to do so

Approved places inland

Plant health legislation lets approved traders get Forestry Commission and HMRC clearance at inland inspection premises instead of at a point of entry.

The standards for approved premises status are set by HMRC and the Forestry Commission.

Forestry Commission inspectors need a safe working environment with adequate lighting and space to look at every piece of material.

In the absence of fumigant gas-checking facilities supported by trained operators for containerised material, the inspector is likely to insist that containers be devanned at your risk and cost.

You should be aware that:

  • eligible sites must conform to HMRC’s definition of ‘temporary storage area’ – HMRC charge a fee for a site to become approved as a ‘temporary storage area’
  • eligible sites must meet Forestry Commission plant health requirements
  • approved places of inspection will be subject to an annual review by the Forestry Commission

Documentary, identity and plant health checks

Inspections involve a three-part check:

  • documentary check
  • identity check
  • plant health check

Documentary check

A documentary check examines the official certificates and attestations, and any other documents the importer must legally have as set out in the landing requirements. The landing requirements state the phytosanitary conditions imports must meet to enter England, Scotland or Wales.

Identity check

Imported wood and wood products have a visual inspection to make sure that the content and labelling matches the information on the:

  • accompanying official certificates
  • official attestations
  • other documents

An identity check includes inspecting the marks on wood, seals and means of transport.

Plant health checks

A ‘physical check’ means a check on wood, wood products and bark. The check may also include:

  • packaging
  • the means of transport, labelling and temperature
  • sampling for analysis, testing or diagnosis
  • any other check necessary to check they match the landing requirements

The inspector will carry out an examination of all or a representative sample of the consignment to ensure it complies with the appropriate special requirements. For example, whether it’s bark-free or has been treated in some way such as kiln dried. If the wood has been kiln dried or heat treated, it must be clearly marked with ‘KD’ or ‘HT’ or another internationally recognised mark.

Inspection fees

You or your agent must pay fees for an inspection and notify the Forestry Commission that your goods need an inspection, or present the phytosanitary certificates.

Inspection fees include separate charges for documentary, identity and plant health checks:

Type of check Volume Fee
Documentary checks Per consignment £7.20
Identity checks For each load of up to 30m3, forming part of the consignment contained in one truck, railway wagon, or comparable container - per consignment £7.20
Identity checks for bulk loads Less than 100m3 £7.20
Identity checks for bulk loads 100m3 or more £14.40
Plant health checks Per consignment of wood (other than in the form of shavings, chips or sawdust) - up to 100m3 £31.20
Plant health checks Per consignment of wood (other than in the form of shavings, chips or sawdust) - over 100m3, each additional m3 or part thereof £0.25
Reduced frequency of inspection plant health checks of Acer saccharum* (hard maple, sugar maple or rock maple) Up to 100m3 originating in Canada £23.40
Reduced frequency of inspection plant health checks of Acer saccharum* (hard maple, sugar maple or rock maple) Above 100m3 originating in Canada - for each additional m3 or part thereof originating in Canada £0.20
Plant health checks - per consignment of isolated bark and wood in the form of shavings, chips or sawdust Up to 25,000kg £31.20
Plant health checks - per consignment of isolated bark and wood in the form of shavings, chips or sawdust Above 25,000kg - each additional 1,000kg or part thereof £0.49

Maximum inspection fee - £98

Goods can be subject to reduced levels of physical inspection set by the European Commission and are based on risk (that is, on a random sample of consignments rather than each one).

Certificate of Clearance (PHF28)

After satisfactory completion of the inspection, the inspector will issue a Certificate of Clearance (form PHF28), which you must present to HMRC together with the normal customs entry declaration. You must also declare that the consignment contains produce of phytosanitary relevance.

If you fail an inspection

If you have not met the import requirements, you must take remedial action. The inspector may also take samples from the material for analysis at Forest Research. Where this is considered necessary, you’ll be served a Statutory Notice prohibiting the removal of the consignment while remedial action or tests are completed.

Any remedial work, which may involve destruction, dispatch or special treatment, is carried out by the Forestry Commission to its specification. You will be charged for this additional monitoring work.

In certain instances, the Forestry Commission may do the work, or contract another person to do it and charge accordingly. For example, where the work required has not been carried out by the due date. Where treatment of the material is appropriate, the Forestry Commission will not issue a Certificate of Clearance (PHF28) until the material has been treated to the required specification and poses no further risk to plant health.

Charge for remedial work

The charge for remedial work is time-based:

  • the first hour, including travelling and office time - £37

  • each 15 minutes or part thereof thereafter including office time - £9.25

The Forestry Commission aims to keep this cost to a minimum by remaining onsite only long enough to ensure that treatment is being carried out properly and to its specification. However, it will be necessary to inspect the material on completion of the treatment to ensure that it has been effective. Where possible, the Forestry Commission plans for these visits to coincide with the notified timing of treatment. You should inform the Forestry Commission of any changes to agreed arrangements.

The fee for monitoring work is due on completion of the remedial work. You must pay the fee before a Certificate of Clearance (form PHF28) is issued. Alternatively, you’ll be issued with an invoice which you may pay through your credit account, if you have one, or by BACS or cheque.

Fines for offences

You must provide all required documents and notify authorities you’re importing regulated materials. You’re breaking the law if you do not and could be fined or sent to prison.

Published 26 September 2018
Last updated 14 July 2020 + show all updates
  1. Changed "one of the following" to "all of the following" in the bullet point section under Import Documents.

  2. New regulatory changes shown in Documentary, identity and plant health checks, and changed process 'Register as a forestry trader' to 'Register as a professional operator'.

  3. 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