Clearing goods entering, leaving or transiting the UK

Get your goods cleared by the National Clearance Hub when moving goods into, out of, or through the UK.

The National Clearance Hub (NCH) handles the movement of third country goods and processes goods transiting the UK. The service is available 24 hours a day, every day of the year.

The NCH is also responsible for the control and amendment of entries after clearance. This service is available from 9am to 5:00pm.

This guide explains the responsibilities and service levels of the NCH and the different routes to clear consignments.

NCH responsibilities

The main responsibilities of the NCH are:

  • processing all import and export entries selected for further checks
  • inputting manual import and export entries
  • inputting manual requests for export arrival and departure loading information
  • controlling un-entered goods for inventory linked ports and airports
  • authorising and amending inventory records and removals
  • the control of goods imported under specific import regimes

Service levels from the NCH for import or export entry processing

Route 1 entries are dealt with in the order that they’re presented at the NCH and we do not give priority to specific locations or type of goods, including perishables.

But goods that require exceptional treatment are:

  • fireworks and explosives
  • live animals
  • human remains

When sending these entries to the hub, you should clearly show what the goods are on the trader submission header form you send.

How we process your declarations

You must submit certain documents for clearance or examination to HMRC when you’re moving goods under either Direct Trader Input or National Export System.

You can call the enquiry line for imports and exports: Telephone 0300 322 7900.

Documents to send for clearance

When you get a Customs Handling of Import and Export Freight (CHIEF) form E2 advising that an entry for your goods has been selected for documentary check (Route 1) or for physical examination and documentary check (Route 2) you must email the clearance hub with:

E-mailing the header form and supporting paperwork

When emailing the header form and supporting paperwork to the clearance hub, you should:

  • scan the supporting paperwork in black and white (or greyscale if needed) using a low resolution (200 to 300 dpi)
  • use file formats such as JPEG, TIF and PDF files - if you want to use compressed images or non-pc files, you should send a prearranged test email to check that the scanned documents are compatible with HMRC systems
  • save supporting paperwork attachments by name (for example ‘inv.doc’ or ‘AWB.doc’) to make identification easier
  • include the entry number and date in the subject line
  • only send one entry for each email
  • email the NCH1 and supporting paperwork to (do not combine the NCH1 form with the supporting paperwork)

Do not send:

  • scanned or hand-written copies of the header form NCH1.pdf
  • email chains
  • duplicate emails
  • emails that are more than 10MB in size

Clearance of your goods will be delayed if you do not use the header form or email correctly.

Multi-item entries or multi-importer or exporter entries

HMRC ensures that the minimum amount of paperwork is submitted to the NCH for clearance to take place. When an entry that has multiple lines is selected for Route 1 or Route 2, contact the NCH enquiry point to find out what paperwork needs to be emailed for clearance.

Evidence of value

It’s your responsibility to send enough copy documentation to prove the value of the total consignment.

When submitting multi-invoice entries, you should send all the invoices relating to the entry, or use HMRC’s example invoice summary form.

The CHIEF system will tell you if you need more documents for clearance.

Packing lists

Where an entry is accompanied by a number of packing lists, you can schedule these using an amended version of the HMRC example invoice summary form and email the schedule to the NCH with all other appropriate documentation.


You’ll get an automatic delivery receipt for your email.

Pre-lodgement declarations

After pre-entry but before arrival of the vessel or goods into the UK, you must email copies of the (accepted) hold import declaration and any supporting documents to the NCH, with a separate Trader submission form header for declarations to the National Clearance Hub (NCH1) (PDF, 867KB, 1 page) for each entry number.

Pre-lodgement of expected Route 1 and Route 2 entries and any supporting paperwork by email at the NCH will be limited to 5 days before the expected or scheduled arrival of the vessel or goods. This period includes weekends and bank holidays.

Pre-lodgement is only provided by HMRC to enable importers or agents to lodge their accepted hold entries which they know, or honestly believe, will be allocated a Route 1 or Route 2 status. This means that the NCH no longer accepts or actions large numbers of unsorted pre-lodged entries, many of which ultimately proved to be Route 6 (no customs checks needed).

Queried entries to the NCH

On the CHIEF system

The NCH may query an entry that was submitted, if it has triggered a risk rule.

For submissions made on the CHIEF system, you should respond to this query through CHIEF, even if you need to email additional paperwork to the NCH later.

This will ensure that the NCH is aware that the query has been answered and should prevent any delays. There will be delays to clearance if you do not respond through CHIEF.

If a query means that you need to change an entry, you must email a copy of the amended entry, with an amended Trader submission form to the clearance hub.

Trader submission form header for declarations to the National Clearance Hub (NCH1)

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On the Customs Declaration Service

Should the NCH need to query a submission made on the Customs Declaration Service, they may email you.

You should respond to NCH queries by email to, quoting ‘query response’ and the unique declaration MRN in the subject line, or use secure file upload, where additional paperwork is requested. Responding to NCH queries in this way should prevent any delays. There will be delays to clearance if you do not respond.

If a query means that you need to change an entry, you must check with your software provider that they have the functionality to amend a declaration. If your software provider does not have the amendment functionality or ability to do this, you will need to cancel and resubmit your declaration.

NCH entries subject to Route 3 post-clearance profiles and supporting documents

Various procedures apply after submission of entries.

Uncleared Route 3 entries ICS22

Where an entry has been amended and becomes Route 3 ICS22 status on CHIEF, HMRC must manually clear the goods. The entry is treated the same as a Route 1 entry and you should send the entry form to the NCH with a Trader submission form header for declarations to the National Clearance Hub (NCH1) (PDF, 867KB, 1 page). You’ll need a separate header for each entry.

Clearance of your goods will be delayed if you do not use the header form or email correctly.

Route 3 entries ICS00 or ICS25

All original import Route 3 entry documentation must arrive at the NCH for post-clearance action within 3 working days from the date and time of clearance. This time limit does not apply to pre-lodged entries. A freepost service is available to help you meet this requirement.

For bulk EUR1s, ATR1s and GSP certificates, you should send the original document with the first Route 3 entry. Subsequent Route 3s should be accompanied by a copy of the appropriate preference certificate. Box 44 of the entry should show the entry number to which the original has been attached.

You should use A4 envelopes if possible, and Route 3 entries should be sent to the NCH each day. Entries received will be audited and there are penalties for not complying with these requirements.

Non-presentation of entries

The NCH will undertake regular checks to ensure that all declarations subject to Route 1 or Route 3 profiles have been presented. There are penalties for regularly failing to submit entries.

Keeping records

Keep all records for 4 years.

You can store documentary evidence electronically if you can produce a copy of the original document from it. You must keep paper copies that contain original stamps or watermarks, for example preference certificates.

HMRC will keep original entries and supporting documents only if they’ve been pre-lodged with the NCH for clearance.

Further NCH documentation requirements

Customs Input Entries (CIE)

You can fax, email or post copies of entries and supporting documents to the NCH for customs input, processing and clearance.

You’ll need to send the NCH:

  • a fully completed Single Administrative Document – form C88
  • evidence of the goods’ value
  • packing list of items included
  • any appropriate licence or certificate

When sending entries, you should use an appropriate header, clearly marked ‘CIE imports’, to avoid delays to clearance. For more information, contact the NCH team on Telephone: 0300 322 7909.

The NCH will return any queries or entries requiring amendment by email or fax.

The NCH processes CIE requests Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm, excluding public holidays.

We aim to clear all CIE Route 1 entries within 24 working hours from the time of receipt - as long as all the relevant paperwork is presented, complete and correct.

Importation of motor vehicles using the NCH

HMRC no longer issues C&E 386 and C&E 388. After all the checks are complete and satisfied, the importers details are placed on Notification of Vehicle Arrivals (NOVA). The Service Level Agreement on cars is 10 working days.

The NCH is a processing office only and does not give general advice about importing motor vehicles.

For general advice on importing motor vehicles, phone VAT: general enquiries.

Forms required to import vehicles

You’ll have to submit specific forms when importing a vehicle. The form needed depends on your reasons for importing the vehicle.

If you’re a private importer paying VAT or duty, you must submit:

If you’re an importer using transfer of residence (TOR) procedures, you must submit:

Importers must have lived outside the UK for 12 months and have owned the vehicle for 6 months.

If you’re an importer claiming Returned Goods Relief (RGR), you must submit:

  • form C179B
  • a copy of customs entry certificate
  • the vehicle’s export certificate
  • the vehicle’s overseas registration document
  • any other supporting evidence of eligibility for RGR

Importers must have owned the vehicle prior to exportation and must re-import it within 3 years. For commercial vehicles, you must also be able to provide documentary proof of these facts.

The NCH does not issue documents for VAT-registered traders, who should now input the details onto NOVA or alternatively contact Dover Personal Transport Unit (PTU).

Contacting the NCH

For general enquiries regarding import, export, international trade and the NCH, phone the Imports and exports: general enquiries helpline.

Route 1 import and export helpline

For specific advice you can use our National Clearance hub webchat and helpline regarding:

  • the clearance of ‘live’ entries
  • already submitted applications awaiting processing


You can make a complaint to HMRC online or by phone.

Published 2 August 2012
Last updated 31 December 2020 + show all updates
  1. This page has been updated because the Brexit transition period has ended.

  2. This page has been updated with information on the Customs Declaration Service.

  3. When you send your paperwork to the National Clearance Hub you’ll also need to send an NCH1 form in every instance.

  4. The contact telephone number for the National Clearance Hub Route 3 Car Team has been updated.

  5. New contact email address added to section 'Contacting the NCH' for enquiries on transfer of residence.

  6. Mention of withdrawn form 'Import and export: import of private motor vehicle from outside the EC (C104A)' changed to new form 'Application for Transfer of Residence (ToR) relief (ToR01)'.

  7. The Importation of motor vehicles using the National Clearance Hub Service Level Agreement was changed from 3 days to 10 days from 1 December 2015.

  8. Link to 'Import and export: trader submission form header for declarations (NCH1)' added to the guide.

  9. Fixing references to specialist guides

  10. First published.