Guidance

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 and processing of goods moving into, out of, or through the UK.

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

The main responsibilities of the NCH are:

  • processing import and export declarations selected for further checks
  • inputting manual import and export declarations (Customs Handling of Import and Export Freight (CHIEF) only)
  • 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

Before you start

Declarations 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.

If your declaration is selected for a documentary check, you will need to submit all supporting documents, such as:

  • evidence of the goods’ value
  • packing list of all items included
  • any licenses or certificates

You should clearly show what the goods are when you submit your documents if your goods are:

  • fireworks and explosives
  • live animals
  • human remains

Evidence of value

You must send enough documentation to prove the value of the total consignment.

When submitting multi-invoice declarations, you should send all the invoices relating to each entry declaration or send a one-page summary detailing the invoice number, description of goods, number of pieces, currency and the value for each of the goods items.

Packing lists

Where a declaration is accompanied by a number of packing lists, you can submit the schedule to the NCH with all other appropriate documentation.

Multi-item declarations or multi-importer or exporter declarations

If a declaration that is selected for a check has multiple lines, you should contact the National Clearance Hub to find out what needs to be sent for clearance.

Pre-lodgement declarations

After pre-lodgement but before arrival of the vessel or goods into the UK, you must submit copies of the (accepted) hold import declaration and any supporting documents to the NCH, with a separate entry declaration for each number.

Pre-lodgement of declarations will be limited to 5 days before the expected or scheduled arrival of the vessel or goods. This period includes weekends and bank holidays.

Sending supporting documents for a customs check to clear your goods

You can submit documents to the NCH to clear your goods if they’re selected for a customs check. The service you use depends on whether you’ve used CHIEF or the Customs Declaration Service to make your declaration.

CHIEF

If you’re using CHIEF, you need to send documents to the NCH to clear your goods.

The preferred way to do this is to use the send documents for a customs check for declarations made in CHIEF service.

The email method to send documents to NCH is still available for those traders unable to use the online service.

To send by email you can use the Trader submission form header for declarations to the National Clearance Hub (NCH1) (PDF, 867KB, 1 page) – you must complete this on screen, save it as a PDF and the filename must start ‘NCH1.pdf’.

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 nch@hmrc.gov.uk (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

Customs Declaration Service

If you’re using the Customs Declaration Service, you can use upload documents and get messages for the Customs Declaration Service to submit documents.

After you’ve submitted

If you have provided the documents that HMRC need to clear arrived goods, they should be cleared within the following time limits:

  • 2 hours for air freight imports, road freight imports, all exports
  • 3 hours if received between 8am and 3pm for marine freight imports
  • by 8am the following day if received after 3pm for marine freight imports

If you still need help contact the National Clearance Hub.

Queried NCH declarations

If you used the CHIEF system

The NCH may query a declaration that has been selected for a check. You should respond to this query through the method you submitted your declaration.

This makes sure NCH know the query has been answered and should prevent delays. If you do not respond using the method, you submitted your declaration through there will be delays to your clearance.

If a query means that you need to change a declaration, you must submit a copy of the amended declaration.

If your declaration has been amended and has a Route 3 ICS22 status. HMRC must manually clear the goods. You will need to complete your declaration the same as a Route 1 declaration and you should submit documents about your goods to the NCH. You’ll need a separate header for each declaration if you submitted by email.

If you used the Customs Declaration Service

If a query is raised by NCH about your goods the query will be sent to your secure inbox on the online service, which is accessed from upload documents and get messages for the Customs Declaration Service.

Responding to queries through the secure 2–way messaging should prevent any delays which would occur if you do not reply.

If you need to change an import declaration following a query, then you will need to send an amendment to change your declaration.

If you need to cancel an import entry declaration you need to request cancellation with reason for request for the NCH to approve.

This does not apply to Pre-Lodged declarations that have not been arrived.

If you need to change an export declaration following a query, you must check with your software provider that they have the functionality to allow this. If your provider cannot do this, you will need to cancel and resubmit your declaration.

Customs Input Entries (CIE) – CHIEF only

You can fax, email or post copies of declarations 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 declarations, you should use an appropriate header, clearly marked ‘CIE imports’, to avoid delays to clearance.

For more information contact the National Clearance Hub.

The NCH will return any queries or declarations 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 declarations within 24 working hours from the time of receipt – if all the relevant paperwork is present, complete and correct.

Declarations subject to post-clearance checks

CHIEF declarations – ICS00 or ICS25

All original 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 declarations. 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 declaration. Subsequent declarations should be accompanied by a copy of the appropriate preference certificate. Box 44 of the declaration should show the entry number to which the original has been attached.

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

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 declarations and supporting documents only if they’ve been pre-lodged with the NCH for clearance.

Contacting the NCH

To get help with submitted declarations you can contact the National Clearance Hub.

Import and export helpline

For import, export general enquires call the Imports and exports: general enquiries helpline.

Complaints

If you need to you can make a complaint to HMRC online or by phone.

Published 2 August 2012
Last updated 15 September 2021 + show all updates
  1. Welsh translation added.

  2. More information about 'Sending supporting documents for a customs check to clear your goods' has been added.

  3. This page has been updated because the Brexit transition period has ended.

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

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

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

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

  8. 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)'.

  9. 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.

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

  11. Fixing references to specialist guides

  12. First published.