Licence and registration application information for companies that deal in precursor chemicals.
The effective control of chemicals used in the illicit manufacture of narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances is an important tool in combating drug trafficking. These chemicals, known as ‘precursors’, also have legitimate commercial uses as they are legally used in a wide variety of industrial processes and consumer products, such as medicines, flavourings and fragrances.
It is necessary to recognise and protect the legal trade in these substances, while at the same time discouraging their diversion for illicit purposes. The objective therefore is to strike a balance between avoiding the restriction of legitimate trade and actions taken to prevent the illicit manufacture of drugs.
For example, ‘piperonal’ is a substance used in the manufacture of perfumes, flavourings, and anti-mosquito products. However it can also be used in the illicit production of synthetic drugs like ecstasy and methamphetamine. Acetic anhydride is used in the chemical, photographic and pharmaceutical industries, but it is also used as the acetylating agent in the production of heroin.
Regulation of precursors covers 28 chemical substances which are divided into 3 categories:
- category 1 covers the most sensitive substances (the ‘main’ drug precursors)
- category 2 covers less sensitive substances and pre-precursors
- category 3 covers bulk chemicals that can have different types of uses in the manufacturing process (for example, as feedstock, solvents or impurities removers)
The legislation excludes medicinal products for human use, but covers all natural products and preparations (or mixtures) containing at least one scheduled substance, provided that they can be extracted by ‘readily applicable or economically viable means’.
The list of precursors and chemicals frequently used in the illicit manufacture of narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances under control are defined by the United Nations International Control Board.
Please see the precursor chemicals wallchart for domestic licensing.
In the UK the 2 statutory instruments that impose licence and reporting obligations on those dealing in scheduled substances are:
- Controlled Drugs (Drug Precursors) (Intra-Community Trade) Regulations 2008 (SI 2008 No. 295)
- Controlled Drugs (Drug Precursors) (Community External Trade) Regulations 2008 (SI 2008 No. 296)
It is a criminal offence to fail to comply with the requirements of these regulations. The penalties for non-compliance are detailed on the National Crime Agency (NCA) website.
Report thefts and losses of precursor chemicals
Precursor chemicals annual returns
The Home Office reports annually to the International Narcotics Control Board on the manufacture, supply, importation, exportation and destruction of all controlled drugs and precursor chemicals within the UK. All establishments involved in these activities in respect of controlled drugs and precursor chemicals must complete annual return forms.
The subject line should be completed as follows: ANNUAL RETURNS - PRECURSOR CHEMICALS 2018 (company name)
Completed forms in Excel format only must be emailed to email@example.com
The basis for precursor control is to be found in the United Nations Convention against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances adopted in Vienna on 19 December 1988.
Article 12 of the convention specifically covers ‘substances frequently used in the illicit manufacture of narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances’ and requires that countries implement measures to control and monitor the legitimate trade in drug precursors as an essential way to prevent their diversion.
European Union legislation
EU legislation implements this convention through:
- Feb 2004 Regulation (EC) No 273/2004, which controls and monitors intra-community trade
- Dec 2004 Regulation (EC) No 111/2005 on trade between EU and third countries
A further regulation (No 1277/2005) laid down rules for the implementation of these council regulations. This establishes harmonised measures within the EU for controlling and monitoring certain chemical substances that are frequently used in the illicit manufacture of narcotic drugs.
It defines ‘scheduled substances’ in accordance with Article 12 of the United Nations Convention. For these scheduled substances, the regulation contains provisions relating to licences, customer declarations and labelling. A monitoring procedure is also put in place to prevent obstacles to the free trade in these substances between EU countries.
These EU regulations are enacted in the UK through 2 statutory instruments which came into force on 7 March 2008.
These give full effect to the relevant EU regulations in the UK and impose licence and reporting obligations on those dealing in scheduled substances:
- Controlled Drugs (Drug Precursors) (Intra-Community Trade) Regulations 2008 (SI 2008 No. 295) whose main objective is to prevent diversion of drug precursors for illicit manufacture while maintaining a competitive internal market for legitimate trade
- Controlled Drugs (Drug Precursors) (Community External Trade) Regulations 2008 (SI 2008 No. 296) whose main objective is to monitor international trade and prevent diversion of drug precursors for illicit drug manufacture
It is a criminal offence to fail to comply with the requirements of these regulations. The penalties for non-compliance are detailed on the National Crime Agency (NCA) website.
Licensing of UK operators is governed by Regulation (EC) No 273/2004 of the European Parliament and Council and its amendments EU Regulations 1258/2013 and 1259/2013 which lay down the rules for the monitoring of trade within the EU.
The objective of the EC regulation is to prevent the diversion of drug precursors for illicit manufacture while maintaining a competitive internal market for legitimate trade.
On 7 March 2008 the Controlled Drugs (Drug Precursors) (Intra-Community Trade) Regulations 2008 (SI 2008 No. 295) came into force. These regulations give full effect to the relevant EU regulations in the UK and impose licence and reporting obligations on those dealing in scheduled substances.
The penalties for non-compliance are detailed on the National Crime Agency (NCA) website.
Domestic licensing requirements for operators in precursors can be found on the precursor chemicals wallchart for domestic licensing.
Making your application
To apply, you must have successfully registered with us as a customer and have a username and password. If you have not registered with us before as a customer, please register using the controlled drugs and precursor chemicals registration. If you have already registered, please do not do so again.
Before applying, all prospective and existing licence holders should have the following information and documents ready:
- the company registration document from Companies House (if applicable)
- a valid Disclosure and Barring Service (completed via Security Watchdog) reference number and date of issue for the responsible officer and guarantor
- a certificate of good conduct for the responsible officer – this should be a brief letter signed by another officer of the company such as the guarantor and should, for example, confirm that the responsible officer is a fit and proper person to act as the responsible officer for precursor chemicals; they may also wish to state how long the responsible officer has worked for the company, the role they hold and a statement on how they have carried out their duties
- a purchase order (PO) number (if applicable to your company or organisation)
- knowledge of the PC substances and categories
Existing licensees without a password should contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
By applying for a licence you are accepting that we may ask for reimbursement of any travel, accommodation or similar administrative costs incurred by the Home Office, either in full or in part should you:
- cancel, or request an amendment to the time or date of, a site visit more than 48 hours after being informed of your site visit date
- request that your application is withdrawn at or after a compliance visit has been undertaken
- request that your application is withdrawn after a decision has been reached on your application
Any cancellations or withdrawal of application requests will be considered on a case-by-case basis following the principles above. Copies of any cost incurred will be provided on request and any applicable fees payable within 10 working days.
Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) checks
The Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 (Exceptions) Order 1975 enables the Drugs and Firearms Licensing Unit (DFLU) to ask questions about spent convictions for the purpose of assessing applicants suitability to obtain a licence.
DFLU has contracted Security Watchdog (part of Capita PLC) to provide a scheme to enable DFLU licence applicants to obtain DBS enhanced disclosures. A DBS disclosure guidebook is available from the Security Watchdog website.
To apply for a DBS enhanced disclosure contact Security Watchdog on: +44 (0) 1420 558 752 (Monday to Friday 9:00am to 5:30pm). During the call all aspects of the disclosure application process will be explained to you.
The contents of the DBS enhanced disclosures for all applicants named on the application form will also be taken into account in the decision as to whether or not to issue a licence.
If you have subscribed to the DSB ‘update service’ please include this information on your licence application and contact us for further information as to how this may be used.
Our fees are charged on a ‘full cost recovery’ basis. Fees are set at a level that allows the department to fully cover the cost of processing the application. Fees are payable for each licensing decision. The applicable fee levels are set out in the Misuse of Drugs (Licence Fees) Regulations 2010.
Precursor chemical domestic licences: application fees for new precursor chemical domestic licences
|Licenceable activity/activities||Licence application fee|
|Category 1 licence||£3,655|
|Category 2 registration||£435|
|Category 3 registration||£435|
Renewal/replacement of an existing precursor chemical domestic licence of any type
|Visit is required/not required||Licence renewal fee|
|Category 1 licence, where no compliance visit is required||£326|
|Category 1 licence, where a compliance visit is necessary||£1,371|
|Category 2 or category 3 registration, where no compliance visit is required||£109|
|Category 2 or category 3 registration, where a compliance visit is necessary||£1,153|
Precursor chemical import/export licences: application fees for new import/export drug licences
|Licence type||Licence application fee|
|Individual export licence||£24|
|Individual import licence||£24|
Precursor chemical domestic and import/export licences: replacement for a lost, defaced or damaged licence
|Lost, defaced or damaged||£45|
How will fees be paid?
Fees for all domestic precursor chemical licences are invoiced once a decision has been made on an application, but before a licence is issued. Invoices for domestic licences are emailed to the invoicing contact on the application form.
Fees for all import and export precursor chemical licences are invoiced in arrears at the end of the month. Invoices for import and export licences are emailed to the invoicing contact on the customer account for invoicing.
If your organisation or company requires a purchase order (PO) number to be quoted, please ensure that you quote this when the application is submitted or the invoice is raised. PO numbers can also be emailed to email@example.com.
Fee payment can be made using one of the following methods:
- Bankers Automated Clearing Service (BACS)
- Clearing House Automated Payment System (CHAPS)
- credit or debit card by calling Shared Service Connected Limited on 08450 100 125
Please make sure when making a payment that your invoice number is included, either on the cheque or in the reference section of your bank transfer.
Please send any remittance advice to:
Shared Service Connected Limited
HO Box 5003
Regulations require that operators who supply category 1 substances are required to obtain a declaration from the end-user specifying the intended use of that substance.
Declarations relating to the supply of category 2 substances are dependent on the level of trade involved. Please check on the precursor chemicals wallchart for domestic licensing.
Companies therefore need to submit an end-user declaration form to their supplier:
- customer declaration of specific uses of the scheduled category 1 or 2 substances (individual transactions)
- customer declaration of specific uses of the scheduled category 2 substances (multiple transactions)
Scheduled substance: any substance listed in annex 1 liable to be used for the illicit manufacture of narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances, including mixtures and natural products containing such substances. This excludes medicinal products, pharmaceutical preparations, mixtures, natural products and other preparations containing scheduled substances that are compounded in such a way that they cannot be easily used or extracted by readily applicable or economically viable means.
Placing on the market: any supply, whether in return for payment or free of charge, of scheduled substances in the EU; or the storage, manufacture, production, processing, trade, distribution or brokering of these substances for the purpose of supply in the EU.
Operator: any natural or legal person engaged in the placing on the market of scheduled substances.
Responsible officer: operators are required to appoint an officer responsible for the trade in scheduled substances. The officer shall be empowered to represent the operator and to ensure that the trade conducted takes place in compliance of regulations.
Guarantor: another senior person in the company that agrees to guarantee the responsible officer’s performance of their obligations.
Thefts and losses of controlled drugs
These must be reported using the thefts and losses form.
How do I surrender my licence or registration?
A CD/PC licence return premise(s) closure statement should be used in situations where a company no longer requires their controlled drugs licence, precursor chemical licence or registration at the named premises written on their licence/registration. This includes site closures and companies that wish to no longer handle controlled drugs or precursor chemicals but are continuing to trade.
The EU has become one of the leading exporters of illicitly manufactured synthetic drugs and an importer of the precursors needed to manufacture them.
Following the adoption of the 2000 to 2004 EU action plan on drugs, the European Commission organised an assessment of the control system of trade in drug precursors. It considered it necessary to extend monitoring requirements to operators trading with non-EU countries, to introduce a common approach to procedures for granting licences and to strengthen customs monitoring requirements.
The aim of current legislation in this area is to apply Article 12 of the United Nations Convention against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances, adopted in Vienna on 19 December 1988, which concerns trade in such substances.
Council Regulation (EEC) No 111/2005 of the European Parliament and Council lays down the rules for the monitoring of trade in drug precursors between the community and third countries outside the EU.
Please see the attached note for an outline of recent changes to this regulation:
These regulations are given full effect in the UK by the Controlled Drugs (Drug Precursors) (Community External Trade) Regulations 2008 (SI 2008 No. 296) whose main objective is to monitor international trade and prevent diversion of drug precursors for illicit drug manufacture.
Precursors chemicals – trade between the UK and non-EU countries
Regulations require that all operators trading in precursors chemicals outside of the EU hold a domestic precursor chemical licence (for category 1 substances) or registration (for all category 2 and some in cases 3 substances).
Additional licensing requirements apply in respect of Category 1 substances, for example to those possessing the chemical but not ‘placing it on the market’.
Please check the domestic licensing section.
The licensing requirements for external trade in precursors chemicals can be found on the precursor chemical wallchart for import and export authorisation.
Import and export authorisations or ‘licences’
Regulations require that all imports, exports and intermediary activities involving precursors chemicals be documented by operators.
Operators must lodge an application for an import or export authorisation (licence) with the competent authority in which the importer/exporter is established. In the case of the UK, the Home Office serves as the ‘competent authority’. Applications must be made via the national drugs control system (NDS) in respect of each transaction (shipment).
Applications for authorisations must contain full information about the transport arrangements, name and address of all operators involved, and nature, quantity and weight of the substance being traded.
Please read the import and export section.
Pre-export notification (PEN)
The vast majority of export authorisation applications are subject to a pre-export notification (PEN) process. The proposed shipment is electronically notified between competent authorities by way of the pre-export notification (PEN) system; applicants need not apply separately for this.
This process takes up to 15 working days and a decision is reached regarding authorisation of the shipment after this process is completed. The competent authorities may refuse the import or export of the substance if there are grounds for suspecting that diversion might occur.
Please note this time is in addition to the standard processing time for applications not subject to the PEN process.
Export and import authorisation applications
To make an import/export authorisation application, you will need to apply via the NDS website.
See the detailed guide on controlled drugs for more information on how to apply.
Charging for import and export authorisations
Following the recent consultation on charges for controlled drug licences and precursor chemical licences, registrations and authorisations, charges will be applied to import/export license applications as follows:
|Activity requiring authorisation||Application fee|
We have published information for those wishing to trade in drug precursor chemicals after Britain leaves the EU.
Companies who don’t presently hold the requisite domestic drug precursor chemical licenses or registrations are strongly encouraged to apply to register as a user of the drug licensing portal. If your registration is approved, you should submit an application as early as possible as licenses might be required after the UK leaves the EU.
Applications ordinarily take 12 to 16 weeks to process, upon receipt of the relevant Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) checks for all persons named on the licence.
You can apply for licence at any time. You should label your user registration request and any subsequent application as a ‘proactive application in the event of a Brexit no deal’ to help us process your applications as soon as possible.
If your application is approved, you can request that we issue your invoice for the application fees as soon as your application is deemed ‘valid’.
You must hold a valid domestic license to be able to apply for an import-export license.
You can read details of how we handle your personal information.
Drugs and Firearms Licensing Unit (DFLU) contact details
Depending on your query, there are a number of ways to contact the DFLU.
or call 020 7035 8972
This address deals with domestic (UK) controlled substance licenses including precursor chemicals, applications, renewals, compliance visits, thefts and losses, surrender or returning licence, or general enquiries about domestic licensing.
Import and export licensing
or call 020 7035 6330
This address deals with the import and export of controlled substance into or from the UK, import and export licenses, applications, endorsements of licenses, or general enquiries about import and export licensing.
or call 020 7035 8972
This address deals with fees, invoices and billing queries for drugs licensing, domestic and import/export.
This address deals with customer complaints about import and export, or domestic licensing of controlled drug, precursor chemical or industrial hemp licensing.
For more general queries, you can write to the DFLU at this address:
Drugs and Firearms Licensing Unit
2 Marsham Street