Business and enterprise – guidance

Import controls

How the government monitors imports into the UK.

The International Trade and Export Control Directorate (ITEC) of the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) and HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) advise and deal with a range of trade policy, regimes, procedural issues governing imports into the UK.

See below for notices to importers and information on import licensing.

Import licensing

An import licence is not needed to import the majority of industrial goods into the United Kingdom or EU.

However, some industrial goods need import licences, issued by the Import Licensing Branch (ILB), as a result of controls imposed at national, EU or UN level. ILB publicises these restrictions by issuing Notices to Importers.

Import controls

The UK is part of the EU Single Market and the European Commission has sole responsibility for the EU’s commercial policy. With limited exceptions (for example, on security or health grounds), the UK is unable to introduce national import controls.

National import controls

National import controls are imposed using the UK’s national import prohibition legislation Import, Export and Customs Powers (Defence) Act 1939. BIS controls its use within government. All national import controls are listed in the Open General Import Licence (OGIL) made under it. For example, import licensing controls on firearms back up Home Office domestic legislation on the possession of firearms so that only those with authority to own firearms can import them.

EU import controls

Because of their effect on the EU single market, EU import controls are directly applicable in all EU member states, so further national legislation is not needed. They are imposed when the EU needs to carry out a measure agreed within the EU or internationally (for example, a UN Security Council resolution), or to carry out an EU trade policy decision.

International sanctions

Import controls can be imposed as a result of international obligations, such as UN Security Council resolutions. As these affect the functioning of the EU single market, their introduction is usually by EU regulation and directly applicable in all EU member states. Occasionally, they may be implemented as national measures where the OGIL is amended.

Sanctions against a particular country often include a range of measures including export and financial controls. For further information on current sanctions, please consult the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO), HM Treasury, or the Export Control Organisation (ECO).

Current import controls

There are 3 types of control:

  • bans – where no import is allowed
  • quotas - where the volume of goods is restricted
  • surveillance – where the import of goods is monitored with licences

Goods currently subject to import bans and licensing controls are:

  • UN ban on the import of anti-personnel mines
  • EU quotas on textiles and clothing from Belarus and North Korea
  • EU quotas on steel products from Kazakhstan
  • EU ban on the import of torture equipment
  • EU ban on the import of certain products from Iran
  • EU ban on the import of certain products from Syria
  • EU ban on the import of certain products from North Korea
  • EU ban on the import of certain products from Russia and Crimea
  • UK licensing controls on the import of firearms

Applying for an import licence

You can apply for an import licence at www.ilb.bis.gov.uk.

Contacts

For further advice on import controls for which ILB is responsible, contact: enquiries.ilb@bis.gsi.gov.uk

Other government departments that control imports

You will find a full list of import controls and the government department responsible for them in volume 1 part 3 of the HM Revenue and Customs Integrated Tariff.

It is the responsibility of importers to ensure that they are aware of import restrictions and controls.

Certificates of Free Sale (CFS)

Certificates of Free Sale are also issued by ILB to exporters. This is increasingly necessary – mainly for goods that come into contact with humans such as cosmetics - in countries that by comparison do not have such stringent product safety standards and enforcement as the EU. CFS declarations effectively confirm that the goods listed meet the UK/EU’s high safety standards as they are being sold in the EU single market.

Please see our guidance on how to apply for a CFS (PDF, 123KB, 5 pages) . There are several government departments that issue Certificates of Free Sale:

  • Defra issues CFS for goods that come into contact with animals (veterinary medicines for example)
  • the Department of Health issues CFS for medicines
  • the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) issues CFS for biocides

Notices to Importers

The Notices to Importers (NTI) listed below explain the import prohibitions and controls that are currently in force. Click to download the relevant NTI.

National import controls

NTI EU Sanctions Date
2859 Amendment no.1 to the UK Open General Import Licence (OGIL) 2014 25 September 2014
2857 ICMS update for Section 5 (Firearms) importers 19 August 2014
2851 Firearms changes 2014 25 March 2014
2864 Imports of Firearms and Ammunition Import Licensing arrangements 2015 12 December 2014
2867 Office for Civil Nuclear Security (OCNS) import licence requirements for nuclear materials 2015 12 December 2014
2853 UK Open General Import Licence (OGIL) 2014 and guidance on its use 25 March 2014

European import controls

NTI Textiles and clothing

NTI EU Sanctions Date
2862 Notice to importers: Imports of restricted textile and clothing products originating in Belarus - 2015 arrangements 12 December 2014
2863 Notice to importers: outward processing trade for textiles (OPT) - arrangements for Belarus - 2015 12 December 2014
2861 Imports of restricted textile and clothing products originating in North Korea 2015 12 December 2014

NTI Iron and steel

NTI Wood

Other notices

NTI EU Sanctions Date
2858 Russia: import restrictions 25 September 2014
2855 Crimea sanctions 2014 10 July 2014
2850 Iran sanctions 2014 25 March 2014
2817 Myanmar sanctions 2012 25 July 2012
2820 Somalia sanctions 2012 22 August 2012
2803 Syria sanctions 2012 28 March 2012

NTI international obligations

NTI EU Sanctions Date
2842 Import of torture equipment 25 April 2013
2841 Anti-personnel mines 25 April 2013

NTI general

NTI EU Sanctions Date
2869 Modernisation of Import Licensing Branch update 13 March 2015
2868 Electronic certificates of free sale – progress update 12 December 2014
2860 Import Licensing Branch 2014 Christmas closure dates 12 December 2014
2856 Change to procedures for Certificates of Free Sale (CFS) 5 August 2014
2834 New Electronic Import Licensing System for Import Controls 25 April 2013
Electronic import licensing system: Import Case Management System (ICMS) guidance