Guidance

National Clearance Hub for goods entering, leaving or transiting the European Union

How to get your goods cleared by the NCH when moving third country goods into, out of, or through the EU.

Introduction

The National Clearance Hub (NCH) is the single national site that handles the movement of third country goods and processes goods transiting the European Community (EC). It replaced the separate entry processing units that used to operate at major ports and airports.

The NCH is the only centralised clearance hub in the EC, processing some 360,000 import/export declarations each year. 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 09.00 to 16.30.

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

NCH responsibilities

The NCH is the only centralised clearance hub in the EC. The service processes 360,000 import/export declarations each year and is available 24 hours a day, every day of the year.

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 you can expect from the NCH

The NCH aims to clear all Direct Trader Input (DTI) Route 1 entries within two hours from the time of receipt. For pre-lodged entries, the NCH aims to clear within two hours of the vessel or aircraft’s arrival. These times depend on all the relevant paperwork being presented, complete and correct.

Route 1 entries are dealt with in the order that they are presented at the NCH and no priority is given to specific locations or type of goods, including perishables.

Goods that require exceptional treatment are:

  • fireworks and explosives
  • live animals
  • human remains

When sending these entries to the NCH, you should show clearly what the goods are on the email or fax header you send.

How declarations are processed at the NCH

The procedures for DTI import and National Export System (NES) declarations are outlined below. Also see the guide on export declarations and the National Export System.

You must submit certain documents for clearance and/or examination to HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) when you are moving goods under either DTI or NES. You can call the NCH Enquiry Line on 0845 001 0085.

Documents to be provided for clearance

When you receive Customs Handling of Import and Export Freight (CHIEF) generated form E2 advising that an entry for your goods has been selected Route 1 for documentary check, Route 2 for physical examination or Route 0 you must send the NCH:

  • the E2
  • a copy of the Single Administrative Document - form C88
  • evidence of the goods’ value
  • packing list of items included
  • any appropriate licence or certificate

You can send this information by fax or email and it must be accompanied by an appropriate fax or email header.

Download an example import clearance request

This file may not be suitable for users of assistive technology. Request a different format.

If you use assistive technology and need a version of this document in a more accessible format please email onlineservicessyndicationteam@hmrc.gsi.gov.uk quoting your address, telephone number along with the title of the publication ("Download an example import clearance request").

Use a separate header for each entry - even where a number of declarations are submitted at the same time. There may be delays to clearance if the appropriate header isn’t used.

If you wish to submit declarations electronically you should use e-versions of the same headers. These must show the CHIEF generated entry number on the ‘subject’ line.

The NCH can receive popular 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 software.

Multi-item entries or multi-importer/exporter entries

HMRC is keen to ensure 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 determine what paperwork needs to be faxed or emailed for clearance.

Evidence of value

It’s your responsibility to fax or email enough copy documentation to provide ‘representative evidence’ for the value of the total consignment.

When submitting multi-invoice entries you should fax or email all the invoices relating to the entry, or download HMRC’s example invoice summary form (DOC, 39K).

You will be advised via the CHIEF system if further documents are needed 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 fax or email the schedule to the NCH with all other appropriate documentation. You can download HMRC’s example invoice summary form (DOC, 39K).

Receipts

You will receive an automatic delivery receipt for email but not for fax submissions.

Pre-lodgement entries

This is the posting, faxing and/or emailing copies of the (accepted) hold import entry and any supporting documents to the NCH, post pre-entry but pre-arrival of the vessel/goods into the UK.

Pre-lodgement of expected Route 1 and Route 2 entries and any supporting documents by fax, post and/or email at the NCH will be limited to five actual days prior to the expected/scheduled arrival of the vessel/goods. This period includes weekends and bank holidays.

Pre-lodgement is only provided by HMRC to enable importers/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 and/or actions large amounts of unsorted pre-lodged entries, many of which ultimately proved to be Route 6 ones.

Queried entries to the NCH

The NCH may use the CHIEF system to query an entry that was submitted. You should respond to this query through CHIEF, even if additional paperwork needs to be faxed to the NCH later. This will ensure that the NCH is aware that the query has been answered and should prevent any delays. There may be delays to clearance if you don’t respond via CHIEF. For more information, see the guide on UK’s import and export processing system CHIEF.

If a query means that an entry needs changing, you must fax a copy of the amended entry to the NCH for clearance.

The NCH aims to clear all queried or amended entries within two hours after a reply has been received and/or the problem resolved.

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 a Route 3 entry has been amended and becomes an ICS22 status on the CHIEF, HMRC must clear the release of the goods. The entry is treated the same as a Route 1 entry and you should fax the entry form to the NCH with the appropriate header sheet for action. You must include an appropriate header and provide a separate header for each entry. There may be delays to clearance if an appropriate header isn’t used.

Route 3 entries ICS00/ICS25

All original import Route 3 entry documentation must arrive at the NCH for post-clearance action within three 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 assist in meeting 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 only send export Route 3 original documentation to the NCH if there is a copy 3 that requires stamping.

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 and/or Route 3 profiles have been presented as required. There are penalties for regularly failing to submit entries.

Retention of records

All original Route 1 entries and any supporting documents submitted, processed and cleared by fax or email at the NCH are to be retained by the trade for four years. This also applies to Route 6 declarations. This includes originals of fax/email copy entries and supporting documents submitted to the NCH for customs input.

In this context ‘the trade’ means the:

  • third party making the declaration - usually a customs agent - as a direct or indirect representative
  • importer or exporter where the declaration is made under self representation

Documentary evidence may be stored electronically if a copy of the original document can be reproduced from it. Documents that contain original stamps or watermarks, eg preference certificates, must be retained as paper copies.

HMRC will keep original entries and supporting documents only if they have 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 will need to provide the NCH with:

  • 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, you can contact the NCH Enquiry Line on 0845 001 0085.

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

The NCH processes CIE requests between 09.00 and 17.00 Monday to Friday, excluding public holidays. It aims to clear all CIE Route 1 entries within 12 working hours from the time of receipt - provided all the relevant paperwork is presented, complete and correct.

Importation of motor vehicles using the NCH

Documents C&E 386 and C&E 388 enable importers to register their vehicles with the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency. The NCH should issue documents within 24 hours of receipt of a full and complete import declaration.

The NCH is a processing office only and doesn’t give general advice about importing motor vehicles. For general advice on importing motor vehicles contact the HMRC VAT Helpline on 0845 010 9000.

Forms required to import vehicles

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

If you are a private importer paying VAT/duty you must submit:

  • form C 384
  • a copy of the customs entry and invoice
  • any other available supporting documentary evidence of the sale

You can find form C 384 on the HMRC website.

If you are an importer using transfer of residence (TOR) procedures you must submit:

  • form C 104A
  • a copy of Customs entry overseas registration document
  • any other supporting evidence to justify TOR relief, eg overseas insurance documents or the invoice from overseas purchase

Importers must have lived outside the EC for 12 months and have owned the vehicle for six months. You can find form C 104A on the HMRC website.

If you are an importer claiming returned goods relief (RGR) you must submit:

  • form C 179B
  • 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 three years. You must also be able to provide documentary proof of these facts. You can find form C 179B on the HMRC website.

The NCH does not issue documents for VAT-registered traders, who should use the self-declaration form C&E 389. You can find form C&E 389 on the HMRC website.

Contacting the NCH

For general enquires regarding import, export, international trade and the NCH please contact the HMRC VAT Helpline on 0845 010 9000.

For specific advice regarding the clearance of ‘live’ entries please use the relevant contact details below.

You can phone the NCH Enquiry Line on 0845 001 0085.

You should use option 1 for DTI import entry enquiries or option 2 for DTI and CIE export entry enquiries.

Phone NCH CIE Imports and Exports on 0161 261 7016 or on Fax 0161 261 5425.

Phone NCH Route 3 and C386/C388 Car Team on 0161 261 5433 / 5176.

Import Inventory Control

  • Phone NCH Maritime Import Inventory Control on 0161 261 7150 
  • Phone NCH Air Import Inventory Control on 0161 261 7284 

NCH general emails - for transmission of DTI import and all export entries. You can email the NCH at:

You can also email CIE at NCHCIE@hmrc.gsi.gov.uk.

Route 3 entries freepost

There is a second-class freepost service for the presentation of Route 3 entries. Write the freepost address on a plain A4 envelope and send documents to the NCH at:

FREEPOST RRBK-CGRL-RCUA
HM Revenue & Customs
National Clearance Hub
Custom House
Furness Quay
Salford
M50 3ZZ

This should allow for delivery of post-clearance declarations within the required three working days. It you don’t use the freepost address, please ensure that you pay the correct amount of postage.

Route 1, 2 and 0 declarations for processing and clearance at the NCH and for C386/C388 requests - Fax 0800 496 0699.

Complaints

If you have any complaints regarding the NCH you can contact them by email at NCHComplaints@hmrc.gsi.gov.uk or phone the NCH Enquiry Line on 0845 001 0085. If you wish to send a complaint by post the address is:

HM Revenue & Customs
National Clearance Hub
Custom House
Furness Quay
Salford
M50 3XX

Further information

NCH Enquiry Line

0845 001 0085

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