The Europe, Trade and International Directorate (ETID) of the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) and HM Revenue & 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.
An import licence is not needed to import the majority of industrial goods into the United Kingdom or EU.
However, some industrial goods require import licences issued by the Import Licensing Branch (ILB), a 2-person team, part of ETID but based in Billingham, as a result of controls imposed at national, EU or UN level. ILB publicises these restrictions by issuing Notices to Importers.
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 possess 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 and do not require additional national legislation to implement. They are imposed when the EU needs to implement a measure agreed within the EU or internationally (for example, a UN Security Council resolution), or to implement an EU trade policy decision.
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 surveillance licensing on a range of steel products from all countries
- 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
- 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
For further advice on import controls for which ILB is responsible, contact: email@example.com
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 & 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 a requirement – 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. 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
|2829||Office for Civil Nuclear Security (OCNS) import licence requirements for nuclear materials 2013||13 December 2012|
|2832||UK Open General Import Licence (OGIL) 2012 and guidance on its use||13 December 2012|
European import controls
NTI Textiles and clothing
NTI Iron and steel
|2802||Iran sanctions 2012||26 December 2012|
|2817||Myanmar sanctions 2012||25 July 2012|
|2820||Somalia sanctions 2012||22 August 2012|
|2803||Syria sanctions 2012||28 March 2012|
NTI international obligations
Electronic import licensing system: Import Case Management System (ICMS) guidance
- Do I Need to Apply for an Import Licence?
- Import Licences: How to Register
- Outward Processing Trade (OPT) Import Licence: How to Apply
- Firearms Specific Import Licence: How to Apply
- Firearms Open Import Licence: How to Apply
- Sanctions Derogation Import Licence: How to Apply
- Iron and Steel Import Licence: How to Apply
- Russian Wood Tariff Reduction Licence: How to Apply
- Textiles and Clothing Import Licence: How to Apply