Import Services

Frequently Asked Import Questions (FAQs)

For ease of use, these Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) have been separated into the different modes of transport.

Air Freight

What charges should I expect to pay?

As you would probably expect, the different methods of shipping goods have different sets of charges, although any import duty and / or VAT will remain the same.

The charges for air freight include: Shipping / Freight costs (depending on the 'Inco-Terms'), Airline Handling, and possibly a handover fee (again, depending on the 'Inco-Terms', delivery to your door may also be an extra charge).

For more accurate details, as to what charges would apply for your own personal goods and circumstances, please contact a member of our imports team, who will be happy to help.

How do I advise the airline as to who is my Customs clearing agent?

When your goods arrive into the UK, the airlines UK handling agent should contact you to advise when are where you goods are waiting to be Customs cleared (if they don't then the shipper should advise the airline that has been used, contact their UK office and ask who for the name of their handling agent and their telephone number). Advise the airline that any documents need to be passed to your preferred clearing agent, and that the goods should be released to their 3 letter badge code (your agent should give you this). You may have to send this in writing to them, either via fax or email.

If you would like us at UK Import Services, to Customs clear your goods, then please contact a member of our Imports team.

How do I pay charges owed to the airline/co-loader?

As is the same when paying anyone, not all Companies give credit and not all will accept cheque or credit card payments. Once you have been advised how much is owed, then ensure that you ask what methods of payment they accept.

Back to Back AWB or consol?

There are two ways of transporting goods via air freight, either on its own, under its own airline Master Airwaybill ( MAWB ), which is known as 'Back to Back', or via a consolidated service offered by a freight forwarder.

On the 'Back to Back' option, your goods will be sent on the 1st available flight, minimising any delays. This, however, comes at a premium.

On the 'Consol' option, each shipment would travel under its own House Airwaybill (HAWB), and the whole consolidated shipment would travel under a Master Airwaybill.

A lot of Freight Forwarders book a certain amount of space with an airline, to enable them to build up 'Consol', which is basically shipping lots of different shipments to the same airport. If you can wait a week or so, then you could benefit from lower shipping costs, when they're consolidated with others.

Be sure to discuss this option, if you feel that you might prefer to ship via this method.

What is IATA?

If you have heard the term / name 'IATA' and wondered what it meant? Click here to visit our IATA page.


Courier/Parcel post

Will I have to pay Import duty and / or VAT?

Although you shipment may be small in size and is being shipped via a quicker service, the rules and regulations still apply. Therefore, if you shipment is non-document shipment and valued over GB£ 18.00 it will still require an individual Customs entry, and if applicable, Import duty and / or VAT paid to Customs. Our basics page has futher information on this.

Who can Customs clear my shipment?

As with all the different shipping methods, courier shipments have their own inventory linked computer system. Therefore, only companies with the correct software and badge(s) can clear courier shipments. This means, that you will not be able to get an airfreight clearing agent to clear a courier shipment and as there are not many courier companies, your options are pretty much, whichever courier company has shipped your goods, will probably Customs clear your goods.

The Courier company has Customs cleared my goods without using my VAT No. What do I do now?

Contact them to let them know, and they should be able to do a post-clearance amendment (with no extra cost to you).


Road Freight

Even if my goods arrive by road, does it still have to clear Customs?

If your goods have arrived into the country from outside the EC, it will require a Customs declaration and, if applicable, Import duty and / or VAT paid to Customs. Also, any exciseable goods, such as Alcohol or Tobacco products will need excise duty paid when entering the UK.

Can I clear my goods when the cargo is in transit, on the ferry?

If you have submitted your paperwork to a Customs clearance agent / broker prior to arrival, there is a chance that they can get cleared in transit. Contact us for more information.

Does my driver have to do anything when he arrives into port?

If your driver has original paperwork with him which relates to an application of relief or exemption from any import duty and / or VAT, then your driver will have to present this paperwork to the Customs clearance office upon arrival at the port.


Sea Freight

Apart from import duty and / or VAT, what other charges should I expect to pay?

As with air freight, the freight / shipping costs is not the only charges you have to pay. With other people involved in the movement of the goods, other than just the shipping line, companies such as; port operators, haulage companies and other various organisations all wanting payment for their part separately, you really need to do you homework. Click on these links to see our dedicated pages on both FCL (Full Container Loads) and LCL (Less than a Container Load) shipments.

I have received a Notice of Arrival... do I have to do anything with it?

The answer is 'Yes', although what you need to do, may depend on it's content. Please contact a member of our imports team, and they will be happy to go through it with you.

If you would like UK Import Services to Customs clear your goods, then, as mentioned before, please contact a member of our Imports team.

Surrendering the Original Bill of lading... I'm not sure what this means!

In order for you to get your goods released by either the shipping line, or a co-loader, you must post them an original bill of lading (there's usually 3 original copies), with your signature across the back. Your shipper / exporter should courier these original documents to you once your goods have left the port of origin.

What do I do if I haven't got any Original documents, which includes the original bill of lading?

Without the original bills of lading, or you could call them 'proof of ownership' documents, your goods will not be released to you. If you haven't received them after a week of your goods leaving the port of origin, you MUST contact the shipper to find out where they are. Any delays in waiting for these documents once your goods have arrived, will undoubtedly end up with you paying charges of rent / storage.


General Import questions

What paperwork is needed to be able to Customs clear my goods?

Depending the method of service used, there will be a type of transit document that has accompanied your goods; Courier Baggage Voucher (CBV) for Courier, Air Waybill ( AWB ) for air freight and a Bill of Lading for Sea Freight shipments. Your clearing agent will need a copy of this to identify your goods. They will also need to know what the goods are and how much they are worth. This is usually as a copy of a receipt, Invoice, Bill of Sale etc. Finally, if you are claiming relief from any import duty and / or VAT, the you will need documentary evidence to back up your claim, and possibly a Customs form (if applicable).Contact us, if you require any further information.

Can my shipment be Customs cleared whilst en-route to the UK?

Yes and No. The declaration can be pre-entered into the computer system (also known as 'pre-lodging' the entry), but a Customs routing will only been given to your entry, once they have arrived into the UK.

How long does it take to clear Customs?

There are so many factors that can affect the answer to this, that all we can do is recommend you contact us outlining the details of your goods, and we will then be able to estimate more accurately.

How can a clearing agent clear at different ports around the UK, from one office?

Long gone are the days whereby a clearing agent had to be located at the port, and physically take documents down to the local Customs office for clearance. With the internet making our daily lives easier, it too has had a profound affect on the world of imports. By entering details onto a computer system, Customs entries can be sent and replies received in minutes, meaning that an agent located in Glasgow, Scotland can send entries to the National Clearance Hub in Salford, Manchester, to Customs clear goods located in Southampton on the south coast of England.

How do I read the Customs Form C88 that my Clearing agent has sent me?

Now that your goods have been declared to Customs, via the Form C88, it is your responsibility to ensure that the correct details have been entered, to minimize the chance of any Customs queries later on. To do this you need to be able to understand all the boxes and codes... Click here to visit our C88 explanation page.

If you have any other questions about shipping or Customs clearance, then why not contact our Imports Team who will be happy to assist.

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