Customs Clearance FAQs

Looking for a complete, comprehensive customs clearance service?

With import and export services from over 1000 origins and destinations, and innovative IT services, we facilitate efficient customs clearance for shipments arriving at all major UK ports and airports, including Felixstowe, East Midlands, Birmingham, Southampton among others.

We are specialists in all types of customs entry allowing us to give you expert advice relating to: Customs’ regulations, duty and vat, Port Health requirements including phytosanitary and health certificates, CED, CVED and PEACH applications, preferences, quota, EORI and Carnets.

Get started with customs clearance by contacting our team today. Let us know your requirements and we can assist with the start to finish customs process.

‘A huge thank you to Unsworth UK for the customs clearance expertise and guidance provided on our shipment from China to the UK. As first time importers, your customer service and advice was extremely beneficial and saved us a lot of time and hassle’


We have put together a list of some of the most frequent questions that our customers ask us.

Customs Clearance FAQS

What is customs clearance?

Customs clearance is a process compulsory for all goods entering or leaving the EU. Customs clearance allows HM Customs & Excise to account for any due charges, ensure correct documentation has been used and conformity to EU law. It also allows Customs to monitor which goods are coming into or leaving the UK.

Why should I use a customs agent?

Customs agents are there to facilitate a professional service between HM Customs & Excise and importers/exporters. Our agents have significant understanding the Customs rules and regulations applicable and are therefore best suited to provide assistance.

Where can you complete UK customs clearance?

We can complete Import UK customs clearance for your shipments at the following Airports and Sea ports.

Airports: London Gatwick Airport, London Heathrow Airport, London Stansted Airport, London City Airport, London Luton Airport, Birmingham, East Midlands Airport, Manchester, Glasgow, Leeds and Edinburgh.

Sea Ports: Any UK port including Felixstowe, London Gateway, Southampton, Grangemouth, Tilbury, Thames port, Dover and Greenock.

How do we customs clear cargo in other ports?

We are based in central London with representatives at ports around the world. Thanks to changes in technology, remote access to other port community systems around the coasts of the UK is possible from one location

How long does customs clearance take?

The customs clearance process can vary from shipment to shipment, and is dependent on what goods are entering the country, once goods have entered the UK port. Certain products may need additional documentation checks or a physical examination to ensure that declarations are correct.

What supporting customs clearance documentation do I require?

Basic documentation would be:

  • Shipping document ( Bill of Lading – original or telex)
  • Supplier’s commercial invoice
  • Packing list

Other documentation required for specific goods would be:

  • Certificate of Origin
  • Preference Certificates
  • Health certificates ( for foodstuffs etc )
  • COA
  • Organic certificate

Note: Importers should check before they ship if any special documentation is required.

Who decides how much import duties and taxes I have to pay?

UK VAT is currently 20%. Duty is dependent on the type of product being imported. All duty rates are set out by Brussels for the EU, and are payable upon free circulation within the EU.

All goods are classified into commodity codes. The duty and VAT amount vary for each commodity. Importers are responsible for the classification of the codes. However, if you need advice you can call 03000588454.

How to calculate customs clearance charges?

There are a number of methods that will help you calculate your customs clearance charges. You might be looking to calculate the transactional value or price payable to the seller, or the customs value of identical goods which have been produced in the same country as your imports.

We have created a customs clearance charges calculation guide here but encourage you to get in touch with our team who will advise.

How can I pay for import duties and taxes?

Your customs clearance agent will advise you how much duty and VAT is required to be paid. You can pay customs directly or you can pay us first and we will pay customs on your behalf.

Where can I find more information on customs clearance?
Further information on customs clearance, their rules and regulations, service standards and details of your local Customs clearance office can be found on their website:

What happens after customs clearance?

We provide you with copies of all documentation completed on your behalf, which have been lodged with HMRC. We are also able to facilitate delivery of your goods after clearance, if you require it.

I am importing for the first time – How do I know the products I will import are allowed into the EU?

Some commodities, firearms and explosives for example, cannot be imported into the EU unless by an authorised person. If you have any doubts about whether your goods are approved in the EU, feel free to contact us prior to shipment.

Details of restricted goods can be found on the UK Customs website: Alternatively, please check with a member of our experienced team who would be happy to assist.

I am moving my personal effects/ moving abroad, what do I do?

In order to attain VAT and duty relief for personal effects upon import, specific conditions must be met. If you have recently returned to the UK, lived overseas for a minimum of one year, and have owned the goods for 6 months, no VAT and duty are required. Goods can still be imported if they do not fall under these criteria but duty and VAT may be applicable.

Certain documentation is also required with original signatures, so it is important to check with Unsworth beforehand.  

If you are importing a car, the relief of VAT and duty will depend on the purpose of the vehicle.

Can I import foodstuffs?

The majority of foodstuffs are okay to import when accompanied by relevant official documentation. Certain food items would need additional documentation to be lodged with port health. Importers are required to ensure all documents are in place before goods are imported.

Customs Clearance with Unsworth

We have an expert team of customs agents and customs specialists who are experienced across imports and exports processes between the UK and EU who will be able to assist. Contact us with your customs clearance requirements by clicking here or emailing