Import controls

How the government monitors imports into the UK.

The Trade Policy Group of the Department for International Trade (DIT) and HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) advise and deal with a range of trade policy, regimes, procedural issues governing imports into the UK.

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 1939DIT 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 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
  • EU prior surveillance monitoring regime on imports of aluminium and steel
  • UK licensing controls on the import of firearms

Applying for an import licence

You can apply for an import licence at


Contact for further advice on import controls ILBis responsible for.

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. CFSdeclarations 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 Notice to importers 2913 Certificates of free sale (CFS(ODT380KB. There are several government departments that issue Certificates of Free Sale:

  • Defra 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) for biocides

Notices to Importers

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

National import controls

NTI Title Date
2922 Imports of firearms ammunition import licensing arrangements 2017 16 July 2019
2921 Notice to Importers 2921: Mandatory use of EORI numbers for import licences 16 July 2017
2920 Notice to Importers 2920: Defence and Security International Exhibition (DSEI) 16 July 2019
Signed import licence (DSEI 2019) granted by the Secretary of State 16 July 2019
2916 Open general import licence (OGIL): amendment 1 31 January 2019
Details of the changes in OGIL amendment 1 30 January 2019
2915 Office for Nuclear Regulation issues import licences for nuclear material and their application procedure 31 January 2019
2897 UK Open General Import Licence (OGIL) and guidance on its use 4 December 2017

European import controls

NTI prior surveillance

NTI Title Date
2919 EU prior surveillance import licensing regime update 16 July 2019
2918 Current range of measures in force on steel 16 July 2019
NTI wood
NTI Title Date
2907 EU Russia wood tariff quota arrangements 21 November 2018

Other notices

NTI EU sanctions Date
2923 Russia – import restrictions 16 July 2019
2909 Crimea – import sanctions 21 November 2018
2910 Syria sanctions 21 November 2018
2911 Iran sanctions – current import restrictions and derogations 21 November 2018
2912 North Korea import sanctions 21 November 2018

NTI international obligations

NTI Title Date
2906 Import of certain equipment and products which could be used for capital punishment, torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment 21 November 2018
2905 UK ban on import of anti personnel landmines 21 November 2018

NTI general

NTI Title Date
2913 Certificates of free sale 21 November 2018
Published 12 December 2012
Last updated 24 July 2019 
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