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

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


The National Clearance Hub (NCH) is the single national site that handles the movement of third country goods and processes goods transiting the EU. 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 EU, processing around 360,000 import and 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 9am to 4:30pm.

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

NCH responsibilities

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 for import/export entry processing

Route 1 entries are dealt with in the order that they are presented at the NCHand 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 Trader Submission header form you send.

For import/export entry processing service levels, see Customs Information Paper (11) 24 (PDF, 21K) on the National Archives website.

How declarations are processed at the NCH

The procedures for Direct Trader Input (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 HMRC when you are moving goods under either DTI or NES. You can call the NCH enquiry line for:


Monday to Friday 8am to 6pm
Telephone: 03000 588 454

Out of hours 6pm to 8am
Telephone: 03000 588 401

Weekends, bank holidays
Telephone: 03000 588 401


Monday to Friday 8am to 6pm
Telephone: 03000 588 401

Out of hours 6pm to 8am
Telephone: 03000 588 401

Weekends, bank holidays
Telephone: 03000 588 401

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:

  • trader submission header form
  • 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 trader submission header form. To speed up the process, the NCH prefer documents by email.

A guide to emailing the NCH can be found at Customs Information Paper 47 (2014): National Clearance Hub email guidelines.

Download the trader submission header form at Import and export: trader submission form header for declarations (NCH1).

Use a separate header for each entry. Save attachments by name (for example ‘inv.doc’ or ‘AWB.doc’) to make identification easier. You may group documents into one attachment but only send one entry per email. There may be delays to clearance if the appropriate header is not used.

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 find out 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 complete HMRC’s example invoice summary form.

You’ll be advised via the CHIEF system if more 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 complete HMRC’s example invoice summary form.


You’ll 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 emailed 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 do not 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 email a copy of the amended entry to the NCH for clearance.

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 an entry has been amended and becomes Route 3 ICS22 status on the CHIEF, HMRC must manually clear 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 is not used.

Route 3 entries ICS00/ICS25

All original import Route 3 entry documentation must arrive at the NCH for post-clearance action within 3 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 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.

More information is available in Customs Information Paper 58 (2013): route 3 entry processing.

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 4 years. This also applies to Route 6 declarations.

This includes originals of fax and 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, for example 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’ll 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, contact the NCH team on Telephone: 03000 588 453.

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

The NCH processes CIE requests Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm, excluding public holidays.

It aims to clear all CIE Route 1 entries within 24 working hours from the time of receipt – as long as all the relevant paperwork is presented, complete and correct.

Importation of motor vehicles using the NCH

HMRC no longer issues C&E 386 and C&E 388. After all the checks are complete and satisfied, the importers details are placed on Notification of Vehicle Arrivals (NOVA). The Service Level Agreement on cars is 10 working days.

The NCH is a processing office only and does not give general advice about importing motor vehicles.

For general advice on importing motor vehicles, phone VAT: general enquiries.

Forms required to import vehicles

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

If you’re a private importer paying VAT/duty, you must submit:

If you’re an importer using transfer of residence (TOR) procedures, you must submit:

Importers must have lived outside the EU for 12 months and have owned the vehicle for 6 months.

If you’re an importer claiming Returned Goods Relief (RGR), you must submit:

Importers must have owned the vehicle prior to exportation and must re-import it within 3 years. For commercial vehicles, you must also be able to provide documentary proof of these facts.

The NCH does not issue documents for VAT-registered traders, who should now input the details onto NOVA or alternatively contact Dover Personal Transport Unit (PTU).

Contacting the NCH

For general enquiries regarding import, export, international trade and the NCH, phone the Imports and exports: general enquiries helpline.

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

You can phone the NCH Enquiry Lines on:

Route 1 Import Helpline

Telephone 03000 588454
8am to 6pm

Route 1 Export Helpline

Telephone 03000 588401
8am to 6pm

Import/Export out of hours

Telephone 03000 588401
6pm to 8pm

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

Contact NCH CIE Imports and Exports, Post Clearance Amendments (PCA) and Processing under Customs Control (PCC) on Telephone: 03000 588 453 or Fax: 03000 588 462.

Contact NCH Route 3 and C386/C388 Car Team on Telephone: 0300 322 7071 or Fax: 03000 588 473.

Import inventory control

You can phone NCH Air/Maritime Import Inventory Control on Telephone: 03000 579 734

NCH general emails – for transmission of DTI import and all export entries Email:

To avoid duplication, send to one mailbox, not both, or Fax to: 0800 496 0699

You can also contact CIE/PCA/PCC by Email:

Transfer of residence

For enquiries on transfer of residence Email:

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:


HM Revenue and Customs
National Clearance Hub
Ralli Quays
3 Stanley Street

M60 9LA

This should allow for delivery of post-clearance declarations within the required 3 working days. It you do not use the freepost address, 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 can be sent to Fax: 0800 496 0699.


If you have any complaints regarding the NCH, you can contact them by Email: or phone the NCHEnquiry Lines, the details are found in ‘Contacting the NCH’. If you wish to send a complaint by post, the address is:


HM Revenue and Customs
National Clearance Hub
Ralli Quays
3 Stanley Street

M60 9LA

Contact details for the NCH

See Customs Information Paper 20 (2014): contact details for the National Clearance Hub.

Published 2 August 2012
Last updated 5 June 2018 
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