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Visa & Administration

UK Customs and Import Restrictions

There are various requirements for household goods, food, cash, and medication as well as different restricted items and items prohibited by UK customs. Understanding UK customs is not always easy. We provide you with an introduction to UK customs and some resources.

Make sure that you know which items you can declare to UK customs without paying import taxes, customs duties, or tariffs. In the worst case, your goods might be seized by HM Revenue & Customs at the UK border or you might run into trouble with the UK customs authorities. When it comes to bringing your pets or your family car through UK customs, our respective articles on pets in the UK and driving in the UK can tell you more about the UK’s specific customs and import restrictions in these cases.

Cash and Duty-Free Goods

As far as cash and duty-free items (mainly tobacco and liquor) are concerned, the rules for declaring them to UK customs and importing them without customs duties are relatively simple. If you enter the UK from a non-EU country, you have to declare cash worth more than 10.000 Euros to HM Revenue and Customs. This includes notes, coins, bankers’ drafts, and travelers’ cheques.

When you arrive from a non-EU country, only the following quantities tobacco and alcohol are duty-free:

Food Products

Foodstuffs may seem like harmless and perfectly innocuous items, but there are numerous, rather complex, import restrictions placed on food. In order to avoid spreading public-health risks, animal epidemics or plant diseases, UK customs authorities have come up with detailed specifications on what you are or are not allowed to import.

First of all, processed and packaged food that you bought at an airport snack bar usually shouldn’t be a problem at all. You’re also allowed to import any food on sale in a member state of the EU, including most sorts of bread, cakes, chocolate, and biscuits. So if you were planning to take a few edible souvenirs for your new friends and colleagues abroad, don’t hesitate to do so!

However, if you enter the UK from a non-EU country you are not permitted to import any meat or dairy products at all. Moreover, fish, seafood, eggs, and honey are also subject to certain restrictions: For instance, you are only allowed less than 2 kg of honey, but up to 20 kg of fish. (Why one should arrive in the UK with 20 kg of fish in one’s luggage is another matter, of course.) 

Disease-free and pest-free fruits and vegetables can also safely be brought into the UK for your personal consumption. If you come from outside the EU, though, you may only pack 2 kg or less, of fruits and vegetables. Potatoes, soil, citrus trees, and vines are prohibited. If you wanted to buy some flowers for someone waiting to greet you at the airport, you’ll be relieved to hear that one bouquet of cut flowers is considered safe as well. You can also import one holiday decoration made from plants from listed European or Mediterranean countries, although a Christmas tree in your luggage might be even more cumbersome than 20 kilos of fish.

 

We do our best to keep this article up to date. However, we cannot guarantee that the information provided is always current or complete. 

InterNations Expat Magazine