UK Customs Clearance Routes

When goods arrive into the UK from a third country (currently anything not within the EU) they need to be cleared through UK customs and the appropriate import duty and VAT paid. When the customs entry is submitted to UK customs there is four main routes the entry can take.

Route 1

If an entry goes ‘Route 1’ it will require a full documentation check. This means the entry data and all supporting paperwork will be examined in detail to ensure there are no discrepancies. The paperwork presented would be the customs entry, copy commercial invoice, licenses (if applicable) and shipping paperwork, such as an AWB or bill of lading. A Route 1 entry can take up to a day to be processed. If customs raise any queries regarding the shipment or the customs entry these will need to be resolved before the customs clearance can proceed.

Route 2

If the entry goes ‘Route 2’ this would require the goods to be physically inspected (as well as the paperwork). A customs officer will need to examine the goods within the airline bonded warehouse or at the port. The timeframe for clearance will depend on the availability of a customs officer and the location of the goods. If customs raise any queries regarding the shipment or the customs entry these will need to be resolved before the customs clearance can proceed.

Route 3

If an entry goes via ‘Route 3’ it typically clears in around ten minutes. The copy entry and paperwork needs to be presented to customs with 24 hours.

Route 6

If the entry goes via ‘Route 6’ the goods are cleared instantly.


Goods under query

Please note that if goods are under query with Customs you should try to resolve the issue as quickly as possible. Goods being held under query within an airline bond or port have a limited number of ‘free’ storage days. After the storage days have passed you will be charged a storage cost per day for the shipment.

To prevent any queries you should always ensure:

  • The invoice currencies and totals are checked and accurately declared
  • The goods are classified correctly and accurate commodity codes have been used
  • All relevant licences have been applied for and included
  • The correct customs procedure code (reason for importation) has been used

Published by A Kennedy

An award winning, UK based, International Logistics Manager for a multinational tool company. Over 25 years experience in international logistics and supply chain management. Elected ‘Chartered Status’ by the CILT and ‘Expert Status’ by the IoSCM.

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