All businesses within the EU, from sole traders upwards, need an EORI Number when importing or exporting any commercial cargo from or to the rest of the world (outside the EU). If you use Shippo to import your goods we’ll do the donkey work for you. Otherwise, here’s what you need to know:
What Is An EORI Number?
An EORI number is an Economic Operator Registration and Identification number. The EORI system was brought in on the 1st July 2009 and replaced the Traders Union Reference Number System which previously identified traders for customs declarations when importing or exporting cargo.
Who Need An EORI Number?
Anyone importing commercial goods from outside the EU (or exporting in the opposite direction) needs an EORI number. The number is also used by customs authorities when exchanging information between themselves and government departments and agencies. The purpose of an EORI number is for statistics and security.
If you’re moving goods within the EU or importing products for your own private use you won’t need an EORI number.
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Who Needs An EORI Number?
To apply for an EORI number, all you need to do is fill in an online form that’s submitted to HMRC. The application form if you’re not VAT registered is available here and if you are VAT registered is available here.
If exporting goods via sea, or air freight it is important that you have this number before you want to ship your goods. When importing, you will only need the number before the goods arrive in the UK, so you may have a couple of weeks after sailing to organise this if your goods are shipping via sea (certainly if importing from China or elsewhere in Asia).
When you’re applying for an EORI number, we are more than happy to assist you. We’ll send you all the technical parts that you need to fill in – all we ask of you is to fill in the personal boxes and send the online form off! It should only take you 5 minutes (2 if you’re VAT registered) and HMRC should allocate you a number on a few working days.
How Do I Apply For An EORI Number?
Do I need an EORI number if I am VAT registered?
If you are VAT registered, your EORI number will be an extension of your VAT number but you still need to apply for it. In simple terms, your EORI number would be prefixed with ‘GB’ and end in ‘000’ with your VAT number in-between.
You can check if you are EORI registered by typing in your supposed number on the EORI Checker:
If these checks turn out that you are not EORI registered, you only need to fill out a simple form which we are more than happy to help with. Give us a call.
When Should I Apply For An EORI Number?
Depending on your situation, the exact timing for which you need to apply for your EORI number is different.
If you’re VAT registered, you can apply for an EORI number at anytime.
If you’re importing via sea, you’ll need the container number for the application – this means you’ll have to wait until the goods are on the water. As long as you apply for it a week before your shipment is due to land, then HMRC should allocate you the number in plenty of time.
If you’re importing via air, time is a lot more critical. As it takes a few days, you’ll need to ask whoever is arranging your shipment to give you the Airway Bill number as soon as possible (ideally before the shipment has departed). This should give HMRC the best chance to process your application before the shipment lands in the UK
What Happens If I Don't Have An EORI Number?
If you use sea or air freight, your goods can’t be cleared through customs without it. When goods can’t be cleared through customs, they’re unable to enter the country. This means that you can’t get them and they will start accruing storage fees at the port or at the airport. Storage fees (also known as demurrage) can be extortionate and should be avoided at all costs.
You should be okay without an EORI number if shipping small amounts via courier, but if you’re using air or sea freight then you will definitely need an EORI number.
It generally takes three to five working days for HMRC to process an EORI application and the number becomes active for you to use the day after issue.