What Will I Have To Do? Forms, Paperwork etc.?

Importing goods from overseas by sea freight can seem like a daunting task.  There are a lot of documents and paperwork associated with the process of clearing shipments through customs, but Shippo ensure that you don’t have to deal with it!

To import your goods to the UK, they will have to be cleared through customs as they are exported by your supplier, and then again when they arrive in the UK.  Each country has different requirements when it comes to necessary paperwork.  Wherever the goods are coming from, if your supplier doesn’t know what documents they need to export the goods (which they almost certainly will anyway) then our experienced local agent will help them.

When importing goods to the UK and clearing them through customs, we will need three or four things: your supplier’s invoice to you for the goods, the Bill of Lading, an EORI number and very occasionally a Certificate of Origin for certain products.  Here’s an overview of what these are and what, if anything, you have to do to get them:

A Commercial Invoice

This is the invoice from your supplier that includes: their details as the seller, your details as the buyer, what the goods are and how much you paid for them.  Your supplier will send you this and it’ll be used to declare your goods to customs.  It’s the figure on this invoice from which the UK Duty and VAT amounts are calculated.

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The Bill of Lading

This is the official shipping document that contains all the details of the shipment.  Once the goods are on the water and you’ve paid your supplier for them, they will then release it to you.  Once they’ve done this, you officially own the goods.  Traditionally, your supplier would send you the Original Bill of Lading through the post.  You’d receive three originals and would have to send us one to allow us to release the goods.  This still happens on occasion but we try to have the Bill of Lading electronically (or “Telex”) released so you don’t have to worry about putting a piece of paper back in the post.

Your EORI Number

An EORI (Economic Operator Registration and Identification) number allows customs to keep a record of what’s being imported and exported.  If you’ve never imported before Shippo will help you apply for this.  We will fill in the form and email it across so you can fill in the personal bits, sign it and email it off to HMRC.  We will do the donkey work so there’s no need to panic about any of this.  Once you have this number you can use it on your future imports too.

Shippo will make this all seamless so you won’t really feel like you have to do anything apart from forward a couple of emails.  You can then sit back, relax and wait for your goods to arrive (or manically prepare for their arrival!).


To find out more about how you import your goods contact us by phone on 020 3384 0498, or complete a Quick Quote enquiry form. You can also use the Live Chat feature to speak to a member of our team right now.

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