Sending and Receiving mail outside the European Union (EU)
Getting your goods through customs
When sending goods outside the European Union (EU), make sure they are presented with the right forms. Under international postal agreements the sender must complete a customs declaration (form CN22 or CN23) which should be fixed to the package. The declaration includes a description of the goods, the value and whether they are gifts or commercial items. Under customs law, the sender is legally responsible for the information on the declaration; therefore it is in your own interest to ensure that the declaration is completed accurately and in full.
This makes it easier for the destination country’s customs service to process and far less likely they will be returned to you. We recommend you add your name and address to the top left hand corner of your package. This will enable us to return your package should overseas customs authorities refuse it entry into their country. Goods may be subject to customs charges and fees, dependent on the contents and value, which the recipient will be required to pay prior to the parcel being released. The customs authorities in the country of destination determine whether charges are due on imported goods and the thresholds applicable will vary in each country. Royal Mail cannot advise as to what these charges may be, however the relevant foreign embassy or the customs administration of the overseas country should be able to assist on any customs related queries you may have.
- Customs declaration forms
- How to complete declaration forms for commercial mail
- Countries in the EU
- Exporting overseas
- Export licences
- BFPO destinations
- Jersey Goods and Service Tax
Receiving mail from abroad
All items with contents up to the value of £270 must have a signed and dated customs declaration form CN22 attached to the front. The current CN22 forms are white – an older green version expired in 2003.
Any item sent with a value in excess of £270 must have a fully completed CN23 customs declaration form. This should be attached using the plastic wallet available from any Post Office® branch.
Both declaration forms are also available at your local Post Office® branch.
When sending commercial mail, include the World Customs Organisation Harmonised System Tariff Code and country of origin fields in the same order as individual items are listed in the 'quantity’ and ‘detailed description of contents' fields.
To help you classify your goods, information is available on the Gov UK website.
You are strongly advised to attach a copy of the commercial invoice to the outside of the package, using a plastic envelope (such as an SP126, available at Post Office® branches), as this will help Customs clear your item.
More useful information can be found on the HM Revenue & Customs website and you can also contact the National Advice Service (NAS) on: 0300 200 3701 for assistance and copies of their publications, including Customs Notice 143 – a guide for international postal users.
Leaving details off customs declarations can lead to delays, or can in some instances lead to your item being returned to sender or even seized by customs.
It is essential that the name and address of the sender appear on either the customs declaration or the item being sent overseas.
Any destination not listed here is considered ‘outside the EU’.
- Czech Republic
- United Kingdom
You will also need to complete a customs declaration for the following EU destinations:
- Channel Islands – Jersey, Guernsey, Alderney, Herm and Sark
- Canary Islands
- San Marino
- Vatican City State
If you are a VAT-registered business and intend to zero rate items being sent overseas, you will be required to present customs with proof of export. A Certificate of Posting (COP) can be obtained at the Post Office® branch when you post your item.
For more information regarding the export of goods from the UK, please see HM Revenue & Customs notice 703.
Some goods (such as military goods, animal products, medicines, antiques or works of art) can only be exported under the authority of an export licence. For an overview of export licences, see guidance on the Gov UK website. For a short overview of export controls administered by the Export Control Organisation (ECO – part of the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills), watch the Responsible Exports film.
The ECO is responsible for regulation and licensing of so-called dual-use goods and military goods. It issues various types of licences, the terms and conditions of which must be adhered to by exporters and individuals at all times.
You can apply for an export control licence on the SPIRE website.
HM Revenue & Customs pays particular attention to all HM Forces Mail arriving in or leaving the UK. For all BFPO destinations where mail contains gifts or goods (regardless of value), a completed and signed customs declaration form (CN22 or CN23) must be attached to the outside of the item.
Gifts and goods sent to Jersey may be liable for GST, currently 3%. A completed and signed customs declaration (CN22 or CN23) must be attached to the outside of the item.
For more information see the Jersey Website.
All mail that enters the United Kingdom may be examined by customs, but normally letters, postcards and packets containing only documents or similar forms of correspondence are excluded.
If you are receiving a package from overseas (unless it’s from another EU Country), please be aware that it may incur customs charges. Any package assessed as being liable for customs charges will also incur a Royal Mail handling fee of £8.
Any goods imported into the UK over the value of £15 are liable to import VAT. Gifts between private individuals over the value of £36 (£34 as of 1 January 2016) are also liable for VAT. Goods and gifts over these values may also be liable for customs duty. You no longer have to pay customs duty for goods up to the value of £135, however you will still be required to pay import VAT and excise duty where applicable.
Please note that these limits do not apply to alcohol and tobacco goods where both excise duty and import VAT may be charged. It is not permitted to send alcohol and tobacco products into the UK from another EU country unless prior arrangements have been made to account for the excise duty.
For more details please check the HM Revenue & Customs guide to Shopping on the Internet.
Have you received a card requesting a customs payment? You can pay online now
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All the help and advice you could ever need.
- How much does it cost to send a letter or parcel overseas?
- Find out about international sanctions
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- How to send money and jewellery securely overseas
- Addressing your items - Western Europe
- Addressing your items - rest of the world
- I need advice about wrapping and packaging
- Tell me about size and weight restrictions
- What goods can I not send?
- Tell me about restricted goods
- Top tips for sending mail overseas
Customs authorities around the world are now very firm about mail arriving in their country without the required customs declarations.
To help you get it right, we’ve put together everything we know about sending items outside the EU.Read the full article