How do I export into the EU?

Import entry process into the EU
1. Economic Operators Registration and Identification number (EORI)

All EU traders are required to have an Economic Operators Registration and Identification (EORI) number. It is used as the main identification number in all communication with customs authorities in the EU and is required to submit declarations, apply for authorisations, etc.

Traders can apply for an EORI number to the customs authorities in their Member State. Often, this application is done at the same time as an application for a VAT number. There is usually no fee for the application and the number is issued within a couple of days.

The EORI number is valid throughout the EU. A French company can use its EORI number for all exports and imports to and from the EU. However, in some Member States a national EORI number might be required for other reasons. For example, as the local customs IT system can only use national EORI numbers as part of import VAT recovery process. Therefore, traders are advised to check with their national authorities.

The EORI number consists of a two-digit ISO country code, indicating which Member State issued the EORI, followed by a 12-digit number based on a company's VAT number. There is an EU EORI database available here. Non-EU companies importing into the EU can use a third-party provider as a representative. In such cases, the representative provides their EORI number.

2. Prenotification

Before the goods are brought into or taken out of the EU territory, a prenotification is required. This is submitted in an electronic form as a prearrival and predeparture declaration (referred to as Entry Summary Declaration and Exit Summary Declaration).

Prenotifications enable to assess and mitigate any potential risk before the arrival of goods. The information included in them is used to monitor safety and security of goods crossing the EU borders and prevents any delays at the border.

The period for submitting a prenotification depends on the mode of transport. For sea transport, the notification needs to be submitted at least 24 hours prior to arrival of goods. For other types of transport, the expected period is usually between 1 to 4 hours depending on the mode of transport.

By default, prenotifications have to be submitted by the carrier who arranges the goods to be shipped or transported to/from the EU. However, any other party, for example freight forwarder, can file a prenotification, provided it is upon carrier's knowledge and consent. For more, see Alternative 3rd party ENS filing Q&A.

In addition, some types of goods, such as products of animal origin, food products or goods considered dangerous may require additional prenotifications in a different IT system. For example, the Common Veterinary Entry Document is used within the EU to notify the authorities of planned imports of live animals.

3. Export and import declarations

Traders importing goods into and exporting goods from the territory of the EU are responsible for declaring them to customs via an import or export declaration.

Imports into and exports from the EU should be undertaken by entities established in the EU or by an EU-established third-party representative such as a customs broker or a freight forwarder on behalf of a non-EU established entity. The Union Customs Code (UCC) introduced additional establishment requirements for exports from the EU. However, currently, a non-EU established entity can export from the EU provided that an EU-established third-party agent exports the goods on their behalf and assumes part of legal responsibility (through a type of legal representation referred to as indirect representation).

The single administrative document (SAD) is the EU's import and export customs declaration. A template of the document can be found in the UCC Delegated Act (see Annex B-01, page 297). The declaration is usually submitted via a national customs IT system although in some cases a paper declaration can also be used.

The SAD document requires detailed information about the traded goods. For example:

  • Who is the importer/exporter?
  • Where are the goods imported/ exported from / to?
  • Who is acting as a representative on behalf of the importer/ exporter?
  • What type of legal representation is used?
  • What is the EORI number of the importer / exporter or/and representative?
  • What are the goods?
  • What is their HS code?
  • What is the goods' customs value before any taxes have been applied?
  • How much do the goods weigh?
  • Where do the goods originate (if preferential origin is not being claimed, a non-preferential origin is required)?
Detailed administrative procedures for imports and exports are determined by national administrations. For example, each Member State will have its own IT system for submitting customs declarations.

In many cases, companies do not submit customs declarations themselves. A third-party provider, such as a customs broker, shipping agent or a freight forwarder, submits the declaration on their behalf. This can be the same provider who arranges the transport of the goods or a different provider. Third-party providers charge a customs clearance or customs handling administrative fee for submitting customs declarations in addition to other charges such as transport fee, a fee for loading and unloading the goods, etc.

4. Export and import documentation There are a number of documents which accompany the goods during imports and exports and are used in international trade. This can be customs, origin, commercial and transport documentation.

The SAD document, EU's import and export declaration, is the main customs document. It is submitted to the national customs authorities via an IT system, processed and a copy of the information is provided back to the importer / exporter.

Proofs of origin, such as certificates of origin and origin declarations, are obligatory for all imports under preferential tariffs (see the Certification of origin section). Quota licenses are needed to import under origin quotas.

A purchase order from the client lists the ordered items. A commercial invoice between a seller (exporter) and a buyer (importer) confirms the transaction which forms the basis of the import, as well as the quantity and value of the goods. In addition, a commercial invoice should include a clear description of the goods, the currency of the transaction, the Incoterms and information on the means of transport.

Customs Value Declaration is used for all imports above the value of EUR 20,000. The document clarifies how the customs value has been calculated and verifies whether all of the required amounts have been added to or subtracted from the transaction value based on the customs valuation rules.

A packing list details how to goods have been packed including the weight and dimensions of boxes, pallets or containers. Any markings on the packaging enabling customs authorities to identify the goods should also be included.

Transport documentation such as air waybill, rail waybill, road waybill or bill of lading are used to certify that the goods have been received by freight forwarders or shipping agents, that they have arrived at the port and have been loaded onto / unloaded from various modes of transport. Transport documentation demonstrates where the goods have been shipped from and to and allows to demonstrate compliance with direct shipment provisions. Insurance documentation covering the transport is also included.

Furthermore, A.TR movement certificates are required for goods moving between the EU and Turkey under the customs union arrangement. The EU and Turkey are linked by a Customs Union agreement which covers most products apart from agricultural and coal and steel products, which are traded under a preferential agreement. The certificate must be accompanied by the standard supporting documentation. For goods traded between the EU and Turkey under the preferential agreement a standard preferential origin certificate is required (see certification of origin under EU's trade agreements). For movements under the customs union, an A.TR is required.

TIR (for customs transit) or ATA (for temporary importation) carnets are used as transport documentation under certain conditions.

Additional documentation may be required in some cases. For example, export or import licenses and various certificates (for example, veterinary certificates for live animals).

All these documents are checked by local customs authorities at the time of import.

5. Customs duties, other taxes and requirements

When the good is imported into the EU, customs duties and other taxes are usually due.

In the EU, customs duties are applied either as a percentage of value (ad valorem duties) or in a different way, for example by weight.

Ad valorem duties are calculated as a percentage of the customs value (including royalties and licenses), packaging costs and transportation and insurance costs until the EU border.

In addition to customs duties, goods brought into the EU are also usually subject to import VAT. Import VAT is calculated as a percentage of the value of goods with customs duties included (value of goods with transportation and insurance plus the customs duties due).

VAT rates of EU Member States may differ, and traders are advised to check their local regulations. Member States can also have discounted import VAT rates for some products as well as value thresholds below which import VAT is not collected.

Import VAT is a recoverable tax. Traders should be able to recover the amount paid, following the national VAT recovery procedures. VAT is paid by the final consumer with traders acting only as an intermediary between the consumer and the government.

In some cases, antidumping or countervailing duties may be applied.

Agricultural products can be subject to variable customs duties (based on a percentage of value plus a charge per unit of weight) as well as additional safeguard measures. Some agricultural products will also require an import license (Common Agricultural Policy, CAP, license).

For alcohol and tobacco and some other products excise duties may also be applicable. Excise legislation is determined by Member States and is not harmonised within the EU. There are also additional requirements for goods subject to excise duties such as labelling and marking requirements.

Certain goods, other than alcohol and tobacco products, may require import licenses. For example, military and paramilitary goods, goods considered of dual use (goods which could potentially be used for military purposes, such as, for example, a computer server or encryption technology) artwork, medicines, certain chemicals, plants and animals may require an import license.

Goods imported under an origin quota will require a valid quota import license.

Goods which are moving through a number of EU Member States under transit will also need to be logged in the New Computerised Transit System (NCTS).

At the time of import, when the import declaration is submitted to customs, the national customs IT system calculates the amount of duty and import VAT due based on the customs value declared or the weight or type of goods (depending on the type of duty applied to goods classified under the declared HS code).

Customs duties and import VAT can be paid to authorities in different ways. The importer can pay the due taxes prior to the release of the goods. This method is usually applied by small companies for one-off imports. The importer can also pay an advance on taxes to their third-party provider who then issues the payment to the authorities. Many companies set up a deferment account which allows them to pay the duties and import VAT at a later date.

The UCC introduced mandatory customs financial guarantees that importers need to provide for potential and actual debt arising from customs procedures. They are guaranteed by a financial institution and need to be provided before the goods are released.

There are usually no customs duties or import VAT due at the time of export. However, agricultural goods may be subject to export duties and export licenses. For all exported goods an export declaration needs to be submitted. For certain products, for example, of potential military use, an export license needs to be obtained prior to export (for the purpose of export controls). For example, goods that could be used for dual purposes, including military use, such as servers or encrypted goods, require an export control license.

Rules of origin in the EU
Does the EU negotiate trade agreements on behalf of Member States?

The Rules of Origin Facilitator tool lists all EU Member States as separate countries. However, the tariff rates of all EU Member States are set on the EU-wide level and are identical for all Members. The EU also signs trade agreements as a block: the EU has the sole competence to negotiate, sign and ratify trade agreements on behalf of all Member States. Only in some areas, such as non-direct investment and the investor-state dispute settlement the EU does not have the sole competence and is required to obtain Member States' approval.

What is the source of EU's rules of origin and origin provisions?

The UCC legislation lays down the basis for preferential origin provisions applied by the EU. Article 64 of the Code specifies that in the case of trade agreements the EU has concluded with other countries, rules of origin will be dictated by these agreements. Therefore, similar to other trade agreements, rules of origin and origin provisions for EU trade deals are negotiated with the foreign partner and included in the final text of the trade agreement. The information on origin and certification provisions displayed in the Rules of Origin Facilitator is sourced from texts of EU trade agreements but, in some instances, the user has to further complement this information by information from the UCC, for example, with respect to provisions on penalties or binding origin information (BOI).

For preferential arrangements adopted unilaterally by the EU, rules of origin are adopted by the EU Commission. The Article further clarifies that the rules adopted by the Commission should be based on either wholly obtained criterion or sufficient processing or working criterion.

As a result, the origin provisions for EU’s Generalised Scheme of Preferences are covered by the UCC legislation. GSP rules of origin can be found in the Delegated Act ANNEX 22-11.

In addition, in all areas where the trade agreement does not specify what the exact requirements are, the UCC provides a set of binding rules for the EU Member States. This covers, for example, cases where the trade agreement refers to domestic legislation.

How are origin provisions applied by Member States?

As with other aspects of customs legislation, the implementation of origin provisions is not fully harmonised across Member States. For example, the UCC sets out the overall guidelines for the conditions to become an Authorised Exporter. This provision enables exporters to provide preferential origin statements on commercial documentation regardless of the value of the consignment. The UCC clarifies that domestic customs authorities can grant such authorisations provided that exporters meet the origin requirements of the trade deal they wish to use. It is up to the customs authorities of the Member States to decide how the application form and process look like. As such, differences in the implementation of the UCC between Member States can occur.

PEM cumulation zone

PEM zone stands for Pan-Euro-Mediterranean zone and is a regional origin cumulation zone. The PEM zone currently comprises the EU, the EFTA States (Switzerland, Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein), Albania, Algeria, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Egypt, the Faroe Islands, Israel, Jordan, Kosovo, Lebanon, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Montenegro, Morocco, Palestine, Serbia, Syria, Tunisia and Turkey (and partially Andorra and San Marino).

Cumulation helps traders to meet the relevant rule of origin by allowing them to count inputs originating in the cumulation zone as if they were originating in the trader's own country. Cumulation of origin within the PEM zone is allowed provided that the countries with which origin is to be cumulated are linked by a trade agreement and that the rules of origin within these agreements are identical. Not all countries within the PEM zone are currently linked by a trade agreement and as a result, regional cumulation is not fully applied within the zone. This is referred to as variable geometry – a state where the network of trade agreements within PEM is not fully completed. Traders wishing to cumulate origin under the PEM agreement are required to verify that the inputs come only from countries linked by an agreement. The EU publishes a matrix of trade agreements within the PEM zone here.

Within the PEM zone, rules of origin in each agreement are being replaced by a PEM Convention (available here).

The PEM zone includes three types of cumulation. Bilateral cumulation is used between any two countries linked by a trade agreement. Diagonal cumulation can be used for any number of countries within the zone (provided that they are all linked by an agreement). Full cumulation under the PEM agreement is applied within the European Economic Area (EEA) and between the EU and Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia. However, goods traded under full cumulation within the PEM zone cannot be considered originating in the PEM countries which do not apply full cumulation.

If the good is processed in a number of countries within the PEM zone, it will acquire the originating status of the country where the last substantial working or processing was carried out. EU exporters should remember that if a good obtains EU origin under the PEM rules it does not equate to EU origin under other EU agreements. For example, if the product originates in the EU under the PEM rules, it may not necessarily be of EU origin under the Canada-EU trade agreement.

For goods where PEM cumulation was applied, an EUR-MED certificate of origin should be used. However, for goods where full cumulation was applied or where drawback was applied, an EUR.1 movement certificate should be used.

Duty drawback

Duty drawback is a form of export relief. It is a provision which allows to claim back duties paid on non-originating materials used to produce a good which is then re-exported.

Many EU trade agreements include a restriction on duty drawback. These provisions prohibit to refund, defer or suspend customs duty paid on non-originating goods imported and subsequently exported with preferential treatment (i.e. with a proof of origin) or used in the production of exported goods.

One of the most common duty drawback methods relates to inward processing relief. Inward processing is a customs relief which allows goods to be imported into the EU with suspension of customs duties and import VAT. If after processing goods are re-exported, customs duties and import VAT do not need to be paid. If the goods remain in the EU and are sold on the local market, the goods need to be declared to customs and duties and import VAT become due.

Prohibition of drawback under a trade agreement would in this instance mean that goods imported into the EU under inward processing cannot benefit from preferential status at the time of export to the trade agreement partner.

For exports to many trade agreement partners, such as EFTA, Israel, Faroe Islands, Mexico, Chile, Lebanon, Macedonia, Montenegro, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Serbia and West Bank/Gaza Strip, EU exporters will need to choose to either use inward processing or issue a preferential proof of origin.

However, for other agreements, for example, that with South Korea, both inward processing and preference can be used at the same time as duty drawback is not prohibited.

Duty drawback is also allowed under some of the EU's bilateral agreements with the countries that form part of the PEM zone (see the PEM zone section). In bilateral trade between the EU and, for example, Algeria, Egypt, Jordan, Morocco, Palestine and Tunisia, duty drawback is allowed. EU's GSP also does not contain duty drawback prohibition.

For such countries, inward processing can be used together with preferential treatment under bilateral agreements with these countries but not under PEM regional cumulation. For trade under the PEM agreement, the same product would be considered not originating (or inward processing cannot be used).

Within the EU, using the inward processing relief requires prior authorisation from customs authorities. There are a number of conditions a company must fulfil in order to obtain an inward processing authorisation. The authorisation also leads to additional accounting and recordkeeping obligations. Failure to comply with these requirements and obligations would lead to suspended duties becoming due, potential audits, penalties and sanctions.

Value added calculations under EU agreements

EU trade agreements include definitions and specific provisions on how value added, change in classification and variations of these rules of origin should be applied. For example, they define any reference to the weight of the product or specific non-originating materials as a reference to net weight not including the weight of the packaging.

Article 37 of the UCC Delegated Act provides further definitions of terms and clarification of basic accounting principles.

For value added rules (rules where non-originating material should not exceed a certain percentage of the value of the final product), the agreements clarify which value should be the basis of the calculations. This is usually the ex-works price although the transaction value can also be used.

Unless otherwise specified in the text of the agreement, EU traders calculating origin based on value added rules, compare the value of all non-originating materials with the ex-works value of the good.

In practice, EU traders calculate the value of all non-originating materials in various ways. Some companies, in particular, large companies with multiple product lines, use an Enterprise Resource Planning system, such as for example SAP, to track the origin of inputs. Other firms use Excel spreadsheets to keep track of the origin of their products. In some cases, traders are also able to discuss the logic behind their origin calculations with local customs authorities. Providing that the method suggested by the trader follows the main accounting principles, the customs authorities can accept various approaches to origin calculations.

Origin certification in the EU
Two main types of certification in the EU

As explained in the previous sections, the implementation, application and enforcement of the UCC is determined by each Member State. As such, the interpretation and application of the UCC can vary between EU countries. Goods exported from the EU to a trade agreement partner or imported into the EU with preferential treatment must be accompanied by a proof of origin supporting such claim. There are two main ways to certify origin in the EU: via an origin certificate issued by customs authorities or via self-certification. The document that certifies the origin of the product can be referred to as a proof of origin. The types of proofs of origin in the EU are EUR.1 and EUR-MED certificates, Forms A (which are being out phased and replaced by self-certification) and invoice declarations. Under most EU trade agreements both forms of certification are possible. Under the EU-South Korea or the Canada-EU trade agreement only self-certification is possible. In both cases, the exporter is responsible for ensuring that the underlying information is accurate and that the goods meet rules of origin. The exporter is also required to provide any necessary documentation to support a preferential origin claim if and when requested by customs authorities

How to obtain a certificate of origin from EU customs authorities? What types of certificates are used in the EU?

EU's origin certificates are issued in the form of an EUR.1 certificate or, for goods exported under the PEM zone and PEM cumulation of origin, the EUR-MED certificate (see more about the PEM zone in the PEM section of this guide). The template of the EUR.1 form can be found here. The EUR-MED certificate template can be found here (Annex 3b). The certificate is similar to the EUR.1 document. The key difference is that the EUR-MED certificate mentions cumulation and the countries it is applied with.

An EUR.1 or EUR-MED certificate is required for each consignment.

In some Member States it is also possible for the exporter to authorise a customs broker or agent to complete EUR.1 and EUR-MED certificates and submit them to customs authorities on the company's behalf.

How to fill in the application form?

Before filling in the form, the exporter should ensure that the goods meet the rules of origin under the agreement they wish to use and that all other origin provisions have been fulfilled (use the Rules of Origin Facilitator tool to find out what the origin provisions require. Follow the user guide available here- add link).

Once the exporter is confident that the goods meet the rules of origin, an application for an EUR.1 or EUR-MED certificate can be filled in. The form itself consists of a blank certificate and an application form which resembles the certificate.

The application form does not require the exporter to provide details of how the goods meet the rules of origin. However, exporters are obliged to have this information at hand and in some cases will be asked to provide it together with the EUR.1 application as supporting documentation. Even if custom authorities do not request this information, the exporter is required to store it for at least 3 years (see the retention period section).

In order the fill in the EUR.1 and EUR-MED forms as well as put together the supporting documentation, the exporter will need to provide the following details:

  • Name, address and EORI number of the exporter (importer not always required)
  • Trade agreement used
  • Detailed description of the goods together with any markings and details of packaging (boxes, pallets, etc)
  • HS code of the good
  • Weight of the goods
  • Invoice number
  • Details on how the goods meet the relevant rules of origin
The exporter needs to fill in the application part of the certificate (page 3 of the form) and submit it to relevant customs authorities.

The application forms are usually accompanied by a commercial invoice covering the goods.

The exporter should ensure that the goods are referred to in a similar way on the application form as they are on the commercial invoice. This allows customs authorities to identify the goods. If the invoice covers different types of goods and they are all originating, they should all be listed. Any identifying marks or numbers of boxes should also be included. It is also a good practice to provide the HS heading for the goods covered by the application. Detailed guidance on how to fill in an application can be obtained from national customs authorities.

The application needs to be signed by a person authorised to sign on behalf of the company (for example, finance director, etc.).

As part of the verification process, the authorities may request additional documentation to be provided. They can also carry out on-site inspections or request samples.

How to submit an application?

The exporter should verify with the local customs authorities where to send the application. EUR.1 and EUR-MED applications can be submitted electronically (in some countries), personally or via post.

In the UK and Sweden, the local chambers of commerce have been authorised to certify EUR.1 and EUR-MED forms. In other Member States, the customs authorities are responsible for certifying and stamping the forms (in the UK certificates are issued both by the Chambers and customs authorities).

Depending on who issues the certificate there might be a small administrative charge. For example, customs authorities might not charge for issuing a certificate. Chambers of commerce or other bodies may charge for issuing the certificate. Guidance is available from the local customs authorities.

Once the designated authority has verified the application and stamped the certificate, the EUR.1 or EUR-MED certificates are returned to the trader. The authorities retain the application part of the certificate. The exporter then sends the original certificate together with the commercial invoice and other commercial documents to the client in the trade agreement partner country. The exporter should retain a copy of the certificate for their records.

How to issue an origin declaration instead of a certificate of origin? What is an origin declaration and what benefits it offers?

The other form of certification in the EU is self-certification in the form of origin declaration, also referred to as invoice declaration, or statement on origin in the context of GSP.

An origin declaration is a declaration of the origin of the goods provided on a commercial invoice or other commercial document. An invoice declaration is issued by an exporter and confirms that the product for which the invoice was issued meets the relevant rules of origin for the country it is sold to. For example, an origin declaration on an invoice sent to South Korea would mean that the exporter confirms that the product or products listed on this invoice meet the relevant rules of origin under the EU-South Korea agreement and can be imported into South Korea with preferential treatment.

An invoice declaration replaces the EUR.1 and EUR-MED certificates. The exporter can self-certify origin without the need to obtain a paper certificate for each consignment. The origin declaration is issued by the exporter on a commercial document which includes a description of the goods sufficient to identify them. This is normally a commercial invoice. However, in certain cases where it is not possible to use a commercial invoice, a packing list, delivery note or a bill of lading can also be used.

There is one exception: under the EU-South Korea agreement it is no longer possible to provide the origin statement on the bill of lading. Under other EU agreements, the bill of lading can still be used.

Who can issue origin declarations?

An origin declaration can be issued by any exporter without a prior authorisation from customs authorities for consignments below a certain value. The UCC Implementing Act Article 67 specifies that where the trade agreement itself does not clarify the value threshold, it is set at EUR 6,000 for each consignment.

Above that value (or other value specified within the trade agreement), exporters wishing to issue invoice declarations need to apply for an Approved Exporter Authorisation (see below). If an EU trader exports regularly under preferential agreements which allows for self-certification and in consignments above the value threshold, it might be advisable to apply for such authorisation.

What does the origin declaration look like?

The text of the origin declaration is often provided within the trade agreement. If not provided, the default text for EU exporters is provided in the UCC Implementing Act (page 318 in the link here). The origin declaration which replaces the EUR-MED certificate is similar and can be found in Annex IVb of the PEM Convention (available here). It mentions cumulation and the countries with which cumulation was applied.

How to become an Approved Exporter? What is an Approved Exporter Authorisation?

Exporters regularly exporting under preferential schemes and wishing to issue origin declarations for consignments above the value of EUR 6,000 (or another value specified in the trade agreement) should apply for an Approved Exporter Authorisation (AEA).

Article 67 of the UCC Implementing Act specifies that EU exporters can apply for an AEA when the EU has a trade agreement which allows for a proof of origin to be issued as an origin declaration.

An AEA allows the exporter to self-certify preferential origin for consignments of any value and is granted to exporters who fulfil the rules of origin and origin provisions set out by the trade agreement. Exporters trading with Turkey under the customs union may also apply for an approved exporter status to be able to issue A.TR movement certificates.

Exporters wishing to trade under the Canada-EU trade agreement, please see the Registered Exporter section below as the AEAs are not valid for this agreement.

How to apply for an AEA?

The AEAs are granted by the local customs authorities of the country where the exporter is established and operates.

Companies operating in more than one EU Member State, should apply in the country where they are established and where their main accounts and customs documentation is held:

  1. If the exporter is located in France and exports the goods from France, the application is made to the French customs authorities.
  2. If the exporter is established in France and sells the goods from France to the trade agreement partner but the goods are physically shipped from the Netherlands, the situation is more complex. In such cases the application is submitted to the authorities in the country where the main customs documentation which would allow to conduct a customs audit and verify the origin of goods is held. If the main customs operations are conducted in France and the French entity is able to determine the origin of goods exported from the Netherlands, the application should be made in France. The exporter would need to demonstrate that despite the fact that the goods are leaving the EU from the Netherlands, the French company has an oversight and control of the origin of the exported goods and can certify that they meet the relevant rules of origin. Exporters are advised to contact local customs authorities for further guidance.
In addition, if the exporter plans to export from other Member States, they should apply for a single community authorisation, known as well as the EU-wide authorisation. Such authorisation covers multiple Member States allowing to export from any EU country. This is usually done by ticking the appropriate box on the AEA application form. Article 67 of the UCC Implementing Act provides general guidelines on what is required to obtain an AEA. It states that the AEA authorisations will be granted provided that national customs authorities are satisfied that the exporter meets the origin conditions under the relevant agreement. However, the details of the application process are determined on the national level and they can differ between Member States. In principle, the exporter will need to provide some, or all, of the following information:
  • Basic information regarding the company such as the name and address of the company
  • Person responsible for customs operations and overseeing preferential origin
  • Company's EORI number
  • Whether an EU-wide authorisation is required
  • Information on where the goods will be send to / from
  • Details on the existing or planed volumes of shipments (frequency and value of each consignment) as the authorisation is designed for exporters making regular exports
  • Whether the exporter is the producer/ manufacturer of the goods
  • Whether suppliers' declarations are available for the inputs that are not produced/ manufactured by the exporter
  • Detailed description of the goods including their HS code
  • Detailed information on how the goods meet the rules of origin
  • Details on how the goods are manufactured or produced
The AEA application usually requires the exporter to demonstrate their understanding of the rules of origin and how the product meets these. The customs authorities might also ask for additional documentation or samples of the product. The customs authorities may also wish to conduct an inspection at the premises or any other type of verification.

It is possible to apply for an AEA for multiple products classified under different HS codes. It is normally also possible to apply for an AEA for multiple trade agreements, even if the rules of origin differ between the agreements.

In some cases, the exporter is not the manufacturer of the product. For example, when the exporter purchases goods from the manufacturer or several manufacturers and sells them to foreign clients. In such cases the exporter is not able to provide information on how the good was produced and will be required to provide a suppliers' declaration from the manufacturer (please see the suppliers' declaration section below).

Once the application is completed, it is sent to the customs authorities for review and authorisation.

How to use the AEA?

Once the customs authorities issue the authorisation and send it to the exporter, it is advised to review all the details of the authorisation. In particular, exporters should review the HS code of the goods and the trade agreements the authorisation was granted for.

Exporters should ensure that they use the AEA only for the products and countries listed in the authorisation. Any new products or exports to trade agreement partners not listed in the authorisation are not covered by the AEA and an EUR.1 or EUR-MED certificate would be needed.

In addition, if the authorisation is granted for all trade agreement, exporters should verify with national customs authorities whether any new agreements signed by the EU would automatically be covered by the authorisation.

The AEA authorisation includes a unique AEA identification number which the exporter is required to include in all origin declarations.

Once the authorisation is issued, the exporter can self-certify preferential origin of goods by including the origin declaration and the AEA number on the invoice or other commercial document.

Please see the section on Registered Exporters below for self-certification under the Canada-EU trade agreement.

What proof of origin is required for imports from GSP countries?

For goods coming into the EU under the EU's Generalised Scheme of Preferences, a certificate of origin called Form A is required (see also REX section below on self-certification under GSP). However, this form has been gradually substituted by a statement on origin as the principal type of proof origin.
Form A certificate can be obtained from the local customs authorities in GSP countries. Exporters wishing to export goods to the EU under GSP preference should ensure that the goods meet the relevant rules of origin, complete the application for a Form A according to the local guidelines and submit it to the national customs authorities for certification.
The details of the application process and the supporting documentation which needs to be submitted with the application will depend on the national procedure. In principle, the exporter will need to demonstrate that the product meets the rules of origin. The customs authorities will stamp the Form A and return it to the exporter. The Form then is sent with the goods to the importer who will submit it as part of the import declaration.
A template of From A can be found here (Annex 22-08, page 313 of the Implementing Act). Form A is usually valid for one consignment however, it can be valid for split shipments of one consignment. In such cases, a replacement Form A needs to be obtained.

What is the Registered Exporter System (REX)?

The UCC legislation introduced a new type of an approved exporter registration – the Registered Exporter System (REX).

The system is currently used for the Canada-EU trade agreement and most of the GSP countries. REX is a database of registered exporters in these countries. Registered Exporters are authorised to make statements on origin on their commercial documents.

The Canada-EU trade agreement

Under the Canada-EU agreement, EU exporters trading with Canada need to apply for a REX number. The REX replaces the AEA under this agreement. Exporters who hold an AEA number will not be able to trade under the Canada-EU agreement using the approved exporter number and will need to apply for a REX number and register in the REX system.

The REX registration requires the exporter to provide similar types of information as for the AEA. In some Member States, exporters who already hold an AEA are able to obtain a REX number within days and without the need to provide detailed documentation.

The REX application may differ depending on the Member State. The procedure will also depend on the stage of implementation of the REX IT system in the EU. Initially, in some Member States, the application is in the form of a questionnaire which is sent to relevant customs authorities.

Once the REX registration is submitted, the customs authorities issue a REX number which is used in the same way as the AEA number for the purpose of issuing origin declarations.


The REX system was implemented in the first group of GSP countries on the 1 January 2017. REX has been gradually rolled out to GSP countries with the deadline to complete the process by 30 June 2020. Various GSP countries joined the REX system at different stages, with the last group joining in January 2019.

The REX system was thereby set to gradually replace Forms A and origin declarations under GSP. It will be the only form of origin certificate acceptable under the GSP.

The transition period for each country lasts 12 months during which period the Form A and REX system are both a valid form of origin certification.

The REX registration in the GSP countries relies on the IT system provided by the EU. Exporters are registered in the online database by their national customs administration. Local customs authorities in GSP countries provide additional support and guidance on how to apply.

Under the UCC the GSP countries were required to notify the EU Commission of the designated national competent organisations which will be responsible for registering exporters in the REX system (Article 72 of the Implementing Act).

The information required for the REX authorisation is similar to the information required for AEAs and other types of self-certification. In addition to the basic information about the company, the exporter will need to provide details of the goods to be exported and how they meet rules of origin.

In the context of GSP, the REX system can be used by various types of traders:

  • Exporters from GSP countries wishing to export their products to the EU;
  • EU exporters sending their products to GSP countries for bilateral cumulation of origin (donor country content procedure);
  • Exporters in GSP countries applying regional cumulation within GSP and obtaining a statement on origin from other GSP exporters for that purpose.
The REX database allows the authorities and importers to verify the validity of REX numbers.

What are suppliers' declarations?

A suppliers' declaration is a document issued by the supplier of the goods and confirming their origin.

When the exporter is not the producer or manufacturer of the goods, a suppliers' declaration must be obtained. This is also the case when the exporter is claiming originating status of materials supplied by a different company. For example, when applying a Value Added rule of origin, the exporter would need to hold suppliers' declarations for all inputs obtained from other firms which are to be counted as originating.

A suppliers' declaration is needed irrespective of what type of proof of origin is being used (EUR.1, EUR-MED or origin declarations).

A template of a suppliers' declaration can be found here (Annex 22-15, page 330 of the Implementing Act). It states that the supplier confirms that the goods supplied to the exporter meet the rules of origin of a given trade agreement.

Suppliers can issue a standard suppliers' declaration for one-off delivery, or a long-term suppliers' declaration (LTSD) covering a period of time. An LTSD is valid for a maximum of 2 years. A supplier needs to inform the exporter if the origin of the goods changes during that period. A template of an LTSD can be found here (Annex 22-16, page 331 of the Implementing Act).

A non-originating suppliers' declaration and long-term suppliers' declaration can also be provided. Such declarations state that the goods have not obtained originating status. They list and provide details of non-originating materials used in the production process. Templates of non-originating declaration and non-originating LTSD can be found here (Annex 22-17, page 332 and Annex 22-18, page 333 of the Implementing Act).

Suppliers' declarations to be used within the PEM zone can be found in Annex A to Annex F of the PEM Convention (available here).
Suppliers' declarations can be issued on commercial documentation, similar to origin declarations, or on a separate headed paper. They are signed by the authorised person within the company. Exporters should retain copies of all suppliers' declarations (see also retention period section).
Suppliers' declarations are also used for goods imported from or exported to Turkey under the EU-Turkey customs union and accompanied by an A.TR or EUR-MED movement certificate.

Exemptions from preferential origin certification

Under certain circumstances, goods can be exempt from the requirement of origin certification.

Small packages exchanged between private persons or items forming part of a person's luggage are considered originating and benefit from preferential treatment. Conditions of such exemptions and value thresholds are usually found in EU's trade agreements.

Under the GSP and unilateral preferences offered by the EU, goods are exempt from origin certification (EUR.1, Form A and origin declaration) provided that they are imported occasionally, not for commercial purposes and consist of products solely for personal use. The value thresholds for such products are EUR 500 for small packages and EUR 1200 for personal luggage (Articles 97, 103 and 122 of the UCC Implementing Act).

Period of validity, duplicates and retrospective certificates

All proofs of origin are dated. For the EUR.1 and EUR-MED certificates, the date from which the period of validity is counted is the date when the certificate was issued. For origin declarations, it is the date of the issuing of the invoice, packing list, bill of lading or other commercial document used for this purpose.

EUR.1 and EUR-MED certificates are valid for between 4-12 months depending on which EU agreement is being used. The origin declarations are valid for the same amount of time.

Unless otherwise provided a certificate of origin is usually valid for one consignment, although it is possible to use one certificate for multiple consignments under a split shipment. A replacement certificate needs to be applied for.

EUR.1 and EUR-MED certificates are provided to the customs authorities at the time of import. Under exceptional circumstances, retrospective origin certificates can be issued. Such circumstances include, for example, technical difficulties with issuing the certificate. If the goods have been imported with full payment of customs duties and a retrospective certificate of origin has been issued, the importer can claim back the overpaid customs duties. The EU exporter would need to send the retrospective certificate to the importer. The importer presents it to the local customs authorities and submits a duty reclaim request in the country of import according to local procedures.

Retrospective EUR.1s issued by the EU authorities can be presented in the country of import (trade agreement partner) within 2 years from the date the original import occurred. For the EU-Mexico and the EU-South Korea agreements, this period is 1 year.

A retrospective certificate is clearly marked with “issued retrospectively” written on it.

Origin declarations can also be issued retrospectively and presented within the same time limits.

Finally, if an origin certificate is lost, a duplicate can be issued. A duplicate certificate is clearly marked with “duplicate” written on it.

Retention period

Article 51 of the UCC specifies that all customs documentation needs to be kept for at least 3 years for the purpose of customs control and customs audit. EU traders are required to retain all documentation relating to imports and exports. During this time, customs authorities can request to inspect documentation relating to any customs entry and the importer / exporter is required to provide it.

This also refers to origin documentation. Traders are required to keep proofs of origin, suppliers' declarations and any other evidence supporting the preferential origin claim.

Traders using customs agents, brokers or freight forwarders are responsible for obtaining copies of import and export documentation from them and storing them in the company's records. For imports, if the trader cannot provide documentation to substantiate the preferential origin of goods, the full rate of customs duties might need to be paid.

For exports, customs authorities in the trade partner country can request origin documentation from exporters in EU Member States. It would be the importer in the trade partner country who would be liable for the additional duties. Depending on the details of the contract between the exporter and importer, the importer may seek to recover such costs from the exporter. In case of an appeal or dispute with customs, documentation relating to this period should be kept until the issue is resolved, even if this exceed the 3 years.

Documentation relating to imports and exports may need to be retained longer than 3 years for the purpose of other taxes (for example VAT). Traders are advised to check national recordkeeping obligations.

Documentation does not need to be kept as hard copies. Electronic filing of scanned documents is permissible.


There are a number of ways in which customs authorities can verify the correctness of the provided documentation, including origin documentation. Customs authorities in EU Member States have various ways of controlling goods and documents.

Firstly, goods can be stopped for inspection at the border. Border customs authorities usually perform spot check on a percentage of goods coming into the EU.

The prenotification and SAD import declarations are in themselves a way to control the flow of goods into the EU. Any irregularities on the import declaration can be flagged up to customs authorities.

Customs authorities can also perform post-importation verifications. The importer can be asked to provide customs documentation related to any entry or to preferential origin claim and demonstrate compliance with customs rules.

Such post-importation verifications can either be done based on a random selection or when irregularities are flagged in the national customs database. For example, if customs authorities find an exporter who has not complied with origin or other customs requirements, they might conduct random verification checks on companies within the same industry or with a similar profile. The customs authorities would normally contact the trader via a formal information request letter. However, in some Member States, this can also be done via other means. The letter will detail the scope of the verification and list the import or export entries for which supporting documentation is requested. The trader will also be given a clearly defined amount of time to provide the information to the customs authorities. The letter will include instructions of how to contact the authorities and the officer in charge of the process.

Traders are advised to read the letter carefully and provide the information before the deadline.

If the provided documentation does not demonstrate compliance with customs procedures and an error on trader's behalf is discovered resulting in the underpayment of duties, customs authorities will calculate the missing amount of duties. A post-clearance duty demand notice will be issued and sent – an official request to pay customs duties for past imports.

Finally, the customs authorities may wish to conduct a customs audit. This is either done via a site audit of the premises, or an in-depth documents audit, or both. In the EU, customs audit may focus on a particular area, such as preferential origin, or cover all aspects of customs compliance.

In addition, if the trader notices that incorrect information has been submitted to customs authorities, a voluntary disclosure can be submitted. Such disclosure would not remove the need to repay any underpaid duties but might prevent customs authorities from applying penalties.


Many of EU's trade agreements include an article on penalties which states that parties will ensure that their domestic customs legislation provides for penalties in case of non-compliance. Penalties are one of the areas which has not been harmonised across the EU and legislation differs substantially between EU Member States.

Article 42 of the UCC states that Member States should apply penalties which are effective, proportionate and dissuasive.

Penalties for customs contravention or non-compliance can range between civil (administrative) and criminal penalties. The UCC provides for two types of administrative penalties: financial penalties and a revocation or suspension of customs authorisations.

The type of penalty or sanction applied will in most Member States depend on two factors:

  • Whether a contravention or evasion is the first occurrence of non-compliance
  • Whether there is a reason to believe that the offence was deliberate
If there is no previous history of non-compliance and there is no reason to suspect that the contravention was deliberate, the trader will be requested to repay underpaid duties where applicable and might receive an official warning or a small civil penalty. If the issue is more serious, or an official warning has already been issued in the past, customs authorities can issue a larger penalty or revoke existing customs authorisations. In case of more serious contraventions, where there is a reason to believe that the trader was attempting to evade customs duties, a criminal penalty can also be applied in some Member States.

For example, in Poland, a customs contravention or evasion, if deemed to be deliberate, can lead to a prison sentence of up to two years. The same penalty can be applied for a deliberate failure to present the goods to customs.

Advanced rulings

Regular importers and exporters may wish to consider applying for an advance ruling on origin, Binding Origin Information (BOI).

Advance rulings are written, legally binding decisions by the national customs authorities.

For example, an origin ruling provides a legally binding confirmation of preferential or non-preferential origin of the product, while a classification ruling provides a legally binding decision on the HS code of the product (Binding Tariff Information, BTI).

Advance rulings are issued by the authorities in each Member State however, they are valid throughout the EU.

BOIs issued for preferential origin remove the need to prove the origin of goods each time an origin certificate is required. BOIs do not remove the requirement to provide an origin certificate (EUR.1, EUR-MED or origin declaration) but they can make the application process quicker and can be used to demonstrate origin during a verification. This can be particularly useful when the origin of the product is complex, difficult to prove, if the goods are exported from a different Member State making it difficult to prove origin or where the interpretation of origin rules is uncertain.

Applications for advance rulings are available from the national customs authorities. The processing time will depend on the national procedures. The applicant will need to provide detailed evidence of the origin or HS classification they are applying for. Supporting documentation such as product documentation, suppliers' declarations, origin calculations or samples of the product are often required and are sent to the relevant customs authorities. The more details and evidence the applicant provides to support the case for the requested classification or origin, the more likely it is to obtain a ruling in line with what the applicant expected. Therefore, companies applying for advance rulings should familiarise themselves with origin or classification rules to be able to make their case.

Applications should be submitted in the country where the company is established or where the ruling will be used. Applications cannot be made for goods which have already been subject to another BTI or BOI.

Once an advance ruling is issued it remains valid for 3 years from the date it is issued, provided that the circumstances and the details around the goods in questions remain unchanged. While advance rulings are legally binding, it is important to note that they can be withdrawn by the issuing authorities when the legislation or its interpretation changes. However, BTI and BOI holders can still fulfil existing contracts for up to 6 months after the ruling has been withdrawn.

The UCC introduced a change in the way binding rulings are issued – they are also binding on the applicant. This means that once the decision is issued, it has to be used even if it is not in the applicant's favour. In addition, rulings can only be used by the actual holder of the ruling. Therefore, only the entity that applied for the ruling can use it.

Review and appeals

EU's agreements often include an article on a review process and appeals. Such articles state that each party of the agreement will ensure that traders have access to an independent review and appeal in all customs matters.

Within the EU, the appeal process is provided for by Article 44 of the UCC. The Article states that all persons shall have the right to appeal against decision taken by customs authorities. Such appeal should in the first instance be directed to the customs authorities or judicial bodies within the Member State. If such proceedings do not lead to a resolution of the matter, an appeal can be submitted to a higher, independent body. For example, the first appeal can be reviewed by another representative of the customs authorities, while the second by a national tribunal independent of the customs authorities.

Traders wishing to appeal against a customs decision should check the national domestic appeal procedures. Such procedures are usually available on the customs authorities' websites as well as any official documentation issued by customs authorities (for example, decisions issued by customs authorities should include information on what steps need to be taken to appeal against it).

Customs special procedures
There are a number of special customs procedures in the EU which allow to temporarily or permanently suspend the payment of customs duties for imported goods. These procedures are not related to the origin of goods and do not require a trade agreement to be in place.

Special procedures can be used by importers of goods as an alternative to importing under preferential treatment. If the goods do not meet the rules of origin under a trade agreement, traders can check whether their products fulfil the conditions of any of the special procedures. However, customs procedures often require the importer to obtain an authorisation to operate a special procedure from the customs authorities in a given Member State. They also place additional compliance requirements and legal liability on the importer.

Some special procedures allow to suspend or remove not only customs duties but also import VAT and other trade policy measures.

Under the UCC, there are three main types of special procedures:
  • Storage: customs warehousing and free zones
  • Processing: inward and outward processing
  • Special use: temporary admission and end-use
A customs warehouse allows goods to be stored in a designated warehouse with customs duties suspended provided that the goods are not subject to any further processing. Duties become due when the goods are removed from the warehouse and entered into the EU market. Duties are not due in the EU if the goods are re-exported.

Certain areas within the EU are designated as free zones. Goods can be entered into a free zone procedure and be processed or consumed within the free zone without customs duties becoming due. The goods can be taken out of the free zone and re-exported or entered into the EU market subject to customs duties being paid.

Inward processing allows to import materials and inputs into the EU for processing under a suspension of customs duties. The final product obtained from these inputs can be either entered into the EU market subject to payment of relevant customs duties or exported out of the EU in which case, the duties remain suspended.

Outward processing allows to process EU goods outside the EU territory with a partial suspension of duties – when the final product is imported into the EU, customs duties are due only on the amount of value added outside the EU.

Temporary admission duty relief can be used for certain types of goods which meet the conditions, are not further processed in the EU and are imported into the EU for a maximum of two years. Examples of such goods include samples imported for demonstrative purposes (not for sale), professional equipment rented from outside the EU, modes of transport belonging to a person established outside the EU and pallets and containers used in international trade.

End-use relief is available for certain goods provided they are put to a prescribed use (end use). Customs duties are removed or reduced for eligible goods under end-use. Examples of eligible goods include ship or aircraft parts, certain military equipment and goods used for offshore drilling platforms on territorial waters.

Importers wishing to use any of the above special procedures should seek further guidance from the national customs authorities in the relevant Member State. All conditions must be complied with and prior authorisation obtained in order to use special procedures. The importer will also be required to provide a financial guarantee for customs debt. In addition, goods entered under a special procedure must be discharged from that procedure in a certain way. Non-compliance might lead to verifications, audits and penalties.