GB-XI-EU EORI or what? Confused? Let's clarify what applies from 2021

Updated: Oct 30, 2020

When the UK government announced the "XI" EORI number for Northern Ireland, and the EU announced XI and XU codes for statistics, confusion arose as to what EORI number apply. Let's make it clear, once and for all and for what trade.

What is an EORI number?

EORI stands for “Economic Operators Registration and Identification number”.

It is a business identification number to be used when dealing with Customs when exchanging information. Having one common type of identification number across the UK or EU is more efficient, both for businesses and customs authorities. It is also more efficient for statistical purposes and security purposes.


The requirement to have of such a number was introduced in 2009 to enhance the EU's safety and security initiatives. The idea was to identify (legal or natural) persons with 'a common number unique to each of those persons." The Union Customs Code (UCC) of the EU calls an EORI number

an identification number, unique in the customs territory of the Union, assigned by a customs authority to an economic operator or to another person in order to register him for customs purposes. All economic operators established in the customs territory of the Union must register with the customs authorities responsible for the place where they are established."

Do I need to be "established" in the EU or UK to get one?

No, the law does not say that you do. Businesses not established in the customs territory

of the EU, for example, are to register with the customs authorities responsible for the place where they first lodge a customs declaration or apply for a customs decision.

What about people? Do they need an EORI number?

Registration is also required by natural persons who are not economic operators/businesses in certain circumstances.

When do I need an EORI number at all?

Businesses established in the customs territory of the UK or the European Union need, an EORI number if they plan to cross a customs border. Businesses not established in either customs territory may also need a number in different situations. It is, therefore possible that a UK business may have to have both the UK and an EU EORI number. Likewise, an EU business may have to have its national EORI number and an UK EORI number as a company established outside the UK.

TOP 5 reasons for needing an EORI number

The circumstances in which registration is required include a number of situations in which a customs declaration is lodged, but also the lodging of an entry or exit summary declaration, the lodging of a temporary storage declaration in a custom's territory, and acting as a carrier for transport by sea, inland waterway, or air, or in certain other circumstances. The top 5 are:

  1. to lodge a customs declaration in a customs territory

  2. to submit an Entry Summary Declaration (ENS) or Exit Summary Declaration (EXS)

  3. to lodge a temporary storage declaration i

  4. act as a carrier (ccean, IWW and air)

  5. act as a carrier who is connected to the customs system and needs to deal with entry summary declarations.

When do I need an EORI number in the UK?

  • You need an EORI number to move goods between the UK and non-EU countries.

  • An EORI number starting with GB is used to move goods between Great Britain (England, Scotland and Wales) and the EU and other third countries/territories.

  • An EORI number starting with XI is used to move goods to or from Northern Ireland, not NI which stands for Nicaragua.

What, XI?

Yes, from 1 January 2021 you’ll need an EORI number that starts with XI to:

  • move goods between Northern Ireland and non-EU countries

  • make a declaration in Northern Ireland

  • get a customs decision in Northern Ireland

To get an EORI number that starts with XI, you must already have an EORI number that starts with GB. If you do not have one, apply for an EORI number that starts with GB as soon as possible. If you already have an EORI number that starts with GB and HMRC thinks you need one that starts with XI, they’ll automatically send you one in mid-December 2020.

When do I need an EORI number in the EU?

  • You’ll need an EORI number from an EU country if your business will be making declarations or getting a customs decision in the EU. This will NOT start with EU but the country where you apply, so DE for Germany, for example.

  • You obtain this from the customs authority in the EU country where you submit your first declaration or request your first decision.

Hang on, what format does an EORI number take? XI? EU? GB? I am confused.

The EORI number exists out of two parts

  1. the country code of the issuing country (UK) or Member State (EU); followed by

  2. a code or number that is unique in the country or Member State.

So, are EU EORI number valid throughout the EU?

By registering, for customs purposes, in one Member State operators are able to obtain an EORI number that is valid throughout the European Union. Obviously, in order to benefit fully from the use of a unique identification number, holders must use the EORI number – once it has been assigned – in all communications with any EU customs authorities where a customs identifier is required.

How much is it to get an EORI number?

It's free of charge.

What if I do not have an EORI number?

If you do not have an EORI, you may have increased costs and delays. If customs authorities in the EU or the UK cannot clear your goods you may have to pay storage fees.

What about data protection?

Customs authorities are to collect and store the data laid down in Annex of the Union Customs Code (if in EU) at the time of registering a person. This data is to constitute

the EORI record. The data collected is to be entered on the EORI System. Customs authorities in the EU must have easy and reliable access to operators’ registration and identification data. In order to ensure this, a central electronic system has been developed for storing data on the registration of economic operators and other persons and for exchanging data on EORI numbers between customs authorities.

How can I cancel an EORI number?

An EORI number is to be invalidated on request by the registered person and when the customs authority is aware that the registered person has ceased the activities requiring registration.


Download the EORI Guidance

EORI Guidance by EU
Download PDF • 1.45MB

Access the database to check if your EORI number is valid

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