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Inland Customs Clearance Checks: What to expect

(S,P) When Customs selects your goods for inland pre-clearance checks, here are tips on what need to do when they carry out checks on your goods.

Customs authorities may select your goods for inland pre-clearance checks if you’re:

  • a business importing goods into a country/jurisdiction.

  • acting as an intermediary for imports into a country/jurisdiction.

Checks away from the border

Customs authorities may select goods for checks to make sure everything relating to your customs declaration is correct before we release your goods. They can use inland pre-clearance to conduct our checks away from the border to reduce congestion.

What the checks may include

The checks may include:

  • an examination of your declaration and supporting documents

  • an examination of your goods

  • a sampling of your goods

  • What happens when we select your goods

  • Your goods arrive in the country and customs select them for checks.

Customs may

  • move them from the place of importation to one of their inland locations.

  • email you to invite you to the checks and set a date.

  • carry out full checks on your goods.

  • tell you the outcome and what you need to do next.

  • clear your goods from customs control ready for their release (if we have not seized them or called for a payment of security).

You arrange collection of your goods.

Before the check

If Customs selects your goods for checks, they may email or get in touch with you in any other you. An email could very well be a primary method of contact during the check process, but there may be instances where they may contact you by letter or phone. You’ll need to follow all instructions communicated to you.

Before the checks you may need to:

  • confirm you are content to communicate by email

  • confirm if you have authorised others to represent you

  • tell Customs if you want to attend the examination of your goods

  • give Customs information if they request it

If you choose not to attend, you could possibly e-mail them to nominate a person to go in your place. But if you do not reply within the time frame they may still go ahead with the examination. If you do not respond to our requests for information, then they may pause the check.

You can either choose to attend, send a nominated person or attend with them. Customs may agree with you on a suitable date and time for the examination.

You may need to:

  • give Customs the full names of those attending

  • have photo ID for attendees at the examination

If you are sending a nominated person, Customs may need to confirm whether they are authorised to represent you.

You may need to bring your own personal protective equipment (PPE), including safety footwear and a high visibility vest or jacket. You cannot attend without this.

How long checks may take

Checks may take quite a long time, sometimes even up to 5 weeks, to be completed. While many will be completed within this time, some checks may take longer. The time it takes starts with the selection of a consignment for checks and ends with the outcome of the checks.

The time it takes to complete checks depends on the:

  • type and quantity of goods we examine

  • amount of time you or your agent take at certain points in the process (for example, delayed replies to our questions)

Customs will hopefully keep you informed of the progress of the checks.

If you feel there has been an unreasonable delay in carrying out the checks, please contact us for support and we can help.

Checking your goods

During the check, Customs may:

  • ask questions about the declaration or the goods

  • examine any records relating to the declaration

  • take details from the declaration and documents

  • take samples to help classify and identify the goods

  • mark goods, documents or items to show they have inspected them

  • ask for your help when carrying out a physical inspection

  • detain or seize goods found to be held contrary to customs law

If you have any questions at any stage you can usually tell the officer dealing with the check. Customs can only answer questions about the consignment they examine.

If you have to pay financial securities relating to your declaration, you may need to pay this before, so Customs can release your goods.

After the check

After the check Customs may:

  • tell you the outcome of the examination

  • either seize or release your goods

Check if you have received an email or other message and the time you have to respond to our decision. If Customs need any further evidence, you should provide them with any information and documentation you feel may inform their decision.

After the outcome of the checks, they may also carry out post-clearance compliance checks. They will tell you if they are going to carry out a post-clearance check-in our correspondence with you. 

Releasing your goods

To release your goods you may need to complete a payment of security. You’ll find more information in the email they may have send you.

Customs may ask you to make arrangements to collect your goods if they release them after the checks are complete.

For further guidance, you can check UK general information about customs inland pre-clearance checks (CC/FS1j).

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