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Use Transit effectively, efficiently & compliantly - Guide

Moving goods under Transit to reduce border clearance delays. We explore what traders need to know and consider moving goods successfully under transit.

Customs will demand payment of import tariffs and other costs and, where applicable, will require trade licences or add additional duties when products enter a country/territories (for example anti-dumping duties).

This is true even when the items are merely intended to pass through (transit through) one country/territory on their route to another.

How transit works

"Transit" is a customs procedures that lowers this bureaucracy and its associated expenses. Businesses may employ transit to cross borders or regions without paying the normal fees. Businesses can use transit to make it easier for goods to move from one Contracting Party to another. However, you do not have to use it.

Transit is particularly relevant to the EU, where a single customs territory is combined with multiple fiscal territories: goods can move under transit from their point of entry into the EU to the point of their final destination. But also other countries, like the UK or Norway, benefit through the Common Transit Convention (CTC)

At this point transit has ended, the customs and local fiscal obligations are taken care of and the goods released for free circulation, or placed under another suspensive customs procedure.

A suspensive procedure can also be ended by placing third country goods under transit, for example re-export from one customs territory.

Status of goods: T1 or T2

There are two categories of common transit procedure, T1 and T2.

These reflect the different status of the goods being moved.

  • T1 (external transit procedure) – this covers the movement of non-EU goods, suspending the measures normally applicable to them on import. All UK goods are, for example, under T1 procedures. T1 suspends import duties, other charges and trade policy measures until the goods reach their destination.

  • T2 (internal transit procedure) – this covers the movement of European Union goods, suspending the measures normally applicable to them on import to a common transit country. The internal Union transit procedure (T2) applies to Union goods moved from one point to another within the customs territory of the Union, which pass through a country or territory outside that territory without any change in their customs status. The T2 procedure also applies to goods moved from the Union to a common transit country, where it follows the export procedure. T2 is not used when the goods are carried entirely by sea or by air.

The customs status of goods is essentially the factor that determines whether goods in transit move under a T1 or T2 transit declaration.

In certain circumstances, proof of the customs status of Union goods has to be produced.

Common Transit Convention

The legal basis for the common transit procedure is the Convention on a common transit procedure of 20 May 1987. The common transit countries

  • EU Member States

  • Switzerland, Norway, and Iceland (the three EFTA countries) - Liechtenstein, which has a customs union with Switzerland)

  • Turkey

  • Republic of North Macedonia

  • Serbia

  • United Kingdom.

How transit works

The common transit procedure lets goods move from the customs office of departure to the customs office of destination without having to pay customs and excise duties, VAT, or other fees.

The process is handled by the customs administrations of the different partners through a network of customs offices:

  1. customs offices of departure,

  2. customs offices of transit,

  3. customs offices of destination,

  4. and customs offices of guarantee.

Common transit rules say that the process starts at the customs office of departure and ends when the goods and the TAD are shown at the customs office of destination.

The procedure involves a message exchange between the customs office of the destination and the customs office of the departure. These messages are sent through the NCTS computer system.

New computerised transit system (NCTS)

The NCTS is a common EU IT tool for managing and controlling the transit system.

Its main objectives are to make transit procedures quicker, more efficient, effective and secure, while preventing and detecting fraud. Generally, the NCTS is mandatory for Union (both external and internal) and common transit procedures.

Main messages you need to know about in NCTS

It is useful to mention the main items and messages in the NCTS operation.

  • Transit declaration – electronic form (sent as message IE015 ‘Declaration Data’).

  • Master reference number (MRN) – a unique registration number given by the system to the declaration, to identify the movement.

  • Transit accompanying document (TAD) – accompanies the goods from the customs office of departure to the customs office of destination.

  • ‘Anticipated arrival record’ (message (IE001) – sent by the customs office of departure to the customs office of destination indicated in the declaration.

  • ‘Anticipated transit record’ (message IE050) – sent by the customs office of departure to the declared customs office(s) of transit, to notify the anticipated border passage of the goods.

  • ‘Notification of crossing frontier’ (message IE118) – sent by the actual customs office of transit used, after it has checked the goods.

  • ‘Arrival advice’ (message IE006) – sent by the actual customs office of destination to the customs office of departure, when

If NCTS fails

In the business continuity procedure, the customs office of the final destination sends one paper copy of the transit declaration (SAD or TAD) back to the customs office of departure (or to a central office in the country of departure).

When the customs office of departure gets confirmation through the NCTS or a paper copy of the transit declaration, the transit procedure and the liability of the holder of the transit procedure are the same, unless there are major differences.

Holder of the procedure in common transit

When a business makes a transit declaration at the customs office of departure and asks for the goods to be put under the transit procedure, this starts the common transit procedure. This person is then called the "holder of the procedure" for common transit.

After the goods have been released for transit, this person has a certain amount of time to take the goods and the transit declaration to the customs office at the final destination. The goods must be in good condition and any seals must still be in place.


The person in charge of the process should put up a guarantee for any possible debt (if they have not been exempted by law or by authorisation). This can be a cash deposit or a promise from a bank that it will back the loan.

Transit simplifications

If the relevant customs authority has given permission, the common transit procedure may be made easier in some situations. The best way to use the NCTS is to use both of the simplified procedures. The fastest, most convenient, safest, and least expensive way to do business is for an operator to be able to do everything on their own property and share information electronically with customs.

For these simplified procedures to work, both the authorised consignor and the authorised consignee must have the right electronic systems to share information with the customs offices at the point of departure and the point of destination in the NCTS.

The NCTS lets authorised shippers do things like create the transit declaration in their own computer system, send the IE015 message to the customs office of departure without having to bring the goods there, and send and receive notifications that the declaration has been accepted, and the goods have been released. This is done by other messages from the departure customs office, such as requests to change the information on the declaration.

The NCTS lets an authorised consignee do the following: receive the goods and the TAD and LoI, if needed, at their own location; send the message "Arrival notification" (IE007) to the relevant customs office of destination; receive and send subsequent messages about permission to unload the goods and to report the results of that unloading.


Customs transit is a way to move goods from one place to another between two points in a customs territory that go through another customs territory; or between at least two different customs areas. By using the Customs Transit procedure, import duties, taxes, and commercial policy measures can be put on hold for a short time. So, it lets the paperwork for clearing customs happen at the point of destination instead of at the point of entry into the customs territory. To use transit correctly, the details need to be understood carefully.

How we can help

Please contact us to hear how we can help you set up the use of transit for your company.

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