Ultimate Guide on How to Import from China to UK

China, as one of the world’s biggest economies, China is the largest exporter around the world, and is UK’s third largest import partner. For people who doing importing business, importing products from China can bring them more profit as its products are high in quality but cheap on prices.

However, comparing to importing to other countries, the UK has higher and stricter requirements on imported products. Thus, if you are going to importing from China to UK, here is a list of things you need to pay attention to. With explicit knowledge of its limitations, regulations, and requirements, you are a big step away from trouble and loss.

Part 1: What Products to Import to UK

Step 1: Choose A Product

Before starting your importing business from China to UK, the very first step is to have a clear goal of the product you are dealing with. There are quite a several manufacturing and processing industries in UK. That is to say, the UK itself can produce most commodities and even export, which means the products you are importing from China should avoid such products. Here we have a list of products you can start with just for your reference.

  • Computer and electrical items
  • Furniture and household items
  • Clothing, footwear and accessories
  • Office machines and electrical machinery
  • Toys

Step 2: Check Licenses and Products Limitations

After choosing the products you want to import, another essential thing is to check if this product is allowed or whether you need to get a license, especially if your products fall under the ban or surveillance categories.

There three major restrictions: Ban, Quotas, and Surveillance.

Ban: Products under this category should not be imported at all.

Quota: Products under this category can be imported within restricted volume.

Surveillance: Products under this category need a license to import but free in amount.

One way to check if your products are allowed or if you will need a license, contact the import agent or Department for International Trade in UK. Here are some items that are currently prohibited from being importing from China.

  • Animal skins or furs
  • Antiques
  • Asbestos
  • Dangerous goods, hazardous or combustible materials
  • Firearms, or parts of items that could be used as weapons
  • Ivory
  • Jewelry
  • Military equipment
  • Perishable goods
  • Torture equipment

Part 2: Documents Needed to Import to UK

Documentation plays an important role in both importing and exporting. It is what you need for custom declaration. Generally, the UK customs department would require the following documents.

Commercial Invoice

Commercial invoice verifies the sale, gives a description of the products, and reflects the price of the consignment. The customs valuation is basically depend on it. The customs would check if the rates charged in the commercial invoice is corresponding or not.

Packing List

With a packing list, the customs would have an overview of the dimension, shipping marks gross as well as the net weight of each parcel. It also gives the number of units in each parcel.

Certificate of Origin

Basically, all importing goods need to come with a certificate of origin so as to classify the cargo under a specific schedule.

Bill of Lading

Bill of lading refers to a negotiable multi-modal transport document that the shipping line issues. It have three prime functions:

  • It provides a conclusive receipt acknowledging the loading of goods.
  • It portrays evidence showing the terms and conditions as well as the contract between the importer and carrier.
  • It is a document of title to the goods of course subject to the Nemodat rule.
Commodity Code

Legally, all imported products required a commodity code. Commodity codes are needed to classify your products so that you can complete declaration and other paperwork, find out whether there is any duty or VAT to pay and check if there are any duty reliefs. To look up commodity codes, you can use the UK Government Trade Tariff.

Note that if you are using wrong commodity codes, this can lead to fines or your products could be seized or delayed. If you are not sure about this code for your products, you can email to HMRC for advise.


Another important aspect is that the UK uses Customs Handling of Import and Export Freight (CHIEF) to handle all its imports. In the CHIEF system, importers, exporters or freight forwarders can:

  • Input customs information electronically
  • Calculate payable duties and taxes
  • Check for errors automatically

If you got a third party to take care of all your importing processes, they would handle all these for you. If you are handling all the processes, make sure you register with CHIEF to declare your goods.

EORI Number

EORI number refers to the Electronic Operator Registration and Identification Number. Customs declaration and customs clearance required an EORI number. When using the CHIEF system, you have to provide the EORI number for a commercial invoice. And if you are work with a freight forwarder, they will need this EORI number as well.

CR Number & POA

A CR number is short for Customs Registration number, which verifies if you are a legal importer hence authorized to carry out such business. The CR number is detailed on your commercial invoice for customs clearance.

And a POA is short for Power of Attorney, which is a letter of authority given by you to the freight forwarder to clear the shipment through customs on your behalf.

Labeling Requirements

The label you use must contain details of the receiver and sender, and some certificate marks such as CE marking for all products, WEEE marking for all the electronics. Before shipping your products to UK, double check on your labels. Here are some marking requirement on your labels:

  • EN 71: Toy Safety Directive: This mark is needed for toys and other children’s products. It regulates physical and mechanical properties, flammability, heavy metals and chemicals.
  • Low Voltage Directive (LVD): This mark is needed for electronics and electrical components that have an input or output of 50 to 1000 volts AC and 75 to 1500 volts DC. Products including home appliances, cables, sockets outlets, chargers with an exception of battery-powered devices and etc should be labeled with LVD.
  • Machinery Directive (MD): This is applicable to machinery as well as interchangeable parts and equipment excluding motor vehicles and a wide range of consumer electronic appliances.
  • RoHS 2 (Restrictions of Hazardous Substances): Electronics for restricting the amount of certain substances, such as mercury and lead.
  • Radio Equipment Directive (RED): For telecommunication and radio equipment such as Bluetooth and WiFi receivers and transmitters, radio, wifi routers and some smart phones and android tablets required RED.
  • Electromagnetic Compatibility (EMC): This is only applicable to fixed electronic appliances like LED displays, which make sure that electrical equipment do no interfere with other signals and electronics.

Part 3: Pay the VAT and Any  Duty Required

When importing from China, you will need to pay VAT on top of the total sum of the Customs Value and the Import Duty. Custom Value means the total cost of the products, including import duty fee, any development cost you’ve paid to your supplier and the shipping cost to UK as well.

Note that you must pay any VAT that is due. If you are VAT registered, after you pay your VAT, you can claim it back through your standard VAT return.

Part 4: How to Ship to UK

When it comes to shipping, you would probably think of three main ways of transport: air freight, sea freight and express. However, if you are importing from China UK, there’s another efficient transport—-the China Railway Express. There is a line called Yiwu-London Line, which crisscrosses several countries and major cities in Europe and finally gets to London. Railway would approximately take 18 days of shipping.

Here we list the advantages and disadvantages of these transportation in the following table.

Air Freight1. Fast in speed
2. Suitable for a small number of goods
1. Quite expensive
2. Can’t afford large quantity of products
Sea Freight1. Able to ship a large quantity of goods
2. Relatively low in cost
1. Need a long period of time for delivery
Express1. Fast in speed
2. Some can deliver to your front door
1. A bit expensive on cost
2. Only able to ship a small number of goods
China Railway Express1. Balanced in speed and cost/

Coming to the end of this article, hope it help you with your importing business from China to UK. Do leave a comment to let us know if we have further to improve. Thanks for your support.

UKJ-China freight train
UKJ-China freight train

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