How to Get Your Items Through Customs
Written by Martha Lott
16th Feb 2018 (Last updated on 30th Jul 2020) 7 minute read
When you're looking to move your life abroad, getting your belongings through customs can seem like a daunting and tiresome prospect. Luckily, Compare My Move are here to explain all you need to know about getting your items through customs.
Being prepared for your move abroad includes arranging for international removals and international removal insurance, but it also includes ensuring all items can pass through customs safely and without any issues. Getting this right can mean the difference between smooth sailing to your new home and a potential nightmare of paperwork, lost items and additional costs.
In this guide, Compare My Move walk you through the questions and considerations that need to be made in order to get the ball rolling to help get your items through customs.
What Documents are Needed to Clear Customs?
When moving belongings into another country, there are a range of documents that you may require. Many of the removal companies here on Compare My Move will assign you a Move Manager who will help you understand the process and walk you step-by-step through the document requirements for your specific move.
Regardless of destination, most moves will require a fully itemised list of the contents you are moving as well as a special form specific to the country you’re moving to, that needs to be filled out in order for them to be accepted. In many cases, all or some of these items will need to be accompanied by their invoice or receipt as proof of purchase.
It’s also likely that you’ll have had to have owned the items for a certain amount of time and will not be able to sell the items in your new home country for a set period. You may also be required to include owner identification, such as a valid copy of your passport, as well as a valid visa or work permit where applicable.
Other forms and documents beyond these depend widely on the country to which you’re moving. For example, in France, you will also need to include a receipt for any electrical items you’re moving as well as a Certificate of a Change of Residence. In Australia, you’ll need to fill out a B534 form to claim your belongings.
We cover more detailed requirements for some of the most popular destinations from the UK later in this guide.
Do You Have to be Present for Items to Pass Customs?
Again, the answer to this question depends widely on which country you’re moving to. Many countries will let you move your belongings unaccompanied, whereas some like to connect you to your freight by having you there to collect them or at least prove they are yours.
For example, in Australia your possessions will need to be labelled as ‘Unaccompanied Personal Effects’, which as the name suggests, can indeed be passed through customs unaccompanied and collected by a friend, family or even by the home removals company.
On the other hand, in Japan, you have to be in the country whilst your belongings are being processed, although you don’t actually have to be present at customs – your belongings also have to arrive within 6 months of your move to the country.
In the USA, you can designate a family member or friend to go and pick up your belongings from customs. However, they will need to have a letter written by you and addressed to the customs officer, giving them permission to do so as well as the usual documentation.
Custom Documents Required by Country
We understand that moving abroad brings many challenges. To help you with your research, we’ve included a table below to show the documents required for getting your items to the specified countries.
Moving Back to the UK
For those that have moved abroad and their visa has run out or those that have chosen to return to the UK, they will need to clear customs on the UK side if they want to move their belongings back over.
As of the 1st January 2017, the process for doing this has changed and all been collated under the new Transfer of Residence (ToR) form. This form is now completed online rather than in paper format like before. It’s also worth noting that you should submit this form to HMRC well before the planned date for your belongings to enter the UK. This is because HMRC have not committed to any turn-around time on these forms and could lead to long delays and potential costs if not approved before arrival.
One other major change to this process is that the form must be filled out by the individual moving the goods and cannot be completed by the shipping company on your behalf.
To complete the form, you will need:
- Email address and phone number
- Employer or educational establishment details
- Address of your new home in the UK
- Address of your most recent home outside of the UK
- Details on whether you have lived in the UK or EU in the past
- Details of any vehicles you are importing
- Details of any pets you are importing
- Details of any tax exemptions
- Date on which your goods will arrive in the UK
To support this form, you will also need to enclose:
- Valid copy of your Passport
- Valid copy of your Visa – if applicable
- Proof of registration
- 2 x itemised lists of the contents imported
- Proof of guarantee, invoices, receipts etc for the goods you wish to import
- Copies of any documents that prove you are going to live in the UK – for example, contract of employment, work permit, rental agreement etc.
If you bought goods outside of the EU, you may have to pay customs duty on your return. The duty is relative to the price of the goods and breaks down as follows:
|Less Than £135||0|
|Gifts between £135 to £630||2.5%|
|Gifts above £630 and certain items above £135||Rate Varies|
For more information you can contact HMRC.
Depending on what occurs during the Brexit deadline this year, this is very likely to change or be updated. However, until the new laws are decided and come into effect, this should be the correct process you have to go through to get your items through customs.
Compare My Move Abroad
We hope you're now well informed on the ins and outs of getting your belongings through customs. If you're looking to arrange a move abroad, use Compare My Move to get connected with up to 6 professional removal companies so you can save money when it matters most. Just fill in a quick, simple form and start saving both time and money on your international removals.