When compared to other countries, the UK features a myriad of strict requirements for products. Therefore, if you’re thinking about importing from China to the UK, it is best that you have clear knowledge about importing limits product, regulations, and labeling requirements among others.

Even though it is highly advisable that you look for a professional freight forwarder, as a potential importer, if you know basic common senses then getting a reliable freight forwarder won’t be a hustle. This is because you will have the ability to filter out the ones you want to cooperate with.

Additionally, if you know the time spent and range of costs in the process of importation then you will be able to have a rough estimate of the cost of the product you’re importing as well as import cycle. But first things first.

What to prepare before importing

If done well, importing from China to UK can help you reduce costs, improve the range of goods and services that you offer your clients and reduce costs thus giving your business a real competitive edge. However, there are things you need to prepare for before you start to import from China. 

Ensure that you have an Economic Operator Registration Identification (EORI) Number

UK customs uses an EORI number as a means of record keeping for both imported and exported goods. When importing commercial cargo from China, all businesses within the EU are required to have an EORI. This is needed for a commercial invoice if you’re using the Chief system and you have to submit an electronic export declaration. An EORI number is also needed if you’re using freight or courier forwarder. Applying for an EORI number is easy, you can apply it online and will take you approximately three days to receive.

Check if you need a licence and that your goods aren’t banned from importing to the UK

Before you try to import your goods from China, ensure that you obtain a licence especially if they fall under the surveillance control category. If you want to find out if you need a licence and how to get one, visit the Department for International Trade.

There are also goods that are subject to import controls. Therefore, it is essential to check if any of the import controls apply to the goods you need to ship. At present, these are the three types of controls:

Surveillance – ensures that the importation is monitored using licenses.
Bans – This is where no import is allowed.
Quotas – This is where there is a restriction in the volume of goods.

Use the right commodity code for the goods you’re importing

To find the correct commodity code for the products you need imported from China, go to the UK Government Trade Tariff. Here you can look up commodity codes as well as rates for VAT and duty. Commodity codes are vital in classifying your imported goods so that you can,

  • Check to see if there are any duty reliefs
  • Complete declarations as well as other paperwork
  • Find out if you have to pay for any VAT or duty fees

Declare your goods by registering with the CHIEF system

Freight forwarders, importer and exporters use the Customs Handling of Import and Export Freight (CHIEF) system to electronically input customs data, automatically check for errors and calculate payable taxes and duties. The CHIEF system also identifies which of your consignments need documentation or examination of goods thus allowing for a faster entry for low-risk goods.

If you have hired the services of a freight forwarder and they are handling all your shipment woes for you then this should be covered. However, if you’re managing shipping by yourself ensure that you have registered with CHIEF to declare your imported goods.

Pay the required VAT fee

If you’re importing from China to the UK, you’re required to pay VAT together with the total sum of Import Duty and Customs Value. In this case, customs value equals the total cost of the imported products including any import duty fee, developmental costs that you pay to your supplier and shipping from China to the UK cost.

Make sure that you pay any pending VAT fee that is due. Remember that you must pay VAT if you are VAT registered. However, you can claim it back through your standard VAT return.

Ensure that you include full details on all the invoices and labels

Details of the receiver and sender should be contained in all the invoices and labels you use. Other details include the quantity of goods and their value, complete description of the contents being imported and the commodity codes. Make sure that your invoice is typed and avoid making manual changes.

Get a Customs Registration (CR) number and Power of Attorney (POA)

When importing from China to the UK, you’re required to have CR number as well as POA for goods that are non-documented regardless of their value apart from personal effects. Both exporters and importers in China are required to register with customs authorities. This is for the purpose of getting an exporter or importer CR Number which must be detailed on the commercial invoice for clearing customs.

The advantage of using a freight forwarder is that he will advise you on all the aforementioned thus making shipping from China to UK hassle-free and simple. Therefore, it is advisable that you get a good and reliable freight forward company which you can always consult about the custom limits of imported goods.

What to do after confirming the product you want to import

After identifying product import duties to avoid losses, the next step is getting to know common import charges from China to the UK. This will help you to estimate just how much costs you’re going to incur. A good number of businesses use couriers or freight forwarders to import goods from China. If you need advice about VAT and import duties you might want to consider hiring a professional such as a customs broker.

The third step is finding a manufacturer from China. This is quite simple because they can easily be found through Chinese business websitesmarkets and fairs. Therefore, if you’re just starting up with a small order and you don’t want to go all the way to China, you can find online suppliers first. Some of them include Alibaba, Aliexpress, DHgate, Global Source, Made in China.

However, if you have experience in importing goods from China to the UK and you want to dig deeper into a certain product category, it is advisable that you go to China and visit a large-scale comprehensive exhibition or a wholesale market to find a cooperative supplier.

Labeling requirements

Essentially, the CE mark is a label that shows an item is compliant with all the applicable directives from the CE or EN. Products that are not regulated by these directives shall not be marked with the CE label. This mark is to be affixed to the product unit as well as its user instructions and packaging and should be done by the Chinese supplier.

However, keep in mind that your supplier may not always be aware of the specific labeling requirements applicable to the product being imported. Therefore it is essential that you offer your supplier with affixing position, dimensions and graphical files on the product. Below are some of the EU directives for which CE marking is a requirement:

EN 71: Toy safety directive – This not only regulates toys but also other children’s products. It used to regulate physical and mechanical properties, flammability, heavy metals and chemicals. EN 71 is an umbrella standard that can be divided into 13 different ones. It also stipulates the requirements for graphical symbols such as age warnings.

Low voltage directive (LVD) – This applies to electronics and electrical components that have an input or output of 50 to 1000 volts AC and 75 to 1500 volts DC. Because of this, the LVD requirement covers a myriad of products including home appliances, cables, sockets outlets and chargers with an exception of battery-powered devices.

European echo-design directive – applicable to domestic electrical appliances, and light bulbs as well as non-electrical products such as insulation materials, this was put in place to decrease the emission of greenhouse gases.

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 – This restricts the amounts of certain substances in electronics such as mercury and lead. Even though they’re a few exceptions this labeling requirement is compulsory for all electrical items with a CE mark.

Radio equipment directive (RED) – This is used to regulate telecommunication and radio equipment such as Bluetooth and WiFi receivers and transmitters, radio, wifi routers and some smartphones and android tablets.

Electromagnetic compatibility (EMC) – This directive whose aim is to make sure that electrical equipment do not interfere with other signals and electronics, is only applicable to fixed electronic appliances like LED displays.

Shipping from China to UK

When it comes to shipping products from China to the UK you can choose from air freight, sea freight, rail freight or ocean freight depending on your shipping needs.

Importing tax(duty)from China to UK

Import duty as well as import tax from China to UK affects the cost of imports. All importers are required to pay UK duty + VAT unless the goods are eligible for duty free. For instance, if you pay your supplier £4000 for your goods, £600 for the shipping quote and the UK duty rating is 3.5% then the duty fee will be 3.5% of 4000 which is £140.

The VAT will be 20% of {the UK duty fee (£140) + shipping (£600) + the cost of the goods (£4000)}

This will be 20 of £4740 = £948

The total shipping from China to UK cost will be Total Cost (£4000) + UK Duty (£140) + VAT (£948) = £5088.

Cost for shipping from China to UK

China is located approximately 7, 775 kilometers away from the UK, but this distance might take longer when the route is defined by water bodies. The fastest way for your cargo to reach the UK from China is through air freight. However, this is also restricted by several factors including size of cargo, cost effectiveness, nature of consignment and agency of the cargo. Before deciding which of these two is the best method of shipment for you, keep in mind that weight is an important factor to consider. Airfreight from China to UK is normally 4 to 6 times more expensive than sea freight which is very slow and takes longer.

Carrier services from China to the UK

Known to provide bulk services for every process involving importation, carrier services ensure that your product is delivered to your doorstep. DHL China to the UK is among the most trusted carrier companies together FedEx, TNT and UPS.

Door to door shipping from China to the UK

Even though this is an effective way of importing from China to the UK door to door, shipping might take a huge amount of time. However, the freight forwarder involved in the process will handle everything for you.

It is safe to say that importing from China to the UK is quite simple and straightforward. With the help of this guide, you should be able to understand the basics of importing from China to the UK, the rules and regulations, evaluating costs and choosing the right mode of transport for you. Also, remember that hiring a professional freight forwarder is a smart thing to do.

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