Import Customs Clearance Process: All You Need to Know in 2024

All the imported items must pass customs before their delivery to the customers, which is referred to as import customs clearance. By verifying that the products are compliant with the trading regulations, this procedure prevents shipment delays. This meticulous process guarantees compliance with trade laws and specifications, preventing possible shipment delivery delays.

Analysis indicates that “global merchandise trade volume is expected to grow at an anticipated 1.7% rate in 2023 and at an accelerated 3.2% rate in 2024.”


Understanding import customs clearance

It is a process of ensuring that the imported products adhere to national laws. It confirms that taxes and customs are paid, that the shipment complies with safety regulations, and that national security issues are addressed. Consider it an obligatory border crossing for freight from other countries.

This procedure confirms adherence to national laws in several ways:

  • Duty and tax collection: Customs makes sure that the value of the shipment is used to determine and pay the necessary import charges and taxes. The government receives income from this.

  • Safety and standards: Imported items are assessed to make sure they abide by environmental and safety laws. This safeguards citizens and the environment.

  • Restricted items: By limiting the entry of forbidden goods into the nation, customs clearance protects public health and national security.

  • Verification of documentation: Careful examination of import documentation assures accuracy and promotes quick processing.

How long does import customs clearance take in 2024?

Import customs clearance usually takes 1-2 days; however, the procedure might vary greatly based on a number of factors.

  • Shipment complexity: Simple and accurate shipments proceed more quickly than those that are complicated and need more inspections.
  • Document accuracy: One of the main reasons for delays is incomplete or erroneous documentation.
  • Customs workload: High traffic, busy ports may have backlogs.
  • Government inspections: Arranged visits may take an additional few days.

What is the estimated cost of import customs clearance fees in 2024?

A single estimate of import customs clearance costs is difficult since they depend on a number of variables. Important factors are:

  • Goods value: Duty payments are sometimes greater when goods have a higher value.
  • Commodity type: Duty rates and exemptions differ for different items.
  • Trade agreements: Current agreements may lower or do away with tariffs.
  • Customs broker costs: Their costs are determined by the intricacy of the shipment and the quality of service.
  • Port fees: There can be extra processing or facility fees at some ports.

Government agencies involved in customs clearance

Government agencies involved in customs clearance

The following Government agencies manage customs clearance in the UK:

HM Revenue & Customs: They control the majority of the procedures related to customs clearance.
  • Paperwork and charges: On imported products, HMRC evaluates and collects customs charges and import VAT. They also manage the processing of electronically filed customs declarations.
  • Risk management: To choose which shipments are subject to possible physical inspections, HMRC use a risk-based methodology.
  • Clearance decisions: HMRC makes the decision to release the goods from customs control after determining that all conditions have been satisfied.
Border Force: The Home Office’s law enforcement division is dedicated to border protection. Their responsibilities in clearing customs include:
  • Physical inspections: Border Force agents may physically inspect products to confirm their contents and ensure they comply with safety, security, and forbidden item requirements.
  • Overlap between immigration and customs: When people bring in personal items, there may be instances where their immigration inspections and customs clearance processes conflict.

Procedure for import customs clearance

While the customs clearing process may seem frustrating, importing products can be joyful. The following stages are involved in this procedure:

Preparation (Before shipment)

Product sorting: Determine the Harmonised System code that corresponds to your products. Different product categories are given distinct codes under this worldwide categorisation system, which is essential for figuring out duty rates and any applicable rules.


The next step is to gather customs clearance documents.

  • Invoices: The commercial invoice usually consists of:
    • The items
    • Value
    • Origin
  • Bills of lading: It include transportation agreements and cargo information.
  • Packing list: A detailed list including description and numbers of every item included in the shipment.
  • Certificate of origin: This document identifies the country in which this shipment is made.
  • Extra certificates or licences: Some things (like food items) may need extra certificates in order to be imported.

Procedure for Clearing Customs Upon Arrival:

  • Customs entry filing: Send an electronic customs declaration to the customs authorities together with the necessary paperwork.
  • Duty and tax assessment: Using the reported value and the HS code, customs officials determine what import duties and taxes are relevant.
  • Possible inspection: In order to confirm the contents and guarantee compliance with rules, Customs may choose to physically inspect your package.
  • Fee payment: After everything is in order, pay any applicable taxes, duties, and other costs (such as broker or port fees).
  • Clearance granted: Your products can be released for delivery inside the importing nation once all procedures have been successfully completed and approved by the customs authorities.

Challenges faced by importers and solutions

Challenges faced by importers and solutions

Customs duties and tariffs


Import customs clearance includes payment of duties, tariffs, and taxes, which can sometimes be overwhelming for importers, as the rules associated with them greatly vary across countries and types of products. This daunting process requires conducting extensive market research; otherwise, the importers may end up facing hefty fines and shipment delays.


To ensure the correct calculation of value-added tax and customs duty, iCustoms has developed an AI-powered tool, iCalculator. It helps importers streamline the procedure of figuring out taxes and paying the exact amount in a shorter time. Our calculator integrates with CRM, ERP, and other tools to easily perform speedy calculations.



Imports customs clearance entails a lot of complex documentation, such as:

  • Commercial invoices
  • Packing lists
  • Certificate of origins
  • Bills of lading
  • Licenses and permits
  • Insurance certificates
  • Import declarations

Collecting and filling out these documents accurately requires intimate attention and lots of time. In case of any wrong or missed document, the customs authorities can take serious actions on the basis of acting regulations and laws.


iCustoms’ IDP solution takes away all the hassle of manual documentation, enhancing data extraction quality and increasing accuracy. Our IDP software uses cutting-edge technology to automate document processing, greatly minimising manual labour and guaranteeing greater data extraction accuracy for a more seamless experience.

Import limitations

Some products cannot move freely across borders because of import limitations in place to protect the environment, national security, public health, and domestic industry.

These limitations are based on:

  • Type of product: Certain food products, weapons, and hazardous materials may be forbidden or require specific licences.
  • Origin: Due to safety concerns, certain countries may impose import restrictions on specific countries.

How to avoid unexpected consequences:

  • Do your research early: Learn about the import laws in the country of destination before completing your import. For researching customs authority is the best website to start with.
  • Speak with a customs broker: If permits are needed, a qualified customs broker can guide you through the procedure and provide precise limits.
  • Harmonised code classification: Knowing your product’s HS code is important since it frequently indicates the limits that apply.


What does it mean when your parcel has cleared the import customs?

“Customs cleared” or “Customs clearance completed” means your products have gone through the customs clearance process successfully, and all the applicable taxes and duties are paid.

How to do customs clearance in the UK?

Here are the simple steps to follow:

  • Obtain an EORI number; this is crucial for companies.
  • Sort your products by category (HS code for taxes & limitations).
  • Get the documentation ready, including packing lists and invoices.
  • Send in an electronic declaration to the Customs Authority, HMRC.
  • Pay all relevant taxes and levies.
  • Be ready for any possible examinations.
  • Get your products cleared and delivered!
What documents are required for import customs clearance?

The following documents are required for import customs clearance:

  • Commercial invoices
  • Bill of lading
  • Packing list
  • Certificate of origin
  • Import license
How long does the import customs clearance process take?

On average, the import customs clearance usually takes around 24 hours; however, it may increase in case of incorrect and missed information.

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