From EORI numbers to EFTA, there are a few terms you need to be aware of when shipping within the EU. Find out what they mean and what else you need to check before shipping.
The European Union is a political and economic union of 27 member states, consisting of countries based in Europe. It’s a single market based on four freedoms – people, goods, services and capital. And all four can move freely between all member states.
This means goods can be transported between member states without the need for customs control and payment of duties and taxes. So goods from an EU country can be shipped to another EU country in free circulation without a commercial invoice.
However, while movement within the EU may be free of customs regulations – export controls, export licences, restrictions and dangerous goods rules may still apply to goods going in and out of your country.
The 27 member countries of the European Union are Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain and Sweden.
All businesses based in the EU that trade internationally must be registered with their national authority and have an EORI number. Businesses in non-EU countries also need an EORI number if they will be making customs declarations for shipments to EU countries.
‘EORI number’ is short for ‘Economic Operators Registration and Identification Number’ and is a system of unique identification numbers used by customs authorities throughout the European Union.
Shippers based inside the EU can request an EORI number from the customs authority in their own country. Shippers based outside the EU can request it from the customs authority in the EU country where they first lodge a customs declaration. Remember to apply in advance as it can take up to a week or more in some places.
Within Europe there are overseas and special territories such as Guadeloupe and the Canary Islands. These territories often have direct association and agreements with the EU, which means that while they form part of the EU, they may require a customs declaration to move goods in and out of their country, and duties and taxes may have to be paid.
For more information about the specific customs regulations of the EU's overseas and special territories, check the government website of the relevant territory. You can also ask the receiver or your chosen carrier.
It’s important to note that while Norway, Switzerland, Iceland and Liechtenstein are a part of Europe, they’re not in the EU. But they have a trade agreement with the EU as another customs union called EFTA, the European Free Trade Association. This means you need to declare your goods at customs, as well as provide a commercial invoice and other necessary documents. Find out more about this topic on the EFTA website.
The United Kingdom withdrew from the European Union on January 31st, 2020. After that, a transition period applies until December 31st, 2020, during which all EU rules and regulations continue to apply to the UK. Unless the UK and EU both agree to extend this period, new shipping requirements between them will come into effect on January 1st, 2021. Shippers need to be more aware of factors such as EORI numbers, additional paperwork, duties and taxes, and correct valuation of goods. See the Brexit shipping guide to learn more.
When shipping to Europe from other continents the requirements depend on the type of goods and their value.
Personal shipments of low-value items usually only need a commercial invoice to clear customs in the destination EU country, including an accurate goods description and correct goods value.
Commercial shipments or regulated goods may need extra documentation to comply with EU shipping regulations. Some things to keep in mind are:
Shipping requirements and documentation may vary between carriers. This website is designed to provide general information related to shipping. If you’re unsure of the shipping requirements that apply to you, check with your carrier. Make sure to check the rules and regulations of the country you’re shipping from and to prior to shipping. You can find this information on government websites.