Import Procedures

Stages of Import

There are six stages in the import process by sea or air;

  • the advance provision of information;
  • the report of the arrival of means of transport;
  • the presentation of the goods;
  • the declaration of the goods;
  • the examination of the goods;
  • the release of the goods;

Entry Declaration and Presentation

Ships and aircraft arriving in the EU must give details of their arrival. An entry summary declaration is submitted to the customs authority (the customs branch of the Revenue) at the port or airport of arrival. Vessels arriving in an Irish port from an EU port must also report their arrival.

Both regular and non-regular vessel arrivals from other EU states must present a cargo manifest.  A ship’s report comprises a declaration and manifest including declarations in relation to store, crews and passenger list.

Similarly, an aircraft arriving from a non-EU country must present copies of the cargo manifest. A report is also required in relation to flights from the EU.

Advance Notice

The advance notification by ships and aeroplanes is undertaken by submission of an entry summary declaration to the customs at the first port or airport of entry. The Entry Summary Declaration (ENS) is lodged at the first point of entry into the EU, before the arrival of goods or unloading of container cargo in deep-sea traffic. The EMS must be lodged electronically and contain specified information.

The Irish customs are responsible for the safety and security arrangements involving the ENS declaration where goods arrive from outside the EU. The ENS is lodged with the import control section of customs. The contents of the ENS is specified by law.

Certain goods are exempted from ENS including

  • letters, postcards;
  • goods in travellers’ personal baggage and luggage;
  • goods declared by going through the red/green channel in an airport;
  • goods in respect of which an oral declaration is permitted;
  • goods covered by an ATA or CPD carnet;
  • goods on regular shipping services, duly certified carries between EU Ports;
  • goods whose intrinsic value does not exceed €22

An ENS is not required in respect in respect of importations from certain countries with which there is a direct agreement such as Switzerland and Norway and Liechtenstein.

Authorised economic operators and certain others holding equivalent certificates may lodge an ENS with reduced data.

Cargo Manifest

The cargo manifest is required in respect of all ships and aircraft, apart from passenger aircraft only. It must list all cargo on the ship or aircraft. The cargo manifest may comprise a list of goods in the bills of lading and / or the air waybills.  The contents of the cargo manifest are set by law and includes details of the

  • vessel,
  • place and time of loading,
  • references to the bills of lading,
  • number, descriptions, marks and reference numbers of packages,
  • normal trade description of goods,
  • gross weight and
  • identification numbers were applicable

Similar information is required in respect of an EU arrival with certain modifications. The principal purpose is to ensure the Community (EU) status of the goods or the applicability of the relevant transit arrangements within the EU.

Even where Community goods only are carried, the manifest will be required to determine whether prohibited or restricted goods have arrived.  Vessels from within the EU which are authorised regular shipping services need not report.

In the case of an authorised operator using regular shipping services, it is presumed that the goods are Community goods or are moving under a transit procedure.

The Ship’s Report

The ship’s report must show particulars of all cargo. Passengers’ bags need not be included. A general description of the goods concerned is sufficient for the report. Goods remaining on board for further export to the EU need not be broken down in the same detail.

The ship may be boarded, or local arrangements may be made. Where the ship is boarded, an examination may be made on the basis of risk analysis.

A certificate of pratique (health clearance) issued in the previous port must be produced in the case of ships arriving from outside the EU.

The reports must contain other details, which are not relevant to customs and importing

Goods declared to customs which are subject to excise are declared on the AEP system.

There are exemptions and limitations on the obligation to report. Fishing boats arriving from outside the EU must generally report. Yachts arriving from outside the EU, third-party goods or restricted goods must report. Ships remaining in port for less than 24 hours need not report if only calling for fuel or taking on board provisions. Arrangements may be made for facilities for visits by cruise liner. State ships need not report

Arrival by Air

Generally, aircraft arriving in Ireland must land a customs airport or the Shannon Customs Free Zone. Freight offloaded must be transported to the approved customs facility at the customs airport. Customs formalities in relation to cargo, stores and passengers must be completed. Freight remaining in transit must be accounted for.

Aircraft departing to a destination outside the EU must not, other than as permitted by Revenue, depart other than from a customs airport. If the aircraft is departing for such a destination with goods on board. Revenue may make give instructions and take steps to detain the aircraft as they require. The customs have the power to board and inspect aircraft

The three major customs airports are Cork, Dublin and Shannon. Each has a defined customs area for the deposit and examination of goods on unloading. There are more limited customs facilities in other airports and licensed aerodromes.

An account of all aircraft engaged in traffic from outside the EU must be available at customs airports. This may be undertaken by handling agents. Pilots of aircraft arriving from non-EU countries engaging in third country traffic must arrange to bring the aircraft to the examination station on landing.

EU Flights

No reports are required from aircrafts from other EU states carrying only community goods. The cargo manifest is required for national prohibition and restriction control purposes and for confirmation that non-Community goods are not being carried. A report must be made where there are mixed Community and non-Community goods. The cargo manifest will suffice.

Normal customs controls do not apply in respect of flights within the EU, unless

  • third country goods are carried
  • stores are carried on board
  • non-EU passengers who have not been cleared are on board
  • goods on board are being exported to a third country
  • customs intervention is necessary in connection with the enforcement of prohibition of restrictions on importation or exportation.


Separate from the obligations of the shipper and airline, a person importing goods or the person responsible for their carriage must present the goods to customs. Presentation requires that Revenue is notified that the goods have arrived. Goods must be presented within three hours of their arrival at the place of unloading. If the Revenue offices are unopen, it must be presented within an hour of re-opening.

Declarations may be made when the goods are presented, or within a short time afterwards. The importer or his representative make the declaration. The declaration may be made through the automated entry processing system (AEP). Goods are released once duties have been paid, accounted for or secured

Once declared they may go through one of a number of routes, one of which involves no examination of goods or documents, one which involves examination of documents and one which requires a physical examination of the goods and their documents. The route chosen depends on the profile of the goods. The higher the risk profile, the more likely a fuller examination will be required.

Import by Land / Northern Ireland

There are no general formalities required in relation to goods crossing the border with Northern Ireland. Non-Community (EU) goods will already be controlled or cleared under the appropriate the customs procedure. In some cases, those goods must be brought to the appropriate customs office under the relevant procedure.

There may be some controls in relation to the transit of goods which are prohibited or restricted under the law in the Republic of Ireland or Northern Ireland, as the case may be.

Place of Import

Goods may be imported or landed only at a place approved by the customs. They may include wharves, quays, transit sheds, recognised unapproved places, custom airports and postal depots.

A transit shed is a secured building, where goods are stored pending presentation and declaration. They must be approved and authorised by Revenue. The same applies to compounds and transit depots. Operators of such facilities must enter a bond or cover note to secure duties payable.

Recognised unapproved places are exceptionally permitted. Advance permission is required. There must be a good reason.

Revenue approves licensed areas within the airport for the loading and unloading of goods and passengers.

Customs Declaration Required

A customs declaration (SAD) is required for goods

  • with a declared value of more than €650;
  • subject to inward processing or processing under customs control;
  • destined for end-use or customs warehousing;
  • tobacco products from outside the EU;
  • metals subject to assay.

Goods valued below €650 may be assessed by reference of the declaration submitted, by inspection, if necessary. The amount of customs duty, levies, CAP charges and VAT declared on the label affixed to the package are collected by the postal authority on delivery

Low-Value Exemptions

Customs duty and VAT are not payable on consignments of a value less than a €45 girl as a gift from outside the EU. Revenue have criteria in relation to exemption of duties on goods and items of negligible value They must be for private or family use

Consignment of less than €50 of goods other than excisable goods, perfumes and alcoholic products, may be imported without duty

VAT is not charged on the postal importation of goods by VAT-registered persons for the purpose in his business to the value of €260 or less. The importer’s VAT number must be quoted on the customs declaration.

Revenue has the discretion to waive small amounts of duty and VAT where the respective amounts are less than €10 and €6.

Detention and Seizure

Goods may be detained in the following circumstances

  • where a SAD is required;
  • where further information is required for assessment;
  • where import licences are required;
  • where a safety data sheet is required for chemicals or hazardous materials;
  • where fraud is suspected.

Goods may be seized if they are

  • undeclared or incorrectly declared;
  • contraband imported in breach of licence.

Indecent or obscene material publications or DVD may be seized where child pornography is suspected.  The relevant activities must be reported

Drugs and firearms seizures must be reported to An Garda Siochana

Where goods are seized, notice must be given to the addressee. If goods are destroyed, a certificate of destruction is given.

Goods containing contraband may be detained, and their contents may be seized. Dispatches to the state warehouse may be reported to the Customs enforcement authority


References and Sources

Text Books

Customs Law of the European Union 4th ed 2012 M Fabio

EC Customs Law (Oxford European Community Law Library) 2nd Edition 2008 Timothy Lyons

Customs Code of the European Union Hardcover (1996) Tom Walsh  Damian McCarthy

European Union Customs Code 2015 Tom Walsh

EU Legislation

The Union Customs Code  Regulation (EU) No 952/2013 of the European Parliament and of the Council.

amended by Regulation 2016/2339

The UCC Delegated Act Commission Delegated Regulation No 2015/2446.

The UCC Implementing Act Commission Implementing Regulation No 2015/2447.

The UCC Transitional Delegated Act wCommission Delegated Regulation No 2016/341.

Copyright (Customs) Regulations 1964, S.I. No. 231 of 1964443

Irish Legislation

Customs Act 2015

Customs-Free Airport Act 1947

Customs-free Airport Order 1947 (and numerous amendement)

Transport Customs-Free Airport (Amendment) Act 1958

Free Ports Act 1986

Customs and Excise (Mutual Assistance) Act 2001

ustoms and Excise (Mutual Assistance) Act, 2001

(Commencement) Order 2002, S.I. No. 59 of 20022996

Customs and Excise (Mutual Assistance) Act 2001 (Section 8)

(Protection of Manual Data) Regulations 2004, S.I. No. 254 of 2004

Customs (Electronic Filing of Returns) Order 2014, S.I. No. 474 of 2014

Customs and Excise (Provision of Information relating to Persons, Conveyances and Goods) Regulations 2011, S.I. No.

410 of 2011

European Communities (Customs) Regulations 1972, S.I. No. 334 of 1972

European Communities (Customs) (Amendment) Regulations, S.I. No. 211 of 1980

European Communities (Customs) (No.2) Regulations, S.I. No. 202 of 1982

European Communities (Customs) Regulations, S.I. No. 78 of 1983

European Communities (Customs) Regulations, S.I. No. 365 of 1984

European Communities (Customs) (No.2) Regulations, S.I. No. 366 of 1984

European Communities (Customs) (Revocation of Statutory Instruments) Regulations

European Communities (Customs and Excise) Regulations 1991, S.I. No. 57 of 19913925

European Communities (Customs and Excise) (Amendment) Regulations 1991, S.I. No. 174 of 1991

European Communities (Customs and Excise) (Amendment) (No. 2) Regulations 1991, S.I.No. 368 of 1991


European Communities (Customs and Excise) Regulations 1992, S.I. No. 394 of 1992

European Communities (Customs) (No. 2) Regulations 1992, S.I. No. 431 of 1992

European Communities (Customs) (No. 3) Regulations 1992, S.I. No. 432 of 1992

European Communities (Community Transit) Regulations 1992, S.I. No. 433 of 1992

European Communities (Tir Carnet and Ata Carnet Transit) Regulations 1993, S.I. No. 61 of 1993

European Communities (Customs Appeals) Regulations 1995, S.I. No. 355 of 1995

European Communities (Customs Declarations) Regulations 1996, S.I. No. 114 of 1996

European Communities (Customs Action against Goods suspected of Infringing certain Intellectual Property Rights) (Amendment) Regulations 2013, S.I. No. 309 of 2013

European Union (Customs enforcement of Intellectual Property Rights) Regulations 2013, S.I.No. 562 of 2013