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Importing and Exporting Personal Effects

For most non-commercial clients their main experience of importing or exporting is sending their personal or household effects when they move to another country, either on a temporary basis for work or education or a permanent relocation for marriage or emigrating as a family. The regulations and allowances differ from country to country, so you must check that you are able to import the goods that you will be sending.

Most people that travel are used to the Customs procedures at International Airports, where maybe there is a channel for Goods to Declare and another for Nothing to Declare or you may have to give your declaration form to a Customs Officer who will decide if to inspect your goods or not. They may have slightly different procedures, but the process is usually quick and you can take your luggage with you from the airport. Customs procedures for cargo, either at an airport or sea port, are not always as straight forward.

Usually for personal or household effects imported as air or sea freight they will be taken to a Customs Controlled Bonded area, the cargo cannot be removed from this area until Customs give the airline or shipping line the authority to release the cargo.

So how do you get your cargo released?

Usually this will involve a Customs Clearance Agent or Broker, they will usually have a computer link to the local Customs System and will be able to submit a declaration to Customs based on information supplied by you. 

How should you submit your information to the Agent or Broker?

Each country will have their own customs forms that will need to be completed by the importer listing various things such as Reason for travelling to the country, If you are returning to the Country after a journey abroad, how long you were out of the country. They will also need you to declare what you are importing, possibly with a detailed packing list to confirm that the declaration is correct.

You would think that if you owned the goods, they would be free of Duty and Taxes?

This is not always the case. The UK is one country that has stopped allowing goods imported to furnish a second home in without taxes being paid. Goods that you have owned for over 6 months before your move to the UK and for use in your only house will be allowed without taxes, with the exception of Excise Goods or vehicles. 

Sometimes you must go to the airport or port to clear your own goods.

Importing personal effects into Canada will require the importer to submit their customs declaration directly to the Customs Authority at the port or airport.

Customs Forms

Country

Form Number

Customs Notice

UK

C3

Customs Notice 3