Includes import documentation and other requirements for both the U.S. exporter and foreign importer.
Summary Declaration and the Single Administrative Document
Goods brought into the EU customs territory are, from the time of their entry, subject to customs supervision until customs formalities are completed. Goods are covered by a Summary Declaration which is filed once the items have been presented to customs officials. The customs authorities may, however, allow a period for filing the Declaration which cannot be extended beyond the first working day following the day on which the goods are presented to customs.
The Summary Declaration is completed by the person who brought the goods into the customs territory of the European Union; by any person who assumes responsibility for carriage of the goods following such entry; or the person in whose name the person referred to above acted.
The Summary Declaration can be made on a form provided by the customs authorities. However, customs authorities may also allow the use of any commercial or official document that contains the specific information required to identify the goods. The Single Administrative Document serves as the European Union importer’s declaration. This form describes goods and their movement around the world and is essential for trade outside the European Union or trade of non-EU goods. It encompasses both customs duties and VAT and is valid in all Member States. The declaration is made by whomever is clearing the goods, normally the importer of record or an agent on behalf of the importer. Information on import/export forms is contained in Commission Delegated Regulation (EU) No. 2015/2446.
The Union Customs Code
The European Union Customs Union, in place since 1968, is a pillar of the European Union’s single market and is vital to the free flow of goods and services across Member States. In 2013, the European Union adopted the Union Customs Code, the legal framework for ongoing actions to modernize EU customs. Its substantive provisions went into effect in May 2016. Its goals are to provide a comprehensive framework for customs rules and procedures in the EU customs territory and to create a paperless and fully automated customs union system.
A comprehensive framework for customs rules and procedures is needed because while customs rules are the same across the European Union, Member States’ customs authorities have not always applied them in a consistent manner regarding customs duties and clearance, creating fragmentation and additional administrative burdens. The Union Customs Code forms the basis for structural and administrative changes to customs policy, procedures, and implementation.
The Union Customs Code also mandates a move to an all-electronic customs system. The system consists of seventeen separate but interconnected components and was originally due to be in place by the end of 2020. While some systems are currently in place or expected to be in place by the December 2020, a number of components are lagging due to the complexity of the tasks, and timeframes have been extended for some provisions until 2022 and others until 2025.
Prior to signing a long-term contract or sending a shipment of considerable value, a U.S. exporter may wish to first obtain an official ruling on Irish customs classification, duty, and taxes. Requests can be sent to The Office of the Revenue Commissioners. The request should describe the product, the material from which it is made, and other details needed by customs authorities to classify the product correctly. While customs will not provide a binding decision, the advance ruling usually will be accepted if the goods are found to correspond exactly to the sample or description provided.
Shipments to Ireland require one copy each of the bill of lading (or air waybill) and the commercial invoice for customs clearance.
Although no special format is necessary for the commercial invoice, it is advisable to include the following: date and place of shipment; firm’s name and address of the seller and the buyer; method of shipping; number, kind, and markings of the packages and their numerical order; description of the goods using the usual commercial description according to kind, quality, grade, and the weight (gross and net, in metric units) along with any factors increasing or decreasing the value; agreed price of goods; unit cost; total cost; f.o.b. (free on board); factory plus shipping; insurance charges; delivery and payment terms; and the signature of a responsible official of the shipper’s firm.
Bills of lading should bear the name of the party to be notified. The consignee needs the original bill of landing in order to take possession of the goods.
Certificates of Origin are not required for goods of U.S. origin. Products, which U.S. companies import and then re-export to Ireland, require a Certificate of Origin or other documentation that clearly proves their origin. Should Ireland maintain a quota on a product made in a foreign country, the U.S. exporter cannot re-export this product to Ireland.
Ireland participates in the International Convention to Facilitate the Importation of Commercial Samples and Advertising Materials (PDF). Samples of negligible value imported to promote sales are accorded duty-free and tax-free treatment. Prior authorization is not required. To determine whether the samples are of negligible value, their value is compared with that of a commercial shipment of the same product.
In obtaining duty-free status, it may be necessary for samples to be rendered useless for future sale by marking, perforating, cutting, or other means.
Imported samples of commercial value may be granted a temporary entry and exemption from customs charges. A security is required in the amount of duty and tax chargeable, plus 10%.
Samples may remain in the country for up to one year. Samples cannot be sold, put to their normal use (except for demonstration purposes), or utilized in any manner of remuneration.
Goods imported as samples may be imported only in quantities constituting a sample according to normal commercial usage.
Economic Operator Registration and Identification (EORI)
Since July 1, 2009, all companies established outside of the European Union are required to have an Economic Operator Identification and Registration (EORI) number if they wish to lodge a customs declaration or a Summary Declaration. All U.S. companies should use the EORI number for their customs clearances, which must be formally requested from the customs authorities of the specific Member State to which the company first exports. Member State customs authorities may request additional documents to be submitted alongside a formal request for an EORI number. Once a company has received an EORI number, it can use it for exports to any of the 27 Member States. There is no single format for the EORI number. Once an operator holds an EORI number, they can request an Authorized Economic Operator (AEO) status which can give quicker access to certain simplified customs procedures. Information on the application of EORI in Ireland is available from Irish Customs.
U.S. - EU Customs Cooperation
Since 1997, the U.S. and the EU have a Customs Mutual Assistance Agreement. In 2012 the United States and the EU signed a Decision recognizing the compatibility of AEO and C-TPAT (Customs-Trade Partnership Against Terrorism), thereby facilitating faster and more secure trade between transatlantic operators. AEO certification is issued by a national customs authority and is recognized by all Member States’ customs agencies. An AEO can consist of two different types of authorization: customs simplification or security and safety. The former allows for an AEO to benefit from simplification related to customs legislation, while the latter allows for facilitation through security and safety procedures. Shipping to a trader with AEO status could facilitate an exporter’s trade, with benefits such as expedited processing of shipments, reduced thefts and losses, reduced data requirements, lower inspection costs, and enhanced loyalty and recognition. Under the revised Union Customs Code, in order for an operator to make use of certain customs simplifications, the authorization of AEO becomes mandatory.
Since 2012, the United States and the European Union have recognized each other’s security certified operators and will take the respective membership status of certified trusted traders favorably into account. Furthermore, Customers and Border Protection identification numbers for foreign manufacturers are therefore recognized by customs authorities in the European Union.
Environmental and Related Regulations
A key EU priority is to ensure products marketed in the region are safe for the environment and human health. United States manufacturers exporting to the European Union need to ensure their products meet these requirements to enter the market. New legislative initiatives published by the European Commission are regularly made available for public consultation on the EU “Welcome to Have your say” website. U.S. companies, civil society organizations and individuals can all participate in these consultations.
On December 11, 2019, the EU Commission presented the European Green Deal as a flagship policy program to transform Europe into a climate neutral society by 2050. The European Green Deal affects all aspects of the European economy including agriculture, fisheries, construction, finance, and manufacturing. To implement the European Green Deal, the Commission has drafted and updated several high-level policy agendas that identify areas in need of new legislative and other actions to deliver on the European Union’s climate ambitions.
For example, the 2020 Circular Economy Action Plan II (CEAP) is an iteration of the 2014 Action plan, which takes the circular economy concept as its starting point to propose a general shift in the European Union’s product policies. The fundamental idea is that raw materials, products, and services can and should be used several times – not only for the initial intended purpose, but for other purposes through reuse and recycling. This involves placing a larger emphasis on sharing-economy models, leasing, reusing, repairing, refurbishing, and recycling existing materials and products for as long as possible in an effort to extend their life cycle.
The European Commission is implementing objectives set out in the CEAP through two packages, the first of which was published in March 2022. That package contained a textiles strategy, a proposal to revise the EU’s Ecodesign Directive and expand its scope to almost all physical goods (including a new sustainability labeling requirements and the need to introduce a digital product passports), a proposal to strengthen the internal market for construction products, and a package on empowering consumers in the green transition. Once translated into law, these proposals will entail the introduction of new digital labeling requirements (through the introduction of digital product passports) to better communicate the environmental footprint and sustainability credentials of products to consumers. Separate rules are expected to set new requirements for making “green claims” as well.
The Commission is also expected to publish a second package later in 2022to address packaging, recycling, and waste-related legislation. These proposals are expected to set new mandatory minimum recycled content requirements for packaging, as well as to set new rules for how waste products should be handled in the European Union. In parallel, there are ongoing efforts to limit waste shipments outside of the European Union (through the Commission’s proposed revision to the EU’s Waste Shipment Regulation), as well as to limit the possibility of shipping waste outside of the EU.
Through the implementation of the CEAP, the Commission is positioning the European Union as a global leader on the shift towards a more circular economy, including identifying the advancement of global discussions on plastics and negotiating an international agreement on the management of natural resources as two international priorities.
The EU Battery Directive (2006/66/EC) was adopted in 2006. It applies to all batteries and accumulators placed on the EU market, including automotive, industrial, and portable batteries. The Directive seeks to protect the environment by restricting the sale of batteries and accumulators that contain mercury or cadmium (with an exemption for emergency and alarm systems, medical equipment, and cordless power tools) and by promoting a high level of collection and recycling of those batteries. It places the responsibility on producers to finance the costs associated with the collection, treatment, and recycling of used batteries and accumulators. The Directive includes provisions on the labeling of batteries and their removability from equipment. The European Commission has published a frequently asked questions document to assist interested parties in interpreting its provisions, and an April 2019 report was published to evaluate the Directive.
As a part of CEAP, the Commission published a legislative proposal in December 2020 that would replace the 2006 Directive with a new batteries-related regulation. The new law would dramatically expand the scope of the current legal framework to promote a transition to a more circular economy. The regulation would create carbon footprint performance classes and maximum life-cycle footprint thresholds, introduce minimum recycled content requirements, and create a battery passport to enable economic operators to access information about the batteries to facilitate their repair and reuse. The proposal is currently being negotiated between the Member States, the European Parliament and the European Commission and is expected to conclude before the end of 2022.
Based on the European Green Deal’s objective to reduce pollution and move towards a toxic-free environment, the Communication on the Chemicals Strategy for Sustainability takes stock of the performance of the European Union’s chemicals legislative framework, in place since 2007, which primarily consists of two Regulations: the Registration, Evaluation Authorization and Restriction of Chemicals (REACH) Regulation, and the Classification, Labelling and Packaging of Hazardous Substances (CLP) Regulation. Although the Commission considers these two regulations to be successful in protecting human health and the environment, it has identified a number of shortcomings that impede the European Union’s chemicals framework from reaching its full potential. In particular, the Commission has acknowledged the need to make the chemicals framework more efficient (e.g., faster procedures covering more chemicals), effective (e.g., reducing discrepancies in applying the rules between Member States), coherent (e.g., there are currently parallel, and at times, contradictory processes for the same substances), and overall, more predictable for companies.
To achieve these objectives, the Commission is likely to introduce a series of new concepts and procedural changes to REACH and CLP. Most notably, it will move away from its current case-by-case chemicals assessment model in favor of a more generic approach whereby it will group chemicals and apply restrictions to these groups. Determining when the use of otherwise restricted chemicals will be allowed will be based on a new “essential use” concept (based on, but not identical to, the Montreal Protocol’s definition of “essential use”). The Commission is also looking to streamline parallel substance evaluations and possible conflicts arising from uncoordinated actions by the Commission by introducing stronger internal coordination and planning mechanisms under the motto of “one substance, one assessment.” Further actions under the Chemicals Strategy for Sustainability include developing and promoting a “sustainable-by-design approach” to placing chemicals on the market to encourage substitution of certain high-risk chemicals; developing new methodologies to measure the lifecycle impacts of chemicals; taking stronger action against endocrine disrupting substances; introducing a “mixture assessment factor” during the safety assessment of substances; addressing contamination by synthetic per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances; and increasing efforts to ensure compliance.
In addition, the Commission is in the process of conducting a series of studies to weigh options for improving the REACH and CLP Regulations, which will feed into the broader impact assessment process for modifying these regulations. In line with the European Commission’s “better regulation” process, the Commission has conducted several rounds of public consultations ahead of the publication of the CLP and REACH proposals. The CLP proposal is expected to be published in the second half of 2022 while the REACH proposal is expected to be published in late 2022 or early 2023. The regulations will then have to pass through the co-legislative process involving the European Parliament and the Council of the European Union and could take several years.
Registration, Evaluation, Authorization and Restriction of Chemicals (REACH)
REACH – as is in force today – applies to all chemicals manufactured or imported into the European Union in quantities exceeding one metric ton. The regulation entered into force in 2007 and touches virtually every industrial sector, from automobiles to textiles. REACH imposes a registration obligation on all entities over the one metric ton threshold. The European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) is responsible for receiving and ensuring the completeness of such registrations. U.S. companies without a presence in Europe need to rely on a European Union-based partner, typically either an importer or a specialized “Only Representative.” ECHA will then issue a registration number to the company that submits a complete registration dossier.
In addition to the registration requirement, REACH allows the European Commission to monitor, restrict, or prohibit the use of hazardous substances and products containing such substances. The Authorization List identifies substances that require a company to obtain permission from the European Commission to import into the European Union. In addition, the Restriction List contains a list of substances that are subject to specific controls within the European Union. The Candidate List of Substances of Very High Concern (SVHCs) identifies substances that the European Commission intends to restrict or prohibit. Since January 2021, companies supplying items containing SVHC on the Candidate List in a concentration above 0.1% weight by weight to the European Union are required to submit information on these items to ECHA through the Substances of Concern in Products (SCIP) Database. This information is made available to waste operators and consumers. The SCIP notification requirements impose a legal obligation on those placing items on the EU market, including importers of U.S. products. In most cases, European importers will ask their U.S. partners to verify SVHC content and, if applicable, may ask for additional information necessary to comply with SCIP requirements. There is also an option for U.S. companies to submit notifications in the SCIP database as a foreign user, but this requires reaching an agreement with the European importer.
Classification, Labelling and Packaging of Hazardous Substances
The CLP Regulation implements the UN Global Harmonized System of classification, labelling, and packaging of all hazardous substances. U.S. exporters must classify, label, and package (including products containing such substances) hazardous substances according to the regulation’s requirements. For certain hazardous substances, the European Commission will impose a common classification, which may affect demand in the European Union for these substances. It may also trigger controls on product specific legislation.
Public Activities Coordination Tool for Chemicals
The Public Activities Coordination Tool for Chemicals is a free-to-use tool maintained by ECHA, which provides an overview of activities conducted by European public authorities with respect to chemicals, including data generation and assessment, regulatory management option analysis, and regulatory risk management.
Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment
EU rules on waste electronical and electronic equipment, while not requiring specific customs or import paperwork, may entail a financial obligation for U.S. exporters. The Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) Directive requires U.S. exporters to register relevant products with a national authority or arrange for this registration to be done by a local partner. It also requires manufacturers to inform the consumer that their product should be recycled by including the “crossed out wheelie-bin” symbol on the product or packaging.
Restriction on Hazardous Substances in Electrical and Electronic Equipment
The Restriction on Hazardous Substances in Electrical and Electronic Equipment (RoHS) Directive imposes restrictions on the use of certain chemicals in electrical and electronic equipment and applies to nearly all products that require power unless a specific exclusion or exemption applies. U.S. exporters certify a product meets the requirements of this legislation by affixing a CE Mark to their product. The U.S. exporter must retain a product file to support the CE Mark in the event of a control.
As part of the implementation of the Circular Economy Action Plan, the RoHS Directive is currently undergoing a revision to ensure increased coherence in applying the rules across Member States and with the EU’s REACH Regulation. As a part of this revision, the Commission is considering reforming the exemption process, the substance restriction provisions, and introducing separate provisions for recycled materials and critical raw materials.
The public consultation on the RoHS revision ended in June 2022 and the Commission is expected to publish its legislative proposal before the end of 2022. Once the proposal is published it will still have to go through the EU’s legislative procedure, which entails negotiations between the European Parliament and the Council of the European Union.
The most controversial element of EU legislation harmonizing the regulation of cosmetics was the introduction of an EU-wide system for the notification of cosmetic products to the European Commission prior to their placement on the EU market. Only a European Union-established entity may submit such a notification. U.S. exporters must therefore retain a Responsible Person to act on their behalf, rely on the entity responsible for the import of their product into the European Union, or establish a presence in a Member State.
As a part of the EU’s Chemicals Strategy for Sustainability, the Commission is currently preparing to propose a revision to the EU’s Cosmetic Products Regulation. Based on the Commission’s objectives, the revision will introduce some of the same concepts that are being considered under the review of the REACH regulation. Most importantly, the Commission is considering extending the generic approach to risk management to better protect against the inclusion of carcinogenic, mutagenic, reprotoxic or endocrine disrupting chemicals in cosmetics. In practice, this will likely mean broader, more generalized restrictions on cosmetics ingredients. The revision will better align the EU’s scientific assessment process for chemicals with the REACH regulation and will entail a revision of the currently applied definition of nanomaterials as well as labeling rules.
The public consultation on the revision of the Cosmetic Products Regulation ended in June 2022 and the Commission is expected to publish its legislative proposal before the end of 2022. Once the proposal is published, it will still have to go through the EU’s legislative procedure, as described above.
Phytosanitary certificates are required for most fresh fruits, vegetables, and other plant materials.
For commodities composed of animal products or by-products, Member States require that shipments be accompanied by a certificate issued by the competent authority of the exporting country. This applies regardless of whether the product is for human consumption, for pharmaceutical use, or strictly for non-human use (e.g., veterinary biologicals, animal feeds, fertilizers, and research). The majority of these certificates are uniform throughout the European Union, but the harmonization process is still ongoing. Until harmonization is finalized, Member State import requirements continue to apply. In addition to the legally required EU health certificates, a number of other certificates are used in international trade. These certificates, which may also be harmonized in EU legislation, certify origin for customs purposes and certain quality attributes. Find more information on Harmonized Import Requirements page.
Sanitary Certificates (Fisheries)
In April 2006, the European Union declared the U.S. seafood inspection system to be equivalent to the European system. Consequently, a specific public health certificate must accompany U.S. seafood shipments. The U.S. fishery product sanitary certificate is a combination of Commission Decision 2006/199/EC for the public health attestation and Regulation 1012/2012 for the general template and animal health attestation. Unlike for fishery products, the U.S. shellfish sanitation system is not equivalent to that of the European Union’s system. In 2022, the European Union and the United States concluded an agreement that permits the resumption of live, raw, and processed bivalve molluscan shellfish, which will allow producers in certain states (Massachusetts and Washington) to send mollusks to the European Union, and producers in certain Member States (Spain and the Netherlands) to send products to the United States.
The U.S. competent authority for issuing sanitary certificates for fishery and aquaculture products is the U.S. Department of Commerce, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), National Marine Fisheries Service.
In addition to sanitary certificates, all third countries wishing to export fishery products to the European Union are requested to provide a catch certificate. This catch certificate certifies that the products in question have been caught legally.
Fit for 55 Package
In July 2021, the European Commission proposed its Fit for 55 Package, a suite of thirteen legislative proposals impacting climate, energy, land use, transportation, and taxation. The Package is aimed at helping to reduce net greenhouse gas emissions by 55% by 2030, compared to 1990 levels, as legally required in the EU’s 2021 European Climate Law. An ambitious combination of revisions and amendments to existing EU legislation and new legislative proposals, the Fit for 55 Package requires a careful, technical, and detailed review to assess the impact on U.S. exports and commercial interests. Within its thirteen proposals, the Fit for 55 Package includes:
Reduce the CO2 emission cap under the EU Emissions Trading System and raise its annual rate of reduction, while phasing out free emission allowances for aviation.
The Renewable Energy Directive will raise the renewable energy target to 40% of the EU’s final energy consumption by 2030, with specific targets for transportation, heating and cooling, buildings, and industry.
The Energy Efficiency Directive sets more ambitious binding annual targets for cutting energy consumption at the EU level, almost doubling the annual energy saving obligation for Member States. CO2 emission standards for cars and vans will be implemented to cut emissions of new cars by 55% from 2030, and by 100% by 2035.
In the aviation sector, the ReFuelEU Aviation Initiative will accelerate the use of sustainable aviation fuels and force fuel suppliers to blend increased levels of such fuels with jet fuel.
The Energy Taxation Directive will align energy product taxation with EU energy and climate policies, removing exemptions and reduced rates for the use of fossil fuels.
A new Carbon Border Adjustment Mechanism will place a carbon price on imports of a targeted selection of products based on an emissions trading scheme for EU importers.
Alternative Fuels infrastructure aims at accelerating the deployment of infrastructure for recharging or refueling vehicles with alternative fuels and CO2 emission standards for cars and vans.
The FuelEUMaritime Initiative will reduce the greenhouse gas intensity of the energy used on-board by ships up to 75% by 2050.
Currently, the European Parliament and the Council of the European Union work in parallel on their respective positions on the thirteen proposals to prepare for the forthcoming “trilogue” negotiations between the representatives of the European Parliament, the Council of the European Union, and the European Commission. The proposals are at different stages of the legislative process, but the adoption of the full package is reportedly expected to take up to two years.