Includes import documentation and other requirements for both the U.S. exporter and foreign importer.
The TARIC is available to help determine if a license is required for a particular product. In addition, the European Commission maintains an export helpdesk with information on import restrictions of various products. Import Restrictions on Agricultural Products
Many EU Member States maintain their own list of goods subject to import licensing. For example, Germany’s “Import List” (Einfuhrliste) includes goods for which licenses are required, their code numbers, any applicable restrictions, and the agency that will issue the relevant license. The Import List also indicates whether the license is required under German or EU law.
For information relevant to French import licenses, please search the Commerce Department’s Market Research Library, available at: Market Intelligence.
The Single Administrative Document (SAD)
The official model for written declarations to customs is the Single Administrative Document (SAD). The SAD describes goods and their movement around the world and is essential for trade outside the EU or trade of non-EU goods. 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 filed by:
- the person who brought the goods into the customs territory of the Community or by any person who assumes responsibility for carriage of the goods following such entry; or
- the person whose name is the person referred to above
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 SAD serves as the EU importer’s declaration. It encompasses both customs duties and VAT and is valid in all EU Member States. The declaration is made by whoever is clearing the goods, normally the importer of record or his/her agent.
European Free Trade Association (EFTA) countries including Norway, Iceland, Switzerland, and Liechtenstein also use the SAD. Information on import/export forms is contained in Council Regulation (EEC) No. 2454/93, which lays down provisions for the implementation of the Community Customs Code (Articles 205 through 221). Articles 222 through 224 provide for computerized customs declarations and Articles 225 through 229 provide for oral declarations.
More information on the SAD can be found at:
The Union Customs Code (UCC) was adopted in 2013 and its substantive provisions went into effect on 1 May 2016. It has replaced the Community Customs Code (CCC). In addition to the UCC, the European Commission published delegated and implementing regulations on the actual procedural changes.
Economic Operator Registration and Identification (EORI)
Since July 1, 2009, all companies established outside of the EU are required to have an EORI number if they wish to lodge a customs declaration or an Entry/Exit Summary declaration. All U.S. companies should use this number for their customs clearances. An EORI number 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 28 EU Member States. There is no single format for the EORI number. Once an operator holds an EORI number s/he can request the Authorized Economic Operator (AEO: see below under “MRA”) status, which can give quicker access to certain simplified customs procedures.
More information about the EORI number can be found at Economic Operator Identification and Registration.
Since 1997, the U.S. and the EU have agreed to the Customs Cooperation and Mutual Assistance in Customs Matters Agreement (CMAA). For additional information, please see Agreements with the United States.
In 2012 the United States and the EU signed a decision recognizing the compatibility of AEO (Authorized Economic Operator) and C-TPAT (Customs-Trade Partnership Against Terrorism), thereby facilitating faster and more secure trade between the U.S. and EU. The World Customs Organization (WCO) SAFE Framework of Standards provides the global standard for AEO. AEO certification is issued by a national customs authority and is recognized by all Member States’ customs agencies. As of April 17, 2017, 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 as its benefits include expedited processing of shipments, reduced theft/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.
The United States and the EU recognize each other’s security certified operators and will take the respective membership status of certified trusted traders favorably into account. The favorable treatment provided by the Decision will result in lower costs, simplified procedures and greater predictability for transatlantic business activities. It officially recognizes the compatibility of AEO and C-TPAT programs, thereby facilitating faster and more secure trade between U.S. and EU operators. The Decision was originally signed in May 2012 and was implemented in two phases. The first phase commenced in July 2012 with U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) placing shipments coming from EU AEO members into a lower risk category. The second phase took place in early 2013, with the EU re-classifying shipments coming from C-TPAT members into a lower risk category. CBP identification numbers for foreign manufacturers (MID) are therefore recognized by customs authorities in the EU, as per Implementing Regulation 58/2013 (which amends EU Regulation 2454/93 cited above).
A key EU priority is to ensuring products marketed in the region are safe for the environment and human health. U.S. manufacturers exporting to the European Union need to ensure their products meet these requirements to enter the market.
New Initiatives: Circular Economy & Plastics Strategy
On 25 September 2014, the European Commission published the “Communication Towards a Circular Economy: A Zero Waste Program for Europe”. In this document, the European Commision acknowledged the intense competition for resources within Europe and the need to ensure there are market mechanisms for eliminating waste. When implementing this plan, the European Commission promotes regulatory and voluntary measures to encourage the “design out” of waste during the product development cycle. These measures include introducing mandatory recycling targets for waste, improvements to energy and resource use (e.g. water) and eliminating the use of materials in products that inhibit the collection, recycling and reuse of materials in products.
On 16 January 2018, the European Commission published what is arguably the most important measure towards implementing the circular economy. On that day, the European Commission, adopted a strategic document entitled, “A European Strategy for Plastics in a Circular Economy”. The strategy acknowledges that plastics have a negative impact on the environment and calls for voluntary and regulatory measures aimed at mitigating the environmental harm caused by plastics. These measures address marine litter caused by the shipping industry; the chemical composition of plastics to encourage recycling; potential regulation on single use plastics; and funding for the development of chemical and mechanical recycling.
The EU Battery Directive adopted in 2006 applies to all batteries and accumulators placed on the EU market. This includes 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. The Directive places the responsibility on producers to finance the costs associated with the collection, treatment, and recycling of used batteries and accumulators. The Directive also includes provisions on the labeling of batteries and their removability from equipment. The European Commission publishes a FAQ document to assist interested parties in interpreting its provisions. For more information, see our market research report.
Registration, Evaluation and Authorization and Restriction of Chemicals (REACH)
REACH applies to all chemicals manufactured or imported into the EU in quantities exceeding one metric ton. The regulation entered into force in 2007 (Regulation 1907/2006) and touches virtually every industrial sector, from automobiles to textiles. REACH imposes a registration obligation on all entities affected by the one metric ton criteria by May 31, 2018. The European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) is the organization responsible for receiving and ensuring the completeness of such registrations. U.S. companies without a presence in Europe need to rely on a EU-based partner, typically either an importer or a specialized ‘Only Representative’.
In addition to the registration requirement, U.S. exporters should carefully review the REACH ‘Candidate List’ of Substances of Very High Concern (SVHCs) and the ‘Authorization List’. Under certain conditions, substances on the Candidate List are subject to communication requirements prior to their export to the EU. Companies seeking to export chemicals on the ‘Authorization List’ will require an authorization. Candidate List.
Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) Directive
EU rules on WEEE, while not requiring specific customs or import paperwork, may entail a financial obligation for U.S. exporters. The Directive requires U.S. exporters to register relevant products with a national WEEE authority or arrange for this 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 with the packaging. (See the section entitled “Mandatory Marks and Labels” for more information.) The WEEE Directive was revised on July 4, 2012 and the scope of products covered was expanded to include all electrical and electronic equipment. U.S. exporters seeking more information on the WEEE Directive should visit:
The ROHS Directive imposes restrictions on the use of certain chemicals in electronics and electrical equipment. The ROHS Directive does not require specific customs or import paperwork however, manufacturers must self-certify that their products are compliant and affix a “CE” mark. (See the section entitled “Mandatory Marks and Labels” for more information.) The 2011 revisions to the ROHS Directive significantly expanded the scope of covered products. Generally, U.S. exporters have until July 22, 2019 to bring products into compliance that were once outside the scope. U.S. exporters seeking more information on the RoHS Directive should visit: Cosmetics Regulations
The EU legislation harmonizing the regulation of cosmetic products has been in effect since July 11, 2013. The most difficult element of this regulation was the introduction of a new notification policy. Today, the European Commission must be notified of all new cosmetic products before they enter the EU market. Only an EU-established entity may submit such a notification. Therefore, U.S. exporters must either retain a “Responsible Person” to act on their behalf, rely on the entity responsible for the import of their product into the EU, or establish a presence in an EU Member State.
Phytosanitary certificates are required for most fresh fruits, vegetables, and other plant materials.
For commodities composed of animal products or by-products, EU countries 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, research). The vast majority of these certificates are uniform throughout the EU but the harmonization process is still ongoing. Most recently, certificates for a series of highly processed products including chondroitin sulphate, hyaluronic acid, hydrolyzed cartilage products, chitosan, glucosamine, rennet, isinglass and amino acids are being harmonized. Until harmonization is finalized, certain 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. Up-to-date information on Harmonized Import Requirements.
Sanitary Certificates (Fisheries):
In April 2006, the European Union declared the U.S. seafood inspection system to be equivalent to the European one. 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 of 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 EU’s. The EU and the United States are currently negotiating a veterinary equivalency agreement on shellfish. In the meantime, the EU still has a ban in place (since July 1, 2010), that prohibits the import of U.S. bivalve mollusks, in whatever form, into EU territory. This ban does not apply to wild roe-off scallops.
Since June 2009, the only U.S. competent authority for issuing sanitary certificates for fishery and aquaculture products is the U.S. Department of Commerce, National Marine Fisheries Service (NOAA-NMFS).
In addition to sanitary certificates, all third countries wishing to export fishery products to the EU are requested to provide a catch certificate. This catch certificate certifies that the products in question have been caught legally.
For detailed information on import documentation for seafood, please contact the NOAA Fisheries office at the U.S. Mission to the EU. (email@example.com) or visit the following NOAA dedicated website