How to get an export licence in the UK

How to get an export licence in the UK

Monday 24 October 2022, 4 minute read

In today’s post-Brexit trading environment, there are a number of factors to consider when you’re a UK business planning to trade goods internationally.

To import goods into the UK, you’ll need an import licence, and - in most cases - when you’re exporting goods outside of the UK, you’ll need an export licence too. 

In this article, we’ll be covering which businesses need a UK export licence, the four main types of UK export licences, how to apply for an export licence in the UK, and the best way to handle international payments. 

Does your business need a UK export licence?

Whether or not your business needs a UK export licence will depend on which goods you’re sending, the destination of your goods, and the use they’re intended for.

In short, if you’re exporting any of the following goods, you will most likely need to apply for a UK export licence: 

  • Food and/or drink

  • Animals or animal products

  • Plants or plant products, including seeds and flowers

  • Drugs, medicines or medical devices

  • Diamonds

  • Chemicals and pesticides

  • Artwork, antiques or other culturally significant goods

  • Vehicles

  • Radioactive substances

  • Military goods, firearms, ammunition or related equipment

While the list above should give you an idea of whether you’ll need to apply for a UK export licence, the best way to determine whether or not you’ll need a UK export licence is to use the Department for International Trade’s official export licence UK checker tools

Exporting controlled goods from the UK without the right export licence is a criminal offence, so it’s always crucial to check before sending any goods abroad.

UK export licence types 

The government’s official export licence checkers will help you determine whether or not your business needs to apply for a UK export licence, and also which UK export licence your business needs. 

There are five main types of export licences in the UK: 

Open General Export Licence (OGEL) 

This licence allows businesses to export a number of specific goods that have more relaxed controls, meaning they are less restricted and less strictly regulated.

Trade Control Licence (OGTCL) 

The OGTCL allows for the transfer of ‘category C’ military goods to and from specified countries.

Standard Individual Export Licence (SIEL)'

Issued by the Export Control Joint Unit (ECJU), an SIEL permits the export of certain controlled items. A SIEL is specific to an exporter and allows shipments of a stated quantity of specified items to a named person or business. The application process for an SIEL takes around six weeks, and the licence will be valid for up to two years. 

Open Individual Export Licence (OIEL) 

An OIEL lets businesses specify both the goods they plan to export and the destination (or destinations) they will be exported to. The broad licence can cover multiple shipments and destinations, and is often used for research collaboration and the provision of technical assistance. 

Transhipment licences

Transhipment licences exist to allow controlled goods to pass through the UK on the way to other destinations.

How to apply for a UK export licence

Export licences are usually issued by the UK’s ECO (Export Control Organisation). 

To get an export licence in the UK, all you need to do is apply via the ECO’s SPIRE portal; the ECO’s official online licensing system, where you can apply for any of the five UK export licences outlined above. 

One important thing to know before you start your application is that in order to get your UK export licence and transport goods to outside of the UK, you’ll need to apply for an EORI number first. This EORI number will be 12 digits long, will start with the letters GB and should take no longer than 5 working days to arrive. You can read more about how to apply for your EORI number in our article on how to import goods from the EU to the UK, and find out how to start the application process on the government’s website.

Another thing you’ll need to do before sending your goods is to check that the business receiving them is able to import them into their country. For example, they may need to make an import declaration in their country, or apply for a licence to receive goods from the UK. 

The cost of a UK export licence 

The cost of getting your UK export licence will depend largely on what type of goods you’re exporting, and where you’re sending them to. If you’re exporting multiple different types of goods outside of the UK, you may even need to pay for multiple UK export licences. 

With so many variables at play, it’s hard to define the exact cost of applying for a UK export licence, but we recommend checking which UK export licences you’ll need well in advance so that you can budget accordingly. 

The best way to accept international payments when exporting goods from the UK

Once you’ve been granted your UK export licence, you’re ready to start sending goods abroad. At this point, you’ll want to ensure you are exporting goods from the UK as cost-effectively and efficiently as possible, and one of the best ways to do this is to use a international payments solution like Crezco, which lets EU suppliers pay you securely, quickly and directly into your bank account.

What are account-to-account payments?

It's also important to learn how to invoice EU companies from the UK after Brexit.

Crezco can help

You can make international payments to foreign suppliers either individually or in bulk, to 37 currencies worldwide, making Crezco’s solution an ideal choice when paying foreign suppliers for goods.

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More information on getting the right UK export licence 

For more information on how to get your UK export licence, head to the government’s website to find official step-by-step instructions on exporting goods from the UK

We also recommend consulting an international trading expert to ensure the process of applying for and trading with your UK export licence is as smooth as possible. Happy exporting! 

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