How Long Do UK Customs Take to Clear Packages


Whether you are a business owner, broker, customs agent, or freight forwarder, customs clearance sometimes can be a major problem when you are importing or exporting things to the UK. Sometimes, this takes a long time to be completed.

You may face harassment in several ways. Sometimes, you also need to pay a huge amount to clear UK customs. Generally, customs delays are the most common issue when it comes to international shipping.

Here, in this article, I am going to cover the reasons for customs delays and how long the UK customs take to clear packages. Stay tuned!

What are UK customs?

UK customs is the authority that is responsible for moving goods into and out of the United Kingdom. This body is also responsible for charging and collecting tariffs and other taxes on the goods. The UK customs has a variety of key functions such as:

  • Security: Some of the hazardous items are restricted or banned in the UK. While importing, there you need to provide some documentary as well as physical examination so that the smuggling can be detected or prohibited.
  • Taxation: UK customs is responsible for recording, observing, and accounting for taxes incurred by individuals who import goods to the United Kingdom. For commercial and private usage goods, the UK customs collect billions of revenues every year that is re-invested in the country’s economy.
  • Business facilitation: It facilitates international business on import and export; it helps the importers by providing legitimate goods. The UK customs body is also essential as they have import and export data. So, UK customs procedures are essential for collecting data for International trade statistics.

UK customs charges sent from Abroad:

When you import something from abroad to the UK then you will be contacted by the Royal mail, Parcel Force, or any other courier company in the UK. You will be asked to pay any VAT, delivery charge, or duty or customs to receive your package.

You will get a bill declaring all the bills that you need to pay to receive your article. They will keep your package for 3 weeks, if you will not pay the bill by then, they will return your article to the sender.

You will not be required to pay anything to receive a package worth less than £135 unless they are gifts over £ 39 or excise goods.


You will need to pay VAT on all goods except for gifts £39 or less; sent from:

Either outside the UK to Great Britain or outside the UK and EU to Northern Ireland.

You need to pay the VAT to the delivery company before you receive your article. If you need to pay VAT to the delivery company then it will charge on the total package value. This includes the value of the goods, packaging, insurance, and the duty you owe.

You will not be required to pay for the package of any gift items worth £39 or less.

VAT will be charged at the VAT rate.

Customs Duty:

You will be charged customs Duty on all packages sent from outside of the UK; the value of goods and the corresponding customs duty are as follows:

Types and value of goodsCustoms duty
Non-excise goods value £135 or lessNo charge
Gift items above £135 to £6302.5%, but there are also low rates for some gift items
Gifts above £630 and other packages £135The customs rate depends on the type of goods and where they have come from

You pay customs duty for excise goods of any value. 

Excise Duty:

If you are not sent alcohol or other tobacco items then you need to pay excise duty at current rates.

If you receive a large amount of tobacco or alcohol for your business then you need to check the Trade tariff to pay your excise Duty.

How long your goods can be held at Customs?

Your shipment can pass through a matter of minutes or hours. In some unlikely situations, your package may get rejected or cancelled. Before rejecting or cancelling your item, they may hold it for some time.

This may happen because the sender has not done the paperwork properly. This scenario is a waste of time, money, etc.

But how long your goods may be held at customs depends on why they have to hold your package. If paperwork or certification is the issue then they will wait till you can provide this.

What can hold up your goods from being cleared?

Customs delays are sometimes common and can be expensive too. But, they can be prevented. You need to be aware that the bellow factors may be the reasons for delays in the customs clearance procedures of your goods:

  • Not doing the right paperwork: many businesses may not do the needed paperwork on time or submit the wrong documents with manual errors. So, you need to ensure that your customs entry is filled properly.
  • Random Testing: Depending on the quality of the goods that you have imported or exported to the UK, customs may randomly test the quality of the goods. They check if the quality of the package does match the quality and compliance with the quality of the UK goods. This may lead to a day in the customs clearance process.
  • Airport and seaport congestion: there is a certain time around the year when the demand for air, sea, and land freight will increase rapidly. This seasonal increasing demand may create congestion. So, to avoid delays in the clearance of your items, you need to wait till your turn. You need to avoid the peak times of the freight.
  • Lack of communication: it may be a simple communication problem that slows down the movement of your goods. You need to properly communicate with the customs whenever they ask.

How long do UK customs take to clear packages?

UK customs is a much quicker process. Generally, the UK customs process is a matter of minutes and hours. But it may take some days or even weeks if there is something wrong or missing. Or, the duties or customs may feel that your goods need to be inspected.

When organizing and scheduling the entire logistics procedures, you may need to wait for at least 2 to 3 days from the landing of your goods in the UK till it arrive at your doorstep. Customs clearance may need a fraction of the time if everything goes right with the situation.

If there is any reason for re-checking or you have not met the criteria that require clearing your package, then it may be delayed. This may take a matter of weeks.

What to do if your parcel gets held by UK customs?

If your goods are being held by UK customs, then the best thing you can do is to call your freight forwarder. Then you may ask them if they require any additional documents or certification that you may be able to collect from your supplier.

If you have provided them with all the required information they require then you can wait. Sometimes, you have nothing to do with the random selection of the customs. It will be better to leave the customs officer to do their job.

You should not push them too hard and you may find your goods are stuck at the end of the queue.


Why is my parcel stuck in UK customs?

Ans: There may be several reasons for having your shipment in UK customs. These include sending/receiving prohibited items, unpaid duties or taxes, missing documentation, etc. If a seller forgets to send the invoice or uses the wrong language; there may be reasons for delays in parcel clearance.

Do UK customs check every parcel?

Ans: Yes, the UK customs check all international packages and mail. In this process, a UK customs officer will check the package to make sure the parcel meets the country’s laws, policies, and regulations.

What is not allowed through UK customs?

Ans: There are restrictions on importing goods into the UK. They will seize drugs, offensive weapons, self-defence sprays, rough diamonds, endangered animal and plant species, personal imports of meats or dairy products from the EU, and any obscene material such as books, magazines, etc.

Can you get in trouble with customs?

And: yes, if the UK customs find anything wrong with you then immediately they will start to accuse you. If you have brought something unlawful in the UK then you may face prosecution and imprisonment by the UK customs.

Will UK customs open my package?

Ans- No, the UK customs officials won’t open up your bundle or bundles without valid justification.

Wrap Up:

There are many reasons that your package can be held at customs. The main reason may include that you may not have provided the proper documentation to UK customs. So, they are unable to clear your package. Then the customs will wait till you clear all the necessary documentation.

Sometimes, you may have provided all the necessary documents but still customs will hold your goods. The reason that may lie behind this fact is that customs need to test the quality of your goods if they meet UK regulations and rules.