How to Import From China to the UK

Importing from China to the UK is a complex process involving many steps, uncertainties and risks unfamiliar to first-time importers. Based on our many years of experience serving thousands of customers, we would like to share with you our expertise in importing in the UK and summarize the following key steps to help you quickly master the import process to enhance your capabilities success. You can browse the links below to learn more about each step.


What do I need to prepare before importing?
How to choose the right product to start with?
How to find a reliable supplier in China?
How do I ship a product from China to the UK?
How to clear customs and pay customs duties through imports?
What are the product compliance requirements in the UK?


What do I need to prepare before importing?

a. Do I need an import license?

The UK Customs and Border Protection does not require importers to have a permit or permit, but other federal agencies may have such requirements, depending on the product being imported from China to the UK.

When purchasing the following items, you need to obtain a permit or permit to ensure compliance with relevant requirements (e.g. FDA, EPA, DOT, CPSC, FTC, agriculture, etc.)

Food products
Plants, animals, dairy products,
Branded goods, such as designer shoes, handbags, luggage, etc.
Copyrighted materials, such as CDs, DVDs, and tapes


What is customs deposit?Do I need to buy it?

Customs deposits are guarantees between three parties: the insurance / guarantee company that issues the customs deposits, the client (recorded importer), and the British Customs and Border Protection (CBP). It assured the US Customs and Border Protection that record importers will fulfill their responsibilities for duties, penalties and other obligations.

If you use a customs broker to help you clear your goods through CBP, you can use the broker’s deposit by paying the broker’s service fee. If the food you import meets FDA requirements, you must purchase a customs deposit and register the importer information on the FDA website to qualify for import. If you want to clear the goods yourself, you will also need to purchase customs deposits from a licensed guarantee agency.


What importer number is required?

During the entry process, the importer number will be required on the entry form. It can be your IRS business registration number, or if your company is not registered in the IRS or you do not have a company, then your social security number is sufficient.

Alternatively, you can request a CBP allocation number by filling in the CBP form 5106 and displaying it at the entry branch at the CBP entrance.

Sounds complicated to you? If so, you can always hire a customs broker to help you with everything from document preparation to import clearance.


2. How to choose the right product to start with?

Especially when you are new to the import business, a good and successful start is not important to maintaining your business interest and laying the foundation for further development of your future business. The key is to find the right product. If you just want to develop a brand new product from your ideas, you can easily achieve it through our agency service.


How to find the right product niche to import from China

1. Whatever you want. If you are interested in outdoor sports, you can consider starting with outdoor supplies, such as camping bags, portable showers, etc.

2. With hot products. If you are an Amazon seller, you can research its highest ranking and then choose products that can find a more competitive supplier to enjoy a price advantage in the market.

3. With private label products. Customers are willing to pay a higher price for products with a unique design or packaging, and if you can provide such products as well as your own private label, it will give your business a comparative advantage over other products.


Not recommended for products imported from China to the UK

Branded products. Buying British brands in the UK is much cheaper. Although brands such as iPhone or Nike have production bases in China, they are 20% more expensive in China than in states.

Product tariffs are high. In addition to product prices, you need to consider import duties before deciding to import. In the current trade war, an additional 25% tariff is imposed on many categories of products (such as electrical equipment and machinery, textiles, vehicles, etc.). The increased total import cost may not give you a competitive selling price as you think.

Food and supplements. Imported food is not a good start, it is best to buy locally. China imports a large amount of these products from Britain every year. In addition, depending on the FDA’s special requirements, you must also obtain a permit or license to import these products. The customs clearance procedures for food and related products are also very complicated.

Product demand is high, but value is low. Baby diapers, toilet paper, A4 paper, etc. are such examples. Many new importers mistakenly believe that they can make a lot of money even with a profit of only 5-10%. Because they think these products are always necessary and very popular in the market.


How to find a reliable supplier in China?


a. Find suppliers offline at trade shows or wholesale markets

Participated in the British New Product Industry Exhibition

More and more small and medium-sized Chinese suppliers are participating in overseas exhibitions to showcase their latest products and technologies on the world stage.

The most popular exhibitions are the International Consumer Electronics Show (CES), GSMA, ASD Market Week, Global Pet Expo, New York Toy Fair, etc. Keep an eye on the events in your industry and prepare to search, chat and exchange contact information with suppliers on the spot.


Attend the Canton Fair or visit the Chinese wholesale market in China

The Canton Fair is China’s largest import and export trade fair. It is held every April and October. You will meet suppliers in almost every industry and choose the products that interest you.

You can also go to Hong Kong to participate in Hong Kong Electronics Fair, Hong Kong Toys Festival, International Jewelry and Fashion Fair, etc. to find business opportunities.

b. Find suppliers online through 6 Chinese wholesale websites

If you don’t plan to visit China, the most economical way to search for Chinese suppliers is through an e-commerce website. Listed below are the top wholesale websites for you to browse and compare vendors. There are 8 principles for determining a good wholesale supplier. Alibaba is the world’s largest supplier directory, and I don’t need to discuss the importance of using Alibaba to help you conduct your global business. I want to emphasize here that you need to be cautious about potential Alibaba scams. In addition, there are other risks involved, and you need to know how to buy on Alibaba safely by avoiding them.

Many customers who purchased directly through Alibaba were cheated and suffered losses. In addition to the scam, how to shop safely on Alibaba and  There is not much difference between the two sites. MOQs for most suppliers exceed $ 5,000. According to our experience, if you want to buy electronic products, it is best to find suppliers on Globalsources; and for machinery, vehicles, etc., made in China will be better. and suppliers do not have minimum MOQ requirements, you can buy a small amount as needed. You can also buy 1 or 2 products on AliExpress. DHgate is more suitable for startups and sellers of B2C e-commerce platforms, which can wholesale a small number of products to test their market.

They are the best choice for Shopify, Amazon, Lazada and eBay store owners or stores that offer direct delivery services. Here is a brief overview of the differences between these sites.




Amount    Recommended Websites         Business Type

>$1,000   Alibaba, Made-in-China, GlobalSource    Medium to large importers / traders

$200-$1,000    DHgate    Shopify, eBay, Amazon, Lazada Owners

$1-$199   AliExpress         Dropshipping Business

Showing 1 to 3 of 3 entries



place an order

Once multiple vendors have been identified and quotes have been compared, a sample or trial order can begin. Ask your supplier for a commercial or Performa invoice and packing list to include product descriptions, prices, and packing details.


4. How to ship products from China to the UK?

Once the goods are ready, you need to choose a shipping method to ship your goods to the United States. There are many options, such as freight (air or sea), courier and mail. It depends on the value and urgency of your product.

We have also written articles about different shipping methods, shipping times and costs below, if you want more details, please check the following:


Shipping Cost from China to the UK for 7 main shipping methods (2019 Updated)

Shipping Time from China to the UK Check these Top 3 Shipping Method Guides.


Express shipping from China to the UK

It is suitable for cargo weighing between 1-1000 pounds (less than 500 kg), and it usually takes 4-7 days from China to UK.


No need to worry about customs clearance, as this is done by a customs broker hired by a courier company. In most cases, delivery is fast and reliable. When a problem occurs, you can check the tracking number on the courier company’s website.

International Express Company:

There are many courier companies to choose from. Frequently use service providers such as UPS, FedEx and DHL. However, we generally recommend that customers choose FedEx and UPS. Although DHL is cheap, delivery delays always occur in the UK.

How to pay:

If you choose to ship your goods by courier, you will need to pay a shipping fee to your Chinese supplier as they will help you arrange your goods. All you have to do is sign the package when it arrives.


Freight from China to the UK

The cargo can reach British ports by sea or air. Either way, you need to decide whether you need to hire a local freight forwarder in the UK or ask your supplier to find a freight forwarder in China to help you ship.

If you want to have your own freight forwarder and let them handle everything for you, you need to find a freight forwarder partner. You can easily do this yourself online via Google. At the same time, you need to check the FOB price from the supplier, which does not include freight, insurance, etc.

If you want Chinese suppliers to arrange transportation to British ports for you, you can ask the supplier for CIF prices, including freight, insurance, etc. During the import process, you need to hire a customs broker to assist with import clearance procedures.

air transport

When you order more than 1,000 pounds of goods, air freight may be a better option than express delivery because the total cost will be much lower. You can check with your freight forwarder or Chinese supplier for the specific shipping cost before shipping.

Ocean freight

When your number of products exceeds 2CBM, it is more economical to use shipping. The cost of shipping by sea is usually 80% lower than the cost of international express or air freight. The only thing is that it takes about 25-40 days to reach the British port.


International postal services

Before deciding to send by international mail, you need to ensure that your goods are legally allowed to be sent via Royal Mail. Items valued at $ 2,500 or more cannot be sent by email because it requires formal entry.

Mail delivery can be very economical. The disadvantage is that it is difficult to find the lost package, because it does not have a tracking number, unless you have purchased insurance or paid an extra fee to get the tracking number.

It is best suited for small parcels of less than 2kg in direct shipping operations.

5. How to clear customs and pay customs duties through import?

After receiving the goods arrival notice, you or your customs broker will need to present the relevant documents to the US Customs and Border Protection within 15 calendar days after the goods arrive to clear your goods.

Otherwise, the goods will be transferred to the warehouse and you will need to pay the storage fee. If you haven’t requested your merchandise within 6 months of its arrival, you can auction them.

The import clearance process may be more complicated than you think. As a new importer, we strongly recommend that you hire a customs broker or freight forwarding partner to help complete all import clearance procedures and document preparation.


Documents required for customs declaration

Bill of lading

The bill of lading is the key document to ensure that the exporter will be paid and the importer will receive the goods. It is issued by the carrier or its agent to confirm receipt of the goods for shipment.

Landing Act

commercial invoice

CBP will charge a tariff based on the declared value on the commercial invoice. It can also help customs make judgments about the acceptability of the goods. It includes the following main information:

product description
Country of birth
Commodity value of GBP and CNY
Tariff classification
Name and address of the seller or company selling the goods
UK Destination Address

Packing list

The packing list contains key information from a commercial invoice, which details the packaging information for the product. It is usually used with commercial invoices and is used by customs to verify shipments.

Arrival reminder

Arrival notices are issued by freight companies to notify importers of records that goods have arrived at the British border.


b. Tariffs and payment methods?

The importer should know that the purchase price does not include any customs duties, and you are responsible for paying any import taxes when import clearance.

Customs duty = customs value * tariff rate

The customs value is based on the declared value on the commercial invoice. In the UK, customs value is based on FOB prices and includes the following costs:

Product Cost
Transportation costs (to China’s loading port)
Export clearance costs

The tax rate is based on the H.S code and the country of origin. If you want to know how to check the tariff rate and calculate the import tax of goods according to HTS (Harmonized Tariff Table), please read our article “Import Duties from China to the UK 2019”.

How you pay your import duties depends on how your goods are shipped.

1. If the goods are shipped by mail, you need to pay the postman or go to the local post office to pay any customs duties and fees. If it’s just a small package, you don’t need to pay any customs duties.

2. If the goods are shipped by international courier, the courier will charge you the prepaid taxes or require you to pay on cash on delivery.

3. If your goods are shipped by freight, there are two possible taxable situations. If you clear the goods yourself, you need to pay the CBP tax directly at the port. If you hire a customs broker to clear the goods, you need to provide them with services, including all taxes they pay on your behalf.


What are the product compliance requirements in the UK?

As an importer, it is important to ensure that your products are safe from causing harm or releasing harmful substances on the market. British Federal agencies specify safety regulations and standards related to each product category.

If you are an Amazon seller, in addition to national standards, you need to know which products require pre-approval to sell on Amazon. Products such as hover board products, laser pointers, and specific products in the software industry require prior approval from Amazon. You can also find a list of Amazon restricted products and FBA product restrictions on the Amazon website.

To find out which product certificates are required for customs clearance, you can double check with your customs broker or freight forwarder to prepare all the certificates.

All products Imported from China to the UK must carry the country of origin label “Made in China”; however, the certification required varies from product to product. For your convenience, we have listed some of the most popular requirements by product category.


Thank you for reading. If you need help to find a reliable supplier of consistent high-quality products at a competitive price, we are here to provide you with one-stop service for Importing From China to the UK , from supplier procurement, quotation, sampling, production follow-up to delivery .

29 thoughts on “How to Import From China to the UK

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