Route of Examination Codes: Everything You Need to Know

12 September 2023
by Sam Cullen

Any goods arriving in the UK from overseas must pass through UK customs. Unfortunately, not every import is processed the same way.

The National Clearance Hub (NCH) allocates each shipment to one of several different customs clearance routes. Each route has a different examination code, the most common of which are numbered zero through six. These are known as routes of examination codes.

Which examination code your goods receive depends on several factors, including the commodity you are importing and the quantity of goods. Random checks can also determine your goods’ customs clearance route.

If this all seems a bit confusing, we’re here to help. In this article, you’ll learn who the NCH is, what the most common route examination codes mean, and everything else you need to do in order for your goods to pass customs successfully.

What is the NCH?

The National Clearance Hub (NCH) is the government body that controls the movement of all international goods into the UK. The NCH processes goods as they enter, circulate and leave the United Kingdom.

While the NCH has many responsibilities, its primary duties involve manually entering entries such as import and export entries, requests for departure and export arrival, and ensuring all entries are processed.

What Are Custom Clearance Routes?

When you ship goods to, from and within the UK, the NCH will assign a specific customs clearance route to each shipment. A clearance route refers to how the NCH processes your goods and determines what conditions must be met for your items to be cleared to enter, leave or circulate the country.

The clearance route assigned to your goods depends on a few different factors, including the type and number of imports you’re bringing in. A random clearance check may also determine what route you are assigned.

All shipments are processed differently and are therefore subjected to different regulations. This section will review six of the most common clearance routes that the NCH assigns.

Customs Clearance Route H

Customs clearance H means that clearance is pending. It is the most commonly assigned customs clearance route because the majority of declarations are submitted in advance. When your goods are assigned route H, clearance will be approved once the NCH receives the unique consignment number.

Keep in mind that route H is unlike most others in that it is an advanced type route, meaning that it is provisional in nature.

Customs Clearance Route 0

Route 0 is another provisional customs clearance route and means that your goods will eventually be assigned another route. When the NCH assigns your goods to route 0, it typically means they are waiting on responses from other government systems.

While there are a few reasons your package is assigned route 0, the most common reason is that the weight values do not match on both entries. Once the NCH receives additional information, it will allocate another customs clearance route and hopefully clear your goods in no time.

Customs Clearance Route 1

Clearance Route 1, one of the most common routes, involves a complete document check. When your goods are assigned this route, you must provide all original documentation to the NCH for examination.

Due to the exhaustive nature of the check, it can take around twelve hours for your goods to gain clearance on this customs route.

There are a few main reasons why your goods may be assigned Route 1:

  • Random selection
  • Your goods require additional surveillance
  • You are importing commodities into the UK or a new area of the UK for the first time
  • HMRC previously audited you and have issued guidance on amending processes

Customs Clearance Route 2

If a commodity is issued Route 2, it means that the NCH has identified risk. For this reason, the NCH will hold your goods for a third-party examination. The party investigating will conduct a physical examination of both your goods and documents.

This examination will typically occur at the port or in an airways bonded warehouse. While there is no time limit for this route, customs officers do their best to conduct brief examinations.

Customs Clearance Route 3

Customs Route 3 indicates that HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) has requested a full documentary check. While this can be time-consuming, the good news is that the NCH will not hold your goods.

If you fail to send your documents to the National Clearance Hub, your subsequent future commodities may be assigned Clearance Route 1. If all goes well and the documents are received, the NCH can provide clearance within ten minutes.

Customs Clearance Route 6

Clearance Route 6 is a standard route that allows the NCH to instantly clear commodities without the need to present any paperwork. If all VAT and import duty charges are paid, your goods will usually be cleared in about ten minutes.

What Documents Do You Need for Customs Clearance?

If you want to ensure your goods receive Route 6, then you must provide customs officials with the correct documentation. Remember that you also need to submit an online application for an Economic Operator Registration and Identification number (EORI number). You won’t be able to clear UK customs without this. You can find out how to apply for any EORI number here.

Once you have an EORI number, you’ll need a copy of the documentation listed below. You must have a copy of each required document for each shipment.

Documents you must have:

  • Packing list
  • Commercial invoice
  • Bill of lading/airway bill

Documents you may need:

  • Tariff classification
  • List of factors that may impact the value of goods
  • CE certificate
  • Certificate of origin
  • Certificate for port health
  • Import/export licences
  • MSDS
  • Test certificates

The documents you’ll need will largely depend on the types of goods you’re importing. Products like chemicals and firearms have a higher safety risk than more mundane items like clothing and will require higher levels of examination.

What Forms Do I Need to Provide the NCH?

When sending goods to the UK, you’ll need to send in a few different forms after you receive the Customs Handling of Import and Export Freight form.

The two primary forms that the NCH requires are form C88, the Single Administrative Document, and the E2 form, the financial statement for a variation of an order for a financial remedy. You must also send a trader submission header form with these two documents.

While you can send the completed forms via fax or email, the NCH prefers to receive documents by email, and doing so will speed up the process.

The Benefit of Working With a Customs Clearance Professional

As you can now see, there’s no shortage of rules you must abide by, documents you must provide and hoops you need to jump through in order to successfully clear customs.

Being aware of every little rule and required document may seem daunting, but working with a customs clearance professional will make the process much more manageable. Customs clearance experts will have access to things like customs clearance software, links to different ports of entry and professional expertise that will help ensure your shipment declarations are processed both promptly and correctly.

By working with a global logistics expert like DG International, you don’t have to worry about a thing. Our team will handle all of the complexities of customs clearance, meaning your goods will sail through any clearance route that the NCH assigns.

Speak to an expert today to find out more.

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