Going through customs

When you arrive in the UK, you'll have to go through customs. Most UK ports and airports have three customs exits or 'channels', while some have only one exit, with a red-point phone for declaring goods. This guide tells you which to use and when.

On this page:

When to use the blue channel

You should use the blue channel if you are travelling from a country within the European Union (EU) and you have no banned or restricted goods.

Read about which countries are in the EU in Travelling to the UK (Opens new window)

Tax and duty on goods brought to the UK from the EU

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When to use the green channel

You should use the green channel if you are travelling from outside the EU and have with you:

  • no more than your duty free allowances
  • no banned or restricted goods
  • less than 10,000 euros (or equivalent) in cash

Customs officials from the UK Border Agency (UKBA) carry out checks on travellers in the green channel and there are penalties for failing to declare goods. This can include seizure of:

  • duty free allowance goods
  • any goods in excess of your duty free allowance
  • any vehicle used to transport the goods

Tax and duty on goods brought to the UK from outside the EU

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When to use the red channel or red-point phone

You should use the red channel or the red-point phone if you have:

  • goods that exceed your duty free allowance
  • any commercial merchandise in your baggage - see link at end of section
  • 10,000 euros or more (or equivalent) in cash
  • any banned or restricted goods

You should also go through the red channel if you are unsure about what you need to declare.

You'll be able to speak to a UKBA officer either in person or by using the red-point phone. You should tell them everything that you are bringing into the country. The UKBA officer may ask to look inside your luggage.

Banned or restricted goods

Declaring cash when entering or leaving the UK

Read about declaring merchandise in baggage in Notice 6

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Paying tax and/or duty

If you exceed your duty free allowance and have Customs Duty, Excise Duty or Import VAT to pay, the customs official, from the UKBA in the red channel, will tell you how much to pay and you'll have to pay it immediately. They will give you a receipt which you should keep as proof of payment.

If you're using the red-point phone, you'll be given instructions on how to make your payment.

Customs Duty, Excise Duty and Import VAT: introduction

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Getting more help and advice

If you need more information about going through customs, you can contact the Excise and Customs Helpline by following the link below.

Contact details for Excise and Customs Helpline

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More useful links

Travelling to the UK (Opens new window)

What to do if you have something seized by Customs

Read about how to make a complaint on the UKBA website (Opens new window)

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