Importing From the Usa to Uk, A Guide for Businesses

Importing From the Usa to Uk

Navigating Imports from the USA to the UK: A Guide for Businesses

The United States remains one of the United Kingdom’s most strategically important trading partners even after Brexit. In 2021, the UK imported over $66 billion in goods from the USA – making it the largest source of imports last year. This article delves into the key steps, regulations, costs and documentation involved in importing products from America into Britain in the post-Brexit era.

Import Regulations and Requirements

While the UK has left the EU single market and customs union, it continues to follow many EU regulations and standards – particularly for goods. However, some key differences exist when importing from the USA compared to intra-EU trade:

  • Customs Declarations: All shipments from the USA must be accompanied by customs declarations clearly stating product descriptions, classifications, values and tariff codes. This is required for customs clearance. Complete and accurate paperwork is essential to avoid costly delays.
  • Safety & Compliance Testing: UK regulations mandate compliance testing and certification for product safety, telecom equipment, chemicals, machinery, automotive components and other specialized imports to ensure they meet British standards. U.S. exporters must furnish this documentation.
  • Rules of Origin: To qualify for preferential tariff rates under the new UK-USA Trade Agreement, imports may need ‘certificates of origin’ certifying that products are of U.S. origin according to value-added thresholds.
  • VAT Payments: Value-added tax (VAT) is levied on imports from the USA at the point of entry into the UK – unlike purchases from the EU. Importers must account for VAT costs.
  • Inspections: Physical product inspections, sampling and lab tests may be conducted on imported goods from the USA, particularly agricultural produce, pharmaceuticals and chemicals to assess quality and safety. This can cause shipment delays.
  • Restricted Goods: The UK maintains restrictions on importing certain goods like firearms, hazardous materials, endangered species products, narcotics and counterfeit items that require special permits.

Costs and Documentation

Importing products from the United States into the UK entails a wide range of costs including freight, duties, customs brokerage fees, VAT payments, insurance, exchange rates and more. Key import documentation includes:

  • Commercial Invoice: Detailed invoice listing goods shipped, values, quantities and other information for customs valuation.
  • Bill of Lading: Contract of carriage detailing cargo, routing and responsibilities between shipper and carrier.
  • Customs Declarations: Paperwork outlining what is being imported for customs clearance.
  • Certificates of Origin: Documents certifying where products are manufactured and confirming preferential origin status.
  • Insurance Certificates: Proof of adequate insurance coverage for the shipment.
  • Import Licenses: Permits required for restricted goods like firearms, alcohol, pharmaceuticals etc.

Navigating the import regulations, taxes, and paperwork can be complex for companies new to importing from the USA. Hiring an experienced customs broker, freight forwarder or trade lawyer can help guide the process.

Top Products Imported into the UK from the USA

The United Kingdom imports a diverse array of products from across American industries:
  • Transportation Equipment: The UK imports over $9 billion worth of vehicles, aircraft and transportation equipment from the USA annually. Top imports include civilian aircraft, aircraft engines, automotive parts and unfinished vehicles.
  • Mineral Fuels: Crude oil and refined oil products valued at $6.8 billion were imported from the USA in 2021. Declining North Sea oil output has increased the UK’s dependence on imported fuels.
  • Electronic Equipment: America supplies around $6.7 billion in electronic products and components to the UK each year. Telecommunications equipment, semiconductors, GPS equipment and computer parts feature prominently.
  • Pharmaceuticals: Medicines represent over $5 billion in annual imports entering the UK from the United States. The UK sources a variety of drugs, vaccines, medicinal preparations and medical consumables.
  • Industrial Machinery: Diverse machinery including generators, turbines, bulldozers, cranes, filters, and centrifuges made in USA are imported into the UK, totaling around $5 billion annually.
  • Optical & Medical Equipment: Optical items like binoculars, microscopes and cameras along with medical devices account for $4.3 billion in UK imports from USA.

Future Outlook

The UK imported over $66 billion worth of American goods in 2021. As the single largest source of imports last year, the U.S. accounted for 11.4% of total UK import value. This share is projected to grow as Britain deepens trade ties with non-EU countries after Brexit.

Strong demand is expected for U.S. products like oil, medicines, vehicles, machinery and electronics. UK importers should familiarize themselves with changes to customs procedures, documentation requirements and costs to avoid logistical delays when sourcing from America. Overall, the United States will remain a critical supplier of imports to the UK as trade flows evolve post-Brexit.

UK Imports from the U.S. Continues to Grow Post-Brexit

Despite Brexit, import values from the United States to the United Kingdom has continued to grow in recent years. According to UK customs data, total imports from the U.S. rose from $54 billion in 2016 to $66 billion in 2021. This represent a 22% increase over just 5 years.

Several factors has driven the growth in imports from the U.S. Firstly, the UK remains dependent on America for key imports like oil, medicines and vehicles. Secondly, the new UK-U.S. free trade agreement has preserved tariff-free access for many U.S. goods. Lastly, deep cultural and language ties facilitates trade between the two allies.

Outlook Remains Strong for Imports from the U.S.

Analysts forecast UK imports from the United States to grow around 30% over the next five years. The U.S. is expected to remains the UK’s single largest source of imports throughout the 2020s.

Continued growth in imports of pharmaceuticals, machinery, electronic goods from the U.S. is projected as UK trade shifts toward non-EU partners. Overall, the future outlook remains positive for American companies exporting to the UK market.


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