Tips for Importing Goods from China to UK

Importing goods from China to UK is slowly turning into an import trade trend. Owing to the great prices offered by the Chinese traders, import business from China is highly encouraged in the UK.

But if you wish to succeed in the import business, you need to have a detailed knowledge of the business operating procedures.

Here in this article, we have a few tips for you that will help you grow in the business, right from the scratch. You can start by identifying the product you wish to import to UK.

Step-by-step guidance for importing goods from China to UK from scratch

You are just starting your import business in the UK and you want to import goods from China. How do you start the business? This guide will make your life easier from the beginning.

1. Start with products that have permission for import from China

You have a product in mind to start your business. Before you get into hardcore import business, you need to check with the UK Government trade policy if those products are allowed to import from China. There might be cases where you will require a special license for the import job.

There 3 major restriction in UK on import trade-

a. Bans: Where the import of certain products is completely restricted. Common banned products in the trade are animal hide, ivory, firearms, equipment for torture.

b. Quotas: This is a form of restricted import, where the government permits you to import only a fixed volume of a product.

c. Surveillance: These are products that require a license for importing. But there is no restriction regarding the volume of products.

Some products that don’t even require separate license for importing are clothing, furniture, toys, etc.

2. What commodity codes classify your product to the tax regulation bodies?

The import-export trade law states that every commodity needs to be classified under specific commodity codes and then declared to the tax regulation body of the Government. Commodity code is also necessary for you to find out about the applicable fees and VAT.

In fact you need feel in your commodity details in the trade declaration.

In the United Kingdom, if you wish to have a smooth trade, commodity code is a mandate. Failing to provide the correct code, you might even get penalized or the shipment can be seized.

Majorly people get to identify their commodity codes by looking at the categories. But Trade Tariff Tool of the UK government is a great place to look for if you are confused about the code. If you are still not satisfied with the search results, you can ask the HM Revenue & Customs department of the Government. Generally, they revert in 3 days.

3. Find out if VAT registration is necessary for importing goods from China to UK

The 3rd step of starting an import trade is VAT registration. Not that every commodity requires VAT, but if you do, you need to register for it and also find out the VAT amount applicable.

As per the UK trade rules, a company is liable to pay VAT if its annual taxable turnover is more than £85,000 or is expected to be so in the coming 30 days. If you are not sure if your business calls for VAT registration, you can ask HMRC at any point of time.

4. Obtain your EORI number

You might not require VAT registration in the UK, but an EORI number or Economic Operators Registration and Identification Number is a mandate over here. EORI is the number that is used for shipments to happen in the business at a later stage.

Every mode of transportation requires an EORI number. So, how to obtain one?

Go to the UK government trade portal and submit the application form number C220, if you already have VAT registration. For those without the VAT registration, look for the alternative Form C220A. These forms are available online.

Once you have filled up the forms mail it to HMRC’s EORI department. In general, they process the request within 72 hours and then deliver it to your business address for future use.

Once you have all of these ready, you are good to start importing goods from China to UK.

Goods that are good for importing from China to UK

You have successfully initiated your business and have all the requisite licenses to process the business. It’s time you choose the products you like to import from China.

Every product from China is available at dirt-cheap prices. Thanks to the low cost of manufacturing, the Chinese traders offer the lowest deal in the market for every product. But the imported products that are in demand in the UK are electronic goods, LED Lights, clothing, cosmetics, mobile phones, etc.

Try finding a product that is in-demand and doesn’t call for any import restrictions. Choose a product that has the highest suppliers in China and consumers in the UK. Always import products that are of high quality. Don’t feel about the pricing, you will always be better than your competition since compare value for money.

Here we have a few scenario on importing goods from China to UK.

1. Chinese electronic goods

Chinese electronic products are probably the most profitable item to sell in the UK. Do you know why? It is because of their-

  • Great pricing
  • Stylish designs and colors
  • Reliability on the quality

However, since China’s voltage system differs from UK’s, it’s recommended that you check the product for its voltage specifications. You need to ensure that the product is an operation in the UK too. Plus, you also need to ensure that the product meets the Government standards of electronic goods in the UK.

2. Mobile phone importing

China is one of the largest importers in the market that deals with mobile phones. Their mobile phones have featured the same as that of world leaders like Apple, LG, Samsung, etc. and you can purchase these phones at almost half-the-price of the top brands. Who wouldn’t want to avail such deals?

However there are a few checkpoints on importing mobiles from China-

  • Is the mobile brand you are planning to import available in the UK? If yes, check the reviews to understand what people think about it and the product quality.
  • Does the phone come with international usage optimization?
  • Is it possible to get repair services for that phone brand in your country?

Xiaomi is the most popular Chinese mobile phone brand that has gained quite some popularity in the UK market.

3. Electrical goods’ import business

Like electronic products, electricals are very cheap as well. However, you need to check these points before importing electrical items-

  • Does the product comply with the UK Government standards for electrical goods?
  • Check for product certifications and safety guarantees.
  • CE certification is a mandate in all European countries. The UK is no exception to that.

It is very important that these basic standards are met by the supplier providing you with electrical goods. Failing to meet these criterion, the customs department has the full right to seize your products at the airport or delay the delivery. In short, if you the products don’t meet standards, you are in for some harrasments.

4. LED Light import plans

The Chinese people are the masters in manufacturing attractive LED lighting. These are money-saving, energy-efficient, and have a high shelf life. Naturally, their demand is higher in the market as compared to traditional tube lights.

There isn’t much to check when it comes to LED light importing. Simply connect with the supplier directly and find out the UK standard certifications and choose the product from the huge lighting collection.

5. E-cigarettes, one of the best things for importing goods from China to UK

E-cigs or e-cigarettes are highly in demand worldwide as people become more and more health-conscious. They are known to reduce or terminate the effects of smoking on our bodies.

Owing to the growing demand for e-cigs in the market, in 2004, China came up with 450 different brands of e-cigs. Of course, the world went gaga over it. But, you as a trader, need to do some background check before importing goods from China to UK.

  • While importing e-cigs ensure to check the safety measures taken to manufacture the product. Any discrepancy in manufacturing can lead to hazards later.
  • Understand the types of e-cigarettes available in the market.
  • Check the physical aspects of the product like battery efficiency, product material, size, and voltage.
  • E-cigs are considered under Tobacco Products Derivative in the UK. The Government imposes certain restrictions on the import of these products. There are particular licensed brands only that can be imported. You need to check for that license when you import them.

6. Importing cosmetics from China

This is a highly profitable business with scopes of loads of harassment in the job. There are many import rules and regulations applicable to the cosmetic import business.

Out of all the ingredients used for manufacturing cosmetics, UK has a ban on many of these substances. Go to the Cosmetic Products Enforcement Regulation Page from the UK Government website to gather the list of cosmetics and substances that falls under restricted ones. Some norms which you might want to follow here-

  • The customs here mandates product labeling with details as the manufacturer’s details, date of production, date of expiry, Usage instruction, etc., mentioned in the cosmetic container.
  • Get product samples for testing by the customs before entry.
  • The product needs to match the standards mentioned by EU Cosmetic Derivatives, Directives on Registration, Evaluation, Authorization, and Restrictions on Chemicals or REACH applicable, and the new EU Cosmetic Products Regulation body.

7. Getting an imported car for business

If you have a plan to import cars from China to the UK, the process might get a little complicated for you. Car import business requires you to follow these steps-

  • Inform the HMRC department of the UK Government about the car, its manufacturers, etc.
  • Register and pay the VAT
  • Provide HMRC with car papers to prove that all safety standards are met by the car.
  • Pay the duty.
  • Secure all necessary approvals for the business from the Government.
  • Get the vehicle registered.

8. Clothing, one of the important importing goods from China to UK

Chinese clothing is highly in demand in the UK market for its quality, fashion, prices, and even durability. There are no regulations associated with clothing, i.e. clothing is free good for import to the UK. Naturally, it becomes one of the most important things to import from China.

Importing clothing is easy-

  • Select a trusted supplier with quality clothing
  • Get your EORI Number
  • Pay the taxes and duties due
  • Begin importing

9. Importing furniture

Chinese furniture, especially the wooden ones are known to the world as one of the best in the market since the ancient days of trading. China is one of the biggest suppliers of furniture in the world. Of course, there are licenses and restrictions associated with it, but the hassle is worth it.

Chinese furniture is well known for their hardiness. If you want to secure these for importing, you can visit the annual Furniture Trade Fairs happening on the Trade Fair grounds of Shanghai and Guangzhou. You can gather knowledge on this from the official websites of China International Furniture Fair and Furniture China.

10. Tea import business

China is the place where tea originated and spread to the whole world. Naturally, there are millions of tea suppliers in China. You are sure to make money in tea import. but before you do so, visit China, meet your suppliers, check the product, and confirm the product safety.

UK Government has regulations imposed on all food and beverage items by the Food Standards Agency, which the tea needs to meet to get the import permits.

Other to consider for importing goods from China to UK

  • Toys, apart from the trademarked character toys
  • Tires with safety tests
  • Fashion accessories like handbags, purses, etc.
  • Batteries
  • Bicycles with CE certification
  • Motorcycles meeting the EU standards
  • Jewelry – the UK has a record of importing pieces of jewelry worth $450 million in a year
  • Solar panels
  • High-quality steel
  • Wood importing with a license from Forestry Commission of the UK Government

Finding trusted suppliers for importing goods from China to UK

Chine has millions of suppliers. It can be difficult to identify a trusted one from them, but not impossible. A few brief steps to help you here-

Begin your search from online portals like Alibaba, Aliexpress, or on social media, search engines (Best on being UCBrowser), Trade Fairs, and reference from friends, and family.

Modes of importing goods from China to UK

  • Airfreight
  • Sea freight
  • Rail freight

Mandatory certification for importing goods from China to UK

  • EORI number
  • REACH Certification
  • CE
  • RoHS
  • EN 71

Common problems you face while importing from China to UK

  • Linguistic barriers
  • Quality fluctuation issues
  • Overcharging due to lack of bargaining
  • Time consumption before starting an import business
  • Product copying is permitted


Hopefully, the detailed guide to starting an import business in the UK. There are many products in China that are available for importing to the UK. Choose wisely after checking the credentials of the product.

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