You may not have come across the term EORI before, but it’s vital if you want to ship with EU countries.
What is an EORI number?
EORI stands for Economic Operator Registration and Identification Number and any British business that plans import from or export to the EU will need one. Your EORI number is unique to your business and will be used to identify you when dealing with the customs authorities and customs procedures in different EU countries.
Any GB business, whether a limited company or a sole trader, will need an EORI number. The usual way to apply for one is online.
How an EORI number is formatted
EORI numbers come in four formats. If you’re VAT-registered, a standard EORI number will be in the format GB + VAT registration number (VRN) + 000. If you’re not VAT-registered, it will be GB + a unique number. The unique number will be designated by HMRC.
There is an alternative number for exporting or importing physical goods to/from Northern Ireland, which remains part of the EU for customs purposes. EORI numbers for use with Northern Irish shipments start with XI. Otherwise, they are the same as regular EORI numbers.
How to know whether you need an EORI number
You need an EORI number to export or import physical goods to/from the EU or Northern Ireland for commercial purposes. You do not need an EORI number if any of the following apply:
- You are only selling digital products
- You are sending/receiving non-commercial items (such as gifts)
- You are exporting or importing to/from outside the EU
It is free to apply for an EORI number and the processing time is quick. Once you have the number, it’s yours, so it’s worth having one to keep on file in case you need it.
For example, you could start an online store purely to serve the UK mainland. Over time, however, you may want to expand into Northern Ireland and/or the rest of the EU. Alternatively, you may come across an opportunity in these territories and want to take advantage of it quickly.
If you already have an EORI number, you can jump on these opportunities as they arrive. For example, if you’re using Square Online you just need to sign up for one of their shipping partner integrations:
How to check if you already have an EORI number
If you’re VAT-registered there’s a strong chance you’ve already been issued an EORI number. You may, however, not have realised this or understood what it was at the time. You can check to see if you have a GB EORI number here.
You can check to see if you have an XI EORI number (for Northern Ireland) here.
In both cases, enter your EORI number and see if it is recognised.
How to apply for an EORI number
If you do need an EORI number, it’s easy to apply for one online.
If you are VAT-registered, use this form.
If you are not VAT-registered and want to export goods, use this form.
If you are not VAT-registered and want to import goods, use this form.
If you are VAT-registered you can apply for an XI EORI number at the same time as you apply for your regular EORI number.
If you are not VAT-registered you’ll need to wait until you have your regular EORI number. In either case, use this form.
What information is needed to apply for an EORI number?
The information you need to apply for an EORI number depends on which form you use. Essentially, it’s the contact details for your business and its owners.
For the VAT-registered form, you also need your VAT-registration details. For the non-VAT registered form, you will need the National Insurance number of any company owners/directors, as well as your incorporation or registration details if you’re a limited company or charity.
For the VAT-registered form, you need to confirm you do not already have an EORI number. For the non-VAT-registered forms, you will need to confirm that your application meets the relevant criteria.
All forms also have a box for you to tick if you want to opt into having your EORI number listed on the validation checker. Unless you have a compelling reason to opt out, it’s advisable to tick this, as it gives you an easy way to find your EORI number again should you need to do so.
What information is needed to apply for an XI EORI number?
You can only get an XI EORI number if you are VAT-registered or have a regular EORI number. The form only requires basic contact details plus your VAT-registration number or regular EORI number.
If you are applying for an XI EORI number, you will be asked if your enquiry relates to an EORI number already issued or a current EORI number application. Tick the right box and confirm that it’s a current EORI number application.
How long does the application process take?
If you are VAT-registered, you can apply for your XI EORI number at the same time as your regular EORI number – expect both numbers within a week.
If you are not VAT-registered, you will need to get your regular EORI number before you can apply for your XI EORI number – this will take an additional four days.
In either case, remember to allow extra time if you apply at a time when there is a bank holiday.
Consequences of not getting an EORI number
Currently, there are no direct sanctions for transporting goods without an EORI number. You can, however, expect your goods to be delayed and there will probably be associated costs (such as storage).
How to get in touch with the EORI body
If you need to get in touch with the EORI body, use this form.
Update to EORI rules
Out of 27 countries in the EU, only five (Lithuania, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Greece and Romania) require the consumer to register for an EORI number and to provide it at the time of clearance. However, any UK or EU business in a business-to-business shipment importing from the EU or UK will need to provide an EORI number.
As of March 1, 2023, EORI numbers must be collected from the recipient business by the sender. This is to prevent shipping delays because carriers need this information before departure. Countries which don’t require the EORI number will request a customer’s tax ID number. Carriers will initiate this request or it will be on file with the local government.