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Tips for international express shipping from Vietnam to the UK

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The relationship between Vietnam and the United Kingdom (UK) has seen notable growth, especially after the establishment of the UK-Vietnam Free Trade Agreement (UKVFTA). With Vietnam's industries now recognised as operating within a market economy by the UK, the pathway has been paved for more favourable trade conditions.  

With the FTA, the two countries experienced a significant boost in trade, witnessed by a 17.2% increase in 2021, reaching a staggering US$6.6 billion in 2022, the International Economic Integration and Ministry of Industry and Trade reported. Vietnam’s exports alone were worth US$5.8 billion, up by 16.4% from 2020. Goods shipped from Vietnam to the UK, particularly textiles, electronics, and agricultural products, have significantly contributed to this achievement, with UK consumers highly valuing their quality and cost-effectiveness. 

The integration of the UK into the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) hints at further opportunities, promising preferential conditions for Vietnamese exports. This flourishing trade spectrum between the nations emphasises the profitable nature of doing business with the UK, whether you’re an experienced business owner in Vietnam or new to the scene. 

Below, we dive into the procedures to prepare your shipment so that your international shipping venture from Vietnam to the UK is seamless and effective.  

1. Choose international shipping modes best suited for your business 

Choosing the right mode of international shipping can profoundly influence the timeliness, cost, and reliability of your product deliveries, especially when you're exporting from Vietnam to the UK. Broadly, businesses have two primary options: air and sea.  

Air shipping from Vietnam to the UK is faster, especially with international air express shipping taking 2-3 business days only, ideal for businesses with time-sensitive or critical items demanding priority shipping. In contrast, sea shipping is more economical but takes approximately 25-30 days.  

Express air shipping is typically favoured by businesses valuing speed and reliability, such as those in fashion, tech and e-commerce sectors. This mode of transportation helps to ensure that they meet consumer demands and maintain a competitive edge, no matter the type of industry or how large the shipment may be. 

2. Navigate UK’s customs regulations effectively 

With express air shipping locked in, you can then direct your attention to UK’s customs regulations. Adhering to these ensures you can clear customs without hiccups and avoid delays in your deliveries from Vietnam.  

EORI Number  

Any entity importing goods into the UK (England, Wales, or Scotland) requires an EORI number beginning with "GB", followed by 12 or 15 digits. If your existing EORI doesn’t start with "GB", you must obtain a new one. For trading with Northern Ireland, an EORI number prefixed with "XI" may be necessary.  

Commodity codes  

The commodity code, crucial for your import declaration, determines the duty rate and checks if an import licence is needed. This code specifies the nature of the goods imported, helping calculate the requisite duty and Value Added Tax (VAT). Businesses are required to use the UK Integrated Online Tariff, which is based on the international HS (Harmonised System) codes.  

We understand that identifying the correct commodity codes can be a tricky endeavour, especially if you’re in a niche industry. Rest assured that when you work with service providers like DHL Express, we will guide you to find the correct commodity codes so you can calculate your international express shipping costs more accurately. 

Duties and taxes 

So what are the duties and taxes to pay when importing into the UK? 

VAT is levied on almost all imported goods, barring gifts valued below £39. VAT is applied not just on the goods' value but also encompasses postage, packaging, and insurance. The standard VAT rate is 20%, although rates may vary based on the product category. For instance, goods like children’s car seats enjoy a reduced VAT rate of 5% while most food and children’s clothes do not levy any VAT. 

Customs duty is imposed on imports exceeding £135 in value or on specific excise goods, which includes products like alcohol and tobacco. 

To calculate UK import duty, you need to know the commodity codes and the duty levied as prescribed by the UK Integrated Online Tariff. As an example, if a business imports knitted vests using the HS code 6109.10.0090, the duty rate stands at 12%. Thus, for £1,000 worth of vests, the duty sums up to £120, resulting in a total of £1,120 on which VAT is calculated. 

Enter UKVFTA, and Vietnamese enterprises now have access to substantial tariff relaxations. As of January 1, 2021, 85.6% of tariff lines between Vietnam and the UK were abolished. By January 1, 2027, this figure is projected to reach 99.2%. Meanwhile, 0.8% of tariff lines undergo partial liberalisation, presenting tariff rate quotas with a preferential 0% rate for in-quota items. Products that enjoy these preferential trade tariffs include machinery, auto parts, pharmaceuticals, chemicals, and raw materials for textiles

3. Prepare essential documentation for shipping 

Shipping goods from Vietnam to the UK requires specific documents to ensure a smooth customs clearance and timely delivery. Ensuring accuracy and completeness in your documentation is not just a procedural requisite but a critical aspect of averting potential delays and added costs. Here are the fundamental documents you'll need: 

Air waybill (AWB)  

Often viewed as the shipment's ID tag, the air waybill provides comprehensive details about the shipment. This includes but is not limited to: 

  • The contact information and addresses of both the shipper and the receiver. 
  • A detailed description of the goods being shipped, including their type and the quantity of each. 
  • The total number of packages or pieces included in the shipment. 
  • The shipment’s total weight and dimensions. 

Commercial invoice  

This serves as a detailed record of the transaction between the buyer and the seller. An efficient customs clearance is guaranteed only when the customs invoice has complete and accurate information. Some of the essential details to include are: 

  • Addresses and contact details for both the shipper/exporter and the receiver/importer. 
  • Identification and/or tax ID numbers for both parties. 
  • A breakdown of transaction costs such as the value of goods, insurance, packaging, and freight. 
  • The currency code utilised in the transaction. 
  • The specified Incoterm and the place where it's applied. 
  • The reason for the export – be it sale, gift, sample, or return. 

In place of the commercial invoice, you may prepare a proforma invoice. It is more of a preliminary bill of sale, typically used for transactions where the goods haven't been sold or are not intended for resale. Common scenarios where this type of invoice is used include shipments of personal items, gifts, or returned goods. 

Customs declaration 

A pivotal document for importing, the customs declaration provides an exhaustive list of the goods being brought into the UK. It consists of over 50 fields that need careful completion. For this, businesses often hire a customs compliance provider who prepares and submits the declaration.  

Licences or certifications 

The UK has specific requirements regarding certain goods. We dive more into this in the next section. 

4. Be aware of what can and cannot be shipped 

When shipping goods to the UK, it's imperative to be acquainted with items that are either prohibited or restricted. Violating these regulations can lead to severe consequences, including goods confiscation, penalties, or even legal action. 

Prohibited items you cannot ship to the UK 

Certain items are strictly forbidden from entering the UK, and customs authorities will seize them upon detection. These prohibited goods include: 

  • Controlled drugs: Substances which are illegal to possess, like certain narcotics. 
  • Offensive weapons: This category includes items such as flick knives. 
  • Self-defence sprays: Pepper sprays, CS gas, and similar items meant for personal protection. 
  • Endangered species: This pertains to both animal and plant species that are at risk of extinction. 
  • Indecent materials: Items considered inappropriate or offensive, including certain books, magazines, films, and DVDs. 

Restricted goods you need approval for before exporting to the UK 

While not entirely forbidden, the following types of goods are some examples of items with have limitations or require special permissions when imported into the UK: 

  • Alcohol: Limits apply based on quantity and type, and you must seek approval from the HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC). 
  • Batteries: Especially those that are potentially hazardous, batteries must be certified for entry by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE). 
  • Electronic devices with lithium batteries: You must be certified by the Office for Product Safety and Standards (OPSS) to ship these into the UK, as per the Batteries and Accumulators (Placing on the Market) Regulations 2008. 
  • Hazardous substances: These include any type of dangerous goods harmful to the environment, from explosive substances to clinical waste, generally governed by the Environment Agency (EA) and HSE.
  • Cosmetics: Items like nail varnish, polish, and gel must be sold by entities granted as Responsible Persons and products must be approved by the Office for Product Safety and Standards (OPSS). 
  • Rough diamonds: Vietnam is among the countries in the Kimberley Process (KP) Certification Scheme (KPCS). When shipping to the UK, you will thus need a KP certification to prove that the rough diamonds you are importing are conflict-free.  

Awareness and adherence to these guidelines are crucial for businesses to avoid unnecessary complications. Always double-check the regulations before shipping, especially when dealing with unfamiliar goods. 

5. Use proper packaging and labelling techniques 

Correct packaging and labelling are not just procedural formalities. They play a vital role in: 

  • Safety: Correct packaging protects goods from damage during transportation, reducing the risk of financial losses. 
  • Efficient handling: Clearly labelled packages help handlers understand how to store and transport them, ensuring a smoother shipping process. 
  • Customs clearance: Properly labelled packages expedite the customs clearance process, leading to quicker deliveries. 

Meeting the UK's specific requirements for imports can save you from customs rejections, potential fines, and delayed shipments. The Department for Business and Trade (DBT) has laid down regulations that need to be adhered to for a variety of goods.  

UKCA and CE marking 

Vietnamese businesses are required to apply the UK Conformity Assessment (UKCA) on their products before placing them on the Great Britain market. The mark indicates that a product meets the legal standards to be sold in Great Britain. This label assures buyers that the product complies with local rules and regulations. 

To allow businesses to adjust following BREXIT, the DBT intends to extend the recognition of the CE marking for goods marketed in Great Britain indefinitely after December 2024. This applies to numerous categories, including toys, machinery, lifts, pyrotechnics, and radio equipment, among others. However, there are different rules for products like medical devices, rail products, unmanned aircraft systems, and more. Relevant departments will communicate specific guidelines for these products. 

Package labels 

Certain products come with further labelling standards. For example, wine imports into Great Britain must display on the label details of the importer, bottler, or both. Until 31 December 2023, businesses (whether from the European Union (EU) or non-EU countries) can use the EU importer or bottler’s details. For wine marketed in Northern Ireland, the label must feature the name and address of the importer or bottler based in the EU or Northern Ireland

For those who package food, it is mandatory to use packaging denoted as 'for food contact' or display a wine glass and fork symbol, indicating its suitability for food. Special rules apply to packaging materials like plastics, ceramics, and cellophane. A 'declaration of compliance', which affirms adherence to these rules, must be obtained from the packaging supplier. 

To sum up, it's paramount for businesses to be meticulous about packaging and labelling when exporting goods to the UK. Doing so not only safeguards the integrity of the products but also ensures smooth navigation through customs. You are also advised to view our packing guidelines for safe international express delivery.  

Opt for DHL Express for your international express shipping to the UK 

When it comes to express international priority shipping from Vietnam to the UK, DHL Express Vietnam stands unparalleled in its service offering. Leveraging an expansive global network and preferential global shipping rates, DHL ensures swift and secure door-to-door couriers, bridging businesses between continents effortlessly.  

With our MyDHL+ platform, you can easily schedule shipments, track packages in real time, and manage your shipping documentation, all from one user-friendly interface. This digital convenience is designed to save you time and reduce potential errors, offering a streamlined shipping process from Vietnam to the UK. 

Our vast expertise, garnered over decades, means we anticipate challenges and navigate them seamlessly. Moreover, our dedicated customer service team ensures you're supported at every step before, during and after parcel delivery. Experience the DHL difference and elevate your business shipping standards.  

Create a DHL Express business account today and give your products the express gateway they deserve. 

While at it, view our guide on international shipping to Europe and broaden your global venture.