EORI number - What is an EORI number?

An Economic Operator Registration Identification (EORI) number is an identification number required for businesses importing or exporting in/out of the UK.

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Introduced by the EU in 2009, the EORI number is an important identifier for customs in the import and export of products and services from outside the EU zone. 

Previously, the Traders Union Reference Number System was in place to monitor international business shipments, but EORI replaced this system.

After Brexit, UK businesses are required to have an EORI number to move goods between the UK and the EU. 

EORI number format

There are two different formats for the 12-digit EORI numbers: those for VAT-registered businesses, and those for businesses that aren’t VAT-registered.

  • EORI for VAT-registered businesses: comprised of a country code (‘GB’, for example), combined with the business’ VAT number, followed by ‘000’

  • EORI for non-VAT-registered businesses: a country code such as ‘GB’ combined with a unique number that is provided by HMRC

The number is used not only for customs verification and tracking, it’s also used for exchanging information between relevant government authorities to track statistics and ensure proper security measures are in place.

Does your business need an EORI?

Any individual or business, no matter the size, that’s dealing with the import or export of goods in the UK must possess an EORI number.

The EORI number is used for goods that are imported or exported for commercial reasons. In other words, if you’re importing or exporting the goods only for personal use, an EORI number isn’t necessary.

If your business does not have an EORI number

Without an EORI number, a business that’s importing or exporting goods outside the UK will at best face a lengthy wait in clearing goods. They can also face costly fees involved in the storage of goods while waiting for clearance. At worst, the goods will not be cleared, meaning that you’ll not receive them and will not be reimbursed for any storage fees.

How to apply for an EORI in the UK

It’s a fairly simple process to apply for an EORI number for your UK business. HMRC have a dedicated EORI page with information about the application process and a direct link to the online application (which they state takes between 5 and 10 minutes to complete).

Once you’ve submitted the application, you should receive confirmation and your unique EORI number either immediately, or within 5 working days, depending on whether it’s necessary for HMRC to follow up on anything.

EORI and Brexit for UK businesses

Post-Brexit, most businesses that import/export goods will require an EORI number. This may also be required for imports/exports between Great Britain (England, Scotland and Wales) and Northern Ireland. 

According to HMRC guidance, you should apply for an EORI number if you move goods between:

  • Great Britain or the Isle of Man and any other country (including the EU)

  • Great Britain and Northern Ireland

  • Great Britain and the Channel Islands

  • Northern Ireland and countries outside the EU