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Your learning module: ATA Carnets – Your passport for goods

Since the UK exit from the EU, the business community has seen customs controls tighten and increase. These changes have put extra pressure in companies exporting and importing goods temporarily out of the UK and into foreign territories all over the world but more specially into the European Community. ATA Carnets offer an alternative solution to the onerous and sometimes complex temporary import formalities that national customs authorities have in place.

A passport for goods temporarily exported from the UK and imported in over 80 countries worldwide, ATA Carnets bring multiple benefits to businesses, from simplified customs formalities to nil import duties and taxes. Learn all the basics of this international customs document in this month’s learning module.

What are ATA Carnets?

The initials ATA stand for the French and English words “Admission Temporaire/Temporary Admission”.

ATA Carnet is an international customs document also known as “the passport for goods” that permits temporary importation of non-perishable goods, duty and tax free, for up to one year.

It simplifies customs formalities for traders temporarily importing goods into countries participating in the Carnet system. ATA Carnets facilitate and expedite the temporary importation of goods by allowing a single document to be used for clearing goods through customs in multiple destinations and trips throughout its one-year validity.

With an ATA Carnet, traders of goods and services from all business sectors may travel with their commercial and professional goods without having to pay import duties and taxes at each customs border office they cross. Therefore, it enables Carnet holders to work with predetermined costs and make advance customs arrangements, to simplify all stages of the journey.

ATA Carnets can be used in over 80 destinations around the world. ATA Carnets have been in use since 1961, when the former Customs Co-Operation Council (now the World Customs Organisation) adopted the "Customs Convention on the ATA Carnet for the Temporary Admission of Goods", and their use increased significantly following the EU exit, when the UK became a third country and ATA Carnets became a necessity.

It must be emphasised that ATA Carnet is not a mandatory document, however, they are advisable given the multiple benefits they bring to the Carnet holders. Traders can still temporarily import their goods without having an ATA Carnet in place, but they will need to comply with the national customs procedures for each country visited, such as processing full import and export declarations or placing temporary import bonds. Different requirements may be in place for each individual country to be visited, we encourage traders to revise these requirements before taking their goods abroad.

ATA Carnets are administered worldwide by the International Chamber of Commerce/World Chambers Federation (ICC) and issued by local Chambers in each country. In the UK, as of September 2023, there are 18 authorised issuing bodies, the London Chamber of Commerce and Industry being the largest issuer in the country.

In order to continue close cooperation between nations and facilitate international trade, customs authorities from ATA participating countries have set specific rules applicable to the use of this document and require a system of guarantees to be put into place to allow the temporary importation of commercial, exhibition and professional goods into their territories. This system ensures that the host customs will receive payment of import duty and taxes if the terms of the temporary admission have been broken (i.e. the goods are sold or not re-exported from the country of temporary importation). The issuing as well as the guaranteeing of ATA Carnets is ensured by National Guaranteeing Organisations (NGOs) in each country, these NGOs are members of the International Customs guarantee chain which was set up for that purpose by the ICC.

In the UK, the national guaranteeing organisation is the LCCI who is ultimately responsible for all ATA Carnets issued in the UK as well as guaranteeing for in-bound Carnets (those that are issued overseas for goods coming into the UK). LCCI delegated national administration of ATA Carnets to the UKNATACO.

What are the ATA Carnet requirements and conditions?

ATA Carnets are underpinned by the harmonised international rules and principles; however, some countries may have specific requirements relating to the use of ATA Carnets in their territories.

General conditions that need to be met for an ATA Carnet to be issued are:

  • ATA Carnets can only be issued for goods to be used at trade fairs, shows and exhibitions, professional equipment (tools of trade, test and scientific equipment, etc), and commercial samples, personal effects and goods for sports purposes (including race vehicles).
  • Goods covered by an ATA Carnet must not go through any processing or modifications whilst in the country of temporary importation.
  • ATA Carnets do not cover perishable or consumable items, goods for processing or repair, or means of private transportation.
  • All entries and exits from one country to another must be endorsed by the relevant Customs.
  • Goods traveling under an ATA Carnet must be re-exported from the importing country before the Carnet expires or within the time limit imposed by host customs (on importation). Failure to do so may lead to payment of the import duties and taxes to the host country.
  • Specific country requirements are available in the LCCI’s Frequently Asked Questions (see FAQ no. 2).

How do I apply for an ATA Carnet?

ATA Carnets can be obtained online, using LCCI’s eCarnet application system. New users will be required to set up a profile before they can proceed with applications.

The information required for all applications is:

  1. List of countries the goods will be travelling to
  2. Intended use of goods (commercial samples, trade fairs or exhibitions, professional equipment or description of the event / activity)
  3. Name of person / company that will be travelling with the goods
  4. List of items that will be temporarily exported

The list of items must include the following: general but clear and detailed description of the goods, serial numbers, makes, dimensions (where applicable), commercial value, country of origin (where the goods were manufactured), and weight. Any relevant information to describe the goods and help customs agents identifying the goods is helpful, the system also supports uploading photos should they be available and needed.

LCCI documentation specialists will check the application and advise whether any additions or amendment will be required to ensure smooth transactions at the border. The final stage of the application process involves applicants signing the required forms and payment of any applicable fees.

Any traders moving goods to Taiwan will require a separate Carnet called the EC/CPD/China – Taiwan Carnet. This type of Carnet is underpinned by a bilateral agreement between the UK and Taiwan and, other than a different colour code and format to distinguish it from the ATA Carnet, the Taiwan Carnet’s conditions of use and customs procedures are identical. Anyone wishing to apply for a Taiwan Carnet should refer to the LCCI's Frequently Asked Questions (see FAQ no. 8).

What is the ATA Carnet guarantee?

When applying for an ATA Carnet with the London Chamber, two separate payments need to be made:

Issuing fee: 

The issuing fee is the cost of the issuing service. This is a non-refundable fee and the cost depends on the urgency of the request and the applicant’s membership status, hence:

Standard service (24-48 hours turn-around)

  • LCCI Member – £195.00 + VAT
  • LCCI Non-Member – £325.00 + VAT

Express service (2 hours turn-around, latest submission at 1 pm)

  • LCCI Member – £390.00 + VAT
  • LCCI Non-Member – £520.00 + VAT

Carnet guarantee:

The Carnet guarantee is a fee that needs to be presented to the issuing body as a security bond to guarantee that all duties and taxes will be paid to foreign customs authorities in the case that the goods fail to return to the UK or where the Carnet has been misused and the Carnet Holder is unable to settle the charges due.

There are different options to cover the security fee:

Refundable payment:

  1. Banker’s draft/cash
  2. Bank guarantee (issued by Bank of Scotland plc, Barclays Bank plc, HSBC Bank plc, Lloyds TSB Bank plc, Natwest Bank, Santander UK plc, Standard Chartered Bank, The Royal Bank of Scotland plc)

These options are refundable upon discharge of their corresponding Carnet. If the Carnet is subject of a potential claim from foreign customs, the Carnet won’t be discharged and the guarantee on any of their forms provided will be held for up to 33 months (from the issuing date).

Non-refundable payment:

  • Carnet Security Scheme (CSS)

The CSS is a non-refundable, one-off payment service provided by the LCCI by which the Carnet user can arrange for the security to be provided without having to bond any funds through a banker’s draft, cash, or bank guarantee.

Nevertheless, if a claim is expected or received from foreign customs for the incorrect use of the ATA Carnet, the Carnet holder will still be liable and responsible for payment of any duties, taxes and any other applicable charges.

The security guarantee is calculated against the total commercial value of the goods, the countries to be visited and the time the goods will spend abroad. The security fee can be calculated here.

How are ATA Carnets used?

ATA Carnets hold information relevant to the journey and the goods being imported, such as the Carnet holder, the purpose of the trip, the countries to be visited, and the goods it covers. It also contains Vouchers which are used to lodge a customs declaration at each border.

Once the Carnet has been issued, the Chamber will provide the Carnet holder with the instructions on how to use the Carnet. Below steps provide a summary of the key points:

  1. Before commencing the trip, the Carnet should be presented to UK customs at the point of exit to have the document validated. Customs may request to see the physical goods at this stage to enable them to ensure that the descriptions provided in the Carnet general list are correct. Failure to get the Front Cover validated by the UK customs may result in the Carnet being rejected by foreign customs.
  2. When exiting the UK, the Carnet holder must present the Carnet to UK customs, who will stamp the “exportation counterfoil” and remove and keep the exportation voucher from the document.
  3. Upon entry to the country of visit, the Carnet holder must present the document to local customs and see that the “importation counterfoil” is completed and stamped and the “importation voucher” removed and kept by the customs authorities.
  4. When exiting the visited country, the Carnet holder will present the Carnet to the local customs authorities and have the “re-exportation counterfoil” completed and stamped. Local authorities will remove and keep the “re-exportation voucher” from the Carnet. Steps 3 and 4 will be repeated on each country visited.
  5. When returning to the UK, the Carnet will be presented to UK customs to have the “re-importation counterfoil” completed and the “re-importation voucher” removed and kept by UK authorities.
  6. When the Carnet holder has finished using the Carnet, the document must be returned to the issuing body in person or by tracked delivery to initiate the discharge process. The Carnet holder must keep a photocopy of pages 2, 3 and 4 for their own records and in the eventuality of the Carnet going missing.
  7. If a refundable guarantee was provided and the Carnet is discharged (upon review by the issuing officers), the guarantee will be either send back to the issuing bank (for bank guarantees) or returned to the holder (for banker’s draft or cash). A discharge letter will be sent to the Carnet holder and the file closed.
  8. If the Carnet has been used incorrectly, the issuing body will write to the Carnet holder to inform them of the steps required to resolve the issue and avoid a potential claim from foreign customs.

Carnet holders must remember that they are responsible for ensuring that the ATA Carnet is correctly used and stamped by customs authorities of each country where the Carnet is being used.

Further information about ATA Carnets can be found here:

For specific enquiries, the LCCI Carnet issuing team can be contacted by email.