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Delays to UK Transfer of Residence (ToR)

14 June 2019

We have received reports of delays in relation to the processing of ToR applications by UK Customs (HMRC) on household goods shipments into the UK.

In the build up to the summer peak period, Gerson Relocation is advising clients and overseas partners of these potential delays and the steps that can be taken to reduce the risk of incurring additional charges.

Delays in relation to the processing of ToR applications by UK Customs (HMRC) on household goods shipments into the UK.
Delays in relation to the processing of ToR applications by UK Customs (HMRC) on household goods shipments into the UK.

What is a ToR application?

A Transfer of Residence (ToR) application must be made by the shipper, to HMRC for each household goods shipment (air, sea, road) destined for the UK from outside the EU. HMRC then issue a Unique Reference Number (URN) in order to customs clear the household goods shipment.

Increased processing times

Where applicants would normally expect to receive their URN within 2 to 3 weeks, we are receiving reports of applicants experiencing an additional 1 to 2 weeks waiting time, with some applicants waiting up to 5 weeks to receive their URN. This may also increase further over the busy summer period.

We understand that this is due to the increase in the number of ToR applications HMRC is processing which is creating a backlog.

What is the impact of this delay on household goods shipments?

Unless managed effectively, the longer processing times could delay the delivery of household goods for individuals and families to their home. It could also result in a shipment arriving at the UK border without the URN confirmed and incurring additional charges in the form of rent and demurrage. In the worst-case scenario, a shipment could even be turned back to the origin location.

Precautionary steps to offset longer processing times and mitigate the risk of incurring charges:

  • Start the ToR Application for each shipment well in advance of the packing date. It is essential the shipper starts their application process as early as possible. This should be made in advance of the pack date.
  • A residential home address must be provided in the application. The shipper’s UK address submitted on the ToR application cannot be an office address. It should be the shipper’s new permanent address in the UK. If they cannot provide a permanent address at the time of application, they should put down their temporary UK address where they are staying. There have been exceptions when neither a permanent address OR a temporary address is known at the time of application. In this case, they should explain their circumstances to HMRC and HMRC may request an office address and details of who they are working for.
  • Provide a list of the items being shipped. The applicant needs to submit a list of items being shipped to HMRC at time of application. This does not have to be too detailed and can be the list of items identified in the survey results, a copy of their insurance form – minus values, or their own list as a packing list would not usually have been created at that time.
  • Get the URN before you forward your shipment to the UK. Please do not send a shipment until your customer has received their URN and please make sure you have notified Gerson Relocation of the URN before forwarding a shipment to the UK. We understand that timings can be tight, but if you despatch a shipment before you have the URN, there will be a significant risk of delays and additional charges.
  • Inform Gerson Relocation of the URN. We will need the URN in order to conduct the customs clearance process.
  • Additional information that is required by Gerson Relocation. In addition, to the customer’s URN, we also need to know their “UK Address” and the “Value of their Goods”.
  • The applicant should clearly identify their “full name” in the “subject line” of their application. If they do not do this, it will delay their application further and make it difficult for HMRC to track down the application due an applicant’s name not being put in the subject line.

What can be done in the event of a shipment arriving without the URN?

We strongly advise that everything should be done to ensure the URN is received prior to arrival at the UK border. However, in the event of a shipment arriving before the URN is allocated, then shipments can be cleared upon payment of the amount of duty and tax which would be payable if ToR approval was not approved – as assessed by Customs, The amount payable will be based on the total value of their goods.  If and when they do receive their URN, the customer will then need to notify HRMC and apply for a refund of the costs. This is expensive, there is no guarantee the URN will be provided and there is a risk a shipment may need to be returned.

Contact Gerson Relocation if you have questions

Nikki Brown | | T: +44 (0) 20 3837 5999 Additional information


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