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How to import personal effects into the UK tax-free

If you're planning a permanent move to the UK, you might be eligible to import your household belongings tax-free. All you need to do is complete a Transfer of Residence (ToR1) form. We explain how to fill in a ToR1 application, how long it takes, what extra documentation you need to provide, how our international removals company makes shipping easy and much more!


What is a Transfer of Residence (ToR1) form?

A ToR1 form is a legal document those wishing to settle in the UK must complete if they are shipping unaccompanied personal belongings into the country. You can use it to claim relief from customs duties and tax on everything from books and clothes to pets and vehicles.

You could be:

  • a student moving to study
  • shipping inherited goods 
  • shipping wedding gifts 
  • a returning citizen
  • moving to live permanently
  • moving to work under a working visa

Complete your application online via His Majesty's Revenue and Customs (HMRC)

Ensure you send off your application before arriving in the UK, as you'll need to provide Seven Seas Worldwide with your Unique Reference Number (URN) for us to clear your belongings through customs. Failure to do so might result in your shipment incurring delays and additional charges for storage and demurrage.


How long does ToR1 approval take?

Processing times depend on the accuracy of your application and can take anywhere between two and six weeks. We recommend applying well in advance of your moving date and double-checking every detail and piece of evidence uploaded!

Please note, relief using a ToR1 form is only available up to 12 months after entering the United Kingdom.

We recommend applying well in advance of your moving date and double-checking every detail and piece of evidence uploaded!
Couple completing a ToR1 form on a tablet


What is a ToR1 URN?

If your application is successful, you'll receive a letter containing a Unique Reference Number (URN). Give this number to your overseas moving company.


Couple laughing and packing boxes

Do I qualify for ToR1 import tax relief?

To qualify for the free importation of personal effects into the UK, you need to meet the following criteria:

  • You must be relocating to Scotland, England or Wales (or from a non-EU country to Northern Ireland). If moving from within the EU to Northern Ireland, you do not need to complete a ToR1 due to the EU's freedom of movement laws.
  • You must transfer from your main home abroad rather than a secondary or holiday home.
  • You must want to make the UK your usual residence, and it must be your main home and not a secondary or holiday home.
  • You must have lived outside the UK for at least 12 consecutive months before your arrival.
  • You must have owned and used your items for at least 6 months before their importation.
  • You must import your goods within a year of your arrival in the UK.
  • You must intend to use your possessions for the same purpose they were purchased once they arrive in the UK, i.e. for personal use and not for resale.
  • You may not loan, use as security, hire out, gift or sell any goods for which relief has been applied within a year of your arrival in the UK.

Are there exceptions?

  • If moving to the United Kingdom under marriage or a civil partnership or a student, there is no set length of time you must have owned your possessions.


How do I apply for ToR1?

You must apply electronically via the UK government's official HMRC website. Detailed information and evidence regarding yourself, your move, and the goods you wish to import are required. PDF and JPEG are HMRC's preferred file formats. Other accepted formats include XLSX, ODS, DOCX, ODT, PPTX and ODP. The maximum file size is 10MB.

Please note it is of the utmost importance that the person who completes the ToR1 is also the shipment owner. Contact the HMRC helpline if you have questions or need assistance filling in your ToR1 form.


Couple writing an inventory

What documents do I need to provide when applying for ToR1?

1. An inventory

Make a detailed inventory listing all the items you're shipping, and be specific. For example, write "laptop", "tablet", and "games console" instead of simply "electronic devices".

You do not need to list individual titles such as a CD's artist, the model of a laptop or a book's author. And, if a quantity is particularly high, estimate the total number.

You can type your list using a word processing document or upload an image of a handwritten list. We recommend typing your inventory electronically to ensure accuracy.

However, if you're shipping with Seven Seas Worldwide, log into your Document Dashboard and simply download your Inventory Packing List.

Below is a small section of an example inventory listing personal goods:

Laptop: 2

Pieces of clothing: 33

Gaming console: 2

CDs: 28

Pieces of bedding: 12

Scan a coloured copy of your passport's photo and signature section, even if it's on the same page as the photo.

Passport scans

2. Shipment owner's passport

Upload an image of the shipment owner's passport clearly showing their photo and signature pages and, if applicable, also include a copy of their visa.

If you are a member of the military and do not have a passport, you can upload your North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) orders or moving orders.


3. Proof of your UK address

Provide proof of your new residence in the United Kingdom dated within the last three months.

You can choose from:

  • A bank statement.
  • A utility bill.
  • A mortgage or rental agreement.

If you still need to secure an address, either upload a statement from the person you're living with and proof of their address or provide evidence of temporary accommodation, such as a hotel or B&B booking receipt.

4. Pet passport

Show evidence for each pet joining you on your overseas adventure by providing a pet passport or health certificate. If you bring one pet, you must submit your application with this evidence. However, if importing multiple pets, you can submit your proof once your application is approved.

Please note animals imported for commercial purposes, such as breeding or competitions, do not qualify for customs relief.


5. Vehicle details

If importing a vehicle, such as a car, van, boat, aircraft or motorcycle, you'll also be asked to provide the following:

  • The vehicle's manufacture year, brand and model.
  • The vehicle identification number, chassis number, central registration and identification, watercraft identification number, hull identification number, or serial number.
  • Registration number, including the issue date and country of issue.
  • Purchase date.
Woman and dog in the UK


Man checking a laptop while packing boxes

Which goods are not entitled to customs tax relief?

Certain items, such as tobacco, furniture intended for a second home, or anything brand new (except trousseaux  and wedding gifts imported within 4 months of the wedding date), are not eligible for relief. If you want to import such items, they must be declared, and all relevant duties paid to HMRC.

Like all countries, the United Kingdom has a list of goods banned from importation to protect its citizens and the environment. Please reference our regularly updated Prohibited goods page before packing for the latest information.


Do students need to submit a ToR1 application for import tax relief?

Students living in the UK for a specific amount of full-time study do not need to complete a ToR1 form.

Relief is available for the following goods:

  • Clothing, including underwear.
  • Objects and instruments typically used by students, including PCs, laptops and tablets, calculators, textbooks and typewriters.
  • Household effects, including personal grooming items, linen and furnishings.

Our international student moving experts will inform the relevant authorities on your behalf. But, you must submit evidence of your study, including its length, and your belongings must be owned by you and not intended for resale.

If, after graduation, you intend to remain in the UK, you can import the rest of your overseas belongings with customs relief. You must do so within 12 months of graduation using a ToR1 form.

Smiling students outside university


FAQs about our overseas shipping services

A Transfer of Residence (ToR1) form is a document used by individuals moving to the United Kingdom who want to import their personal belongings without paying customs duties and taxes.

ToR1 approval takes between two and six weeks. However, this can vary depending on the completeness of the documentation submitted and the workload of customs authorities.

To apply for Transfer of Residence (ToR1), those relocating to the United Kingdom must complete the ToR1 form, available on the official government website. The form should be submitted electronically, providing details about the move and a list of the goods they want to import.

The documents you need to provide when completing the UK ToR application include an inventory detailing all the items you want to ship, a valid passport, proof of your UK address and, if applicable, vehicle details and pet passports.

Seven Seas Worldwide van outside Big Ben in London

Top 4 reasons to move to the UK

The UK has long been a desirable destination for people and their families around the world. Immigration has steadily risen for decades, except for a rare dip in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

But why is the UK so attractive to expats?


A high quality of life:

The National Health Service (NHS) is free for all and is considered a model healthcare system worldwide. Efficient transport services include reliable trains, buses and subways.

Plus, the average wage for UK workers before bonuses in 2023 is £32,000.


Cultural highlights:

The UK has produced some of the world's biggest talents in the film and music industries, such as the Harry Potter franchise and Adele.

Also, several museums, ancient heritage sites and art galleries across the country house prestigious works that span millennia.


Top-ranking universities:

Britain and Northern Ireland are recognised for their world-class higher education institutions.

No less than 4 universities sit in the top 25 of the Times Higher Education World University Rankings 2023, with 3 in the top 10.


A melting pot of cultures:

The UK is considered a multicultural and inclusive society thanks to centuries of worldwide immigration.

The influx of various languages, cultures and traditions has helped shape the attitude and outlook of modern Britain, making it a more welcoming destination.


Couple packing boxes for shipping

How do Seven Seas Worldwide make shipping to the UK easy?

With over 25 years of experience helping people relocate worldwide, you're in safe hands. Our expert team and multilingual customer service set us apart from other international removal companies.

You'll feel supported right from your initial free quote (which includes a transparent cost breakdown) until the day we bring your household belongings to your door in the UK.

We also offer:

  • 2 weeks of free storage in most origin and destination countries where we operate.
  • A free Starter Pack with each MoveCube® order to help you wrap and pack your belongings.
  • Robust packing supplies, including chemically-strengthened cardboard boxes.
  • Comprehensive insurance options for extra peace of mind.