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Customs Clearance in the EU. Special reference to Spain

Actualizado: 24 mar 2020

25 de Octubre de 2017

First at all we have to mention that in order to be an exporter of records (EOR)  in the EU,  based on the new exporter definition of the Union Customs Code in force since May 2016, the following requirements must be fulfilled:

1.- The exporter must be a legal or natural person established in the EU customs territory and

2.- The exporter must have the power to determine that the goods will be brought to a destination outside the EU customs territory.

Assuming that both conditions are met, export formalities can be in principle filed by the exporter or by a customs broker/freight forwarder using customs representation (either direct or indirect). For this, an authorization should be in place between the customs representative and the EOR.  

Indirect representation is mandatory in case the EOR is a non-EU entity or a non EU established entity in the EU to solve the EU establishment requirement.

In Spain all export formalities must be filed by electronic means except in case the fallback procedure is applied i.e. where the customs clearance system is not working properly.

Depending on how and when the export declaration is filed, one or two different customs offices may be involved. We describe below the two main potential scenarios:

1.- Customs declaration is filed when goods are located at the EOR or 3PL/4PL premises/warehouse

In order to file the export declaration for goods at the EOR premises or at 3PL/4PL premises, the premises need to be previously authorized by the Spanish Customs Authorities as “authorized location”. This authorization could be granted:

A.- In the framework of an entry in the declarant's record authorization

B.- In the framework of an “export warehouse” authorization called in Spanish LAME (Local Autorizado de Mercancías para Exportación).

Under this scenario in principle two customs offices are involved:

1.- The competent customs office for the area where the exporter is established or where the goods are packed or loaded for export and where the export declaration is lodged i.e. the office in charge of the supervision of the authorized location. This customs office is called the “customs office of export”.

2.- And the “customs office of exit” of the EU i.e. under normal circumstances the one in charge of the airport, seaport or border (in case of  the transportations takes place by road) from which goods will leave the EU.

Once the declaration is filed goods are placed under the customs procedure for export. Customs officials at the customs office of export may assess the accuracy and completeness of the export declaration by checking the declaration, the accompanying  documents and/or the goods. 

Goods cannot leave the authorized premises/location until the goods are released for export by the customs office of export. Once the goods have been released for export, goods must be shipped from the authorized premises to the e.g. Spanish seaport, airport or border (in case of a truck) from which goods will leave the EU, as it was declared in the export customs document.

2.- Customs declaration is filed when goods are located at airport/seaport authorized public premises/area

Goods can be shipped from the EOR or from the 3PL/4PL premises/warehouse to the airport/seaport.  Once the goods are at the authorized public premises/area of the e.g. airport/seaport, the export declaration can be filed. Under this scenario only one customs office will be involved: the customs office of exit (e.g. the office in charge at the airport or seaport from which goods will leave the EU customs territory) which will then also act as the customs office of export.

Goods are released for export on the stipulation that the goods leave the EU in the same condition as in which they were when the customs office of exit accepted the export declaration. From the moment of release, goods remain under customs supervision until goods leave the EU.

It is important to highlight that under both scenarios, goods must be physically at the authorized location, in order to file the export declaration. This authorized location should be reported in box 30 of the export customs document (alphanumeric code). So in case customs authorities want to physically inspect goods, they will  know where the goods are located and where they should go to physically inspect the goods. Goods cannot leave the authorized premises/location until the goods are released for export by customs authorities.

The main difference between both options described above is a matter of supply chain planning and logistic cost.

Under the first scenario physical checks will be performed at the EOR or 3PL/4PL authorized location, while in the second scenario goods are likely to be placed under the customs area designated for physical inspection at e.g. the sea port (that could be different from the authorized location) which may lead to an additional logistic cost.

On top of this, under the second scenario the EOR will need to send the goods to e.g. the seaport in advance to the estimated time of departure of the vessel,  just in case a physical inspection may take place. Therefore goods will need to be stored at the seaport or airport pending the actual departure from EU customs territory which may lead to an extra cost.

The customs declaration has to contain all data which is required to apply for the customs procedure export (e.g. invoice number, cargo manifest number, country of destination, goods quantity/weight, commodity code, price or Incoterm). Furthermore, supporting documents including the power of attorney for customs representation have to be in possession of the exporter and the customs representative.

The customs office of export will send a notification to the customs office of exit with the main data of the exportation, the message will be automatically generated by the Spanish Customs IT system.

In the same way, once the goods have left the EU, usually the shipping agent or the transporter enters a confirmation that goods have left the EU customs territory into the Customs Authority IT system.

It is important to confirm this point with the transporter or the shipping agent. Based on this information a message will be automatically generated by the system to brief the customs office of exit and the customs office of export. The confirmation of exit discharges the export procedure. 

The exporter and/or the customs representative can check online on the Spanish Customs Authority website ( if the export has been discharged or not and/or which exports are pending of being discharged.

In order to make the consultation online an electronic signature certificate is required.

Transporting the goods to the customs office of exit

Goods that are released for export by the competent customs office, have to be transported and presented to the customs office of exit. The person who can present the goods to the customs office of exit, is the person who transports the goods outside the EU, the person in whose name or on whose behalf the goods are transported outside the EU.

The customs authorities can determine the route and the time of period in which the goods have to leave the EU.

Transporting the goods outside to the EU

The transporter announces the exit of the goods by providing all of the following information: to whom? to Customs Authorities

  • The unique consignment reference number or the transport document reference number;

  • Where the goods are presented in packages or containers the number of packages and, if a container is used, the container identification numbers;

  • The MRN of the export declaration.

Taking the above into account, the export procedure is discharged

This kind of export is called “indirect export”. Under this scenario an export accompanying document will be generated. Based on the current Spanish Customs Authority IT system that has been set up, it is not necessary to present this document physically at the arrival of goods at the customs office of exit.


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