Outline of the system
As a general rule, the competent authorities in the Member States issue import licences to any applicant, which is registered on their territory for the Value Added Tax (VAT) purposes. Import licences are subject to lodging a security and are valid in all the Member States of the EU. Import licences have to be submitted at the same time with the import declaration.
Cereals and rice - Please see Products
Nature of licensing
If Automatic, administrative purpose
The import licensing scheme for agricultural products serves statistical and quota management purposes and is an automatic licensing system.
If Non-Automatic, description of the notified Non-Automatic Licensing regime
Products under restriction as to the quantity or value of imports
The EU considers the method adopted to be the most appropriate to administer these tariff rate quotas.
When agricultural tariff quotas are managed by import licences, the European Commission's Directorate-General responsible for Agriculture and Rural Development shares its management with Member States' licence issuing authorities.
These import licences allow the EU authorities to monitor trade flows and administer import tariff rate quotas. To obtain an import licence, importers must apply to the competent authorities of an EU Member State where they are registered for VAT purposes and lodge a security (returnable on giving proof of import).
The Common Market Organisation (CMO) Regulation of the European Parliament and the Council (cited below) and various EU Regulations contain the specific provisions for the management of these tariff quotas; some of them are general and other ones are specific to certain products.
Questions for products under restriction as to the quantity or value of imports
The EU does not apply restrictions on the imports of agricultural products. However, imports of agricultural products at a lower duty rate than the EU bound rate is possible under Tariff Rate Quotas (TRQs). Imports under tariff rate quotas might be subject to an import licence.
Please see Answers 6.1-6.11.
The system applies to products originating from which country?
The system applies in the EU to the agricultural products described below originating in third countries, notably for the administration of the relevant WTO tariff rate quotas.
Expected duration of licensing procedure
Is the licensing statutorily required?
The legal basis governing the import licences procedures in the agriculture sector is:
• Regulation (EU) No. 1308/2013 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 17 December 2013 establishing a common organisation of the markets in agricultural products and repealing Council Regulations (EEC) No. 922/72, (EEC) No. 234/79, (EC) No. 1037/2001 and (EC) No. 1234/2007 (OJ L 347, 20.12.2013, p. 671), the so-called CMO Regulation.
Article 176 of Regulation (EU) No. 1308/2013 lists the agricultural sectors that may be subject to the presentation of a licence. A consolidated version of the Regulation can be consulted at the following address:
• Commission Delegated Regulation (EU) 2016/1237 of 18 May 2016 supplementing Regulation (EU) No. 1308/2013 of the European Parliament and of the Council with regard to the rules for applying the system of import and export licences and supplementing Regulation (EU) No. 1306/2013 of the European Parliament and of the Council with regard to the rules on the release and forfeit of securities lodged for such licences, amending Commission Regulations (EC) No. 2535/2001, (EC) No. 1342/2003, (EC) No. 2336/2003, (EC) No. 951/2006, (EC) No. 341/2007 and (EC) No. 382/2008 and repealing Commission Regulations (EC) No. 2390/98, (EC) No 1345/2005, (EC) No. 376/2008 and (EC) No. 507/2008 (OJ L 206, 30.7.2016, p. 1–14). A consolidated version of the Regulation can be found at the following address:
• Commission Implementing Regulation (EU) 2016/1239 of 18 May 2016 laying down rules for the application of Regulation (EU) No. 1308/2013 of the European Parliament and of the Council with regard to the system of import and export licences (OJ L 206, 30.7.2016, p. 44). A consolidated version of the Regulation can be found at the following address:
The aim of Commission Implementing Regulation (EU) 2016/1239 is to simplify and adapt the provisions applicable to the system of import (and export) licences to the legal framework set by Regulation (EU) No. 1308/2013:
• Reduction of the number of products subject to an import (or export) licence;
• Priority for electronic application and issuing procedures; paper copies as second option;
• Using electronic customs procedures for proof of release for free circulation;
• Absorbing existing specific rules on hemp and garlic.
Subject to an import licence:
For details please see Annex, Part I to Commission Delegated Regulation (EU) 2016/1237.
Note: While a general import licence obligation applies only to a couple of products as above, the system of import licences continues to apply for certain products where a Tariff Rate Quota is applied for. The following Regulations govern tariff rate quotas managed with a system of licence:
• Commission Delegated Regulation (EU) No. 2020/760 of 17 December 2019 supplementing Regulation (EU) No. 1308/2013 of the European Parliament and of the Council as regards the rules for the administration of import and export tariff quotas subject to licences and supplementing Regulation (EU) No. 1306/2013 of the European Parliament and of the Council as regards the lodging of securities in the administration of tariff quotas (0.J. L 185, 12.06.2021, p.1). It can be consulted at the following address: https://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/?uri=CELEX%3A32020R0760.
• Commission Implementing Regulation (EU) 2020/761 of 17 December 2019 laying down rules for the application of Regulations (EU) No. 1306/2013, (EU) No. 1308/2013 and (EU) No. 510/2014 of the European Parliament and of the Council as regards the management system of tariff quotas with licences (OJ L 185, 12.6.2020). A consolidated version of the Regulation can be found at the following address: https://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/?uri=CELEX%3A02020R0761-2....
• Commission Implementing Regulation (EU) No. 2019/386 of 11 March 2019 laying down rules with regard to the apportionment of tariff rate quotas for certain agricultural products included in the WTO schedule of the Union following the withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the Union and with regard to import licences issued and import rights allocated under those tariff rate quotas. Official Journal of the European Union, L70, 12.3.2019, p.4. A consolidated version of the Regulation can be found at the following address:
Note: The import of cereals and rice is not generally subject to an import licence. However, for the management of certain tariff rate quotas, an import licence is required.
• Commission Regulation (EC) No. 972/2006 of 26 June 2006 laying down special rules for imports of Basmati rice and a transitional control system for determining their origin (O.J. L 176, 30.6.2006, p.53) and its subsequent amendments. A consolidated version of the Regulation can be consulted at the following address: https://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/?qid=1598952792640&uri=CE....
Commission Implementing Regulation (EU) 2021/1401 of 25 August 2021 amending Implementing Regulations (EU) 2020/761 and (EU) 2020/1988 as regards the quantities that may be imported under certain tariff quotas.
Commission Implementing Regulation (EU) No.2022/64 of 17 January 2022 amending Implementing Regulations (EU) No.2020/761 and (EU) No. 2020/1988 as regards the management system of some tariff quotas and the quantities that may be imported under certain tariff quota
Commission Implementing Regulation (EU) No.2023/254 of 6 February 2023 amending Implementing Regulation (EU) No. 2020/761 as regards certain technical rules on the management of tariff rate quotas
Does the legislation leave designation of products to be subject to licensing to administrative discretion?
Is it possible for the government to abolish the system without legislative approval?
Eligibility of applicants
Is there a system of registration of persons or firms permitted to engage in importation?
What persons or firms are eligible to apply for a licence?
Import licences are issued without discrimination to any importer in the EU wherever the place of his establishment may be in the EU, without prejudice to compliance with the other conditions required under current rules. Anybody is eligible to become importer. For some tariff quotas, however, operators may be required to prove that they imported a minimum quantity of eligible products in the past.
Is there a registration fee?
Is there a published list of authorized importers?
Contact point for information on eligibility
DG Agriculture and Rural Development Unit AGRI C1
Submission of an application
Administrative body(ies) for submission of an application
The licence authorities of each EU Member State. Article 2(2) of Implementing Regulation (EU) 1239/2016: "The names and addresses of the authorities competent for receiving the application and issuing the licence shall be published on the official website of those authorities, or on the official website dealing with agricultural trade of each Member State."
What information is required in applications?
In the agricultural field the application for an import licence has to be forwarded to or lodged with the competent authorities in the Member States conforming to the specimen set out in Annex I of the Commission Implementing Regulation (EU) 2016/1239.
What documents is the importer required to supply with the application?
Window of submission of an application
How far in advance of importation must application for a licence be made?
Are there any limitations as to the period of the year during which application for licence can be made? If so, explain
Issuing the license
Can a licence be granted immediately on request?
Can licences be obtained within a shorter time-limit or for goods arriving at the port without a licence
Which administrative body is responsible for approving application of licences?
Must the applications be passed on to other organs for visa, note or approval?
Are there any other conditions attached to the issue of a licence?
No other conditions are attached to the issuance of an import authorisation for products subject to or not subject to quantitative restrictions.
Fees and other administrative charges
Is there any licensing fee or administrative charge?
There is no licensing fee or administrative charge.
What is the amount of the fee or charge?
Is there any deposit or advance payment required associated with the issue of licences?
In general, there is no deposit or advance payment required associated with the issue of import authorizations. However, in the agricultural field the issuance of import licence is subject to a security in order to guarantee that commitment to import will be fulfilled during the period of validity of the licence, in case of tariff quotas also contributing to the enforcement of the quota fill in the interest of the exporting country.
Amount or rate?
The amount of the security depends on the products and is laid down in the specific EU provisions applicable to the relevant product sector.
Is it refundable?
The security is released when the obligation to import is considered to have been fulfilled and the right to import under the licence is considered to have been exercised namely on the day the import declaration is accepted and the product concerned put into free circulation.
What is the period of retention?
Specific rules applying are set in Article 4(1) of Commission Delegated Regulation (EU) 2016/1237 and specific amounts for each product are set in Annex II of Commission Implementing Regulation (EU) 2016/1239.
What is the purpose of this requirement?
However, in the agricultural field the issuance of import licence is subject to a security in order to guarantee that commitment to import will be fulfilled during the period of validity of the licence, in case of tariff quotas also contributing to the enforcement of the quota fill in the interest of the exporting country.
Refusal of an application
Under what circumstances may an application for a licence be refused other than failure to meet the ordinary criteria?
The legislation does not give arguments for refusal of an application for a licence other than failure to meet the ordinary criteria.
Are the reasons for any refusal given to applicants?
Have applicants a right of appeal in the event of refusal to issue a licence?
If so, to what bodies and under what procedures?
Are there any limitations as to the period of year during which importation may be made?
What documents are required upon actual importation?
Are there any other administrative procedures, apart from import licensing and similar administrative procedures, required prior to importation?
No other administrative procedures, apart from import licensing and similar administrative procedures are required prior to importation.
Conditions of licensing
What is the period of validity of a licence? Can the validity be extended? How?
For agricultural products the period of validity of the import licences depends on the product subject to licensing. General periods of validity are set in Commission Implementing Regulation (EU) 2016/1239, in its Annex II. The validity of a licence can only be extended in case of "force majeure".
Is there any penalty for the non-utilization of a licence or a portion of a licence?
There is no penalty for the non-utilisation of an import authorisation/surveillance document or a portion of it. However, for a licence in the agricultural field, the security is forfeited in whole or in part if import is not carried out, or only partly carried out during the period of validity of the licence.
Are licences transferable between importers? If so, are any limitations or conditions attached to such transfer?
Import authorisations are only once transferable between importers. Import licences constitute a right and give rise to an obligation to import under the licence during its period of validity. As a general rule, rights deriving from licences are transferable once by the titular holder of the licence during the period of its validity*, but obligations deriving from licences are not transferable. The transfer of a licence is laid down in Article 11 of Commission Implementing Regulation (EU) 2016/1239.
*Until the end of the second month following the month of the actual day of issue of the licence.
Is foreign exchange automatically provided by the banking authorities for goods to be imported?
The banking authorities automatically provide foreign exchange for goods to be imported as well as to cover import licences.
Is a licence required as a condition to obtaining foreign exchange?
A licence is not required as a condition to obtaining foreign exchange.
Is foreign exchange always available to cover licences issued?
What formalities must be fulfilled for obtaining the foreign exchange?
The following questions are only for products under restriction as to the quantity or value of imports (whether applicable globally or to a limited number of countries or whether established bilaterally or unilaterally)
Where is information on allocation and formalities for licences published? Is the overall amount published? The amount allocated to goods from each country? The maximum amount allocated to each importer? How to request any exceptions or derogations from the licensing requirement?
Article 184 of Regulation (EU) No. 1308/2013 (the CMO Regulation) lists the three main management methods for tariff quotas:
a. First come first served.
b. Simultaneous examination method (licences).
c. Traditional/newcomer method (licences).
The above-mentioned Regulations, governing the import licences procedures in the agriculture sector, as well as the sector-specific Regulations bear information on formalities and filing in applications for licences; they are all published in the Official Journal. Information concerning allocation on the basis of licence applications is published in aggregated format on the official website CIRCABC and on "Europa" website which is publicly accessible for any interested party. Amounts allocated to each importer are not published or communicated to external parties, as this concerns commercial confidentiality. Exceptions or derogations from the licencing requirement are not systematic, and if required they could be arranged by Regulation through the Committee procedure (Article 187 of Regulation (EU) No. 1308/2013).
Is the size of the quota determined: on yearly, six-monthly or quarterly basis? Are there cases where the size of quota is determined on a yearly basis but licences are issued for imports on a six-monthly or quarterly basis? In the latter case, is it necessary for importers to apply for a fresh licence on a six-monthly or quarterly basis?
The tariff quotas are opened on a yearly basis and their administration may differ, depending upon the product. For details, please refer to the specific products below. There are cases where the total quantity of the quota is divided in sub-periods. Import licences under tariff rate quotas are however issued on a monthly basis.
Are licences allocated for certain goods partly or only to domestic producers of like goods? What steps are taken to ensure that licences allocated are actually used for imports? Are unused allocations added to quotas for a succeeding period? Are names of importers to whom licences have been allocated made known to governments and export promotion bodies of exporting countries upon request? If not, for what reason? (Indicate products to which replies relate)
Licences are allotted to any applicant irrespective of their place of establishment in the EU. To ensure that allocated licences are actually used, a system of securities applies. If imports are not or partially not realised, the licence holder's security is forfeited or partially forfeited.
From the time of announcing the opening of quotas, as indicated in I above, what is the period of time allowed for the submission of applications for licences?
The minimum time for applying for an import licence for a certain tariff rate quota is usually one week after publication of the opening of the quota. For import licences issued with the framework of TRQs see reply VIII.
What are the minimum and maximum lengths of time for processing applications?
After the closing hour for application for an import licence for a quota, the licensing authorities issue an import authorisation usually within 24 days maximum (see reply VIII).
How much time remains, at a minimum, between the granting of licences and the date of opening of the period of importation?
The time between granting a licence and the date of opening of the period of importation is usually one week.
Is consideration of licence applications effected by a single administrative organ? Or must the application be passed on to other organs for visa, note or approval? If so, which? Does the importer have to approach more than one administrative organ?
Licence applications fall under the responsibility of a single competent authority without passing via other authorities. However, some EU Member States have different competent licence issuing authorities depending on their sectoral or regional organisation. The addresses and competences of the competent authorities issuing import licences are published on the official website of those authorities, or on the official website dealing with agricultural trade of each Member State.
If the demand for licences cannot be fully satisfied, on what basis is the allocation to applicants made? First come, first served? Past performance? Is there a maximum amount to be allocated per applicant and if so, on what basis is it determined? What provision is made for new importers? Are applications examined simultaneously or on receipt?
Within the tariff rate quotas managed by import licences, the allocation to applicants is normally made by simultaneous examination. The Member States communicate a few days after the application closing date on aggregate basis to the Commission the total quantity under licence applications received. Operators lodge applications on a monthly basis. If the demand for licences cannot be fully satisfied, the Commission calculates to what extent the total quantity can be allocated, and fixes a uniform allocation coefficient valid for each licence (Article 188 of Regulation (EU) No. 1308/2013). For tariff rate quotas managed by traditional/newcomer method (Article 184(2)(c) of Regulation (EU) No. 1308/2013) the eligibility is fixed in advance for a percentage to newcomers and for a percentage to traditional importers (with distinct allocation coefficient). To date, though, there are no more tariff rate quotas where traditional and new importers are distinguished.
In the case of bilateral quotas or export restraint arrangements where export permits are issued by exporting countries, are import licences also required? If so, are licences issued automatically?
When export permits are issued by exporting countries, the tariff rate quotas are primarily managed by the exporting country. In this case the competent EU authority needs proof of the products being subject to the issuing of export licence or document by the exporting country authority. Therefore, the importer when applying for the import licence must submit the respective export licence or document to the competent authority as a condition for issuing the EU import licence. The import licences are issued automatically.
In cases where imports are allocated on the basis of export permits only, how is the importing country informed of the effect given by the exporting countries to the understanding between the two countries?
There are no cases where imports are allowed on the basis of export permits only.
Are there products for which licences are issued on condition that goods should be exported and not sold in the domestic market?
There are no products for which licences are issued on condition that goods should be exported and not sold in the domestic market.