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Rules of origin for imports into the EU

The origin is the 'economic' nationality of goods traded in commerce. The nationality, the value and the tariff classification (Combined Nomenclature) of goods entering the European Union must be determined in order find out if any duties, customs restrictions or special requirements are applicable. The European Commission's Export Helpdesk outlines the rules of origin that apply to specific products.

There are two different types of Rules of Origin that apply to imports: preferential and non-preferential.

EU preferential Rules of origin

They are the instruments used to determine if a product exported from a beneficiary or partner country may be considered as sufficiently linked to that country and therefore originating there to the purposes of receiving from the EU the tariff preference granted to that country.

If you are intending to import under a preferential regime into the EU a product from a beneficiary or partner country, it is not enough that the product is exported from that country. The product needs to be originating in that country. The rules of origin will tell you if indeed your product may be considered originating in that concrete country and therefore receive the preference.

For the implementation of the preferential arrangements, only the Preferential Rules of Origin are relevant. Be aware that the rules of origin applied to each beneficiary or partner country are not identical in all cases. Each preferential regime has a specific set of rules of origin attached. Please consult in this section the rules of origin pages under the preferential regime applying to your case. When browsing the Export Helpdesk, check your country and will find the relevant rules of origin.

General concepts of Rules of origin

Even if you will find a specific set of rules of origin for each beneficiary or donor country, the same basic principles and structure applies to all of them. Here you have the most relevant elements to be considered:

EU Non-preferential Rules of Origin

Nevertheless, you have to know that other rules exist: the Non-preferential rules of origin. These rules are used for establishing the origin of the good for different purposes (tariffs when there is no preferential agreement, statistics, implementation of non-preferential quotas, trade defence measures...).

The main principles applicable for imports in the EU are that:

  • If a product is wholly obtained or produced in one country, it is considered to have origin in that country (and can be called an 'originating product').
  • If a product has been produced in more than one country, it is considered to have origin in the country where the last substantial transformation took place.

The interpretation of what is a substantial transformation could vary from one country to the other, hence non-preferential rules may differ from country to country and the same product may have a different origin depending on which country's scheme is applied.

At importation in the EU, the non-preferential origin would be indicated on the import declaration but no specific proof of origin would be required.

More information on EU non-preferential rules of origin 

Binding origin information (BOI)

Origin information may be made binding on the customs authorities of all EU countries. To obtain a binding origin information decision (normally valid for 3 years), you must apply to the competent authorities in the EU country where the BOI will be used (or in the EU country where you are established). List of competent authorities who can issue BOI .

The information you must provide in your application is set out in Article 6  of EU Regulation 2454/93 on the Community Customs Code . Once the application is accepted, the authorities have 150 days in which to notify you of their decision. Possession of a BOI does not exempt you from the requirement to provide proof of origin.

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