If you are moving from Japan to the UK, you will need to apply for a TOR (Transfer of Residence) to bring your personal effects duty-/tax-free.
Applying for a ToR can be done only online by the actual owner of the goods. If the application is approved, you will be given a URN (Unique Reference Number). With a URN, your personal effects can be brought in duty- and tax-free.
In April 2017, this new system of declaring unaccompanied personal effects arriving from outside the UK was imposed by HMRC. C3, a declaration form for unaccompanied personal effects, had long been used but was withdrawn. Then the new ToR application system took its place.
Those who are returning from Japan to the UK or newly moving to the UK and shipping their personal goods now need to obtain a URN (Unique Reference Number).
It is recommended that you start making arrangement for this as soon as you start to prepare for your move. To start an application, you will need to go online and go to the UK customs webpage. There you can make an application directly online. You also need to submit necessary documents and if it goes successfully, you will receive an email confirming the receipt of the application.
If you are not a permanent resident in the UK and moving there for work or study, state the name and address of the organization you will be at. Also, your address in the UK is required. If you do not have an address yet at the time of application, it is suggested you use an address of a friend or an acquaintance as a temporary address. This should perhaps be the same as the contact information you give to your international mover in Japan as a contact information in the UK.
At the time of application online you need the following supporting documents:
・A copy of your passport
・A copy of visa (if you are not a returning UK resident)
Once you have completed submitting your application and it is granted by HMRC, they will send you a Unique Reference Number (URN). You pass this URN to your customs broker who custom-clears your shipment when it arrives in the UK.
How long does it take to get the URN after an application？
Some say that it took them only one week but at busy seasons it may take up to around 5 or 6 weeks.
Who qualifies for ToR?
Returning UK residents and immigrants with proper visa are eligible for ToR and for bringing personal effects duty and tax free. However, to qualify you must have live outside the UK for more than one year (12 consecutive months) prior to the date of moving to the UK. In addition, you must have owned and used your personal goods for more than 6 months prior to the date of the arrival of the goods in the UK. Note, however, that there are some commodities that are subject to duty and tax e.g. alcohol, tobacco and the goods for one’s trade or profession.
Students moving to the UK to study full time, those who are moving to the UK to get married or into civil partnership are eligible for ToR as well.