New Union Customs Code (2/4) – AEO: from certificate to authorisation and criteria

As from the 1st of May 2016, the new Union Customs Code (UCC) (Regulation 952/2013), the Delegated Regulation (2015/2446) and the Commission Implementing Regulation (2015/2447) have entered into force. Of course, this new European customs legislation of course entails important changes. Kneppelhout & Korthals deals briefly with some relevant changes. The role of the AEO-status is becoming more and more important in the new customs legislation. The AEO-status provides benefits and is becoming a requirement for many other authorisations. The requirements for achieving the AEO-status have been tightened.


Since the attacks in New York on the 11th of September 2001, the European Union has considerably tightened up the safety measures for international traffic. In 2007, the European Union introduced the certificate for the Authorised Economic Operator (AEO). This certificate provides benefits for companies in international trade. For example, AEO-certified companies are controlled less strictly on cross-border trade, so less time is lost. The customs authorities will assess in advance whether a company is reliable and complies with the requirements.

AEO: certificate becomes authorisation

Pursuant to the old Community Customs Code there were two certificates, AEO safety and AEO customs simplifications. A combined certificate was also possible. In the new UCC, the certificate is replaced by two authorisations, the authorisation AEO-S and AEO-C. If a party is entitled to both authorisations, a combined authorisation can be issued. Current AEO-certificates will need to be reassessed before the 1st of May 2019. Also, the authorisation will enter into force within 5 days after it is issued instead of 10 days.

Additional requirements

In the new customs code, when lodging an application for an AEO-authorisation, it is mandatory to use the so called Self-Assessment Questionnaire. Another requirement is that the applicant cannot have any serious infringement or repeated infringements of customs legislation and taxation rules. The applicant must not have a record of serious criminal offences that relate to his economic activity. The applicant must not be involved in a bankruptcy. Besides, it is required for the applicant to demonstrate the control of his operations and the flow of goods by a system of managing commercial and transport records which allow appropriate customs controls. A new criterion has been added, that of the practical professional competence. The person responsible for customs issues has to have a practical experience of three years or be sufficiently educated in customs legislation. New AEO-guidelines have recently been published. In those guidelines, the five criteria authorised economic operators need to fulfill are defined and explained more precisely. The guidelines can be found here.

New benefits

In theory, the UCC opens up the possibility to submit an import declaration before goods are presented to customs. AEO-authorisation is a requirement in this respect. This way, clarity concerning selection for customs controls is received in an early stage. If the goods are not presented to customs within 30 days, the customs declaration will be cancelled.

Which actions should you take?

Does your firm already have an AEO-certificate? Then this certificate should be reassessed before the 1st of May 2019 and replaced by a new authorisation. Your current certificate will be valid until the moment a new authorisation is issued or until the 1st of May 2019. It is important to read the AEO-guidelines carefully and to make sure your organization complies with the requirements, and to change your systems and procedures if needed. The additional criterion of the practical professional competence needs to be fulfilled as well. If your company does not yet have an AEO-certificate, it is important to explore whether you can request an authorisation. An AEO-authorisation provides many benefits and will in the future be a condition for more and more other authorisations.

If you have any questions or if you would like to receive more information, please do not hesitate to contact one of our customs specialists.

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