How to Temporary Import a Motorcycle to the UK

Welcome to the UK Motorcycle Temporary Import Guide. This packed article by Kathy Wood from Moto Freight explains everything you need to know about shipping a foreign registered motorcycle to the UK…

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Contents

Picture of By Kathy Wood

By Kathy Wood

Kathy is an international motorcycle shipping expert and co-founder of UK based shipping firm Moto Freight.

Temporary Import of a Foreign Motorcycle into the UK

Have a read of this guide if you’re interested in bringing your foreign plated motorcycle into the UK. We answer the most common questions motorcycle travellers have about the process below and we’re available to help anytime, just get in touch. 

Can you temporarily import a foreign registered motorcycle into the UK?

Yes. Any road worthy non-UK registered motorcycle is allowed in to the UK for up to 6 months as a temporary import.

What’s the difference between a temporary and full import?

A temporary import is just that – temporary. By temporarily importing a vehicle you are effectively only bringing the motorcycle in for a short while for visiting (touring) purposes and will remove your bike from the country within the allotted time frame of six months. This means you do not have to pay import, VAT and taxes on the motorcycle because it is not staying here.

A full import means that you plan on keeping the motorcycle in the UK for longer than the six-month period. In which case, the procedure is completely different to what we explain below and you will need to pay taxes.

What’s the main criteria for temporary import?

To bring a motorcycle with foreign number plates into the UK as a temporary import you must:

  • Only be visiting the UK with your motorcycle. That means you’re not planning on living in the UK and you are not a UK resident.
  • The motorcycle must be for private use (you can not sell it or rent it out).
  • You only keep the motorcycle in the UK for the maximum allotted time of six months. It must be taken out thereafter.
  • The vehicle must be registered and taxed in its home country and you must fill out and complete the necessary paperwork listed below.

What do we mean by ‘foreign’ motorcycle?

Technically, ‘foreign’ now means anything not registered in the UK (applicable since Brexit). So, a Spanish or French motorcycle for example would still be subject to the same rules as an American motorcycle, i.e., is allowed into the UK for up to six months and should technically apply for a C110 form in advance of entering the UK.

What about Q plates?

A Q number plate may be needed if your number plate does not use the same alphabet as in the UK. For example, if your number plate is in Arabic. You may also need a Q number plate if your motorcycle isn’t registered in your home country. Get in touch for more information on this.

How long can a foreign registered motorcycle stay in the UK?

Six months is standard (you can apply for exemptions / dispensation to have your motorcycle here for longer if you are here studying, on a work placement or working for the armed forces and are on placement here

Where do motorcycles land when shipped to the UK?

Motorcycles coming by sea freight (with the people we work with anyway) tend to come in to a London based port (usually London Gateway or Southampton but occasionally Felixstowe).

The reasons for this are two-fold. Firstly, there are so many services to these ports the rates are generally the most competitive. And secondly, if we are going to bring the motorcycles back to our depot (as opposed to have the customer collect from the ports themselves) the cheapest haulage is from London ports as these are the closest to us.

If we are talking temporary imports for touring then we would bring the bikes back to us and store them (free of charge), and the customer flies out from their home country  in to LHR and collects from our depot for the start of their trip.

For airfreight pretty much everything comes in to LHR because this is where most of the airlines service, so the rates are the best and the choice of services are the best too.

What about motorcycle storage fees?

Once your motorcycle arrives in the UK, it will be removed from the freight carrier (ship or airplane) at a depot, inspected and cleared by customs then removed by either yourself or by your shipping agent. If its by your shipping agent then the motorcycle will be taken to their depot or delivered to you. 

But, until that happens there are fees to consider and they’re different whether your bike arrives by sea or air.

Sea freight storage

For sea freight, once the container is devanned (emptied) at the port depot, a certain amount of free storage is given (usually 5 days or so but this does vary depending on the depot). In this time the bike must be cleared by customs and collected.

If it overstays beyond this, storage charges are incurred and these would be for the account of the bike owner and charged by the port depot holding the bike (not customs). 

In normal instances and most of the time this is no problem at all, the only thing really that would be an issue is if customs choose to inspect either the documents or the bike itself, or request additional documents.

These processes can take some time and may push the bike beyond its storage free period. Even if storage is accrued because of a customs exam, the expense is still unfortunately passed on to the bike owner, and again would be paid to the port depot directly (not customs).

If customs want to examine something inside a container before it is devanned, even if it’s not the bike but another shipment in the container, if this makes the container go over it’s free storage allowance then examination costs will be split proportionately between all of the shipments inside the container. You would be right to suggest that this isn’t fair, but it’s unfortunately the way it is, but again this is extremely rare and from experience this is less than 0.1% of cases.

Air freight storage

For airfreight it’s a little different. Shipments arriving in to LHR are granted free storage until midnight the day after the shipment arrives. It is crucial to clear and collect within this time frame as airfreight storage charges are notoriously high, usually between GB £100 and £250 per day for a bike. Again, in most instances this is not a problem, as long as the shipment doesn’t arrive on a Friday or Saturday and the weekend gets in the way of collection (unless the customer is prepared to pay more for weekend clearance and collection as these prices are higher than standard services).

Free storage and collection

When dealing with a UK agent, it’s very important that you ask them very carefully about what the free storage period is and what storage is charged at after this, as storage charges can quickly get in to the figures of GB £50 to £200 a day.

Your motorcycle needs to be collected before the free collection time expires. If you are using a UK agent, then this needs to be arranged with them. Your agent would then collect the bike and take it to their depot. Again, check with them to see if there are further storage charges there too.

What paperwork is required for temporary importing a motorcycle into the UK?

Registration and tax

Your motorcycle must be registered and taxed in your home country and you must provide original proof of this in the form of a registration/title document and proof of tax. 

Road worthy

Your motorcycle technically needs to be classed as ‘road worthy’. That means it should be taxed and have the same documents in place that it would require to be road legal that the country is registered in.

C110

The C110 is the temporary import form used by the UK. You would need to apply online for a C110 form a few weeks in advance of your bike arriving in to the UK to allow time for it to be authorised. We can talk you through the process. It is free and easy to do.

If you find you are bringing the motorcycle into the UK and don’t have the full few weeks, then you should still apply for the C110 (the electronic application of this document is a new system implemented by HMRC in the UK) as your application can be used for the clearance in place of the full authorisation.

If you are entering the UK from Europe across a ‘land’ border (e.g. ferry or Eurotunnel) you should still technically complete this form, although you almost certainly won’t be asked to present it.

Ferry / Eurotunnel

When crossing over via ferry / Eurotunnel from Europe, if the rider is accompanying the motorcycle, then they can ride in without customs formalities, as long as they have their title/registration document, passport and proof of insurance.

Air or sea freight

If coming in to the UK by airfreight or sea freight as cargo, then the below is required:

  • C110 approval letter
  • Scanned copy of title/registration document
  • Scanned copy of owner’s passport
  • Address of the first place the rider will be staying in the UK

Haulier

It becomes more complicated if a customer is using a haulier to bring their bike in to the UK via ferry/Eurotunnel (i.e. they are not accompanying the bike), as a full Customs entry would need to be completed when the bike exits Europe and another when the bike enters the UK.

Carnet

A Carnet-de-Passage is not required, and an ATA Carnet would only apply in very specific situations (e.g., the bike is taking part in a track or organised event). In nearly all instances, no Carnet (CDP) is required for a motorcycle coming in to the UK as a temporary import for touring.

Insurance

Insurance is required to ride a motorcycle in the UK. A green card is usually the best option. Just make sure you are careful to get a green card that covers the UK as not all do. We can recommend a provider if needed.

International Driver’s Licence (IDP)

You need to have a full driver’s licence to ride the capacity of motorcycle you are bringing in and must bring this with you. It is not a requirement in the UK to have an IDP, but there’s nothing wrong with being extra prepared and having one, as they can sometimes come in handy. However, you may need an IDP if your licence is not in the same alphabet.

Can you leave the UK for Europe and return to the UK?

Technically, if you take your motorcycle out of the UK and into Europe, reapply for a new C110 form and have it approved, then yes, you can extend your stay in this manner.

Can you take a bike on a UK temporary import to Europe? 

Yes, as long as the rider is with the bike at each border crossing (i.e. they are not using a haulier to transport their bike for them). You will need your original title/registration document and proof of insurance/green card.

What paperwork is needed to ship a motorcycle out of the UK?

You will need to send us the title/registration document, passport and (ideally if you have it) the customs import entry that was done when the bike arrived in to the UK. The latter only applies if the bike came in as cargo via sea freight or air freight. 

Is it easier to use a UK customs broker and shipping agent?

For sea freight and air freight imports into the UK you have to use a customs broker to complete the import entry as this is all done electronically now.

We’re really honest about this as there are some parts of the world where private individuals can work directly with Customs to obtain a clearance and in those instances, we always let people know. But unfortunately, this isn’t an option in the UK and you must use an agent.

There are any number of clearance agents in the UK but use one with experience of temporary imports and vehicles, as others may complete the paperwork incorrectly which can cause issues (e.g. you having to pay import duty/tax on the bike even though this isn’t required for temporary imports when done correctly).

We are more than happy to help you bring your motorcycle into the UK, please feel free to get in touch via our contact details listed below. Happy travels!

Kathy Wood

How to ship a motorcycle to the UK via air or sea freight

We recommend getting in touch with Kathy from Moto Freight to ship your motorcycle to or from the UK via air or sea freight.

Kathy is a co-founder of the UK-based motorcycle shipping company Moto Freight. She is an expert on shipping motorcycles internationally and Moto Freight have helped thousands of travellers move their bikes around the world.

We have personally used Moto Freight a number of times. You’ll find Moto Freight’s details below in the Contact section.

You can also read Kathy’s excellent shipping guide on Mad or Nomad.

READ MORE: The Ultimate Motorcycle Shipping Guide

Contact

If you’re planning on temporarily importing your motorcycle to the UK, or need to ship your bike in or out of the UK, we highly recommend getting in touch with Kathy. Here’s the info:

Read more on motorcycle travel in the UK and international shipping

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Are you planning on shipping a foreign registered motorcycle to the UK? Do you have any questions, tips or suggestions? Let us know in the comments below. 

6 thoughts on “How to Temporary Import a Motorcycle to the UK”

  1. Hi Malick! Technically bikes are allowed in to the UK for up to 6 months at a time but (at the present time) the UK government doesn’t monitor when your bike leaves the UK (we know a number of people who have left their bikes in the UK for more than 6 months without issue). Technically though to stay on the right side of the rules you can ride in to the EU (which the UK is no longer part of) and then ride back in to the UK, effectively starting a new 6 month period.
    I hope this helps! Thanks, Kathy

    Reply
    • Thanks. That’s very helpful. Do you know if USA insurance policy is acceptable during customs clearance process. I will have green card for europe but that is not good in UK. I have already submitted c110.

      Reply
      • Hi Malick, our understanding is that there are some Green Card operators that cover the UK as well, but if you don’t have this I recommend that you speak to your USA insurers and ask if they can extend coverage to the UK. You won’t need to evidence motor insurance for the import Customs formalities but please do keep written proof of your insurance with you whilst you are in the UK and Europe.

        Reply

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