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I am travelling to the UK from India with family on a vacation. I want to carry my official laptop just to check emails and respond if necessary on a crisis. I have the permission letter from my company for the same.

Do I need to declare the laptop at UK customs on arrival? Its value is more than the 390 GBP limit mentioned on gov.uk website for other goods. How does this rule actually apply? I will be taking my digital camera, phone and kindle also. Do I need to declare those? Should I pay duty on them?

I imagine that this rule does not apply to items for personal use and which you will take back with you. Can somebody please clear this up for me?

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No. Everything you are taking to the U.K. you plan to take back with you when your tourist visit finishes. You do not need to pay duties on those items. You aren’t importing them to the U.K.

Declaring goods to customs You must tell customs (known as ‘declaring’) on arrival in the UK if you have goods:

Use the red channel at customs if you have something to declare. If there’s no red channel, use the red-point phone to declare goods to customs.

Gov.UK

The duty free allowance section lists Alcohol and Tobacco for the limits you mention in the question. It does not seem to include personal use electronics.

Must Read: Bringing goods into the UK

Food for thought: If everybody bringing a laptop/cellphone for use was declaring it then the red channel would always be full. These days there is hardly any traveler without one of those items with them.

  • Thanks for your response. If I understand correctly this rule and limit of 390 GBP applies only for goods being brought into the UK for commercial use and not for personal use on my visit? Also it applies to UK residents returning to the UK from their visit abroad and not to tourists entering the UK? Is this correct? – Vikky May 15 at 7:24
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    Its not just about commercial goods, its about the intention. If you were to shift to the UK for an extended period that would then have different restrictions, If it is just a short tourist visit in which you are bringing things for your own use and you will take them back with you there is no custom duty to be paid. In fact any eligible purchases that you make in the UK, you can claim VAT refund on those when you leave the UK. – Hanky Panky May 15 at 7:30
  • I had read the link "Bringing goods into the UK" - the section "Allowance for other goods" in that got me thinking whether it applies to other personal belongings and hence my question. I will use the green channel with nothing to declare. Thank you for settling my doubts. – Vikky May 15 at 8:00
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    Just to clarify, "commercial goods" and "commercial use" in this context means things that you plan on selling, not tools that you use for work. – Moyli May 15 at 9:08
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    @Vikky It applies to goods that will stay in the UK after your visit. There's no duty on anything that you bring into the UK and then take out again. – David Richerby May 15 at 9:48
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Thousands of international business travellers arrive at Heathrow every day. If they had to declare their phones, laptops, etc it would be chaos. In my experience with the red channel at Heathrow, it's rarely manned, and they get grumpy when you do declare something (like a carnet)

However once when I was getting a Carnet stamped at Manchester I had a grumpy customs officer tell me I should also have a carnet for my laptop.

The bigger problem would be responding to work while on vacation -- that may well not be allowed under the conditions of your visa.

  • They probably have to take it all out when they depart (in most airports globally). Airports have no problem taking everyone through that. It's security theatre. – JJJ May 15 at 9:44
  • @JJJ If they wanted every arriving passenger to take their laptops and other electronics out, they'd have to build almost as much infrastructure to deal with that as they have for pre-flight security. – David Richerby May 15 at 9:50
  • @DavidRicherby yes, so that doesn't necessarily mean chaos. YPM would call it a job lot, tackle unemployment. Defense of the Realm, give those youngster a comprehensive education, well, to make up for their comprehensive education. Oh, those were the days, whwn Brittain was Greatest. Old times. ;p – JJJ May 15 at 10:03
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    @Paul "The bigger problem would be responding to work while on vacation -- that may well not be allowed under the conditions of your visa." - Are you serious?? Isn't that a personal decision how I spend my time on my vacation? After all, I am responding to my current employer if really necessary - I am not seeking employment in the UK to support my visit or anything. Will the immigration or/and customs officer consider this a violation of the terms of my visa, if I mention it?Unless somebody asks I am not going to mention that I am carrying my work laptop. Please do let me know. – Vikky May 15 at 11:42
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    @Vikky Doing actual work whilst in the UK remotely whilst on a tourist visa isn't allowed by the UK. "If a person is being paid for work they are carrying out whilst in the UK it is considered that they are working" you're paid whilst on holiday so it would fall under that. There's much more detail here: talk.uk-yankee.com/index.php?topic=70129.0 I'd suggest not taking your laptop and actually having a holiday, if you got hit by a bus your employers would have to manage so let them learn to manage. – Ryan McDonough May 15 at 14:33

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