Fri | Jan 27, 2023

Bearing gifts

Published:Tuesday | March 9, 2010 | 12:00 AM

ear Mr Bassie,

recently been successful in obtaining a visitor's visa for the UK. I will be staying with family members and I wanted to know if there are any rules with respect to me taking gifts for my relatives.

I would appreciate any insight or tips you could give me.


Dear M.P.,

When making preparations for travel to the UK, there are specific rules relating to what goods you will be able to take that will not attract duty or value added tax (VAT). There are also some items that are banned or restricted by law. These restrictions apply even if you are a citizen returning from a trip abroad.

There are heavy penalties for smuggling, so you should avoid carrying anything for someone else. Certain goods are prohibited or restricted to protect citizens' safety, health and the environment. These rules apply to everyone entering the UK. There is a difference between 'prohibited goods' and 'restricted goods'. Prohibited goods are banned completely whereas restricted goods cannot be imported without the appropriate legal documents such as a licence.

There are also strict rules about taking meat, food and plant products into the UK, and these rules are in place to reduce the risk of pests and diseases entering the country. You could check prior to leaving Jamaica or upon arrival in the UK. If you are in doubt, speak to an officer in the red channel or use the red-point phone. With respect to animals, there are strict rules in place to protect against animals being smuggled into the UK.

The customs authorities have a duty to protect their country from illegal drugs, firearms, harmful goods and to stop smugglers evading taxes that are used to fund vital public services. The custom officers will carry out checks on some visitors. Therefore, if you are in possession of banned, restricted goods, or if you have more than your allotted allowance, you must declare them to customs.

Three ways to exit the customs area

At most ports of entry, there are three ways to exit the customs area, having cleared immigration, and these are known as channels. There is the red, green and blue channel. However, some have only one exit and are equipped with a red-point phone for declaring goods.

The red channel (or red-point phone) is to be used if you have goods to declare, or commercial goods, or if you are not sure what you may need to declare.

The green channel is to be used if you are travelling from a country outside of the European Union (EU), if you are not in possession of anything more than the customs allowances that are allowed by law and if you do not have any banned or restricted goods.

Finally, the blue channel is applicable if you are travelling from a country that is within the EU, if you have no banned or restricted goods and no tobacco products that are over the limits for imports from that country.

John S. Bassie is a barrister/attorney-at-law who practises in Jamaica. He is a Supreme Court-appointed mediator and a fellow of the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators. Email: or