AEO Certification


Authorised Economic Operator (AEO) is a certified customs standard, open to all European Union (EU) traders involved in international trade.  In order to qualify for trusted trader status, businesses are recognised as having met predefined customs administration standards.

The AEO certified customs standard is issued by customs administrations in the EU.  It results from an application to and formal assessment and audit by one of the EU customs administrations and certifies that company has met certain standards in relation to:

  • Safety and security of products in the supply chain
  • Systems to manage commercial records
  • Compliance track record and processes around customs rules
  • Financial solvency
  • Practical standards of competence or professional qualifications in customs matters.

The EU Legislation covers economic operators authorised for customs simplification (AEOC), security and safety (AEOS) or a combination of the two (AEOF).

Once certified by one EU state, Authorised Economic Operators are recognised by all EU customs administrations.   Companies with this certification are treated as low risk by customs, and benefit from a lower rate of compliance inspections and simplified import and export documentation requirements.   

  • Reduction in the number of control checks by customs – up to 50% less physical and 50% less documentation checks – resulting in fewer delayed shipments and improved lead times
  • Priority treatment if selected for customs control and the possibility to request a specific place for customs controls
  • Reduced financial guarantees required for customs warehousing or other special customs procedures 
  • Viewed in the marketplace as a trusted shipper
  • Mutual recognition of AEO status by third country customs and security administrations in Norway, Switzerland, Japan, Andorra, the US and China

With the UK leaving the EU as part of BREXIT, it will cease to be part of the European Customs Union and will become a third country from a customs perspective.  Movement of goods will be subject to customs declarations and inspections (after the transition period defined in the withdrawal agreement) and the volume of ‘third country’ shipments into EU and UK ports will increase very significantly.   In this context, the risk profiling of shipments by customs will become more important and shipments by AEOs, will generally be seen as lower risk.

There has been much discussion about the use of ‘trusted trader programs’ such as AEO to simplify the customs requirements between the UK and the EU but as of yet, there is no agreement in this regard.    There is also a need to ratify future mutual recognition or EU and UK certified companies.

Importers and Exporters that are certified will, however, have certain advantages post BREXIT.

  • Reduction in the number of control checks by customs – up to 50% less physical and 50% less documentation checks
  • Priority treatment if selected for customs control
  • The ability to request a specific place for customs controls – moving shipments away from potentially congested ports
  • AEO certification simplifies the application process for special customs procedures such as Authorised Consignee and Authorised Consignor, which may become more attractive post BREXIT
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Companies looking to become Authorised Economic Operator certified, need to consider a number of items:

  • Which certification that will meet their needs – AEO Customs, AEO Safety and Security or Combined?
  • Where companies have multiple entities within a corporate structure, which companies will require certification?
  • When parts of the supply chain are outsourced, do the service providers also need to be certified?
  • Are there benefits in suppliers and customers also having AEO status? 

Once these questions are answered, companies need to complete a Self-Assessment Questionnaire (SAQ) which accompanies any application.   This assessment covers:

  • Company and directors’ profile
  • Customs compliance processes
  • Accounting and logistical systems and processes
  • Financial solvency
  • Standards of competence of key personnel
  • Safety and security processes

In addition to the questionnaire, the company needs to compile a tabulated folder of accompanying procedures and documents, that supports the answers in the SAQ, for inspection by the Customs authorities.


On receipt of the application, the customs authorities have approximately 120 days to complete their assessment.  This will include a review of the compliance record, a documentary review of the SAQ and supporting evidence, and a physical site audit at any relevant premises.  From this assessment, the customs authorities will determine whether or not to award AEO certification.


Post certification, there is an ongoing requirement to maintain the customs and security standards.   Customs place a reliance on the AEO to ensure compliance and it is a requirement that responsible parties within the AEO have sufficient training to meet the standard of professional competence set out in the certification.   


Customs will engage in a periodic review and follow up with each certified organisation.


Contact us for more information.

As part of our compliance and risk management services, PerformanSC Supply Chain has successfully supported many companies to successfully obtain and maintain AEO certification.

Our services in this area include:

  • Providing AEO benefit, scope and gap assessments
  • Training in customs and trade requirements as well as specific AEO responsibilities for responsible team members
  • Managed AEO certification support – including Self-Assessment Questionnaire completion, supporting process development, team training, site pre-audit and readiness preparation and customs audit support and engagement
  • Post-certification advisory, training and support for responsible team members

For a further discussion on certification and support options, please see our training page for more information, or contact us here.

Let's start the conversation on how best we can assist you in your certification