From 1 January 2011, traders have to make an electronic declaration to Customs with security data on goods before they leave or enter the European Union. The aim of this measure is to increase security in international trade, by enabling customs to carry out better risk analyses on the basis of the information received in advance, and therefore to better target controls. Traders have benefited from a transitional period to adapt their electronic systems to these new rules since July of 2009.

In addition, a uniform set of EU risk-criteria will be applied by Member States when carrying out Customs controls on goods entering or leaving the EU. Recent air cargo security incidents have shown that the reinforcement of Customs risk analysis systems is essential for good security. Access to security data at an early stage, i.e., before goods physically arrive at the border will allow cargo movements to be more efficiently screened and enable Customs authorities to carry out better risk analyses. As such, Customs will be better able to focus controls on high risk cargo, while quicker processing and release of goods at entry or exit will help to ensuring smooth trade.

The type of security data requested from the traders varies according to the means of transport and the reliability of traders involved in the operation. It can include, for example, a description of the goods, information on the consignor or exporter, the route of the goods, and any potential hazards. The time limits for submitting advance security data also vary according to the means of transport: from 24 hours in advance of loading for maritime cargo to 1 hour before arrival for road traffic or even less for certain air transport.

Since 1 July 2009, it has been possible for traders to submit their advance declaration on an optional basis. From 1 January 2011, it is compulsory.