Customs AEO

Abbreviation for Authorized Economic Operator

What is a customs AEO?

A customs AEO (Authorized Economic Operator) is defined as a status or authorization granted by customs authorities. It secures international trade, and makes administrative formalities much easier. The time saved in procedural and verification work gives companies a notable commercial advantage on their competition.

The customs AEO status is available to all companies registered within the European Union. There are no eligibility criteria regarding the size of the company. However, the company’s activity must be affiliated with international trade. This also concerns stakeholders within the supply chain, such as transporters, importers-exporters and commissioners.

The customs AEO status can be seen as a trusting partnership between the company and customs authorities. Though the request can be made on a purely voluntary basis, the person needs to prove they are qualified for the post. Becoming an authorized economic operator means mutual recognition of the status with other countries such as Norway, Switzerland, Japan, China and the United States.

The principle behind a customs AEO: 2 main statuses

The customs AEO status is first and foremost aimed at professionals working in international business. In this case, the company can apply for AEO C pertaining to customs simplification. This entitles the company to the following advantages:

  • Priority flow processing;

  • Benefiting from the EU’s centralized clearance system;

  • No financial guarantee required;

  • Tailored support in completing the required formalities;

  • Access to the UCC’s authorizations;

  • Streamlined procedures and adjusted control rate.

Companies specialized in national or intra-Community trade are however entitled to request the AEO S status (security and safety) for freight aimed at international markets. This accreditation gives way to specific advantages:

  • Simplified access to UCC authorizations;

  • Reduced administrative formalities relating to controls and audits;

  • Notifications sent for all freight controls;

  • Benefiting from mutual recognition agreements.

Examples and practical applications

To claim the right to a customs AEO status, seven conditions must be met:

  • No litigation pertaining to a tax- or customs-related dispute;

  • Proof of the structure’s financial solvency;

  • Administrative organization must be presented;

  • Guaranteed professional qualifications;

  • Trade partnerships must be described;

  • Transit zone security must be ensured;

  • Company must be aware of fraud risks.

Given that procedures are being made more secure, admission conditions may be revised. Assessment criteria may take into consideration the quality and protection of the company’s communication infrastructures, as well as supply chain proficiency.

In addition to the form to be filled in (paper or online), the following documents are also required:

  • The self-assessment questionnaire;

  • A K-bis extract (company registration certification) issued less than three months before;

  • The form proving that an account on Pro.douane was created;

  • A full organizational chart for managers: identities, functions, status, etc.

All applications require 9 to 12 months of processing on average. To make follow-up easier, a progress chart must be set up for each application.

Customs AEO in figures

Since its creation, over 20,000 customs AEO authorizations have been granted, with an effectiveness rate of 82%, i.e. 17,000 currently active.

Germany boasts the highest number of AEOs with close to 7,000 acceptances. France ranks second, with 1,600 AEOs, and the Netherlands come in third with 1,500 certified companies.


Regulatory cornerstones

  • Article 39 of the Union Customs Code (UCC)

  • Customs audit guide