Abbreviation for Authorised Economic Operator (AEO)

What is an AEO certification?

The answer to this question is two-fold: what is an AEO? What are the certification conditions?

What is an AEO? The concept of AEO relies on two partners: customs and companies. It was initiated by the World Customs Organisation (WCO).

Who can be AEO-certified? Volunteer companies of all sizes, meeting strict criteria. They work alongside customs authorities to reach common security goals throughout the entire supply chain. As such, they benefit from advantages all over the EU. The European Union based its AEO concept on renowned international standards.

All economic operators established within the European Union’s customs territory, involved both in international logistics operations and customs operations, can ask for AEO certification. Importers, exporters, international transporters, international logisticians, airport companies in charge of conveying and temporarily storing goods, and lastly customs and transport commissioners are also eligible.

The relationship between customs and AEO applicants complies with all standard transparency rules, mutual respect and the law - thus leading to shared responsibility. The programme aims to strengthen international supply chain security. It makes legal trade easier, and is thus open to all supply chain stakeholders. The programme includes certified economic operators responsible for customs simplification (AEOC), and those in charge of safety and security (AEOS).

AEO certification is achieved based on criteria defined by Article 39 of the Union Customs Code (UCC). The AEO status is granted to any economic operator that meets the special common criteria demanded.


Specificities of AEO certification

There are two types of AEO certifications.

1. AEO-C1 AUTHORISATION: certified companies are entitled to simplified customs so long as they meet the following criteria:

  • No history of customs or tax penalties, nor of criminal convictions;
  • Rigorous management of customs records;
  • Proven financial solvency;
  • Internationally-renowned professional skills.

2. AEO-S2 AUTHORISATION: the “Security and Safety” label is achieved by companies meeting the same above-mentioned criteria, but that also comply with highly-demanding security and safety standards.

Certifications are granted once an application has been received and customs have done an audit. Audited sites are only those where customs activities are held: customs clearance, storing of goods awaiting export, etc.

The customs audit assesses the company’s internal organisation criteria, mostly with regard to customs clearance, security and safety procedures.

An audit date is granted within 9 to 12 months after the request is sent. Once the request has been made, the time before certification depends on the size of the audited structure. European legislation requires that European customs respect a lead time of 180 days after receiving the approved application.

Once granted, the AEO CERTIFICATION is permanent. The certified company must work in constant compliance with the audited and approved customs procedures:

  • It must find palliative solutions to any malfunctions observed;
  • It must accept inspection and monitoring audits (at least once every 3 years);
  • It must inform the Regional Customs Service of any changes to the company;
  • It must maintain a trusting relationship with the customs office.


AEO certification in figures

AEO programmes are continuing their development throughout the world. Currently, 83 programmes are operational, and 19 are pending.

Over 100 countries or groups of countries have adopted the AEO approach.

(Source: Kilean)


Regulatory cornerstones

The legal basis for this programme is included in the “security amendments” recorded in the Community Customs Code (EC 648/2005 regulation) and its application provisions.