On the difficulty of complying with customs regulations

I finally got my removal goods to Norway. Technically, I got furniture and lots of boxes delivered to my house already two weeks ago. Legally, this should not have happened.

When I selected a moving company to get my stuff from Germany to Norway some months ago, I chose one that claimed experience with removals in Scandinavia and that had good references. I already had a Norwegian identification number from my previous stay, I had been to the police to get a permit to be in the country, I had notified authorities of my new address in Norway, I had even pre-registered my tv with NRK so that they could send me a bill for possessing a tv in Norway. On the day of the move, I had prepared a list of my belongings and filled in a RD0030 form. I had made copies of my passport and provided three copies of all documents to the guys traveling with the truck while I enjoyed a couple of days in Germany before taking a plane to Gardermoen. I felt slightly over-organized and expected customs clearance to be a matter of minutes.

On the day I expected my goods to arrive, I got a phone call.  „There is a problem with customs. We just left the ferry, and they won’t let us into the country. There is something wrong with the tv. They say we have to unload everything and that the goods are to be transported further by a Norwegian company. We don’t know what to do, this is our first time in Norway, we do not speak Norwegian, and we have not found anyone who speaks German.“ Equipped with my previous experience of living in Noway, I tried to reach the person they had talked to and who had refused to give them a name and a phone number (or so they said). Calling customs in Oslo revealed that there are around 600 people, but indicating the ferry that had just arrived from Kiel, got me through to the customs station at Hjortneskaia. The first person I talked to there knew immediately what company I was referring to, and told me that Gjøvik was located in a different customs region than Oslo, so they required form RD0016 to be completed in addition to all other documents. That form should be downloadable from their homepage, then faxed to them. And, by the way, they would close shop at 1400 hrs, so I had a bit more than two hours left to take action.

Basically, I had two options. Option a): Make a phone call to the company paid by me to take care of the move and get them to fix things. Option b): Download and complete the form, fax it to customs, and receive my furniture later that day. Option a) was the troublemaker option. I knew that the company paid by me had subcontracted the work to another company, and that my contact at the original company was several time zones away on vacation during said week. The subcontractor’s office had already declared that they were unable to help. That left me with option b). Downloading the form was easy. Completing the form provoked a phone call to customs, as the RD0016 contains almost 60 fields and is expected in 8 copies. I was no expert in customs procedures and did not intend to become any. Calling customs yielded helpful advice. Have a look at the homepage, there should be document describing the form somewhere. Another call got the person at the other end to tell me which fields were really necessary for them to move on. Printing and faxing the form was difficult, as my printer/fax was on the truck that was blocked by customs. Sentralbordet på HiG provided me with the resources I needed. Thanks to them for printing and faxing. Some minutes after faxing the form, I got a phone call that everything looked good now and that the removal company looked forward to leaving the customs station in short time.

Later that day the truck arrived in Gjøvik and unloading began. And there was evening, and there was morning, the first day. Unloading continued the second day, I got all copies of the documents that customs had decided not to keep, and started to sort out furniture and boxes. Days later I started working at HiG, the sky cleared, Mjøsa looked great, and everyone lived happily ever after.

A week after moving in, I got a phone call from customs in Hamar. They had been waiting for a notification that the removal goods transferred from Oslo to Gjøvik had arrived. That notice should have been given to them some days ago. I told them that everything had arrived and been safely stored in my house for unpacking. Oh, that should not have happened. They needed the notification of arrival so that they could give permission to unload. I asked them what I could do now, as I could would not remove everything from the house. Contacting the removal company was of no help either. That the observed behaviour of customs seemed to be „unusual“ and that the subcontractor „should have done it the right way“ did not bring me further to a solution. Customs sent a letter requesting information and called again a week later. They highly recommended to show up at Hamar and bring along all the documentation I had.

Being a good citizen, and bearing in mind that the tools that customs commands, are quite powerful, I went home, collected lots of paper, and caught the next bus to Hamar. Somewhere in a commercial district at the outskirts of town, I found the customs office. The person I talked to had a look at the RD0030 form, asked a question about the type of medicine transported in box no. 100, noted that the tv had already been registered with NRK, was glad that I had an identification number, consulted several colleagues, and finally produced another copy of the RD0016 form that he asked me to sign. He left me with him saying that things should now be in order. Waiting for the next bus to take me home I wondered what had gone wrong in the process.

Mistake no. 1: I had put my name in the field „Hovedansvarlig“ (main responsible). Next time I need to fill in the form, I am going to put in the name of the contractor.

Mistake no. 2: I had filled in the RD0016 myself. As it turned out later, customs may fill in the form for you. That way, the probability of getting things right, seems to be higher. The drawback is that they charge a fee of about kr. 500,- for this.

Mistake no. 3: The goods could have been cleared by customs in Oslo. RD0016 is for transferring the goods over a longer distance and is typically used when crossing several countries without the need of customs clearance at each border crossing.

Mistake no. 4: The notification of arrival and the permission to unload are quite simple for private removals. The truck could have stopped at Hamar along motorway E6 to notify customs and almost immediately proceed to Gjøvik afterwards. Knowledge about the process is king. They even provide sequence diagrams on the homepage on the transittering process.

Lesson learned: Det ordner seg, men ting tar tid.

About Author: Hanno Langweg

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