With Apple announcing a further delay to the iPad in the UK, a lot of our readers have been asking us about the process of importing an iPad from the USA to the UK.
Commercially, this process is known as 'grey importing', on a personal level it's known as 'buying stuff abroad' and is perfectly legal (otherwise holidays would be much cheaper).
Because the commercially legal status of grey importing is a somewhat grey area (hence the name) what we're advising here is how to import an iPad for personal use. While it's by no means illegal to take products from one part of the world to another, some companies have cracked down quite heavily on grey imports in the past and you need to be careful of tax and import duty issues.
Most companies - including Apple - have taken a largely neutral stance on the issue. We presume because Apple largely secures a world-wide launch for its products, with a notable exception of the iPhone (because of contract negotiations with carriers and governmental approval issues that surround mobile phone devices) and now the iPad (because it's finding it hard to meet demand in the USA). This is the first time most Apple fans have ever had to seriously consider importing Apple products from the US.
Incidentally, if you think that importing iPads from the USA to the UK is going to be a money-spinner, you might want to do your maths first. There are better ways to make a living.
Apple will currently only ship iPads from the Apple US store to legitimate US addresses and is limiting orders to two iPads per customer. So you can't just purchase an iPad from the Apple Store in the US and get it sent to the UK, you'll need to get it delivered to a US address. Also, while Apple accepts international credit cards, it only enables billing to a US address. And your credit card is mostly likely to have a UK billing address. This disparity means that your credit card company may decline the payment.
So you need to buy an iPad from Apple or an authorised US reseller, and get it shipped to a US address, and then get it forwarded from the USA to the UK. For this you will either need a friend in America, and a means to give them the cash. Or you need to investigate the use of a redirect service such as BundleBox.
When it comes to buying an iPad then the best place to go is Apple itself. Although they are shipping in 5-7 days in the US now because of a backlog of orders there. You can place an order on the Apple store in the US using a UK credit card, but because you have to enter a US address (your friend's house) it may be declined. In which case a phone call to your credit card company may do the trick (or it may not). If the credit card company approves the payment, Apple should ship the iPad to the US address.
If you have a friend in the US it's probably better to use a service such as PayPal to send them the money for the iPad and shipping and get them to buy it and send it to you. They may be able to pick one up from an Apple Store, although our understanding is that Apple is currently sold out at stores for the next week or so.
BundleBox is a good service to become acquainted with, because not only does it offer a complete US redirect service (including taking care of tax and import charges) but the company will even buy a device for you if you're having difficulty paying for it on your credit card (update: Apple has prevented BundleBox from purchasing any more iPads). They aren't currently taking any more iPad orders though, although they will start again on 21 April 2020 at 10:00 AM. Mind you, you'll be lucky to buy one before then now at any rate because it appears that most places have sold out.
If you can secure an iPad outside of BundleBox, you can still use its service to redirect the iPad to the UK. At the moment it is quoting £104.18 for a complete tax, import duty and shipping service from the USA to the UK. The basic iPad is $500 although you may end up paying US tax, plus a recycle fee, and expedited shipping charge bringing the total in the US to $563. Take the US amount converted to sterling and the UK amount and you're looking at around £468 to get an iPad into the UK (you may also have to pay bank charges for making an overseas payment).
At the moment the going rate for an iPad on eBay using Buy It Now seems to be around £590, although it was £500 before the delay. Some US sellers also seem to be offering iPads and international shipping, so you'll probably get a better deal from a US seller that does international deliveries on eBay.com.
Personally, we advise people just to wait. Unless you are a developer with a vested business interest in securing an iPad as soon as possible, it's probably better to hang on for another month than go through the hassle of trying to get one on import from America. Especially if you don't have friends in America to help you out. By the time Apple has started delivering to the US, and sent it to the US address, and then shipped it over to you, it'll only be a couple of weeks before you can get one in the UK.
If you are determined to get one now as soon as possible, we'd take a look at BundleBox on the 21 April and see what they have to say, or pick one up from eBay, but be prepared to pay over the odds.
If anybody else has any further advice feel free to pass it on in the comments section. Please note that we do not allow any personal sales listed in our comments section and we do not endorse any companies or services that any of our readers suggest. You spend your money on the internet at your own risk. If somebody offers you an iPad in a personal sale we advise you to pay cash and pick up in person.
Update: This story has been updated with information pertaining to BundleBox. The company has announced that Apple is preventing it from purchasing any more iPads, and they are no longer taking orders. Our advice is to wait now until the device is officially launched in the UK.