Key Points:

  • USPS customs forms are essential documents used by foreign customs authorities to clear packages for entry into different countries
  • You don't need written documentation if you are sending a package that weighs under 16 ounces through First-Class Mail International
  • You can access and fill out the necessary forms online or at your local Postal office for free

Global shipping is essential for global businesses. But the thought of navigating the customs clearance can be an anxiety-provoking one for novice and experienced merchants alike. It all comes down to the paperwork. Incomplete or incorrectly filled customs forms could lead to delays, dissatisfied customers, or even hefty non-compliance fines. All of these affect your business negatively.

But what if learning how to navigate customs formalities wasn’t seen as a bad thing? Think of it this way: You have a powerful ally in your courier of choice. For example, USPS ships package internationally to more than 190 countries — the carrier is on your side. It has a wealth of experience working with customs authorities across the world and can help you navigate different customs requirements with ease.

In this article, we help you figure out what customs forms are needed, the services offered by USPS to help with customs, a step-by-step guide to dealing with the paperwork, and how you can take advantage of Easyship's tool and expertise to navigate USPS customs declaration.

Table of Contents

What are the USPS Customs Forms?

USPS customs forms are essential documents used by foreign customs authorities to clear packages for entry into different countries. They are also used to assess duties and taxes for mail entering into foreign countries.

Customs forms are very important. When you send a package to a foreign country through USPS, the contents and value of the package must be declared on the applicable clearance forms issued by the courier.

As the sender of the package, you’re responsible for completing the appropriate customs paperwork. Failure to complete the required documents correctly will result in your package being delayed, incorrect duties and taxes being levied, or even getting slapped with hefty fines for non-compliance.

Here are the types of forms that you’ll need to complete if using USPS for overseas mail.

  • PS Form 6182: This is the commercial invoice. It’s required for certain commodities and destinations.
  • PS Form 2976: This form acts as the sender's declaration. A fully completed PS Form 2976 is required for all M-bags (Airmail, IPA Service, and ISAL Service).
  • PS Form 2976-A: The form serves as a USPS customs declaration and dispatch note.
  • PS Form 2976-B: This serves as Priority Mail Express International shipping label and customs form. It is required for all Priority Mail Express International shipments regardless of contents, weight, or value. It is also required for Priority Mail Express items sent to APO/FPO/DPO destinations
  • PS Form 2976-R: This form is only available as a hard copy that customers use as a worksheet that must be presented at a USPS retail service counter for the information to be entered into the retail system or Customs Form Online. It cannot be used as a stand-alone customs form.

There is also PS Form 2976-E and PS Form 2976-ES. These are customs declaration plastic envelopes used to carry and protect PS Form 2976-A, PS Form 2976-B, and PS Form 2976-R customs form sets.

Related: FedEx Customs Clearance: What Are the Steps

What Services Does USPS Offer to Help with Customs?

It is important to note that USPS doesn't own the customs process. It is a function of the Customs and Border Protection department (CBC), which is a subsidiary of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). Like any other carrier, USPS handles customs in compliance with the rules and regulations from these regulatory bodies.

To help you do that, USPS offers some services to help its clients with the customs process. they include:

  • USPS Customs Forms tool: This service makes it easy for you to fill out customs forms online. With this tool, customs forms can be electronically generated and printed. All you need to do is simply enter customs information and print customs paperwork that is appropriate for your shipment. You can also view restrictions, prohibitions, and observations for each country in real-time.
  • Click-N-Ship tool: Through this service, you can print international postage and customs forms online. It also allows you to file domestic claims, request a package pickup, and manage PO boxes.
  • Customs forms at the post office: You can visit your local Post Office, fill out PS Form 2976-R, present it to the clerk at the counter, and have your label created.

Remember that you don't need written documentation if you are sending a package that weighs under 16 ounces through First-Class Mail International. They must only contain non-negotiable documents or correspondence.

You can access and fill out the necessary forms online or at your local Postal office for free. Apart from the duties and taxes levied on your package, the Customs Border Protection (CBP) charges a $5.50 processing fee, while the Postal services charge a $6 handling fee charged per item shipped.

Customs duties and taxes are not covered in the postage fee. They are the responsibility of the recipient of the package or the sender depending on DDU or DDP.

Step-by-Step Guide to Completing USPS Customs Paperwork

Unless you’re shipping a package under 16 ounces with the USPS First-Class Mail International service, all other packages mailed internationally through First-Class Package International, Priority Mail Express International or Priority Mail International will require customs paperwork of some kind.

Depending on the type of package you’re shipping, the forms required by the USPS may be simple. But if you intend to mail large, high-value, or commercial shipments internationally, you may find yourself filling out more extensive customs paperwork.

In such cases, filling out the forms manually can be a headache, and you may find the need to use a platform like Easyship to ensure that your customs forms are properly completed without any mistakes to avoid delays.  

Our platform takes the hassle out of your Customs paperwork with automatically pre-filled customs forms, including USPS customs forms, so that you can avoid costly mistakes that can result in untold delays at customs.

Here, we give you a step-by-step guide to completing the necessary forms to ensure that you fill out your customs paperwork correctly.

  1. Make sure that you’re using the official forms issued by the USPS — either online or through the nearest post office.
  2. Throughout the documents, use the appropriate trademark or incoterms that are used internationally for the trade or shipping of goods.
  3. Write an accurate description of the sender such as their full name, address and phone number, among other details. If you want to ship commercial goods, make sure to add a VAT number.
  4. Give detailed information about the receiver of the package. This includes their full name, address, and phone number.
  5. Fill out your GXG International Air Waybill, and the commercial invoice PS Form 6182 using the Click-N-Ship or USPS Customs Forms tool and print the forms.
  6. Provide a detailed and relevant description of your packages such as the type of goods, the number of pieces included, and the shipment weight.
  7. Enter the appropriate commodity or harmonized codes, and the country of origin for each item.
  8. State the value of each item, calculate the subtotal of each item type, and then enter the total value of the whole shipment.
  9. Provide a reason for the export, and write what type of invoice you're creating; whether it is a pro forma or commercial invoice.
  10. Provide a completed declaration with your name, date, and signature.
  11. Finally, put your customs forms in any of the declaration envelopes and attach them to the side of your package.

If you are an eCommerce retailer sending packages to your customers overseas via USPS, you'll need to figure out how to deal with USPS customs formalities. Incorrectly filled-out forms can result in delays and put you at loggerheads with your customers or even attract hefty non-compliance fees. By taking advantage of the different services offered by third-party organizations, you can make this process faster and your international shipping smoother.

Easyship can further help you streamline your international selling operation by connecting you to a range of services, and giving you access to automatically generated shipping labels and pre-filled customs declaration forms.

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USPS Customs FAQ

How many items can I include in my USPS customs forms?

You can include as many line items as you need the forms. However, the required 4-inch x 6-inch label format accommodates only 5 items per age. The additional line items are continued on the next page when including more than five line items.

How long do USPS customs take?

Normally, it only takes a few minutes or hours to clear customs. But in case there is a problem such as unpaid duty and taxes, or incomplete or incorrectly filled customs paperwork, it can take days or even weeks.

What is the USPS customs phone number?

You can reach out to the courier’s customer care center via 800-222-1811

Do you have to fill out the customs form for APO?

Yes. In most cases, you will need to fill them out when sending packages to military bases and embassies. i.e APO/FPO/DPO.