Key Points:

  • Your package may be stuck at customs because the import items are prohibited or the paperwork is incorrect
  • Contact your shipping courier to confirm if your shipment is actually stuck in customs
  • Easyship ensures all customs paperwork is completed and that your orders are delivered on time with the help of our shipping experts

Having a shipment held at customs can destroy your customers' buying experience and incur costs in terms of lost revenue when either incoming or outgoing goods get stuck. But what is the best thing to do when your shipment is held at customs?

There are many reasons why a shipment might be stuck at customs, these reasons can differ in severity from high (your goods are prohibited) to low (having the incorrect paperwork). Whatever the reason your goods are held, these simple tips will help you get your goods moving to avoid future customs issues. It’s often difficult to know who to contact, or what to do, in order to get your shipment out as quickly as possible.

In this article, we'll offer tips that will help you find out what is going on with your shipment, help you get it on time, and how Easyship can help merchants streamline the customs process.

Table of Contents

Contact your 3PL provider

Your first action should be to contact whoever has shipped your goods. For numerous reasons, the shipper will often only talk to the seller about the shipment. Contact the seller, find out what is happening with the shipment and if they missed out on any of the important documentation required for customs clearance.

Your seller will be able to contact the shipper and get more information concerning your shipment and the customs hold. You should also make sure that you are given a tracking code from your seller, which will enable you to accurately track your package.

The best way to do this is generally through the courier’s website, where you will be able to find out what is happening. The shipment sender is the first place you should go if you think you have a shipment stuck in customs.

Contact your carrier

Ensure that your shipment is actually stuck in customs. Regularly, express shippers like DHL or FedEx will be able to have customs clear your shipment. However, you can be caught out by a FedEx clearance delay, or any other courier. Typically, the best way to contact carriers is by phone, but beware, often carriers use premium-rate numbers which can quickly become expensive.

Contacting the shipper will help you to identify if there is anything you can do to speed up your shipment's time in customs. Make sure you have your tracking number on hand, as it will help your shipper locate your package.

Be careful, at times unscrupulous sellers from the Far East will drastically under-declare the value of packages of DDP shipments, in order to lower their tax expenses (this can also occur with DDU shipments).

Under declaring the value of packages can sometimes lead to packages being confiscated by customs officers and pose a significant inconvenience if they are stranded at customs. While it might be nice not having to pay tax by undervaluing a shipment, this is tax evasion, so make sure it doesn’t happen to you.

Actively communicating with your shipper, checking the commercial invoice and being aware of these customs declaration situations, may help you get your package released quicker and avoid any potentially nasty situations.

Shipments with outstanding taxes

Find out if there are outstanding taxes

Many countries impose taxes on shipments over a certain value, if these taxes are payable on your shipment it will be held until the outstanding balance is paid. If you use a standard express shipper or the postal service, they will pay the tax for you (DDU), clearing your goods through customs and charging you an administration fee.

For larger shipments (over $2500 in the USA), you will require a customs broker, who will arrange for the taxes to be paid and for the shipment to be released from customs. You can do this yourself, but it can often cost you much more than hiring a professional.

Make sure you understand the customs clearing process, tax arrangements and that it is paid, otherwise you risk having the package returned to your warehouse or even destroyed. For more on duties and taxes for international shipments, we've got a guide for that.

Ensure there is no missing or incorrect paperwork

Missing paperwork is one of the most common reasons for delays in shipping. Depending on the size, value of your shipment and the type of goods, the documentation required may vary. Even simple mistakes like shipping prohibited or restricted items, the seller forgetting to attach an invoice, or even an CN22 customs form can cause significant delays to your shipment.

It can be quite difficult to find out what is missing, particularly when you don’t have the parcel. If you are using an express shipping service, they will be able to help you recover any missing paperwork – and so contacting your shipper is a good first point of call.

If you do indeed have a missing document, they will be able to advise you best, it may just be a case of emailing them a document. Incorrect paperwork can cause considerable customs headaches, make sure your documents are in order and aren’t in the wrong language.

Slower form of shipping

Be Patient

Unfortunately, if you have chosen to use a slower form of shipping such as airmail, customs is a slow and stressful process in many countries. Be prepared to simply wait to receive your shipment. Often, shipments are held up in customs to check that the contents of the package and the value of the goods were declared accurately.

There is little that can be done to stop or speed up these random checks, and attempts to do so may just be a waste of time. If you are a shipper, the best you can do is properly declare the items you send by carefully filling in the proper documentation.

If your shipment is sent via the postal system, waiting is often the best option, as tracking is notoriously unreliable, and often it’s better to just relax. Your shipment will come eventually, but it might take some time.

Keeping calm is part of the battle. Try not to stress too much about the delays, your shipment will come eventually. Sometimes the package tracking can be inaccurate; packages can disappear somewhere and reappear elsewhere, hold on, it will come.

Fortunately, the postal system is great when it comes to customs – your shipment will be automatically cleared and released, you just need to wait and pay any payable taxes if you’re approached, it is a very easy process but also very slow.

Using a platform like Easyship can help ensure that customs delays are a thing of the past for your business. Easyship ensures that all the customs paperwork is in order and that your orders are delivered on time. You won't be asking how to contact customs about a package again!

Customs delays can ruin the customer experience and is the prime reason customers are hesitant towards ordering internationally. Make sure that your business has no problems shipping internationally by using Easyship.

Want to learn more? Check out our definitive guide to International Shipping

Stuck at Customs FAQ

How do you find out if your package is stuck at customs?

Contacting the shipper will help you to identify if there is anything you can do to speed up your shipment's time in customs. Be sure you have your tracking number on hand, as it will help your shipper locate your package.

Why do packages get stuck in customs?

Your package could be stuck at customs for numerous reasons. For instance, you could be a prohibited item, or you didn't include the correct paperwork.

What does “customs cleared” mean?

This message means that your package is cleared through customs and is on the way to its final destination.

USPS package stuck in customs?

  • Check tracking: Check the tracking status of your package to see if there are any updates from customs.
  • Contact USPS: If there are no updates, contact USPS customer service for assistance.
  • Provide documentation: If customs needs additional documentation, USPS will contact you.
  • Pay duties and taxes: If applicable, you will need to pay customs duties and taxes before your package can be released.