Package Held by Customs at Destination – What to Do Now?

Having a package held by customs can be worrying. You likely have questions about why it’s being held, what needs to happen for it to be released, and how long the delay will be. This article will summarize the key things you need to know if your shipment ends up stuck in customs at its destination.

Why is My Package Being Held by Customs?

There are a few common reasons why a shipment may be held by customs at its destination country:

  • Missing or incorrect paperwork – One of the most frequent reasons shipments get stuck in customs is due to missing or incorrect paperwork. Every country has its own import regulations and required forms. If any documents are missing or filled out inaccurately, it can cause customs delays.
  • Prohibited or restricted items – Most countries prohibit certain items from being imported or have restrictions on some products. If your package contains prohibited merchandise or exceeds quantity limits on restricted goods, customs will detain it.
  • Undervaluation – Most customs agencies verify the declared value of shipments against their own estimated value. If they believe your shipment is undervalued to avoid duties, they may hold and inspect it.
  • Random inspection – Countries have the right to open and inspect any packages crossing their borders. Even if you’ve done everything right, your shipment could get flagged for a random check.
  • Backlogs or delays – Sometimes shipments get stuck simply because customs is backlogged and understaffed. Certain ports or countries are known for slower customs handling.

How Long Will My Package be Held by Customs?

There is no set time limit for how long customs can hold your shipment before releasing it. Small delays of 1-3 days are common. Bigger issues like prohibited items or legal violations can lead to packages being held for weeks or longer.

On average, most shipments clear customs within 3-5 days. But delays of 1-2 weeks or more are possible if there are problems with your paperwork or certain types of inspections need to be done.

The best way to estimate your wait time is to contact the customs broker or carrier handling your shipment. They should be able to give you a better idea of the expected delay based on your specific situation.

What Needs to Happen for My Package to Clear Customs?

For your shipment to ultimately get released, a few steps usually need to take place:

  • Review of paperwork – Customs authorities will thoroughly review all submitted paperwork to verify it is complete and accurate. Any issues with documents need to be resolved.
  • Payment of duties and taxes – The importer of record (usually you or your company) needs to pay any import taxes and duties required by the destination country. This is based on the product type and declared value.
  • Inspection – If flagged for inspection, customs officials will open your package and examine its contents. This ensures the items match what was declared on the paperwork.
  • Clearing delays – Once paperwork is verified, duties paid, and inspection done, the package still needs to clear bureaucratic delays and backlogs before being released.
  • Pickup arrangements – After customs releases your shipment, arrangements need to be made with the carrier for final delivery or pickup.

As the importer, your main responsibilities are providing proper documentation upfront and quickly paying any duties or taxes billed to get your shipment cleared and moving.

What Should I Do if My Package is Stuck in Customs?

If your tracking shows no updates for an extended time after arriving in the destination country, your package may be stuck in customs. Here are some things you can do:

  • Contact the carrier – Check the carrier’s website or call customer service to see if they can provide any information about customs delays. They may be able to contact the customs broker handling your shipment.
  • Contact the seller – Notify the seller/shipper that your item is stuck in customs. They may be able to provide copies of shipping paperwork or assist with clearing issues.
  • Pay duties/fees – If you receive a bill from customs for duties and taxes, pay it promptly to avoid storage fees or return of your shipment.
  • Wait patiently – Unfortunately, delays are common with international shipping. As long as you’ve done your part with paperwork and payments, you may just need to wait it out.
  • Inquire about abandoned shipment process – If your package has been stuck for an unreasonable length of time (30+ days), ask about customs’ abandoned shipment process. They may offer options like inspection, return, destruction, or auction.

Getting a package stuck in customs is annoying but likely resolvable. Just focus on getting the needed paperwork and payments submitted so your shipment can clear and reach you soon!

Key Takeaways: What to Remember if Your Package is Held in Customs

  • Common reasons for customs holds include missing paperwork, prohibited items, undervaluation, random checks, or backlogs.
  • On average, packages clear customs within 3-5 days, but delays of 1-2 weeks or more are possible.
  • To be released, paperwork must be verified, duties/taxes paid, and inspections completed to customs’ satisfaction.
  • If stuck, contact the carrier and seller, pay any fees, and inquire about the customs process for held shipments.
  • With proper documentation and patience, most stuck shipments can successfully clear customs after a delay.

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