Parcel stuck at customs

What to do if your parcel is stuck in customs

26th January 2023, 8:08am in Shipping Advice by Amy Newham

We understand having your parcel held or delayed at customs can be frustrating, especially if your consignment is time-sensitive. If you’re sending a package internationally, customs clearance is an inevitable part of the shipping process. All shipments sent outside of the UK must be cleared by local customs before they can be delivered.

In this article, we will identify some of the reasons why your package could be held at customs, explain what you can do to help move it along, and how Interparcel can make the customs process smoother.

Why is my package stuck at customs?

confused about customs

There are many reasons why a package could be held or delayed at customs. The decision is made by the relevant authorities in the delivery country. In most instances, customs will notify your recipient as to why.

Here are a couple of common explanations:

Missing or incorrect paperwork

If customs discover different items than declared on the commercial invoice or an incorrect reason for export stated (such as 'Gift' rather than 'Sale') a surcharge could be applied, items confiscated, or the consignment returned.

Similarly, you must attach all the relevant shipping paperwork to the parcel. Otherwise, customs cannot identify where the consignment has come from.

The imported item is prohibited

If an item is prohibited or damaged to an extent that it is a health and safety risk, customs may remove and destroy the item. Therefore, you must familiarise yourself with our Prohibited & Restricted Items list and the destination country’s list.

Under-declaring the parcel’s value

The parcel’s value depends on multiple factors, but typically it's calculated by either the cost price or the retail price. For example, if you send a gift, the cost should be how much you purchased the item. If you have underdeclared the value of your goods, you could be issued additional fees.

Outstanding import duties and taxes

Many countries enforce additional taxes or duties on packages worth over a certain threshold. In this instance, the receiver may be contacted to cover the cost of these charges. Failure to pay could risk you having the parcel seized, returned or disposed of.

Busy sending period

Particularly during popular shopping seasons like Christmas or Black Friday, the international parcel network becomes extremely busy which can result in a backlog of parcels.

How long does a parcel stay in customs?

It varies from country to country, but customs clearance can take less than 24 hours. However, if you are missing any paperwork or underdeclared a package etc., it could take several days, weeks or even months.

What should I do when my shipment is stuck at customs?

Your chosen courier will attempt to clear your parcel as quickly as possible through customs. However, there are occasions when the delivery country will need something extra to clear goods. Some couriers will do part of the clearance in the UK before the item is exported. Others may contact the receiver before the goods leave the UK to receive additional instructions to help speed the customs process.

Unfortunately, we do not have any control over customs charges, delays or queries that may arise, or have the ability to waiver penalties from governmental authorities. There are, however, things you can do to try and speed the process along:

Tell the receiver

Typically, the customs authorities will deal directly with the receiver regarding any issues, which is why we ask you to provide the receiver's up-to-date contact details during the online booking process. If the receiver refuses to pay duties or doesn't want to clear the item through customs, then goods may be returned. This will result in any return charges or duties being passed back to you.

Top tip: Ask the recipient to check their junk folder and inbox for correspondence from customs

Contact us

contact local customs

If you have booked your parcel delivery through Interparcel; please get in touch if you are concerned about your shipment.

We can contact the courier directly to escalate your query, request an update on the delivery status or obtain a local telephone number for the receiver to call. However, we cannot contact customs directly.

Be patient

Sometimes, it is just a case that the parcel network is busy, in which case, there is nothing to do other than wait patiently for the package to be processed.

We recommend booking an Express delivery service, allowing more time for the package to pass through customs.

How can I track the progress of my Interparcel delivery?

All parcel deliveries booked through Interparcel are fully trackable. However, it is up to you to check on the status of your shipment and request we intervene if necessary.

You can check if your parcel has been held at customs via our online tracking portal. Enter your unique 12-digit tracking number starting with GB followed by 10 digits.

5 tips to help speed up customs clearance

To minimise any delays or issues, here are our 5 quick tips to speed through customs clearance:

We hope this article has helped to clarify the customs process and identify common mistakes and how to fix them. Our recently published guide on how to complete your commercial invoice should also help to alleviate any queries surrounding customs invoices which we recommend all international shippers to read.

As well as our affordable multi-carrier shipping solutions, our free tools and features help streamline delivery processes and keep your customers informed. Get a quote today and book a low-cost international parcel delivery service today!

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