Held In Customs: Meaning, Causes, And Solution

It can be quite devastating having your package held in customs. Not only can this affect your relationship with your customer, but it can also incur costs in terms of lost revenue.

Packages are held in customs for various reasons, the most common reason being incomplete documentation. If your USPS package is held in customs, this article will help you.

In this article, I will explain what held in customs means, why packages are held in customs, and what you should do.

What does held in customs mean?

The term held in customs means that the package you’re sending or receiving is held by the officials of the importer country’s customs office. 

The package is held until they ensure that only permissible items cross their border and the taxes are paid for the import. Additionally, they ensure that the paperwork for the package is correct and complete.

Why is your USPS package held in customs?

There are various reasons packages are held. The most prominent reasons include the following;

1. Incomplete documents

Attaching incorrect or incomplete documents is one of the most common reasons packages are held. The documents required vary for different packages and the country you are shipping to. 

That being said, there are common and mandatory documents to be attached to all your packages. These documents are divided into 3 categories, common documents, transportation documents, and export compliance documents.

The common documents consist of the following;

  • Commercial invoice packing list 
  • The seller, buyer, and shipper details
  • Mode of transport and the carrier
  • The invoice number and date of shipment
  • The description, the type of package, such as a box, crate, drum, or cartoon
  • The number of packages, total net and gross weight (in kilograms and pounds), and dimensions (if required)

The transportation documents consist of the following;

  • The airway bill
  • Bill of lading
  • Electronic export information filing (also referred to as the shipper’s export declaration)

The export compliance documents consist of the following;

  • Export licenses
  • Destination control statement
  • The generic certificate of origin

Other documents for specific goods or packages include;

  • Dangerous goods certificate and radiation certificate
  • Halal certificate
  • Insurance certificate
  • Dock receipts

2. Custom duties or dues

Custom duties are put in place to balance the economies of different countries. Product prices are adjusted based on the destination country or the country of origin or manufacturing. 

Failure to pay these due causes the package to be held until dues are cleared completely. You can also check out the US Tariff Database to get a good idea of the duty rate of various products.

3. Restricted or prohibited items

No government would allow goods that are prohibited, so if your package contains any prohibited item, it would likely be held by customs. 

Mostly, the government prohibits items that are illegal or that contain any disease that can affect life in the destination country. Additionally, an item could be prohibited if it is against the domestic interests of the people and industry in the destination country.

You should check Export Government to see the updated list of products that are prohibited in all countries around the world.

What do you do if your package is held in customs?

Well, if your package is held in customs, your first move should be to confirm if you paid your taxes. If they have not been paid completely, then do well to pay them.

Your next move should be to contact the courier, as long as you’ve paid your taxes, the courier will handle the rest. So, in general, all you can do is exercise patience and await your package release.

How long will it take for customs to release your package?

It depends on the nature of the case and may take anywhere from a few days to a couple of months. If the case requires documentation, then it could take just around two to four days.

If the case happens to be more severe, it may take as long as a month for customs to clear your package or containers.


Who pays the customs fees or taxes for a package?

It is usually paid by the receiver unless otherwise agreed with the sender. 

How do you know if your package is back on the move?

You can check the delivery status of your package, you should notice the “held in customs” status has changed.

Who should you contact if your package is stuck in customs?

If your package is stuck in customs, you can contact the courier or the logistics provider in charge of your package. They should be able to identify the problem and then help you with the clearing process.


Generally, millions of packages go through customs, and a lot of them are held for one reason or the other. In most cases, they are resolved after documents are cross-checked, and in other cases, they may require proper inspection.

It could take anywhere from four days to a month for customs to release a package that was held. If you find yourself in this situation, you need not panic. Simply verify you paid all the duties for your package and contact the courier for more clarity.

I hope you enjoyed reading this article, if you did, you should also see how long customs clearance takes.

Thanks for reading.