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).
The customs release of a shipment can take anywhere from 20 minutes to several days depending on circumstances. Once your Customs Broker has completed your entry for customs and transmits the data, it takes about 20 minutes for the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) to receive it. Now that your entry has been received by the CBSA, it is now up to an officer to review the entry and either accept or reject the shipment – This step of course can take anywhere from just a few minutes to a few hours depending on the number of Customs staff available and congestion at the port of crossing.
There is however, the possibility that prior to its release, your shipment may be Held for inspection. If your shipment is inspected, it will be placed in a bonded warehouse and inspected by Customs officers at their earliest convenience. Generally, Customs officers will visit multiple sites during the day and process their releases in the afternoon. The process can take anywhere from 12-48 hours and even longer during high traffic periods.
Customs releases are also not guaranteed. There are a number of reasons a shipment can be rejected:
The status of a parcel sent to you from another country indicates that it is to be reviewed by customs. You need to wait for the package to clear customs. Here’s how the process works:
Customs clearance normally takes a matter of minutes or hours but it can take days or even weeks if there’s something wrong or your goods need to be inspected. We generally say that from your goods landing in the UK you’ll have them delivered to your door in about 7 days and the customs clearance is only a fraction of that time.
UK Customs is a border control unit that monitors and controls what is allowed to leave the country; if goods are allowed in, Customs are also the ones that charge UK Duties and Taxes. Customs is a protective measure, put in place to ensure that nothing harmful to the UK can enter.
Make sure that your goods are actually being held by customs. It may be the case that goods are simply being delayed and you need to wait. Unfortunately, the shipping process can be hit with delays on occasion.
There are many reasons that your goods can be held at customs. Most of these reasons are due to the fact that customs can’t (from their perspective) safely clear your goods. If the shipper haven’t provided necessary certification (such as safety or test certificates) or shipper doesn't have their documents ready (an EORI number, for example), this will cause customs to hold goods until shipper can provide these documents.
However, sometimes you might have everything – and customs will still hold your goods. A reason that this often happens is that they want to test goods for quality or compliance to UK standards.
There can be huge delays at HWDC. It's Royal Mail international hub and when parcel volume is high like during Christmas, parcels take longer time to be processed. It will eventually be released. All I can advise is to be patient.
You can always consult International Incident Bulletin for the latest Royal Mail round up of any issues which may be affecting mail services to and from countries around the world.
For example as of August 31, 2021: Items to some EU destinations are also experiencing customs delays. This is the result of changes to the EU’s VAT rules for items from non-EU destinations from 1st July. Also delays should be expected as a result of ongoing COVID-19 reduction measures and reduced air transport capacity.
Heathrow Worldwide Distribution Centre (HWDC) is a sorting office for inbound and outbound international mail operated by Royal Mail. Located close to Heathrow Airport, the HWDC is situated in the town of Langley, Berkshire.
HWDC is one of the most automated postal centres in Europe. Automated conveyor systems transport trays of mail to automated mail processing equipment and manual or special handling workstations. The conveyors read the bar code labels on the trays and then transport them to the desired destination. When the mail is sorted on the automated mail sorting equipment, the letter destination image is lifted by high speed optical cameras. Both inbound and outbound mail are then automatically sorted into groups.
Here's what happens when your shipment arrives at customs.
A customs officer examines your customs paperwork These documents must be accurate and complete, specifically the shipping label and commercial invoice. The commercial invoice is most important because it lists the contact information for the shipper, the receiver, as well as the export date and airway bill number.
Import duties and taxes are assessed using the customs paperwork. Import fees vary depending on the type of goods, their value, and specific import regulations in the receiving country. Import duties are assessed on goods that exceed the de minimus value, or the minimum taxable threshold for imported goods.
Customs requests payment for taxes and duties, if applicable. If your shipment exceeds the tax threshold, the customs officer checks if duty and taxes have been paid. Additionally, certain restricted goods may incur fees regardless of their value. At this point, the choice between shipping with Deliver Duty Unpaid (DDU) and Deliver Duty Paid (DDP) becomes relevant.
Delivery Duty Paid (DDP) means that import duties and taxes have already been paid. Most express couriers services like FedEx have customs brokers who will process this payment on your behalf at customs. With DDP, the price you paid for shipping covers any import fees, and this is reflected on the attached shipping label. In other words, using DDP is the best way to ensure a smooth customs clearance process.
Delivery Duty Unpaid (DDU) means that import duties and taxes are unpaid. In this case, the customs officer forwards the shipment to an independent customs broker to collect the required amount.
Customs brokers are middlemen who charge fees for facilitating the customs clearance process. These variable fees can be expensive because they include brokerage, storage, and late payment.
With customs fees unpaid, the broker will contact the recipient to collect payment.
Your shipment clears customs once all duties are paid. Once customs clearance is complete, your chosen courier service transports the shipment from customs to the end-destination. Shipments rarely get stuck at customs. When they do, it's usually because of faulty paperwork.
If your package is held at customs, you should contact the courier company in charge of your shipment. Normally, they should be able to help you with the customs clearing process, or even, just identifying the problem. Before contact, make sure you have the tracking number to give it to the courier to check its status.
The shipping provider may charge:
‘Held at Customs‘ means the package you are sending to the destination country is held by the officials of the importer country’s customs office. These government bodies hold the packages until they ensure that only permissible items cross their border and the taxes (Duties & Excise) are paid for the import.
There are multiple reasons you might get the message “Held at Customs”. Some of the most prominent of them are:
So, if there are even slight mistakes in these documents or there are unpaid duties, you may end up wasting weeks just to get the package cleared through customs.
Import Duty. A tax imposed by a government on goods from other countries. Increased prices on imported goods make these products less "desirable" so buyers are encouraged to support the domestic market.
GST. Goods & Services Tax. This tax is charged in stages, then reimbursed to everyone except the end buyer. It’s different from VAT because it’s a flat-rate percentage of the total transaction, instead of a percentage of value added.
VAT Tax. Otherwise known as Value Added Tax. This tax is charged to consumers when they buy any good or service.
Commercial invoice. A required document in international shipping that describes the items in the shipment and their value. Commercial couriers and customs brokers refer to this document to process and clear your package through customs.
The European Union is a customs-free zone. Goods produced in member states of the EU, or any other country with specific contracts for free circulation of goods, will not be subject to customs charges. In most cases, when shipping within the European Union, there are no additional customs clearance fees.
If parcel is being shipped internationally across borders, the shipment will go through customs. The customs authorities will make sure it is following the regulations of the importing country. This means that they will check if the shipping parties have provided all the required documentation and that the customs fees for the international shipping are paid.
Customs duties are usually paid by the receiver unless otherwise agreed with the sender. The amount of money that the receiver would have to pay depends on the data provided in the customs declaration, the supporting documents or the additional information the customs officers may request.
Yes, but keep in mind there are two possible scenarios if you refuse to pay the customs fees:
There are many reasons why a package can be stopped in customs:
It depends on each case specifically, but it may take from few days to a couple of months. How long the customs will hold your package will depend on whether you have paid the taxes and duties, if you have provided them all the required documentation, whether the box contains prohibited or restricted items or the transportation method.
Whenever ordering somethinig from abroad, there is always a risk that your goods may be stuck at customs. Some of the ways to lower that risk are to ensure all the paperwork is correct, and that the duties & taxes are paid before shipping. However, even if everything is done right, your shipment still has a chance of being stuck in customs.
The paperwork was submitted with consignment errors. Most countries require at least a commercial invoice indicating the value of each line item for the shipment to be cleared. Without a commercial invoice, customs will not be able to determine the value of the shipment and determine the duties & taxes payable. Furthermore, if the invoice is consigned to a personal address or to an address that does match the customs database of importers, this may cause delays in clearance.
Customs flagged the shipment and it requires an inspection. Random inspections occur frequently when shipping internationally, especially when shipping to countries with stricter import controls. For example, in China and Brazil, almost each shipment is inspected to ensure import regulations are met, and if the proper permits and declarations aren’t met, the shipment will be subject to lengthy delays and potentially confiscation.
The declared value of the shipment is inconsistent with the accepted pricing customs has on file. A problem that you may face when importing into more regulated countries is how their local customs values the goods. When an item is imported, customs may deem the declared value of the item is not in-line with what they have seen in the past. If the declared value falls outside a valuation range customs deems acceptable, they will not clear the shipment and will require new paperwork is submitted with a higher valuation.
Most delays in customs clearance do not require you to take any action. Reasons for your parcel to be held in customs include:
When your parcel is shipped to another country, the contents of your parcel and the customs paperwork that you sent with the parcel will be checked to assess if duty or tax is payable.
Once your shipment has been inspected, customs may request further information from the shipper or receiver.
If your shipment in stuck in customs, first check with your carrier and make sure there are no unpaid taxes. Should you come across unpaid taxes, pay them.
If that doesn’t work, your next point of contact is the shipper. The shipper then has two people they can contact: the carrier and, if they have one, their fulfillment company. The shipper may need to provide additional information in order to complete paperwork. In either case, it’s the shipper’s responsibility to resolve customs issues as long as you’ve paid your taxes.
That said, oftentimes, the only thing you can really do is be patient. International shipping is not always fast. Sometimes customs can hold on to packages for prolonged periods of time. You are very likely to receive your package at some point. Sometimes customs drags their feet. Sometimes the tracking information isn’t updated and your package actually is being shipped to you.
You are expecting your parcel to be delivered to you by Australia Post, you find that the parcels delivery process has come to an abrupt halt and your parcel delivery status is now showing held pending customs clearance.
The Inspection of international mail items by local and international customs authorities is a standard part of the process of sending or receiving mail from overseas and generally the item continues on its delivery journey smoothly.
Here's what you need to do