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If you’re sending a package internationally for the first time, you may have lots of questions about customs. For example, what is customs? Well, customs are an authority that controls what comes into and goes out of a country. Customs officers are responsible for:
- Ensuring no illegal or prohibited items get into the country
- Ensuring that the government receives tax and duty for goods that are liable for charges
Nearly every country’s customs rules differ in some way or another, so it’s vital you check up on what the guidelines are for the country you’re sending to, before you send anything.
At Parcel Monkey we make international shipping, not just affordable, but easy too. When you get an international shipping quote through our shipping calculator, we’ll help you complete any necessary customs documents as part of the booking process.
Here are a few frequently asked questions about customs and what to expect:
How long does it take for a package to clear customs?
It normally takes a matter of minutes or hours for a package to clear customs, but it can take days or even weeks if there is a problem. Generally, customs will contact the recipient directly with any issues, which is why it’s so important to give accurate and up to date contact details for the receiver during the booking process.
Typical issues which can affect how long an item takes to clear customs, include:
- Missing or incorrect paperwork
- Wrongly declared goods
- Prohibited items
- Customs fees outstanding
- Problems contacting the recipient
- Your shipment has exceeded the value allowed
Please note that the estimated delivery time given for any service or destination does not include delays caused by the destination country's customs process. When shipping internationally, customs could add additional time to your package delivery so always allow extra time where possible.
How long can a package be held in customs?
If your package is being held in customs due to an issue, it will depend on what the issue is, as to how long it is held. If there is duty to be paid or the shipment has exceeded the value allowed, the package will be held until the balance is cleared.
All goods sent via Parcel Monkey are shipped delivery duty unpaid (DDU), which means any duty will need to be paid by the recipient when the package arrives at its destination country. If customs cannot reach the recipient for any reason, the package will be held, and further fees may be incurred in storage.
How long do parcels take to clear UK customs?
If you’re sending a package to the UK, your parcel could clear customs within 24 hrs if there are no issues, so you can help avoid delays by making sure you correctly declare your goods and complete all the necessary paperwork.
However, some delays are unavoidable. Customs will carry out random checks on packages to ensure the contents and the value of the goods has been declared accurately and there’s nothing you can do to avoid this. Backlogs are also common and if this happens all you can do is wait.
You can find more detailed information on UK customs here
Package held in customs - what do I do?
Parcel tracking provides visibility of where your package is in the delivery process, this includes notifications on customs clearance. You may get a notification such as ‘Customs Clearance’ or ‘Held by Customs’. If the package is held in customs, customs will contact the recipient to resolve the issue or collect any fees due.
If you’re the sender and you see your package is being held in customs, you could contact the recipient just to ensure that customs have been in touch. If they haven’t, please contact our support team via our live chat and we’ll contact the carrier on your behalf.
Overseas gift tax - what is it?
If you’re sending a gift overseas, most countries have a tax-free gift allowance, usually on items under a certain value. However, you should check the customs authority for the destination you’re sending to, as each country has its own rules. If you’re a business sending merchandise overseas, avoiding customs duty by marking an item as a gift is illegal.
What is a customs broker?
A customs broker is a private individual or corporation that charges a fee for handling the clearance of goods through customs. This includes working with the importer to ensure any relevant documentation and licenses are in place and ensuring the correct duty and taxes are paid to reduce delays. A customs broker is typically used by businesses that regularly import and export goods internationally. Some freight forwarders will also offer this as a service.
What is a prohibited item?
Every country has a list of items they don’t allow in (prohibited items). This includes all the usual things you’d expect - aerosols, flammable liquids, livestock or anything considered dangerous or illegal.
However, there are often goods that you might not expect to see on these lists, so check carefully. For instance, you can’t send money to many countries. Likewise, leather products, mobile phones, musical instruments and tobacco may not be accepted.
Other items may be allowed but come with restrictions or strict guidelines on the packaging. We suggest checking our destination pages, which have information for almost every country. Please also check the Parcel Monkey prohibited items list, which is a comprehensive list of items we have been advised by our carriers not to ship.
If you’re still unsure whether you can send your item, please send us a message via live chat and we’ll be happy to advise you.
Further customs advice: