Join 3,521 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


USPS International Priority Mail Customs
February 3, 2010 7:37 AM   Subscribe

Mail-Filter: I just mailed a package via Priority Mail from California to Austria without including any completed customs forms. Did I mess up?

The package contained a pair of jeans that I indicated was a gift and which has a value of $30. Since I sent it Priority International I didn't see any indication on the USPS website or Paypal's website (where the recipient sent me money to cover the cost of shipping) that a separate customs form needed to be affixed to the package.

I can confirm that the postage is correct and that is went out on the day post marked, a requirement for international packages.

Is there anything I forgot to do? Should I have completed a customs form? I want to make sure that if I made a mistake with this mailing, I don't make it again, as this is only my first time mailing something internationally. Cheers.
posted by fook to Grab Bag (13 answers total)
 
Let me just clarify something -- you said you didn't fill out a form, but you also said you "indicated it was a gift."

Exactly HOW did you indicate it was a gift? Did you write it on one of those green label thingies that has the tear-off part where you put your address and the recipient's address? If you did, then that's all you need, and you don't need a separate customs form.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:41 AM on February 3, 2010


Yup, you messed up. Look here, where it says "customs forms required."

I've never made this particular mistake, so I can't advise you on likely consequences.
posted by jon1270 at 7:42 AM on February 3, 2010


Actually, let me clarify MY answer: I'm pretty sure that that green label thingy with the tear-off part I was talking about IS the only customs form you'll need for something that's a gift. It's the only "customs form" I've ever needed for sending gifts to Ireland, and I've been doing that for nearly 30 years now.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:44 AM on February 3, 2010


More from the USPS site: if a customs form was required and you didn't fill one out, they'll return it to you.

Question: did you take to a post office and mail it from there, and did they fill out something stating that it was gift and cost $30? If so, that's the customs form. That's usually all that's required.
posted by nangar at 8:32 AM on February 3, 2010


Since I sent it Priority International--

This is the relevant fact here. Unlike standard air mail, Priority International is supposed to require the full, tedious, enumerate-the-items-in-quadruplicate customs form which goes in its own special envelope -- with the exception of the smallest flat-rate box, where the small green one will do. (Usually, the full form is only required for packages over a certain weight.)
posted by holgate at 10:07 AM on February 3, 2010


Just to add: Priority International isn't necessarily worth the extra hassle and expense, unless you take advantage of the flat-rate pricing, or you're like me and never get the annual Christmas parcel sent off a fortnight ahead of time. The tracking element often breaks down once it reaches Foreign.
posted by holgate at 10:13 AM on February 3, 2010


There are two customs forms that USPS uses - one for packages that weigh over 4 lbs, and one for packages that weigh under.

The one for heavier packages is a monster requesting details on everything about the contents. The other one is a tiny green tear-off form that barely has any space to write the address.

That, and USPS will not accept international packages without a customs form.

You didn't mess up.
posted by Arthur Dent at 10:31 AM on February 3, 2010


Sorry for the opacity, but thanks for the answers.

Some clarifications: The form I marked as '$30 gift' was provided via Paypal (online) and from what I can tell, this information (whether it constituted a customs form or something else), along with the regular destination/return address/postage were printed on one label, again using Paypal's tutorial/wizard. I didn't personally take the package to my post office, but sent it with our runners who take all my workplace's mail there at the end of each day. As far as I know it was not rejected.

Being sent out yesterday, things seem to have progressed fine, as I just received notification of a tracking number, but this still leaves up for speculation whether or not Austrian customs will reject it, right? Since the garment fit inside the large envelop, which appears to be considered the same as a Small Flat Rate Box by the USPS, I double bagged it and sent it that way, taking advantage of the flat rate Priority International freight. FWIW, the weight came out to 2lb 2.5oz.

All this was prompted by my subsequent receipt of another package (addressed to me) that DID HAVE that mint-green customs dealie, which was sent from an American service person in Europe, necessitating customs declarations and giving me worry-willies. I'm honestly just hoping I'm not as confused next time as I am now. Additionally, it'd be nice to not have wasted $15 bucks on shipping.

Anymore answers?
posted by fook at 12:08 PM on February 3, 2010


Hmm. Were you mailing this from an office with a mailroom? Is that what you mean by "runners"? If so, they may have handled that green customs form themselves.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:15 PM on February 3, 2010


Exactly, the people who act as our office couriers took it to the post office to be mailed out yesterday evening. I would also have assumed, having worked as such a courier, that when dropping out large quantities of mail, the packages are assessed right there, before the person dropping them off leaves the post office. If any irregularities were present at the post office, I'd imagine it would have been brought to my attention by our runners/couriers, after being brought to theirs. If nothing was caught, but there was still a label/form missing, I'd think at least the Electronic Shipping Info would have been rejected, which it was not.

In any event, I guess I'll just have to wait the few weeks to see if it goes through.
posted by fook at 1:02 PM on February 3, 2010


I would also have assumed, having worked as such a courier, that when dropping out large quantities of mail, the packages are assessed right there, before the person dropping them off leaves the post office. If any irregularities were present at the post office, I'd imagine it would have been brought to my attention by our runners/couriers, after being brought to theirs. If nothing was caught, but there was still a label/form missing, I'd think at least the Electronic Shipping Info would have been rejected, which it was not.

....Then...I'm curious why you got concerned about whether anything was wrong, since there seem to be a lot of indicators that everything's all fine.

On the other hand, I also get random free-form "but what if" anxiety myself, so if that's what's going on, I respect that and sympathize.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:08 PM on February 3, 2010


Since the garment fit inside the large envelop, which appears to be considered the same as a Small Flat Rate Box by the USPS,

Correct: nice packing job. My guess is that the post office either could use that pre-printed form or transcribed it.

Whenever I've handed an international parcel over the post office counter (as is required) it's had the customs form barcode scanned into the system -- and the standard "fragile, hazardous, perishable" thing -- before going into the delivery pile. That's applied when paying at the counter, and with pre-paid labels.
posted by holgate at 1:32 PM on February 3, 2010


Evenybody in this thread has been very helpful with their practical explaination and with setting my mind at ease. I suppose I should just stop worry and learn to trust my inner mail-carrier.

Thanks again!
posted by fook at 3:36 PM on February 3, 2010


« Older I am purchasing my first dslr ...   |  Aspergerfilter: My girlfriend... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.