Clearing Up Customs Forms Confusion on Mailing & Shipping
If you mail or ship items internationally, you know these processes are not always easy, and one of the most confusing areas is that of the customs forms. How do you know when customs forms are needed? How do you access the correct customs forms? How do you insure the customs forms accompany the package? The United States Postal Service® (USPS®) recently announced that customs forms will now be required for shipments to US territories, effective June 6, 2011, so we thought this would be a great opportunity to shed some light on this often confusing subject.
Definition and Use of Customs forms on Packages
are subject to examinations by the customs
departments at the destination country. Since regulations for incoming mail
are different in each country, the use of customs forms
varies, depending on what you are shipping
and the final destination of the package
. Customs forms
include information about the sender, the recipient, and the contents of the package
. This information helps determine if there are any customs fees
that need to be paid and are required in order for the packages
to pass through the customs inspection
process. Failure to accurately and completely fill out the forms can cause delays in delivery or even non-delivery.
Availability of USPS Customs forms
are available online, either by ordering or completion. For anything shipping
through the USPS
, the following forms may apply:
PS Form 2976
- Customs Declaration
- Sender's Declaration CN22
PS Form 2976A
- Customs Declaration Form
and Dispatch Note-CP72 PS
Form 2976E (used with Form 2976A)
- envelope or pouch to enclose Form 2976A
PS Form 6182
The USPS provides a chart with guidelines regarding what types of shipments require which customs documents in IMM (International Mail Manual) 123.6. The USPS also provides a nifty little tool mailers can use, called Customs Form Indicator, to interactively determine what shipments require which customs forms.
Customs forms for US Territories shipments
Effective June 6, 2011, mailers
are required to submit the appropriate customs forms
for shipments to US territories of Guam, Puerto Rico, American Samoa, Palau, the Federated States of Micronesia, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, the Marshall Islands, and the US Virgin Islands. Essentially, any packages
containing goods (not documents) sent from the US to these destinations, and in some cases for shipments between these destinations, mailers
must use either Form 2976 or 2976-A. The IMM (IMM 123.63) includes a detailed definition of what constitutes a document. These changes were announced in the April 20, 2011 Postal Bulletin
, which also includes a chart of which territories and ZIP codes are affected.
Customs forms for Military Mail
are also confused about the use of customs forms
sent to Army Post Offices (APO's), Fleet Post Offices (FPO's), or Diplomatic Post Offices (DPO's). All mail
weighing 16 ounces or more, regardless of class of mail
or contents, destined for APO, FPO, or DPO addresses, must contain a Form 2976-A (or Form 2976 if the mailpiece
is not large enough to accommodate a Form 2976-A). All military mail
weighing less than 16 ounces that may contain dutiable contents must contain a Form 2976. There are some exceptions to these requirements, such as if the mailer
is a "known mailer
", or the mailer
is a federal, state, or local government agencies mailing
, or the mail
is prepaid from government contractors and is properly endorsed. These rules are covered in Domestic Mail
Manual (DMM) 703.
Technically, the USPS should return to the sender any mail
that should contain customs forms
but does not. However, the regulations are not always consistently enforced, so to make sure your mailings
do not end up in a customs
"black hole", we encourage mailers
to take advantage of the tools described above to make the correct forms
determination. It is always best to err on the side of caution, so "if in doubt, fill it out!"
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