What Does Clearance Delay Mean in International Shipments?

by Stephanie Faris - Updated June 28, 2018
Male manager works in warehouse

If you ship internationally, going through customs is part of each package’s journey. Each country has its own policies on inspecting and approving packages, which can make delays hard to predict. But now that consumers can track an item through each step of the process, you actually see when your package hits a snag somewhere along the way. If your package says it’s in “clearance delay,” you may wonder what that means.

The Customs Process

When a package arrives at the shipping facility of a company, officials review the attached paperwork and make sure it meets regulations. You’re probably familiar with the paperwork you need to attach to each international shipment, but you may not realize until you see that your package is delayed just how important that paperwork is. Regulations can change without notice, but your shipping partner should be able to make sure your package is compliant before it leaves. In fact, with today’s technology, often a package has customs clearance before the plane transporting it even lands, according to FedEx.

The Approval Process

Even if you think you’ve packaged up everything to standard, customs has the right to search any package. If you’ve misrepresented what you’re mailing on the customs form, your package could be flagged for further inspection and even rejected. If you’re shipping through USPS, FedEx, UPS or a similar service, a clerk should ensure you have everything you need for the shipment to clear customs. However, more businesses than ever are using self-ship software, making it important to keep up with always-changing regulations.

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Reasons for Clearance Delays

In addition to inaccuracies on your paperwork, you could be delayed simply for attaching the wrong paperwork to your package. Even if you have the right form attached, if you miss one important item when filling it out, it could delay your package in customs. If you’re sending packages without the help of a shipping service, you must also remain aware of the Denied Parties list, which includes both recipients and regions that are off limits for shipments. Trade with those parties or areas are prohibited.

What Happens Next?

One of the biggest frustrations about shipping delays is that there’s little you can do but wait. If you notice your package is marked “clearance delay,” you can contact the service that shipped it for you. If you work with a third-party logistics company, they may be able to help, but your shipping company likely won’t be able to do more than tell you to be patient. Contact the recipient about the delay and keep checking.

About the Author

Stephanie Faris is a novelist and business writer whose work has appeared on numerous small business blogs, including Zappos, GoDaddy, 99Designs, and the Intuit Small Business Blog.

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