How to Write a Letter to Customs

by Jody Hanson; Updated September 26, 2017
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The Customs and Border Patrol is a branch of the Department of Homeland Security charged with the mission of keep weapons and terrorists out of America. In addition, they are responsible for enforcing the laws about bringing prohibited and restricted items into the country. You may be writing to customs in response to a notice you received that the ceramic tableware your aunt from Hong Kong sent you for your wedding is prohibited. Other reasons for contacting customs include questions about taking your pet across the border or wanting to import medication because it is cheaper on the Internet than at your local pharmacy. No matter the reason for you letter to customs, it must adhere to proper business letter format.

Step 1

Phone the Customs and Border Patrol office nearest you and find out to whom you should address your letter. If, for instance, you want to know if you can bring back an African drum from your trip to Ghana, ask who is in charge of that division. Note the person’s name and title.

Step 2

Follow the layout of a business letter: return address, date, inside address, salutation, body of letter and closing. Leave two blank spaces between each part of the letter, rather than indenting.

Step 3

Write on letterhead if at all possible, as it makes your letter to customs look more official. If, however, you don't have letterhead, type your address in the top left-hand corner. Leave two blank spaces, then type in the date.

Step 4

Enter the inside address. This is the same address that goes on the envelope. The inside address is what indicates that it is a business letter, rather than a friendly one.

Step 5

Begin with a salutation. Write “Dear,” the officer’s name and follow it with a comma. “Dear Officer Jones,”.

Step 6

Get straight to the point and tell the customs officer why you are writing. “I am writing to inquire about the rules and restrictions of importing a car from Japan.”

Step 7

Keep your paragraphs and sentences short and stick to the point. Start a new paragraph if you start a new idea, and don’t forget to leave a double space. Avoid run-on sentences and don’t use a large word when a small one will do just as well. Write in a professional tone.

Step 8

Indicate what action you want taken or what you intend to do. When writing about a custom’s notice to collect an item, for example, “Please be advised that I’m unable to collect the package from Romania next week as I am presently out of town.”

Step 9

End the letter with "Sincerely," and note that it is followed by a comma. Leave a space for your signature and then type your name.

Step 10

Leave your letter to customs for an hour or so. Reread your letter and correct any spelling, grammar or typing mistakes.

Tips

  • Go to “print preview” and make sure the letter is properly spaced. If it is bunched-up at the top, add some additional spaces so that it is properly centered on the page.

About the Author

Jody Hanson began writing professionally in 1992 to help finance her second around-the-world trip. In addition to her academic books, she has written for "International Living," the "Sydney Courier" and the "Australian Woman's Forum." Hanson holds a Ph.D. in adult education from Greenwich University.

Photo Credits

  • Digital Vision./Digital Vision/Getty Images