How to Track a USPS Parcel at US Customs

Ciaran Griffin/Valueline/Getty Images
How to Track a USPS Parcel at US Customs
std/Moment/GettyImages

Many businesses ship their goods to other countries, and this involves the package going through customs. Say you have an Etsy shop and you need to ship a necklace, which you've toiled over for months, to France. It's scary to package up that precious object and send it overseas. What if it's lost in the process? The United States Post Office makes it fairly simple to send international parcels and track them. You can even fill out labels, print custom forms and have the mail picked up for delivery, all from the comfort of your home or office. You can also track your package on the USPS website.

Visit the USPS Website

First open an online USPS account using your email and creating a password. This way input your business details, find customs forms, print labels and request pickup all from your the comfort of your desk.

Print a Label

Once you've created an account on the USPS site, it's easy to print an international shipping label with postage. Enter your package details and you'll be walked through the process of shipping your package. Depending on the country to which you're mailing your package, fields will automatically change so you can be sure you format your postage label correctly.

Fill Out a Customs Form

After you enter all the details asked about your shipment, you'll be walked through a customs form specific to the country to which your package is destined. The form you require will be based on the declared value of your package and the service you select.

Schedule a Pickup

Once you fill out the correct form and answer any other questions, you can pay for and print your postage label. You can then schedule a free package pickup right from your door. Be sure to include specific instructions for your carrier.

Packing Recommendations

The post office recommends choosing a sturdy box with enough room for cushioning material around the contents. This will protect fragile items and prevent them from shifting. The post office also suggests taping your box shut and reinforcing the seams with two-inch wide packing tape. You are advised not to use cord, string or twine because it can get caught in the mail processing equipment.

Waiting for a Package?

Packages can get lost. If you're expecting a package and it is long overdue, or you think it may be lost in the mail, contact your local post office and request that a parcel tracer action be initiated to locate it. Unless you have received a notice of detention issued by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), the organization will be unable to track packages into or out of its facilities. If you have a tracking number from the USPS indicating that the package went to the CBP, but there is no record of it leaving the CBP, ask the post office's customer service representatives to work directly with the CBP facility to determine if your package is still there.

Package Inspections

Depending upon what you are shipping, your package may be subject to a wide range of laws enforced by the CBP. These laws encompass health, safety and intellectual property rights. If any of these laws affect your shipment, other U.S. agencies may need to inspect your package. This will be a particular issue if the goods from your company are subject to Food and Drug Administration regulations. This could include such items as medicine, medical devices and food.

What if Your Package is Detained?

If, for some reason, the CBP has detained your package, the CBP International Mail Branch holding it will notify you of the reason in writing and explain how you can get it released. Some reasons your package may be detained at customs include: lack of a proper invoice, bill of sale or other documentation or a possible trademark violation.

Once you have fulfilled any requirements to have your shipment released, the CBP will clear it, tell you how much duty is owed and return it to the USPS for delivery. You should be notified in a few days, though it's possible you could wait as long as 30 to 45 days.

Another Tracking Option

An online service like PackageTrackr.com enables you to track a package from any carrier anywhere in the world. Some business owners find this to be a lifesaver when they're worried about a shipment.

    Warnings

  • The U.S. Postal Service updates tracking when the package reaches the Customs office and when it is delivered -- not in between.
  • Contact your local post office before calling customs; it may have crucial information you did not think about, such as the delays of flights due to volcanic eruptions.

    Tips

  • Express Mail custom numbers are nine digits long. The digits are preceded by two letters and followed by the letters "US."
  • Global Express Guaranteed has a 10-digit bar code

References

Resources

About the Author

Heather Skyler is a business journalist and editor who has written for wide variety of publications, including Newsweek.com, The New York Times and Delta's SKY magazine. She has a bachelor's degree in English from Miami University and a master's degree in writing from the University of Washington in Seattle. Before writing for a variety of publications, she taught business writing in Seattle.

Photo Credits

  • Ciaran Griffin/Valueline/Getty Images