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Package Is Stuck In Customs? Strategies to Expedite Shipment Release and Avoid Future Hold-ups

Having a customs delay or hold on a shipment can be a frustrating experience. Delays can have a significant impact on your finances and overall business operations. Whether you are the sender or recipient, a customs hold can cause headaches and disrupt the smooth flow of international logistics. In order to navigate through these challenges more effectively, it becomes essential to understand the reasons behind customs detainment or delays. By gaining insights into the causes, you can take proactive measures to minimize the chances of your shipments being held up in customs

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Why Is My Shipment Stuck In Customs?

There are many reasons that a shipment may end up delayed or stuck in customs. Sometimes is as simple as high volume of shipments, such as peak season, but other times it may be due to actual errors which need to be corrected. You will want to find out whether your package is delayed due to extra inspection, or whether the shipment has actually been detained by customs.

Often delays can occur if the shipment needs further assessment before release. However in the case of a shipment being detained; the situation would then require steps to be taken in order to get the goods moving again. While it can be confusing to figure out the reasons your shipment may be stuck, there are a few very common reasons which likely may apply to your shipment.

Paperwork Errors

If you are missing important documents or they have not been filled out properly, then you may find that your shipment will get stuck in customs. This is one of the main reasons a shipment would get stuck in customs, and the leading cause of customs delays, so your paperwork is a step you’ll want to spend extra time on in your preparation. For cross border freight, you will need documentation outlining what the shipment is and its value, some of the main documents needed are:

  • Bill of Lading
  • Customs Invoice
  • Certificate of Origin 
  • Packing Slip
  • Additional licenses or certificates as needed

It is not just missing documents which can cause issue, rather you may find delay if your paperwork does not contain the correct information. Missing a number, or getting an address wrong could also lead to customs issues. If the information between documents does not match, such as customs invoice and BOL having different data, then customs will stop your goods from moving further as well. 

Prohibited Products

If you are importing goods which are prohibited from entering a country, they will likely be seized by customs. Some goods are controlled or regulated and require special licenses, while other goods are prohibited entirely, depending on the country you are moving the good into.  Items such as weapons, fireworks, narcotics or alcohol for instance may be restricted or prohibited, so it is essential to research the regulations of the country you are importing to, in order to prevent this error, or hire a knowledgeable customs broker.

Unpaid Fees, Duties or Taxes

Customs will also hold shipments from release due to unpaid fees on the shipment. Most countries do charge import duties and taxes, and the final amount depends on the type of goods, shipment value, country of origin and any free trade agreements or regulations which may be applicable. If you have outstanding charges, your shipment will get stuck at customs until it is paid. 

If you were to ship Delivery Duty Paid, (DDP), then you would be able to prevent this occurring, because fees would be settled beforehand. You can also ship to bonded warehouses, where goods can stay until fees are paid. However, this is not always the option for everyone, so it is important to ensure that you do not have any outstanding fees, and that you are prepared for the duties and taxes your shipment may incur.  

canda duty estimate, canada taxes estimate freeSay goodbye to unexpected fees and duties when you ship to Canada. 

You can use the Zipments Duty and Tax Calculator to get an accurate estimate of all fees and duties before you even ship. Now you can plan your budget and avoid any unexpected costs. 

Whether you know your HS codes or not, we've made it easy to look up the relevant information. 

✔️Search by HS Code Number

✔️Search by Item Description 

Don't let unexpected fees hinder your shipping success! Try our Duty and Tax Calculator today and experience worry-free shipping to Canada. 

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Who Is Responsible For Dealing With Customs Holds or Delays? 

Most often the receiver or sender will need to address any issues and get goods moving through customs again. It is important for responsibilities to be outlined ahead of time, through either contracts or paperwork, so that any errors can be dealt with in a timely manner. Most often, the sender will need to ensure the documentation is completed correctly and that the goods are classified accurately. Even if you use a customs broker, they may still need additional documentation or information, so it is important to clearly communicate with the parties involved. 

Your customs invoice will be essential in the customs clearance process, and will need to be completed correctly. The invoice is one of the most important documents, as it contains the integral information which will be used in customs assessment. You will also need your BOL which can be generated at the time of your customs invoice creation, when you choose to use Zipments to generate your customs invoice.

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Generating up to date customs invoices has never been easier, and we can help you ensure you avoid document errors on your next shipment.  

Our advanced AI technology automatically detects your tariff for you. No more time-consuming manual research, or worrying about incorrect classifications.

With Zipments, you can seamlessly collaborate with others, and share all necessary documents in just a few clicks. 

And that's not all! We've made generating your Bill of Lading (BOL) a breeze. Instantly generate your BOL without any delays, ensuring a smooth and efficient shipping process. 

Whether you need to generate a Canada Customs Invoice or U.S. customs invoice, you can do so within minutes. 

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How To End A Customs Delay and Resolve Customs Issues

In order to remove a hold and get your shipment moving through customs, it is important to take the proper measures, beginning with first identifying the reason for your shipment getting stuck in customs. Once you know the reason, you can begin to fix any errors, either by drawing up paperwork or contacting the relevant parties. Some of the ways to fix the common customs clearance mistakes includes: 

  • Duties and Taxes Outstanding:

In the case of duty and tax issues, then you will need to pay the amount owed to customs, in order for your shipment to be released. If you’re using a customs broker, then they will likely pay the fees which you will then pay to the broker, so this should not be a reason for a lengthy delay.

  • Restricted or Prohibited Goods:

If your goods are restricted or prohibited, then you may need to work on getting the right licensing or certification for your goods. This process can take time, thus it is important to prepare. It is easier to consult to a customs broker, as they have experience and knowledge with changing regulations, so you can get up to date advice.  

  • Document Issues

If paperwork is the reason for your shipment delay, then you may need to fill out and submit more paperwork for the shipment. You may not always find out directly what the reason is at first, so you may need to look at your paperwork yourself, and see if there are any errors or missing documents. You will reach out to customs authorities to provide additional paperwork or amended copies. In the case that some information is incorrect or missing, you may also need to contact the customer to ensure the information provided is correct.

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What You Should Do

Customs holds and delays do happen, but it is not a reason to panic. All issues can be resolved with preparation. There are a few steps you can take directly, to address a package getting stuck on hold.

  1. Contact whoever has shipped the goods or the seller and see what is happening with the shipment itself. The seller can communicate with the shipper, if they are not the same entity,  and get more information on why a shipment is on hold.
  2. You can contact the carrier to verify whether the shipment is actually stuck in customs or there are other reasons for delay. Sometimes holidays or bottlenecks can occur causing delay, so it is important to confirm what is happening.
  3. Check if there are outstanding fees which need to be paid. Usually the customs broker will arrange for these fees to be paid.
  4. Double check the paperwork to ensure that you did not miss or complete a form incorrectly. Contacting the shipper can help you recover any paperwork or you may need to email them a document if it is missing.
  5. Use your tracking number, which should’ve been provided initially, to check for any updates and ensure that you are remaining patient when possible. With international shipping, packages sometimes take longer and that is part of the business.

The financial implications and disruptions to your business operations make customs clearance an essential component to your shipping process. By gaining insights into the causes, you can take proactive measures to minimize the chances of your shipments being held up in customs. It's all about being prepared and proactive in your approach to international logistics.  

Prevention is key, and by implementing best practices and staying informed, you can maintain the smooth flow of your international shipments. With Zipments, you can compile all your relevant customs paperwork and avoid errors which could lead to disruptions. From ensuring accurate documentation to staying up-to-date with regulations and requirements, there are always steps you can take to mitigate the risks associated with customs delays.