import parcels

Customs clearance delay, what should you do?

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You’ve bought something from Amazon or another international shop with delivery to your country, everything has been going smoothly, but suddenly the dreaded words ‘clearance delay – import’ popup on your FedEx or DHL parcel tracking. What does it mean and how should you handle a customs clearance delay?

You will find the same wording is used across the board with couriers and shippers, so FedEx, DHL, UPS and all the other delivery firms you may use will use the wording ‘clearance delay’. What does it mean?

Clearance delay

What is a clearance delay? It has nothing to do with clearance sales, but means that your package has been help up at the border with customs and will be delayed until it clears through the customs process.

Customs are the group of people who control a country’s border and check the things that are entering including packages and parcels that are posted or shipped, imported, into a country.

Goods can be delayed at customs for a variety of reasons, including incorrect or incomplete paperwork, incorrect labeling, missing documentation, or failure to meet certain import or export regulations. It is important to ensure that all paperwork is filled out correctly and all regulations are fully followed in order to minimize delays.

We have already looked at what it means for an Amazon customs delay.

Customs duty

Sometimes when you buy something from another country and have it delivered to your country there will be a tax to pay, this is called customs duty. Often there is a value threshold under which the package can enter in without paying an import duty. Your country will have a long list of al items and the corresponding duty fee that will be imposed.

What to do about customs clearance delay?


How to resolve a customs clearance delay with FedEx. If you logon to track your package and see the dreaded clearance delay notification you will normally be shown the reason and what needs to be done to correct the issue.

FedEx say that the delay information is found on the detailed tracking page. It will normally look like this image from FedEx:

Clearance delay instructions from FedEx

You can see that it shows that the importer must provide more information about the item that is being imported. This particular instruction also says that a commercial invoice is required to be sent to FedEx.

Normally clearance should take about 1-2 days, but a delay could take much longer until all the reasons for the delay, listed on the tracking notification, have been satisfied.


DHL, on their tracking may tell you that there is a ‘clearance event’ what does it mean? Simply, it means that your parcel is clearing customs and you should not have to do anything. This should take about 48 hours and should pass.

If it takes longer than 48 hours then you may have a customs clearance delay. Instructions about what is required should be followed in order to speed up the delay. It should only take 1-2 days to pass through the clearance event.

DHL tracking clearance event

DHL also have an uncontrollable clearance event message. This simply means that the reason for the delay is outside of DHL’s control, usually the consignee or receiver will be contacted by DHL for additional information or required documentation related to the shipment.

How to avoid clearance delays?

Here are a number of steps you can take before you send or ship a package overseas through customs to avoid customs delays.

  1. Prepare all necessary paperwork. This might include a commercial invoice, a packing list, freight forwarders declaration and customs declaration.
  2. Declare the actual value of the goods.
  3. Provide clear and accurate details. This includes shipping address and senders details. Accurate details of the items in the package are required. If the description is too vague it could cause a delay as the package is opened and checked.
  4. Do not ship pirated or counterfeited items.

Can I pay customs fees in advance?

Some stores, such as Amazon and may parcel forwarders will arrange your import documentation and customs payments in advance so that you don’t have to deal with import duty when you receive your shopping.

Otherwise you will be asked to pay the customs duty after the shipment has passed through customs and has been delivered to you. This will be after the clearance event or delay has been sorted out.

What is a customs agent?

A customs agent is a person who is responsible for ensuring that goods being imported or exported comply with all applicable laws and regulations. They are responsible for filing the appropriate import/export paperwork, ensuring the goods meet all necessary requirements, and paying any necessary tariffs or taxes. Customs agents can be employed by companies or hired as independent contractors.










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