Customs Conundrum

You have just drawn the address of a tea-addicted Postcrosser, and you want to send her a bag of your favorite breakfast blend with your postcard. :coffee: (You have, of course, checked her country’s postal restrictions to make sure that dried plant material won’t be confiscated.)

You also want to send a thin metal bookmark, an embroidered patch, or a few washi tape samples to your overseas pen pal. They fit nicely into a standard-size envelope.

Do you need to fill out a customs form?

At least according to the USPS, yes. But I suspect that many people don’t bother when mailing small, flat items with their cards.

It’s an irritating extra step (made especially irritating when the online form is broken), but I don’t want my postcard + gift to be discarded in the recipient country. :grimacing:

What do you all do?


I often send tea bags to USA without filling customs form. It always arrived :smiley:


Hmm, I usually send without filling forms. Also because with same weight you would pay more, because it’s different type of postal matter (at least in Russia). I send as letter, and make sure to “embed” everything questionable in the paper and carton to avoid any problems

On the side note: I had an occasion of one of my laminated herbarium (=dried plants) handmades reaching New Zealand safely. It was my mistake of assuming that they are safe to send anywhere, but it worked!


BREAKING NEWS: Queenstown Horticultural Blight Caused by Herbaceous Postcard



I always fill up the customs form if the envelope includes anything more than paper, and I strongly advice everybody to do so.

I have few times received mail that the sender had not bothered to fill up customs forms for. Twice I was made to pay fees that I wouldn’t have needed to pay if the customs form was included on mail, and additionally once I had to declare the customs instead which was very annoying and caused about months’ delay. So just to make the recipients life easier, fill up that piece of paper.


Oh! That’s unfortunate! Could I ask what kind of items it was, if it’s not too private. I just can’t imagine, tea bag would treated that way (like with tea bag package, the baggie, and, heck, the quality of tea inside, it’s in some sense full paper material…).

And it raises a question: if it’s a metal bookmark - they are postcards made from wood, metal or rubber, shall any material that is not paper be reported, or when the card itself is not paper it’s okay?


Yikes! :scream: Very good to know. I’m sorry that you had to be the one to learn the hard way.

Like @Xute, now I’m also curious about possibly having to declare certain postcard materials. Leather postcards might be an issue in some countries that prohibit animal material.

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Btw, One of the ways to put a bookmark in the envelope - I didn’t even figure out that it was a bookmark from the first sight. Came as part of an envelope from USA

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No problem, these were bit larger ones. First one was flat, bit bigger than normal envelope with a small chocolate bar, and the other one was a candy bag. I guess tea bag would mostly go unnoticed, but I want to give attention to the worst case scenario. It could happen even with smaller mail.

For the second question: I would fill up the customs even if the envelope has only a postcard made with other than paper material, because I am pretty sure the customs doesn’t care what the object is, but what the object is made off. I might be bit too cautious, but I just don’t want to anybody else to get into problems I had and it takes like 2 mins to print out and fill in the customs forms.


As far as I know food items should be reported (I never sent chocolate or candy just in the envelope, but couple times slides of chewing gums arrived in common envelopes).

I send so many teabags in the envelopes, basically adding them in any envelope nowadays (they weight almost nothing, like 2-4 g each, and I like using the paid weight of the envelope to the max), now I am questioning myself :scream: :scream: I hope I never put anyone in this terrible situation before

and if it’s without? it becomes a philosophical question what is postcard then. I had a lot of experience of sending very weird pieces through post (tree bark, aluminium sheet, plastic, thick wooden tile, ceramic tile, fabric etc.), in some cases postal workers were absolutely puzzled how to classify what I send

EDIT: I just checked what is the price difference for declaring/ not declaring for my country. It’s 120/100 rubles, so to declare is 20% increase in price


@Xute I don’t really understand your question? This has nothing to do with any deep-analyze on what makes a postcard. I fill the customs form if the envelope includes anything made of material that is not paper (be it a postcard or anything else) because:

  1. Certain materials are not allowed to be mailed (organic materials being the famous case with certain countries such as Australia and Iceland), and there are very good reasons for that.
  2. Sometimes the mail might not be opened at the border but the recipient can receive fees / customs request because the people working at border realized that the envelope has something more than paper.
  3. 2 mins of my time to possibly save the recipient from annoyance is worth of it.
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I have same question as @PinkNoodle, if there are materials which need to be declared inside the envelope, do we need to declare the same materials when they are the material of the postcard itself, which is being sent openly

EDIT (sorry, I edit a lot, typing is faster than thinking): @Kompis-Ninna I think in my case, it would be not just 2 minutes, but necessity to send with the clerk (30 minutes of time or more) plus price increase. So if it’s flat and not 100% forbidden (=teabag, thin bookmark), then simple envelope…

well apparently in the netherlands we need to do that as well since 2019. i only found out recently (i’ve read it on this forum) after i sent a paperclip with my letter to someone. i was quite scared that my letter wouldn’t arrive (it did) so i definitely fill out a form if i have to.

and this might be a dumb question but how do the people that work with the mail know if you put a bookmark or washitapes in your envelop? especially if you put it between paper isn’t it just a flat envelop?


I believe all international mail, regardless on whether it is ‘Airmail’ or not is X-ray scanned, for suspicious items, that the customs will sometimes inspect



No, just kidding. If I recall right from what I heard earlier, they have similar (or same?) machines airport security has, so they can put the mail through and different materials looks different on screen. They also use dogs (though, I guess that is more for drugs, organic materials, and money). And I guess they sometimes make testings by picking up mail and just checking if they can feel anything else being in. To be honest, small things like stickers, washitape and that singe teabag will probably go unnoticed, but I still continue to passive-aggressively to tell people to fill customs.


At the moment I’m torn on whether to fill-out customs forms.

So far I have sent a few Chocolate bars within Europe and have filled customs forms for about 50% of them (as recommended due to Brexit), so far none have arrived.

I was quite fortunate to recieve a chocolate bar from Canada without a customs form, both the UK and Canada have strict Import/Export restrictions.

As for Tea-Bags, not yet filled out forms, but all tea-bags within the EU have arrived, will see for outside Europe.


I simply would not send the item. The hassle is too much vs the importance of the item.

Since this year, we have to do a declaration for small items too and I just don’t want to bother for the sake of a teabag. And I’d rather the mail travelled safely than having to worry about hiding a teabag.

If it’s a parcel with a lot of things, I’ll go through the pain of filling the form (it is very detailed here and you even have to fill item categories from a list that is as complex as procurement ones at work and I cannot believe people are made to go through that, the first time I was tearing my hair out and I feel anyone who’s not in an office job or not so good in English would struggle. Not sure what happens if you do it straight at the post office, maybe they help you but then you’re stuck there for a while and create a queue. Also it’s unclear to me if you can just drop the item in the mailbox or you have to necessarily go through the clerk. Last time I had my form printed but the clerk did something on the computer before telling me to put it in the box. In fact, when I paid for the large envelope she told me to go back to her after printing the form from the machine (I don’t have a printer at home), I went back to a different lady who told me to put the envelope in the box :woman_shrugging:t2: but I think she recorded it on her system first).

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For me, the answer seems to depend on circumstances I haven’t yet figured out. :sweat_smile:

I left a small package destined for Canada (including a customs form) on my porch for the mail carrier to pick up; I attached a note asking him if he could collect it like normal mail, or if I had to bring it into a post office. He replied apologetically that I had to bring it into a post office.

…but I have also been able to schedule a pick-up online for my international packages, in which my regular mail carrier collects the package with other outgoing mail as usual. :thinking: The only difference is that I submitted a virtual heads-up that there would be a package to collect.

I would just post it or not send tea

LOL all because of a postcard

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