Customs Conundrum

I never knew this existed in Singapore (or I never checked). I just went ahead sending all my little packages in a small envelope, but I guess my little surprises in the envelope are usually in between my letter pads. I’ve been sending tea out not knowing that we were supposed to do a declaration! :scream: :sweat_smile:

Still, my mail has been getting to their destinations fine, so I guess I will just ‘act blur, live longer’ (it’s a Singlish term for the other Postcrossers around the world)? :sweat_smile:


It started from 1st January 2021 so it’s quite new. I think there is a sticker advising of the new rules on mailboxes :sweat_smile:
However, now that I think about it and it is not 5am (I typed the reply above while I couldn’t sleep…) I am no longer sure it would apply to teabags and such small items (but I think it does). I know in Italy a similar rule also came into force for mail to outside of the EU and it covers literally anything that is not a sheet of paper, but people do still hide their teabags in and it’s unlikely to cause trouble. So not sure it’s exactly the same or I’m confusing different places (I definitely had to do the declaration for larger parcels). Still, I personally just prefer to avoid it if I can.

I’m working hard on my Singlish :smiley: (I figured I have better chance with that than with Chinese… :sweat_smile:). I didn’t know that phrase but I knew about ‘blur’ :laughing:

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A few months back I got a large envelope from the US that was opened by Indian Customs. The sender forgot to fill the customs form. During that time there were a few news articles about drugs being sent through the post. Thankfully the envelope was resealed and forwarded to me.

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It is now! :wink:

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I have had to go pick up envelopes with things in them from Customs a couple of times. As examples with envelopes, once someone sent small spools of washi tape in a letter without a customs form, and once someone sent me a bunch of old stereoscopic cards from the U.S. – they filled out the Customs form but didn’t put in a value.

Customs sent me a notice each time. I then had the choice of (no fee) going to open the envelope in front of them so they could decide if I owed anything, needed to be arrested (if it was contraband), or could go on my way; paying a rather large fee to have them open the package for me; or (also no fee) refusing the package / envelope. Unfortunately, it isn’t possible to have the item shipped to your local post office unless you pay their fee and have them open the envelope before delivery.

So, although the things sent to me didn’t require me to pay a fee I had to go to Customs (difficult, because it is in a remote industrial area with limited bus service and I don’t have a car), wait for them, then wait for the bus back. It ended up taking a half day of my time and about €13 in bus fare each time.

A friend who works for customs says that it is often purely random, which packages they pull out to check, but that a customs form with no value or improperly filled out, and things that look on the face of them like they may be goods (even small goods) sent without a declaration will almost certainly be flagged. I think that’s why the washi tape spools were identified, they made the envelope too thick just to run through the sorting machines.

All of that said, I’ve never had a problem sending or receiving things like single tea bags, stickers, small amounts of washi tape wrapped around cards, or things simply taped down to a postcard. I think if it is slender enough to fit through the sorting machines it isn’t likely to be a problem. Anything “fatter,” my advice is to use the customs form and be sure to check “gift” and put in a value!!! Oh, and be aware that in some countries (like Germany) that may mean that you need to use significantly more postage!!


Thank you so much for sharing your experience. Reading this and the other replies has solidified my commitment to including a customs form! :memo: When in doubt, fill it out!

This part scares me a bit, because the tool that I use to create a customs form and shipping label (Click-N-Ship®) is often broken so as to make it impossible to enter items/values accurately (e.g. up to 30 separate items may be entered, but an error message prevents me from adding more than four). In this case, I try to represent the contents to the best of my ability, but I’m afraid of the recipient being penalized for my not having filled out the form correctly. :cold_sweat:

I wouldn’t worry too much about that, if you can “bin” things. For example, we have to indicate “Item / Quantity / Value” Lets say I am sending someone a package with 3 rolls of washi tape, 2 packages of stickers, and cute paper set I got at the discount store. Each individual item cost €2, so the total sum is €12. I will say on the customs form “Stationery Items / 6 / €12.” The next line item may be an assortment of cookies and crackers and I will put “Snacks / 4 / €10” or whatever.

It does make sense if you are sending packages to find out what the limit is in the recipient’s country for receiving gifts without having to pay a duty, and if there are certain items (plants, milk, meat, alcohol, etc.) that are absolutely forbidden. Your innocently sent package of marigold seeds may cause all sorts of problems if it is going to an island country like Australia, or you may find yourself victim of some trade wars that forbid the importation of ingredient X!


Hi all, glad I found this but still have questions- I sent a chocolate bar in the post and it hasn’t arrived yet (still time I guess…) but…I didn’t use an official UK customs declaration form on the back- I just wrote ‘Customs declaration, tea, chocolate, GIFT’…is this ok do you think? Or does it need the official Post Office thing? Going to @Maddymail because you replied in this before and are from the UK and have knowledge! What’s your experience like? Always add a customs form?


Hello Clare @clareaye

Haven’t sent any tea or chocolate for a while, I’ve participated in tags previously in the spring and sent half with customs forms and half without.

Ofcourse both UK & EU customs arrangements have changed since April primarily because of the ‘B-Word’ and the ‘C-Word’

I sent two chocolate bars (one with a CN22 form and one without a form) to the same postcrosser in Lithuania on the tags roughly 8 weeks apart then a couple tea bags without a customs form.
Heard nothing for about 3 months when apparently all three arrived together with the first chocolate bar in a padded envelope arrived in a pretty beat up way.

I’ve sent Tea to France and Singapore without forms, no problem. But both countries now require forms. US, Italy, Lithuania, Japan, I have used customs CN22 forms and so far all but my second Italian letter have arrived.

CN22 forms are free from the Post Office for International Standard/Economy post.
CN23 forms are for registered letters and parcels so make sure you get the right form.

Again half and half of recieved letters with Chocolate/Tea with customs forms.

Even when I sent a full sheet of high value Mint Postage stamps I filled out a customs form, in the event it had to be inspected.

I personally would use customs forms on chocolate/tea, expensive items, etc.

Hope this helps,



Thanks Mark! Super helpful reply. I think I will either avoid sending chocolate or use a form for anything more than paper content. Do you know if I asked for a handful of the customs stickers at the Post Office they would give me them and I can do it at home? I kinda don’t see why not if the value is less than the postage. But maybe these things need to be filled in at the post office so they can verify it? (Never ever been asked to open a parcel)

I have a post box 100m from my front door and buy stamps online to get nice ones and avoid having to get to a Post Office before 1pm on a Saturday so it would be super helpful if I could ‘DIY’ the declaration.

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I tried printing them off from the PO website, but this only gives you the CN23 form for registered, tracked and signed post.
Intially when I asked for CN22 forms in the PO, I got odd looks as I had no letter/parcel to post and ask what country I was sending too.
They also don’t like giving them out for free, even though they are free, so I usually buy a single £1.70 definitive stamp to keep them happy and get a wad of 10 forms :roll_eyes::grin:.

Different PO clerks will tell you something different each time, even on how the form should be filled and location on the envelope.

Call me ambitious, and a little nutty, but here is an example of how I fill out my forms and location on the letter, this one is off to the North Pole :grin::nerd_face::santa:

Can bung them in the postbox at the end of the road or ask for the PO to give it the once over and get a Proof of Postage Receipt.

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For Americans,USPS requires all customs to be e-filed beforehand for fastest delivery. You CAN have the postal clerk do it for you if you don’t have access to a computer but I wouldn’t recommend it (I’ve seen a few clerks shortcut it, or the office is so busy that it never gets done and in either case your package just languishes somewhere while customs sorts it out). USPS.COM for how to do this.

Update on this for anyone reading from NI- I went to ask for a customs form at the Post Office and was told that I only need them for sending outside the EU. Good ole Northern Ireland protocol…sigh.

It was worth the trip though because I didn’t realise that over 0.5cm was a ‘large’ letter so I had to add an extra stamp anyway.