Customs forms fromUS overseas for traveling notebook

Do I need a customs form to mail a notebook to another country from the US?

Hi! No, you do not need a customs form. You can send it in a large envelope, and mail it at the USPS counter.

Probably better to check with the recipient if you need to specify something on the envelope. For example, if you’re sending to Europe, it’s better to indicate that it’s “Free Gift.” Or “Gift worth 2 euros” So that the recipient of the envelope does not have to pay when he receives it.

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I just tried to mail a paper program to the Netherlands from the U.S. The employee at the usps counter thought it would be fine going in a large envelope using airmail. Three days later, the envelope appeared at my house, with no explanation (no insufficient postage mark, no other note, nothing). I went to the post office and they assumed the machine accidentally read my mailing address first instead of the addressee so they just put another label on it and sent it off again. Two days later, it was back at my apartment. I went back to the post office. They put another label on it and said, if it comes back again, we’ll need to put a customs label on it. Five days later, I was in the post office with a customs form and a few more dollars for additional fees.

All of this is to say, theoretically, you may not need a customs form, but you may indeed need a customs form.

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Thank you.

If it is a bigger notebook with a hard parts (like more of a book and not just simple tied pages) then absolutely do write custom labels and mark it as a gift with a value noted! (if not sure of value, just write down a low one). I would make customs even if the notebook was a small one, because sending anything that even slightly looks like it is more than a letter without custom label will cause quite annoying issues to the recipient, if not returned to the sender. I have been sent fees for envelopes I was receiving that did not have custom labels or the label was wrongly filled so if in doubt, always do the customs!

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I second this! Haven’t had any issues yet myself but I do know of other Polish postcrossers who had to pay customs fees even for a simple envelope with stickers and similar stuff. The EU laws became much stricter last year and sometimes the postal employees or customs officers are a bit overzealous with applying them.

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For example to Europe I would use one, put no value and describe as letter/hand written notebook/paper letter.

I have received few bigger letters from USA that got returned, and I should’ve cleared them, but because I didn’t know who is the sender, or what is inside, I couldn’t do it. Also an envelope having a pocket letter fold in three was returned but got to me when it was resent with the customs form.

When I’m sending outside of EU, I must use the customs label always when it’s more than a letter or a card. It’s told for example USA doesn’t approve anything more than letter without customs form and it’s returned to sender or destroyed. I have accidentally sent a letter with tea without it, and it arrived, but as the form is free, there is no “real” reason not to use it (although it’s annoying to fill the information online).

Good luck with this! A few months ago I used a small mailing envelope with small items inside that had no value. The postal clerk did not say a thing about custom forms and charged a ridiculous price because she said it was package. Two days later it was returned to me saying it needed a customs form. so I took it back to our main port office and was advised it would cost me another $20 to send it with the custom form. I said no way and was finally able to receive my original cost back. I repackaged in to
in a regular envelope ( it never was more than 1 oz by the way.)
I never received a message if it was received or not, and the receiver never even acknowledged my request to let me know if they got it or not. A lot of trouble and frustration, and all that was in the envelope was a note, a postcard and 2 very small items that weighed nothing. This was sent to a country in Europe. I do not really trust the knowledge level of our local postal clerks to be honest. I live in a rural area so perhaps larger facilities are better, I don’t know.
So just be sure and ask before you send it and if need be, try a different post office for second opinion.

Thanks to everyone who responded! I’m going to fill one out just in case!

Depending on from where you are sending. If we use the form in Germany, we cannot send it as letter mail at all :sob: As soon as anything else than documents are within, it’s a parcel. So if you need a costum form, it can’t be a letter regarding our local rules.

Oh :frowning: (but isn’t travelling journal only “letter” or documents? Maybe if there is charms etc, then not.)
What is the downside of it (sending as a parcel)?
(I was thinking with “our” parcel we would get tracking included, I think, so that would be good, but maybe if you need to go to the post office or something like that, that perhaps isn’t so easy? Or is it also much more expensive then?)

It’s a lot more expensive! 6 € / 11 € worldwide is the cheapest option comparad to 1,10 € (when it’s something small like a teabag) or 3,70 € when it’s of a size of a travelling notebook.

It might, it’s advised to put a note on the envelope for those items like “documents with hard cover” or “documents on CD / USB Stick” < as those are allowed, too - but not other disks or empty USB sticks. But as soon as there is a custom form, it’s not allowed.

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Ok, yes, I think I would take the risk with teabag, but not with the travelling notebook. (if it’s someone else’s.)

(Interesting that things like USB sticks are allowed, because I thought this has something to do with mail and letters not breaking if there’s something extra :slight_smile: )

most of the time it is not just about the weight it is about the thickness and the flexibility/regularity. since everything is automated with the usps (even if going international), the envelope must meet certain properties (length, width, thickness, weight, and rigidity) or it will be “culled” out for manual sorting.
if something doesnt meet these requirements or doesnt have a uniform thickness, it might jam the sorting machine and most likely destroy your envelope and contents - which is probably why the clerk might have suggested it had to be sent as a package (and therefor a customs form)? for a better idea, see this youtube video:

my postal office has a little plastic template to determine if an envelope meets “letter size/uniformity” - maybe ask if your post office has one? if not the usps has more information here. at least in the us, if the envelope exceeds the “non-machinable” characteristics then it is considered a parcel.


USPS 3 in 1 measurement tool, thickness gauge, post office template, guage, slot, postal tool, small buisness tool, shipping tools

I have this measuring tool, purchased on Etsy.* With this to measure thickness, a food scale to weigh, and the USPS online calculator I’ve had success sending various sized envelopes domestically and abroad.

Within the USA, I’ve sent buttons, MadLibs books, elastic jump ropes, tea bags, foot masks and more in a normal 6x9 envelope. Abroad I’ve only sent paper materials (postcards, letters, stickers, used postage stamps, origami paper, maps…)

For a traveling notebook, the rigidity also needs to be considered. If hardcover, I’d bring it to the counter at the PO and send as a parcel, maybe in a bubble mailer. Even a thin, lightweight softcover notebook (like Moleskin or similar) might be too rigid to send as a “letter” due to the spine. For abroad I’d do the customs form because I’ve read that people on the receiving end are sometimes charged money on their end if things aren’t declared by the sender.

  • Edit to say: That little tool was less expensive (and less for shipping) when I bought it 2 years ago :flushed: It’s a very nice, sturdy thing, but there may be less expensive options elsewhere.

Thank you for the information! It’s actually amazing to me that so many mail pieces make it at all! I just didn’t understand why the cost was so much more when a customs form needed to be done.
I am in a very rural area and our post offices are fairly basic.

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Anything sent at the international package rate needs a customs form regardless of contents. Does your post office use an electronic terminal? The machine should have flagged it for the clerk to have you fill one out. Anything of value, even say a book or magazine must be sent at the package rate, even if it qualifies for the “letter” or “flat” rate. This is only a general rule. The USPS website is the best place to check for the “official” rules for specific situations.

I think the two small items you mentioned would require it to go as a package even if of no value. Only letters and business papers qualify as non-customs, and in rare circumstances you may still need to fill one out for those.

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Thank you for telling me this!
I don’t know what the clerk did at the counter but it is a very small office. I just didn’t understand why it would cost $20 more to resend it with a customs form…I assume they charge for customs? So expensive !’

Could just be the difference between letter rate postage and package rate postage.

The difference may be due to the difference in handling and processing. I know here technically anything other than paper should be sent as package. So some clerks follow the letter of the rule. One postal worker said my small cloth ornament inside a letter (meeting the size and weight of a standard letter) had to be sent as a small package, even though it was a small envelope. The minimum cost for package was 12$ (rather then the 1$ for letter). I declined, and said I would repackage, as I could fill a small BOX up to 2 lb for the same small package cost of 12$ (holding like 100+ cloth ornaments).

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