Questions about sending mail to the US

Hello (: i am new on the forum and i wanted to ask for help on shipping gifts to the USA, i have trouble understanding the FDA part of it. I thought here i might find experts, but i haven’t seen any topic matching my problem ^^’ Can someone show me the way ? Thank you :blush:

Hi Marie! Welcome to the Postcrossing forum! :slight_smile:

I believe the FDA rules only apply if you’re shipping food or drugs to the US… Do your gifts include those? Maybe if you let us know what you’re planning to ship, it’ll be easier to help.

I’m moving this post to the North America part of the forum, since it’ll probably be easier to get help here.

When you are sending anything from EU countries to outside of EU, you should fill a customs declaration label. There you write down the things you are sending and their value in euros. The most important thing is to choose the option “GIFT” (or write it by your self). Then the recipient doesn’t have to pay any taxes more.

Thank you so much for helping me !
I do have food in my package, tea, candy and chocolate, but if i understood the FDA website, they require receipts for everything, and i didn’t keep those. I’m also afraid that they will tax my friend on the receiving end, who didn’t ask for anything since it’s a gift :confused: My postoffice told me that there is no way to know in advance :’(

The actual laws behind this, apparently, get a little… Complicated. There’s a lot of stuff about commercial vs. personal/non-commercial, natural state vs. non-natural state (e.g. cooked vs. harvested), gift vs. sale, etc… Frankly, it’s incredibly complicated. It’s made worse by the fact that the FDA’s web site itself calls out that, while all international mail shipping food or drugs to the US are subject to the “Prior Notice” and labelling laws, “since June 2004 the agencies have been exercising enforcement discretion” - which means that it’s up to the individual examining agent whether they should care about the requirements or not. Actually, though, this can work in your favour. What the FDA cares about is 1) illegal shipments (illegal drugs) or 2) commercial shipments attempting to bypass import controls and tax laws. After all, the import duties on a box of tea may be $0.50, and it’s literally not worth their time to enforce it.

From my own experience… Most of my family lives in England while I live in New York, and we have spent the last 30 years sending tea and candy back and forth. We always fill out the custom form, and the shipments have never been stopped or had charges applied to the recipient.

So while please keep in mind I’m just a guy and I’m neither a lawyer nor a government employee, my best advice is this:

  1. Keep the amounts small. A teabag or two and a candy bar are almost certainly fine, while a carton of candy may be flagged as “intended for resale”.
  2. Always fill out the customs form, but be general. Label it as “Candy (Gift)” and “Tea bags (Gift)” rather than giving specific brands. We’ve even just gotten away with labelling it “Christmas Gifts” or “Birthday Gifts” on occasion. Your local post office can guide you a little here, but it’s okay to be vague as long as you don’t lie.
  3. Never send something valuable enough to matter unless you’re okay with it being lost. While my family has been lucky, if the FDA decides something violates import laws, they’re most likely to just incinerate it.
  4. Send a separate note saying “Hey, I sent you a box with X in it, let me know whether or not you get it!”.

I hope this helps a little, and best of luck!


Oh my thank you it’s so helpful ! I will fill the forms but do i also need to have the FDA prior notices also ? I understood that it was mandatory, but they seem to be very detailed and like i said, i didn’t keep these :confused:
Also i looked on online forums, and some people said that if the total value is under 45, it is never opened (and so taxed/destroyed i assume), but mine is around 85. Will this be a problem ?
Again thank you for your help

So unfortunately, it appears the short answer is “yes” - technically, prior notice is required. There are a couple of exceptions (Guidance for Industry: What You Need to Know About Prior Notice of Imported Food Shipments | FDA) including “stuff you make yourself intended as a gift for the personal consumption of the recipient”, but nothing that appears to apply in your case.

This actually gets complicated, though. The FDA’s web site appears to specifically say that Prior Notice rules include gifts (see the link above), but looking at someone like UPS says that “current policy excludes things bought by you and offered as a gift” (check out this page here: FDA Prior Notice: UPS - United States). My interpretation of this is kindof what I said in my previous post - regulations says it applies but policy (e.g. individual agent discretion) is that they just don’t care for small packages.

Realistically? As the people you saw online said, if the value is low enough, odds are they just won’t care. I can tell you my family and I have never filled out a prior notice and it’s never been a problem, but that’s just my experience.

Your options, as I see them, are:

  1. Fill out the paperwork. As far as I can tell this is the “correct” answer, but it’s a ridiculous pain to do.
  2. Don’t bother with prior notice and just list it as “tea (gift) and candy (gift)” on the customs form. Hope they ignore it because it’s a small package.
    2a) Do the same, but undervalue it on the customs forms so it’s listed at like $40 or $50 instead of $80 or $90.
  3. Split it into multiple packages, and then do 2, so the true value of each is low. Obviously, this entails more postage, which isn’t cheap these days.

If it were me, I’d just do 2a - list it as not very valuable and a gift, and hope that the FDA won’t care enough to enforce anything. For yourself, I don’t feel comfortable suggesting what you should do - that’s very much whatever you’re comfortable with - but I hope that this helped give you a bit more information to make your decision.

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