Know customs policies before sending packages stateside

by Robert Szostek
U.S. Army Europe Office of the Provost Marshal

WIESBADEN, Germany — Mailing packages to the United States from Europe involves many prohibitions, restrictions and import duty rules. That’s why it’s important for members of the U.S. forces community to get the facts before sending parcels stateside, said the U.S. European Command Customs and Border Clearance Agency.

“Many people do not know that Customs and Border Protection may fine you at least $100 if you mail meat or any meat products to the states,” said Scott Sanner, U.S. Department of Agriculture adviser at the CBCA.

Banned products include canned meats, pate, salami, sausage and soup mixes containing meat. It is also illegal to mail handguns, alcoholic beverages and many other items to the U.S. Some articles may require the sender to get a special import permit.

A customs declaration must be fixed to every parcel going to the states and falsifying it is a federal crime.

“You must also realize that foreign-made goods sent to the United States may be subject to the payment of duty,” said Mike Dean, director of the CBCA. “Even if you mail the items to yourself or buy them in a military exchange, the recipient may still have to pay duty and the customs user fee.”

U.S. residents may receive up to $100 worth of foreign-made goods per day, but they have to pay duty on the total value of gifts exceeding that amount.

U.S. forces personnel can avoid the pitfalls by getting the “Know Before You Go” pamphlet from any military customs office or checking the U.S. Customs and Border Protection website at