Permanent Change of Station season is upon us and United States Army Europe-Africa customs inspectors remind personnel of the differences in what they can, and cannot, receive in their military postal box while overseas.
According to a U.S. Customs pamphlet, German customs law prohibits the receipt and shipment of certain items through the mail. Those items include prescription medications and over-the-counter nutritional medications and supplements. Those products could be destroyed or returned to the sender.
“People have to realize that it’s illegal to have medications sent through their APO, or military post offices,” said Brian Harris, Chief Customs Inspector for USAEUR-A. “Many people are used to getting their meds through the mail in the States and they don’t realize they can’t do that here.”
Harris said the customs officers occasionally get some pushback from postal customers and he explains that, as part of the Status of Forces Agreement which all service members, DOD civilians, contractors and their families fall under the German customs regulations must be followed.
“We do spot checks and when we find illegal items, we have to educate them before we take stuff away from them,” Harris said. “That’s the best thing to do. We educate them so we don’t have to take it and they incur a financial loss. We try not to fine people the first time, but after that it can be a hefty fine.”
Other items customs officers come across which violate the host nation customs laws include: firearms — which Harris says must be confiscated and destroyed; some goods or counterfeit goods used in home businesses — name brand knock-offs are a no-no; many foods of animal or plant origin – meat, eggs, potatoes, mushrooms, wine are illegal to send; coffee, alcohol, tobacco and pornography also violate the German customs laws.
“Right now, during the PCS season, we’re emphasizing the prescription medicines and supplements,” Harris said. “The best thing to do is get your meds through your military treatment facility or, if you’re a civilian, through your local doctor.”
Anyone with questions can call Harris at 0611-143-523-0923.