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U.S. Customs is holding my shipment! – What do I do?

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Updated post:

U.S. Customs is holding my shipment/cargo, what do I do?

As part of U.S. Customs and Border Protection's commitment to protecting our country's borders, cargo examination is a common strategy used by customs officers to confirm the legitimacy and admissibility of shipments.

If your cargo is being held by customs, here are a couple of things you should expect to happen:

  • Notification to broker: your broker will be notified by customs of the hold (and the type of hold) placed on your shipment. From there, your broker will be able to give you more information on your particular situation.

  • There are different types of hold and examination. The most common ones are: X-Ray Exam, Tailgate Exam, and Intensive Exam.

Aside from customs holds, if your product is regulated by another government agency (FDA, USDA, CSPC, EPA, etc...), they will also have the authority to hold and examine the cargo at their discretion.

It is important to be in contact with your broker (or freight forwarder) so they can assist you with the release of your shipment.

Need assistance with a shipment that's currently under customs hold?

We can help!


Original Post:

Once in a while, your cargo are held by US Customs, this sometimes happens randomly and sometimes for reasons unknown to us. If Customs is holding your shipment, there are the things you should expect to happen.

1) Exams/Inspection: A lot of times they just want to make sure that what you’re importing it is what you claim. So if you’re importing a pallet of plastic boxes, they better find plastic boxes when they open your package.

There are multiple types of Exams, but the following are the most common ones:

2) The following are the most common types of hold:

MET Hold (Merchandise Examination Team)

CET Hold (Contraband Enforcement Team)

AQI Hold (Agricultural Examination)

FDA Hold (Food and Drug Administration)

3) It is important to stay in touch with your Forwarder, Agent or Customs Brokerage when your cargo is on hold by Customs. Some holds requires additional documentations and it is important for you to get the requested documents to Customs ASAP.

4) Sometimes Customs may require a sample of your product for testing, it is important that you submit your sample ASAP also. Your Forwarder, Agent or Customs Brokerage will be able to advise your where and to whom the sample should be sent to. I strongly suggest sending your samples by FedEx or UPS  (if physical address is provided) so that it is trackable and less likely to get lost or delayed.


Disclaimer: Please note that all information provided in this post is for reference purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice. It is recommended that you consult with a qualified professional for specific inquiries or concerns. This website is not comprehensive and does not encompass all the necessary aspects of import procedures. 

If you require Customs Brokerage assistance, contact our main company, Elleo Global today!



a subdivision of Elleo Global, Inc.

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