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International Shipping Regulations and Prohibitions

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When you're moving overseas, you may not allow to bring everything with you. You might be wondering “why you can't take it with you?” Well, when it comes to international shipping regulations, there are certain things you can't ship, either.

International Shipping Regulations and Prohibitions

Whether you are using USPS or an international shipper like FedEx or UPS to pack up your entire household items for an international move, you need to know that there are certain items that your international movers will not allow to take with you. Make sure you are aware of what your international moving company won't move to experience an easier and stress-free move.

Here's a brief overview on the international shipping restrictions and the customs regulations for what can and cannot be mailed through the USPS and many international carriers.

International shipping regulations

When moving overseas, it is important to know international shipping restrictions: what to drop off at the Post Office or hand it off to your friendly courier service driver -- because some items like hazardous materials are completely prohibited, while others are restricted-- they may need special permits and documentation to be allowed into the new country. So, when you're moving overseas, make sure that you're familiar with the following prohibited or restricted items which save you both time and money during your move.

Hazardous or dangerous items

If the package you are attempting to mail says any of the following words on the label or packaging, think before even attempting to send it: explosive, compressed, gas, flammable, poison, toxic, infectious, radioactive or corrosive.

The more obvious items that are prohibited under international shipping regulations are:

  • Alcohol
  • Ammunition
  • Bodily fluids, such as blood
  • Combustibles
  • Handguns
  • Nail polish
  • Flea collars or flea sprays
  • Aerosols
  • Bleach
  • Pool chemicals

Clearly, if an item is easily identified as "dangerous" or "hazardous" with or without a label, don't try shipping it.

Flammable items

Similar to hazardous materials, flammable items are simply too dangerous to transport. Let's consider perfume or cologne, as an example. These oft-purchased gifts are not allowed to be shipped because they are considered flammable.

This is where the international shipping process gets a bit tricky. Many of these items are usually not considered hazardous, especially when they can easily be found in our bathroom cabinets. Others are quite useful in the home and, when used appropriately, they are not dangerous. However, the following is a list of restricted items that may not be mailed. According to the U.S. Postal Service, "they can become a hazard when shaken or when the temperature or pressure changes."

Some of the prohibited flammable items in an international move include:

  • Perfumes
  • Nail polish
  • Flea collars or flea sprays
  • Aerosols
  • Bleach
  • Pool chemicals
  • Paints (oil-based)
  • Matches
  • Lithium batteries
  • Batteries
  • Dry ice
  • Cleaning supplies
  • Glues

Money or cash

It isn't prohibited to bring currency notes with you from your home country, you may need some documents if you're transporting more than a certain amount. For example, if you're bringing more than $10,000 in the US, you'll need to file a note in the US Customs form 4790 form.

Pirated materials

Pirated materials are commonly moved illegally to other country and then sold at very low prices. So, when you're moving internationally, the US customs will check for the copies of pirated materials like books, music, movies and any other media to make sure you're not moving pirated materials.

Pets and agricultural products

including live plants and seeds aren't allowed to be carried in international shipments. Many regular plants can't be move overseas either.

Get familiar with country rules and regulations

Every country has its own rules and regulations regarding international shipping policies, so you need to know what items can and cannot be taken before packing or promising shipment overseas.

For instance, In Albania, you should not try to ship clothing because it may be considered "contrary to Albanians' taste." Algeria won't accept shipments of funeral urns or anything made of tin. In Denmark, dried or powdered milk is a no-go while, and in Paraguay - you can't mail wool blankets to that country.

Check out the following country's prohibitions and restrictions to find out what you can and cannot send overseas:

  • Australia - silencers for firearms and used bedding.
  • Brazil - primary educational books not written in Portuguese.
  • Canada - oleomargarine and other butter substitutes, including altered or renovated butter, the plumage and skins of wild birds, reprints of Canadian or British works copyrighted in Canada and used or secondhand hives or bee supplies.
  • China - meat and meat products and wristwatches, cameras, television sets, radio sets, tape records, bicycles, sewing machines, and ventilators.
  • Dominican Republic - roulette games and other gambling devices.
  • France - measuring instruments marked in units not complying with French law.
  • Germany - playing cards, except in complete decks properly wrapped and pulverized cacao beans.
  • Israel - blank invoices with headings, used beehives and organic fertilizers.
  • Italy - albums of any kind (of photographs, postcards, postage stamps, etc.,) bells and other musical instruments and parts, footwear of any kind and hair and articles made of hair.
  • United Kingdom - goods made in foreign prisons, except those imported for a non-commercial purpose or of a kind not manufactured in the UK and horror comics.
  • Vietnam - invisible ink, codes, ciphers, symbols or other types of secret correspondence, and shorthand notes, products made from non-Vietnamese tobacco and unused postage stamps.

International Shipping from the U.S.

When shipping items from the US, you should know what items you can't be mailed through the international carrier. According to the U.S. Postal Service, the following items may not be mailed from any of the US states:

  • Lighters because they contain flammable gasses or liquids.
  • Cosmetics may contain flammable substances.
  • Electrical equipment could contain powerful magnets or mercury in switches.
  • Household goods, including paints, bleaches, spray cans under pressure and many other items, because they can be flammable or combustible.
  • Pharmaceuticals may contain flammable liquids, radioactive medicines, or other hazardous chemicals.
  • Photography supplies could contain acids, corrosive materials, bleaches or poisonous materials.
  • Thermometers may contain poisonous mercury.

Important things to know when moving internationally

  • Duties and Taxes: Most items have specific duty rates that you'll have to pay so it's important to remember that any duties will have to be paid in addition to your regular charges for your international move.
  • Documentation: Packages won't make it through customs if they aren't clearly labeled with "country of manufacture," value and content.
  • Account for Time in Customs: If something has to be overseas by a deadline, ship it early. "Time in transit" does not account for time in customs.
  • Get a Phone Number: The contact phone number of the recipient will help expedite delivery at their end.
  • Safety First: Most countries prohibited alcohol, prescription drugs, cigarettes, smokeless tobacco, or handguns. However, licensed manufacturers and dealers can mail unloaded rifles and shotguns, but you must comply with all applicable laws and regulations. Find out the laws where you are shipping from and well as to, so you have all your bases covered.

Remember that international shipping restrictions for fine artwork, antiques and other valuables are different. So before hiring any potential company to handle your upcoming relocation, be sure to inquire about everything.

Bari Faye Siegel  Posted by Bari Faye Siegel on January 21, 2013

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