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New Step when Mailing International Packages at the PO

USPS
New Step when Mailing International Packages at the PO

Sellers should be aware of a change to the green customs form for international packages, one that impacts sellers who purchase postage at the post office rather than online.

A reader had asked the following: “A postal clerk told me today that beginning on some date in March, we will not be allowed to use the old “green” forms for international mail,” but the reader couldn’t find any information online.

We found the answer and confirmed with a USPS spokesperson that the following information is accurate:

“As of March 6, 2020, the United States Postal Service will no longer accept any article bearing a handwritten customs declaration form. Customers must use PS Form 2976-R, USPS Customs Declaration and Dispatch Note, instead.”

We asked if sellers who used online postage services such as Stamps.com, Pitney Bowes, etc., would be impacted – the answer was no. It only applies to packages being mailed at post offices where paper-based pre-printed customs forms were used in the past.

The only paper-based form is the customs data intake form called 2976-R, eliminating the need for customers and postal clerks to know which customs form to use for different class of mail and/or different countries – instead, the system correctly selects the needed customs form to be printed.

Commercial mailers and postage service companies will continue business as usual when it comes to printing customs forms. They are guided by USPS’ Guidelines for Privately Printed Customs Declaration Forms, according to the spokesperson.

The new guidance for Post Office mailings is outlined on page 6 of Postal Bulletin 22537 (1-16-20), available on the USPS.com website (in PDF format) in the section, “Handwritten Customs Declaration Forms are No Longer Acceptable.”

Postal News also picked up a story on how this impacts military mail, tweeting, “Military post offices to stop accepting handwritten customs forms.”

The USPS recommends postal office workers keep a sufficient supply of PS Form 2976-R on hand – sellers who bring their packages to the post office might want to check on this before March 6th.

And by the way, one paragraph in the postal bulletin that helps explain the reason behind the mandate: “Accepting personnel must obtain an accurate and complete description of the contents, names, and addresses to be entered into the system (Customs and Border Protection Manifest) to ensure USPS compliance with federal import/export laws.”

That means if you bring many international packages, you should keep track of which ones contain what items.

You can find FAQs about Custom Forms on this page of the USPS.com website.

One helpful FAQ:

How can I print a shipping label and customs form?
Click-N-Ship will print a customs form for you if you use any of the services listed below and print international postage.

  • First-Class Package International Service
  • Priority Mail Express International
  • Priority Mail International

After you prepare your package, you can schedule a free Package Pickup or take your package to your local Post Office location.

Presumably that will remain the case when the new policy takes effect 2 weeks from Friday.

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Ina Steiner
Ina Steiner
Ina Steiner is co-founder and Editor of EcommerceBytes and has been reporting on ecommerce since 1999. She's a widely cited authority on marketplace selling and is author of "Turn eBay Data Into Dollars" (McGraw-Hill 2006). Her blog was featured in the book, "Blogging Heroes" (Wiley 2008). Follow her on Twitter at @ecommercebytes and send news tips to ina@ecommercebytes.com.