USPS Shipping to European Union Countries

USPS Will Require Accurate Customs Declarations When Sending Packages to Europe on March 1


If you use the United States Postal Service (USPS) to ship packages to Europe, you will have to describe the contents in more detail starting on March 1, 2023, or your shipments may be delayed, destroyed or returned.

Since 2021, the European Union (EU) has been implementing new customs regulations that involve three stages. On March 1, the second stage goes into effect which impacts all air mail and express shipments, including postal shipments.

Under this new EU requirement, inbound shipments must accurately describe the contents, including providing a Harmonized Schedule (HS) tariff code.

If you never used HS codes, they are internationally standardized codes used to classify goods for import and export purposes. The first six digits are used by all countries, while additional digits may be used by some countries for further goods classification.

Customs officials utilize these codes to identify the appropriate import duties, taxes, fees, and regulations that apply to the goods being imported.

Instead of using a generic description such as “clothes,” you will have to describe the contents more accurately (i.e., “men’s shirts,” “girls’ vest,” or “boys’ jackets”). Still, even those descriptions are relatively basic, as HS classifications can be very detailed.

For example, HS code 6101.20.0000 describes goods as “Men’s or boys’ overcoats, carcoats, capes, cloaks, anoraks (including ski-jackets), and similar articles, knitted or crocheted — made of cotton.”

The USPS Click-N-Ship platform already asks relevant questions to help you describe the contents of your package and assigns the appropriate HS code(s) to the customs declaration of your shipping label.

For those shippers not using a USPS shipping tool such as Click-N-Ship, you will need to check with your vendor on how this change will affect you. If they do not provide an HS code lookup feature as part of their workflow when creating an international shipping label, you may have to do the task yourself.

The U.S. government has an online lookup tool that can help you find the right HS code, but you will only need the first six digits. So, from the example above, the HTS code 6101.20.0000 can be trimmed to 6101.20. The reason is that the first six digits are used globally, while additional digits may be used by countries for additional classification purposes.

However, the other option is to avoid the HS code altogether and just make sure you describe the contents in detail. The EU issued a document explaining acceptable and unacceptable descriptions of goods on customs forms. For most postal shipments, that should be sufficient.

What Countries Does This New Regulation Apply To?

Although it would be good practice to use better descriptions or HS codes for any country, this new regulation applies to 29 European countries, which are:

  • Austria
  • Belgium
  • Bulgaria
  • Croatia
  • Cyprus, Republic of
  • Czech Republic
  • Denmark
  • Estonia
  • Finland
  • France
  • Germany
  • Greece
  • Hungary
  • Ireland
  • Italy
  • Latvia
  • Lithuania
  • Luxembourg
  • Malta
  • Netherlands
  • Norway
  • Poland
  • Portugal
  • Romania
  • Slovakia
  • Slovenia
  • Spain
  • Sweden
  • Switzerland

You may notice that the UK is not on this list as they are no longer part of the EU and have their own regulations. But Norway and Switzerland are on the list, even though they are not EU member countries, they follow EU customs regulations.

Military and Diplomatic mail must adhere to this regulation as well. Shipments to APO/FPO/DPO addresses in these 29 countries must have the correct and more detailed descriptions, as they are subject to the EU’s import regulations as well.

In addition to providing more detailed item descriptions, it’s also vital that shippers provide accurate sender and recipient information on USPS labels.

There have been customs delays in numerous EU countries where the lack of proper recipient information has resulted in packages being returned, delayed, or destroyed.

Here is what you need to make sure you provide for every shipment on the USPS customs declaration form:

Sender Information:

  • Name: Complete First Name and Last Name
  • Address: Street Name and Number (or PO Box), State, ZIP Code
  • Contact Information: Phone, Email

Recipient Information:

  • Name: Complete First Name and Last Name
  • Address: Road Name, Number, Postal Code, City, State/Province, Country
  • Contact Information: Phone, Email

And critical, do not abbreviate any information on the recipient information. For example, for the state of Hessen in Germany, do not use HE or use the commonly known abbreviation for France, which is FR. Write out all the address information.

While postal operators today are more accustomed to contacting recipients by email, it is still preferable to use a contact phone number, as it could help speed up customs clearance if there are any questions.


  • When will this take effect? Shipments processed on or after March 1, 2023
  • Does this apply to personal shipments as well? Yes
  • Can I still use “GIFT” or “BIRTHDAY GIFT” to describe an item? No, it must be described accurately, regardless if you are sending a personal gift or merchandise.
  • Does this new rule apply to UPS, FedEx, DHL Express, and other private courier services as well? Yes, but most carriers use their own or contracted brokerage services that help sort out import issues. Furthermore, many shippers using private small parcel courier services are likely more familiar with export regulations and HS codes already. You can find more details from those carriers here on this second phase implementation:
  • Will the new regulation apply to surface mail? Not yet, that is part of the 3rd phase that will go into effect on March 1, 2024. It’s really a moot point for U.S. shippers, as the USPS no longer offers shipping packages by surface mail to Europe.
  • I like to learn more about HS Codes, where can I go? The U.S. Government has an extensive website explaining HS codes available here. Also, you can check out the website of the World Customs Organization for a more in-depth understanding of international trade regulations.

USPS Resources

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