Will A Parcel Be Opened At Customs?

When it comes to parcel delivery, there is shockingly very little that the average one knows about the process.

Will A Parcel Be Opened At Customs?

Think about it how much goes into the delivery of just one parcel.

The drop-off, the delivery to sorting centers, and, of course, if it is going international, the customs point.

This lack of knowledge means that, when it comes down to how these steps take place, most people have very little idea of what happens at these points, especially at customs.

Many people might be very worried that their parcels are being opened at customs to inspect them, and, as a result, potentially spoiling or damaging them n the process.

However, that is not the case.

And, in this guide, we are going to explain why that is, what exactly the process entails, and why should have no reason to worry 

What Happens When Parcels Are Delivered?

Before we explain exactly why your parcels are not opened at customs, it may help to give a little context as to what exactly happens when your parcel does eventually arrive at customs.

So, once your parcel has been sent to a sorting depot or station near where you dropped off or delivered your parcel too, your package will then be sorted into parcels and packages for domestic and international shipping.

With domestic shipping, the process remains relatively simple, where your parcel will simply be sent to another sorting center closer to your destination to then be delivered.

However, when it comes to sending your parcel internationally, the process becomes a little more complicated.

At Customs

If you are sending a parcel to an international address, the parcel in question will be sent to a customs office to make sure that the parcel is safe for sending.

This is where the bulk of paperwork for your parcel will be conducted and is also why most parcels that are shipped internationally should also come with a customs form that is filled out by you, the sender.

On a customs form, you will answer as many of the questions as possible, such as what exactly the contents of the parcel are, and whether they fall under any kind of taxable good category.

It is very similar to the process that you would take through customs when you are traveling internationally, only this time, you aren’t there to answer questions directly this time.

This is why customs can also be one of the most frustrating steps in the delivery process!

Once the customs office has a sufficient amount of information on the parcel that they are satisfied with, they will move to the next step.

Checking Your Package

They will review the package itself to make sure that the item in question you are sending complies with the laws and regulations of the country that you are sending it to.

Part of this process will likely include some form of x-ray or other forms of scanning machines so that the customs office can determine what type of item is being delivered for themselves, and check whether or not it matches the details that you have informed them of.

Once this step of the process is finished, customs can then allow the package to be sent to the country in question for the rest of the process.

Will Your Package Be Opened At Customs?

So, with all this understanding of the delivery process, what does this mean for your parcels in particular?

Are they opened when they go through customs, thus potentially damaging your item?

Well, in short, no, it is not likely that this is the case with your package.

While customs will scan the contents of your parcel, they are very unlikely to need to open it themselves.

This allows them to verify that the item you are sending checks out with the information that you have already written on your customs form is correct.

When Might Your Parcel Be Opened?

When Might Your Parcel Be Opened?

However, there are a few instances where customs feel that your parcel needs to be opened, and this can happen for several different reasons.

Parcel Has Been Damaged

Sometimes, your parcel will be opened not because of the contents of your parcel, but because of the parcel itself.

If a parcel has been dropped, crushed somewhat, or otherwise disturbed or damaged, then customs, will likely have opened the parcel to make sure that the contents themselves have not been damaged in the process.

This is true for both domestic and international parcels. After all, having a parcel arrive with a damaged good could mean consequences for the customs office or delivery services used, so these checks will mitigate that, even if that means opening a parcel themselves.


This reason is due to an error on your or the customs office’s part.

Either, you will have not filled out an appropriate section of the custom’s form correctly, or you will have mistakenly mixed up details of the item inside your parcel.

If the scan of the parcel indicates that there are discrepancies between what you have stated and what is coming up on the scanner, customs will have to open the box, to both confirm or correct the details, as well as make sure that the item being shipped isn’t illegal.

Suspicious Contents

On the subject of illegality, customs will also open a parcel if they have reason to believe that the item that you are sending is illegal, or violates either the domestic law of the country it is being sent from or the laws of the country it is being sent to.

In these cases, the customs office may be able to receive a warrant to investigate the package further.

Random Checks

Alongside opening suspicious packages, customs will also carry out random openings of packages for security reasons.

If you find that the parcel that you sent, once it has arrived at its destination, has been opened or tampered with, it could be that your parcel was just unlucky in this respect.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why Does Going Through Customs Take So Long For Parcels?

Alongside the worry of whether or not your parcel is being opened, many people also worry about why it may be taking so long for a parcel to make it through customs, especially if the parcel needs to be sent urgently.

As we mentioned before, customs needs as much relevant information on the parcel as it can get, to make the entire process quicker and easier for them.

This is why you should fill out as much of the customs form that you send with your parcel as you possibly can.

Alongside that, the type of item you are sending will also affect how quickly it moves through customs. Taxable items, such as alcohol, can have long waiting times in customs.

How Long Do Customs Hold Parcels?

As we mentioned in the previous question, the time will vary.

However, generally speaking, if there are no issues, customs will hold onto a package for three business days as standard.

Final Thoughts

So, why customs may open your package if necessary, they will only do so if they need to.

So, make sure your forms are thoroughly filled out before sending them!

Andy Domar
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