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10 Common Reasons Customs Might Detain Your Goods

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Customs clearance is a critical step in international trade, ensuring that goods comply with federal regulations before entering or leaving the country. This may delay shipments or result in detention by the Customs Officials. Understanding the common reasons for these delays helps importers and exporters avoid potential issues. Here are ten common reasons why customs might detain your goods.

  1. Incorrect or Incomplete Documentation:
    One of the most common reasons for customs detention is incorrect or incomplete documentation. This can include missing or inaccurate information on invoices, packing lists, or other required documents. Without the proper paperwork, customs officials may detain your goods until the documentation is corrected.
  2. Incorrect Tariff Classification:
    Goods imported into a country are subject to import duties and taxes based on their tariff classification. If the declared classification on your shipment does not match the actual classification, customs may detain your goods for further inspection and assessment of duties owed.
  3. Restricted or Prohibited Goods:
    Certain goods are restricted or prohibited from being imported into certain countries. If your shipment contains these restricted items, customs may detain the goods until the necessary permits or approvals are obtained.
  4. Valuation Discrepancies:
    Customs may detain goods if there are discrepancies in the declared value of the goods. This can include undervaluation or overvaluation of the goods, which can result in incorrect assessment of duties and taxes.
  5. Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) Violations:
    Customs authorities are responsible for enforcing intellectual property rights (IPR) regulations, which protect trademarks, copyrights, and patents. If your shipment contains counterfeit or infringing goods, customs may detain the goods and take legal action against the importer.
  6. Non-Compliance with Import Regulations:
    Each country has its own import regulations and requirements. Failure to comply with these regulations, such as labeling requirements or product standards, can lead to customs detention.
  7. Security Concerns:
    Customs may detain goods if they raise security concerns. This can include suspicious packaging, incorrect labeling, or inconsistencies in the shipment's documentation.
  8. Quarantine Requirements:
    Certain goods, such as plants, animals, and food products, may be subject to quarantine requirements to prevent the spread of diseases or pests. Failure to meet these requirements can result in customs detention.
  9. Transit or Transshipment Issues:
    Goods in transit or transshipment may be detained if there are issues with the documentation or if the goods are not properly secured or monitored during transit.
  10. Random Inspections:
    In some cases, customs officials may detain goods for random inspections, even if there are no apparent issues with the shipment. These inspections are conducted to ensure compliance with customs regulations and to prevent illegal activities such as smuggling.


Understanding the common reasons for customs detention helps shippers ensure smooth customs clearance. Make sure that you have the correct documentation, comply with import regulations, and avoid restricted or prohibited goods. Be aware of the timelines set by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) for responding to detention and seizure notices, as they often require prompt action. The costs related to the examination, transportation, and storage of detained and seized goods can be substantial.

Stay in touch with your customs broker: Your customs broker can offer essential advice on adhering to U.S. customs regulations and avoiding violations. 

Selected a trusted Centralized Exam Station for your cargo. Custom Goods offers state-of-the-art facilities with CBP agents on-site at LAX, Oakland, and Houston.  Stay informed with real-time updates to monitor your cargo, take advantage of such services as refrigeration and fumigation, and trust our team of experts with a remarkable collective experience of over 75 years in operating a CES . 

Learn more here Customs Examination Processes Solutions

By Natalia Kuvelas