Whether or not you need to fill out customs forms to ship to U.S. Territories such as Guam and Puerto Rico is an age-old debate in the eCommerce community. What makes it extra confusing is that, depending on how much your package weighs, which territory you’re shipping to/from, and which carrier you choose to ship with, you may not have to fill out a customs form, after all.
The Situations When You Need to Fill Out Customs Forms When Shipping To U.S. Territories
Here are the main situations when you’ll need to fill out a customs form when shipping to and from U.S. Territories:
You Want to Use a Shipping Carrier Other than USPS
The U.S. Postal Service treats U.S. Territories as part of the United States. Since this is the case, you won’t need to fill out a customs form when shipping to some of them.
Puerto Rico is the most common example of a U.S. Territory that doesn’t require customs forms when you ship with USPS. However, if you use another carrier such as UPS or FedEx, you’ll be required to fill out a customs form when shipping to Puerto Rico.
UPS and FedEx effectively treat U.S. Territories as international destinations, even though they are part of the United States (this is reflected in the prices they quote you to ship there, which can get pretty high). As a result, you’ll need to fill out customs forms when using any carrier other than USPS to ship to and from U.S. Territories.
You’re Shipping to a Territory Other than Puerto Rico
Puerto Rico, as we said, doesn’t require you to fill out customs forms when you use USPS to ship there. However, not all U.S. Territories operate similarly. Guam, for instance, requires you to fill out a customs form to purchase a shipping label, even if you’re using USPS. American Samoa is the same way, and so is Palau.
If Your Package Weighs More Than 1 Lb
Finally, if you want a wider array of shipping services to choose from, you may need a customs form whenever your package going to or from a U.S. Territory weighs more than 1 lb (16 oz). When you use shipping software to buy postage online, you may notice that carriers like UPS aren’t available to choose from if you didn’t fill out a customs form for a package weighing more than 1 lb. Instead, you’ll only be able to select USPS services.
Conversely, when you fill out a customs form for these types of shipments, you’ll be able to opt for domestic UPS services such as UPS Ground, UPS 2nd Day Air, and UPS Next Day Air.
Best Practice is to Simply Fill Out a Customs Form
After reading the above information, you may now understand why the topic of customs forms for shipments going to and from U.S. Territories is confusing! When all is said and done, the best practice is simply to fill out a customs form whenever you purchase your postage for Territory shipments. Even if it’s not required, carriers won’t refuse your shipment if you include a customs form…and in our experience, it’s always better to provide more information as opposed to less. Doing so will minimize the chances of your package being held up in transit and getting returned to you.