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Shipment Awaiting Physical Release Customs Controlled Area

You’re expecting a delivery from abroad and have received a “Shipment Awaiting Physical Release Customs Controlled Area” update.

What does this mean exactly? What happened when you see this alert and is there anything you need to do?

Let’s take a look…

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Summary: Shipment Awaiting Physical Release Customs Controlled Area

This update means that customs has the package for a physical inspection. This could be due to something being flagged regarding the shipment, triggering a physical check, or merely a randomized spot check.

Shipment Awaiting Physical Release Customs Controlled Area – Guide

customs staff

Although the idea of customs physically checking your package can be of concern. There generally is no reason to be worried.

Essentially, many items end up being checked due to the need for randomized spot checks.

However, there are certain common issues that arise requiring customs to physically check the shipment. 

One involves the value of the goods declared by the sender on the customs form.

If customs consider that this might be inaccurate, a physical check can take place.

This could mean the tax and duties charges to be applied could go up or down.

If Revised customs charges are applied, either customs or the carrier responsible for import will contact you.

Another potential issue causing a physical inspection is that the package contents are prohibited or come from a country listed as problematic.

Again, you will be contacted if there is a problem in this regard.

What is a Customs Controlled Area?

Customs controlled area

Ultimately, the carrier has no control over the package when the item is inside a customs-controlled area. 

Oftentimes, both customs and the postal service will exist inside the same building, (USPS ISC for example, or Langley HWDC in the UK).

As a result, the carrier or postal service will be unable to provide any more information until the package is either released from the customs-controlled area, or updated information is provided by customs.

Package Tracking Stuck on the Update


The fact that the carrier does not have control while the “Shipment Awaiting Physical Release Customs Controlled Area” is shown, means that no further scans can be conducted, (therefore triggering new updates).

To compound the issue, physical customs checks can take some time. If customs are experiencing a backlog and delays, or staffing issues (prevalent during Covid); it might take several days for your item to be released.

And that is assuming that the check does not result in any problems with the shipment.

frustrated man on laptop

This does mean that if your tracking is stuck, you will generally have to wait for further notifications. Whether the carrier will be able to help you does depend on the circumstances.

Annoyingly vague, I know. That is just the way of the beast.

If more than 7 business days pass, you should contact the postal service or carrier responsible for import, to find out more.

You will be able to find these details on the tracking page of the shipment.

What Happens After “Shipment Awaiting Physical Release Customs Controlled Area”

Delivery van

Quite simply, the package is released back to the carrier and normal delivery will resume.

This will involve the package leaving the import location, and being transported to a sorting facility closer to the destination address.

With any luck, once the item is back inside the carrier delivery network, the recipient should have their item within a matter of days.

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