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DHL Shipment on Hold: What Should You Do?


DHL Shipment on Hold. This is an annoying update to get!

Not only are you faced with an inevitable delay in delivery, but the vagueness of the statement means one of many issues may have occurred.

So what exactly happened to your shipment when you received the dreaded “DHL Shipment on Hold”?

That’s exactly what we will look into with this guide.

What “On Hold” really means and what you can do about it to ensure your shipment gets underway as soon as possible.

So if you’re ready, strap up, and let’s dive in.

What Does DHL Shipment on Hold Mean?

DHL Shipment on Hold is an automated notification that customers receive when a shipment is at a standstill at one of the many junctures along its path to the recipient.

In other words, when you send a shipment there are many steps involved before it reaches its destination. At one of those steps, a complication occurred.

The important issue is to not stress.

However, it would be good if DHL were a little more specific about why the shipment is on hold. A little digging normally gets to the bottom of it, (more on this below).

Reasons a DHL Shipment could be on Hold

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Your DHL Shipment could be on hold for one or more of the following reasons:

  • Incomplete documentation for the customs process
  • Incorrect or missing information about the recipient
  • Inspection delays with customs officers
  • Logistical issues out of your control:
    • Shipment awaiting the next ship/flight/vehicle
    • A change of shipping route
    • Shipping space issues
    • Port congestion issues
    • Delay in transfer to local courier
    • Holiday or weekend staffing levels causing delays
    • Technical problems within the network
  • Adverse weather conditions
  • Security Concerns (package contents, restricted items, etc)
  • Natural disasters
  • Social unrest and/or strikes

Missing documentation is the most common reason for a DHL shipment being on hold.

However, as you can see from the list above, the blanket term is also used when there are logistical problems that are causing delays.

What to do When your DHL Shipment is on Hold?

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Step one: Login into your DHL account

The first step is to login into your DHL account and type in the consignment number of your shipment.

The tracking update should give a list of the steps your shipment has gone through.

You can follow the progress and see at what stage the hold is occurring.

If the shipment is on hold at clearance, it is a very good indication that there is a documentation problem at customs, or that the shipment is been delayed for inspection.

Either way, it is important to know where along the logistical path your shipment is on hold. This makes it easier when querying the hold with customer services.

Step two: Contact DHL customer services

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Now it is time to contact customer services via the “Contact Us” link on the website.

Cite the consignment/tracking number with some brief details of the shipment, the fact you have received a shipment on hold notification, and where on the list of steps the hold has occurred.

For all of DHL’s technology and automation, it does take a human to look into the issue to provide more specific answers.

Turnaround time is relatively fast with DHL customer services. You should receive a reply within a day.

However, it is worth checking your account to see if there has been an update on the consignment. More information will help you regarding the next steps.

Step 3: Resolve the issue


There are a few things that can happen once your consignment has been automatically updated, and/or you receive a reply from DHL customer services.

Shipment is no longer on hold

This can easily be the case. If the problem was due to a logistical issue on the part of DHL, (port congestions, shipping space, etc) your shipment will be underway once the hold-up has resolved itself.

There was nothing you could do, and the problem has gone away. Relax and await the delivery of your shipment.

Incorrect delivery information

If the customer services representative has replied and cited delivery details as being an issue, you will clearly have to look into it.

Double-check all the details to ensure that the original delivery instructions were correct. If not, update accordingly.

Step 4: Incomplete Documents Required for Customs Clearance

Office documents everwhere

As mentioned above, this is a very common reason for receiving a “DHL shipment on Hold” notification.

Customs agencies around the world require commercial documents before the importer or its import broker can file a Customs entry.

If these commercial documents are incomplete or incorrect the shipment will be placed on hold.

Assuming you are utilizing DHL as your import broker you will need to complete the documentation requirements with them as soon as possible.

In this case, the customer services representative will likely have forwarded your case to DHL customs support so that the specifics of your issue can be addressed.

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The following documents are required for U.S customs clearance:

  • Commercial Invoice: This is the sales invoice. This should include the buyer’s name, seller’s name, origin, and list of commodities for shipment. Customs Officials may have asked for additional requirements here.
  • Bill of Lading (BOL): This is issued by the carrier. It serves as proof of ownership of freight and transportation.
  • Packing List: This lists the measurement, weight, and quantity of the shipped items.
  • Arrival Notice: Issued by the carrier this notifies parties of the location of the shipment and whether it is available for Customs release.

If any of these is complete, you will need to liaise with your customs broker to provide the missing information. After that clearance will be granted.

Should you worry if your DHL Shipment is on Hold?

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The answer is no. There is no need to worry.

As you can see from the above, sometimes the shipment is held for reasons completely out of your control.

If this is the case, the issue will resolve itself and your shipment will be underway.

If the hold is due to delivery information or customs clearance, simply getting in touch with a DHL customer services representative will help guide you through the process so that your shipment can continue on to its final destination.

Final Words


That about wraps it up. The important issue when faced with a “DHL Shipment on Hold” notification is to not stress.

It happens to shipments around the world every day and normally the solution is an easy one.

At worst, the hold will last just a few days, and as long as you have the correct information to hand, your shipment will continue on its journey in no time.

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