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The “Customs Retention or Investigation” Tracking Alert

You’ve expecting a delivery and have received a “Customs Retention or Investigation” tracking update.

What does this mean exactly? Has there been an issue with your shipment and is there anything you need to do?

Let’s take a look…

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Summary: Customs Retention or Investigation

The “Customs Retention or Investigation” tracking alert simply means that customs has held the shipment for closer inspection. This is normally triggered due to a random, routine customs check, however, issues such as incomplete documentation, contraband, or security concerns will also cause the alert to be sent.

Customs Retention or Investigation – Guide

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While it can be alarming to receive an update such as this one, it is important to remember that customs checks are just standard procedure.

Yes, most packages will reach their destinations seamlessly, however, there are instances where shipments encounter delays and undergo additional scrutiny during the customs clearance process.

This doesn’t mean to say that there is an issue with the shipment that has caused for closer inspection mind you.

The package could well be caught up in a random spot check more than anything.

Either way, the “Customs Retention or Investigation”, tracking alert is used by several carriers to signify that additional checks are being made.

Understanding Customs Retention or Investigation

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When a carrier tracking update shows “Customs Retention or Investigation,” it signifies that your shipment has caught the attention of customs officials and is undergoing a more detailed inspection or investigation before it can proceed with the clearance process.

This status alert can be triggered for various reasons, ranging from the aforementioned routine customs checks to more specific concerns surrounding the contents, origin, or declared value of the package.

Let’s take a look at some of those in greater detail.

Reasons for Customs Retention or Investigation:

1. Routine Customs Procedures

customs checking a package

Customs authorities regularly conduct random or selective inspections to ensure compliance with import/export regulations, including customs duties, prohibited items, and documentation accuracy.

Your package might have been chosen for such an inspection as part of these routine procedures.

2. Suspicion of Contraband or Illegal Goods


Customs officials may retain or investigate a package if there is a suspicion of prohibited items, restricted substances, or illegal goods.

This is done to prevent the smuggling of drugs, counterfeit goods, weapons, or other contraband across borders.

3. Incomplete or Incorrect Documentation

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Packages with incomplete or inaccurate customs documentation, such as missing invoices, incorrect product descriptions, or undervalued shipments, may raise red flags during the customs clearance process.

Authorities may retain or investigate such packages to verify the accuracy and authenticity of the provided information.

4. Security Concerns

In certain cases, shipments might undergo additional scrutiny due to security concerns.

This could include packages originating from regions with a higher risk of terrorism or packages that have triggered security protocols due to their size, weight, or other suspicious characteristics.

What Happens if You Receive This Update?

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When your package is held for customs retention or investigation, it is essential to understand that this status update may result in delays in the delivery timeline.

The duration of the retention or investigation can vary significantly, ranging from a few days to several weeks, depending on the complexity of the inspection and the backlog of customs procedures.

During this period, customs officials will thoroughly examine the package, which may involve opening and inspecting its contents, cross-referencing documentation, and conducting further investigations if necessary.

Additionally, customs may request additional information from the sender or recipient to resolve any concerns or ambiguities regarding the shipment.

Communication with the Carrier and Customs

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If your package is marked with “Customs Retention or Investigation,” it is advisable to stay in touch with both the carrier and customs authorities involved. Here are some recommended steps to take:

1. Contact the Carrier

Reach out to the carrier responsible for transporting your package to inquire about the specific reasons behind the customs retention or investigation status.

They may be able to provide further details on the progress of the inspection or investigation and offer an estimated timeline for resolution.

2. Follow Customs Instructions

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If customs authorities request additional information or documentation, promptly respond and provide the necessary details.

Cooperation with customs can help expedite the clearance process and minimize delays.

3. Seek Professional Assistance

In complex cases or if you are experiencing significant delays, consider seeking guidance from a customs broker or freight forwarder.

These professionals have expertise in navigating customs regulations and can provide valuable assistance in resolving any issues that may arise during the retention or investigation process.

Final Words

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My first advice if you do receive the “Customs Retention or Investigation” tracking update is to not assume the worst.

A random, routine check is the most likely reason your package is being held for inspection.

Furthermore, if there is an issue, this can normally be worked out through communication with customs and/or the carrier.

By going through the advised steps, the package should continue on its journey with only minor delay.

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