Postal shipments are subject to a simplified customs clearance procedure that is primarily governed by legal provisions and specific regulations. Mail handled by La Poste must meet both general conditions requiring certain customs documents and special conditions imposed by the countries of origin (transport bundles, etc.) and destination (import restrictions, various certificates, documents enabling the addressee to benefit from preferential customs rates).
In order to facilitate customs clearance operations, customs declarations (CN 22 label, CN 23 form, or the customs section of the CP 72 form) must be completed as carefully as possible.
Specifically, the customs declaration must include the following:
- the nature of the shipment – a detailed description of the mail’s contents,
- when applicable, the customs tariff code,
- the net weight for each category of merchandise,
- the value of each category of merchandise, with monetary unit specified,
- the total value,
- an attached commercial or pro forma invoice in duplicate.
Attention: The definition of a gift may vary according to the customs conditions of each country, which may specify duty-free limits depending on the type of merchandise.
Principal prohibited items
Content of mail
Mail items must be securely packaged so that other mail cannot get lost in it. Packaging must be adapted to the form, content, and transport conditions.
La Poste prohibits mail with unsanitary, dangerous, or banned content.
For air traffic safety reasons, certain commonly used items such as aerosol products and perfumes are banned from air transport.
List of prohibited items
Various types of prohibitions apply to items sent by La Poste: universal bans (see below), country-specific bans (which stem from national import regulations), and bans enforced by national postal operators (applying to merchandise that is legally authorised for import but banned by postal regulations).
The sender is held responsible for noncompliant mail even if La Poste accepts it. The items listed below are prohibited regardless of the chosen destination. La Poste is not responsible for misinformation or omissions as this list of merchandise is subject to great variation :
- perishable biological materials, infectious or non-infectious,
- items that due to their nature or packaging are hazardous to postal workers or may soil or damage other mail or postal facilities,
- illegal drugs and psychotropic substances,
- live animals; however, bees, leeches, and silkworms may, under strict packaging conditions, be sent from France by La Poste if they are authorised by the postal regulations of the country of destination,
- obscene or immoral items,
- counterfeit goods,
- explosives, inflammable products (alcohol, perfume, etc.) or other dangerous materials such as compressed gas (aerosol products, etc.), radioactive materials, and corrosive liquids,
- jewels, precious metals, banknotes, bearer securities, money, and other items of value (unless they are sent by registered mail with declared value).
Sales carried out through a "snowball" procedure, or any other similar process consisting in offering merchandise to the public by suggesting the prospect of receiving products either for free or in exchange for a sum that is inferior to their real value. These sales require the presentation of vouchers or tickets to third parties, membership, or subscriptions.
Senders are held fully responsible for imprecise customs declarations and failure to respect any customs bans or restrictions. They are thus urged to seek information from relevant organisations (Chambers of Commerce and Industry, embassies, consulates, foreign country trade missions in France).
The customs and postal information included in the country database applies to mail sent from France to other countries. This information is not universally valid and essentially concerns mail (CN 22 label and CN 23 are exclusively related to mail shipments). For further information, and because customs requirements change over time, contact your local customs representatives.
Customs formalities apply to shipments sent or received from outside of the European Union which have commercial value. Documents with market value have to be declared and are subject to customs duties and VAT: contracts, study reports, printed matter to be distributed to the final addressee, blank passports sent by the printer to a consulate.
However, they do not have to be declared if they are exempt from customs duties and VAT (advertising or informational printed matter addressed to clients, passports addressed to their holder, etc.).
Postal shipments must comply with the general requirements in terms of joint customs documents and to the specific requirements of the country of origin and the country of destination. In order to facilitate clearance through customs operations, senders must:
- fill out the customs declaration (CN 22 label, CN 23 form) with care,
- attach 2 commercial or pro forma invoices. All commercial shipments must include 2 invoices,
- for goods in transit to another EU country: attach the yellow postal label that reads "marchandises ne remplissant pas les conditions prévues aux article 9 et 10 du traité instituant la CEE".
The definition of a gift may vary according to the customs conditions of each country, which may specify duty-free limits depending on the type of merchandise. Some countries have adopted specific customs provisions. Please refer to our "Country by country info" datafield (site in English).