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Does customs notify you if they seize your package?

Quick Answer

Yes, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) will notify you if they seize your package. They are required to send a seizure notice within 5 days of confiscating your items. This notice will list the items seized, the laws violated, and the options you have to contest the seizure. If CBP believes the items violate trademark or copyright laws, they may also notify the rights holder in addition to the package recipient.

What Is a Customs Seizure?

A customs seizure occurs when CBP inspects an international package and determines the contents violate U.S. laws. Reasons CBP may seize a package include:

  • Trademark or copyright violations
  • Importation of illegal drugs
  • Importation of prohibited agricultural items
  • Failure to properly declare commercial shipments
  • Fraudulent country of origin declarations

CBP has the authority to inspect any package crossing the U.S. border, including both commercial shipments and personal items sent through the mail. If inspectors discover a violation, they will confiscate the items as contraband.

The Customs Seizure Process

When CBP seizes a package, a formal process is initiated:

  1. Inspectors confiscate the items violating U.S. laws.
  2. A seizure notice is sent to the addressee within 5 days.
  3. The recipient has 30 days to contest the seizure.
  4. If uncontested, the items are forfeited to the U.S. government.
  5. A final notice is sent to the recipient confirming the forfeiture.

This due process is mandated by law under the Tariff Act of 1930. It grants consumers the right to challenge a seizure they believe was made in error.

The Customs Seizure Notice

The key step enabling CBP to notify recipients of seized packages is the issuance of a seizure notice. This must be sent within 5 days of a package being confiscated.

The notice will contain important details like:

  • A description of the items seized
  • The laws allegedly violated
  • Instructions for contesting the seizure
  • A deadline to contest, usually 30 days

This gives the recipient a chance to review the facts and decide whether to dispute the seizure.

Contesting the Seizure

There are several options to contest a package seizure:

  • File a Petition – You can file a petition directly with CBP asserting the seizure was improper.
  • Request Mitigation – You can request mitigation to ask for certain items back or negotiate smaller penalties.
  • Request an Extension – You can request 15 extra days to prepare your petition.
  • Do Nothing – If you take no action, the items are forfeited after 30 days.

The best approach depends on the specifics of your case. An attorney can advise you on the proper response.

What Happens After the Customs Seizure Deadline?

If the recipient takes no action by the deadline, CBP will consider the case closed. The items seized are forfeited to the U.S. government.

Once forfeited, the seized property can be:

  • Destroyed
  • Kept for official use
  • Auctioned to the public
  • Donated to charity

CBP will send one last notice confirming the property has been forfeited. This notice gives instructions for filing a petition after-the-fact in limited circumstances. In general, however, failure to contest within 30 days means you lose all rights to the seized goods.

When Will CBP Notify the Rights Holder?

In cases involving trademark or copyright violations, CBP may send seizure notices to both the package recipient and the rights holder.

For example, if inspectors seize 100 counterfeit Gucci handbags, they may notify both the shipment recipient and Gucci itself. This gives the rights holder a chance to take legal action as well.

CBP notifies rights holders to help combat trafficking in counterfeit goods. It also builds evidence for any civil or criminal cases the rights holder may wish to pursue.

Seizure Data for U.S. Customs

CBP seizes thousands of shipments each year containing illegal or dangerous goods. According to CBP statistics:

Year Total Seizures Counterfeit Seizures
2019 27,599 27,599
2020 26,503 18,735
2021 15,981 14,756

The most commonly seized counterfeit items include handbags, wallets, footwear and watches from brands like Apple, Louis Vuitton, Gucci and Rolex.

Authorities also frequently seize illegal drug shipments, agricultural contraband, and undeclared commercial goods.

Avoiding Customs Seizures

To avoid having your shipments confiscated by customs:

  • Carefully comply will all import laws and regulations.
  • Provide complete and accurate information on customs forms.
  • Never attempt to import dangerous, illegal or prohibited goods.
  • Work with a licensed customs broker on commercial imports.
  • Carry only allowable quantities of gifts, food items, and merchandise.

If your package is seized, be sure to carefully review the seizure notice and consider contesting the confiscation if appropriate. But following import rules in the first place is the best way to avoid problems.


U.S. Customs and Border Protection will send a written seizure notice within 5 days if they confiscate your package at the border. This grants recipients due process rights to contest the seizure. Failure to respond within 30 days, however, means automatic forfeiture of the items to the government. Rights holders may also receive notice in cases involving counterfeit goods. Following all import laws and regulations is the best way to avoid having your shipments seized in the first place.