One of the most exasperating aspects of international mailing and shipping for US-based companies is that customers cannot send anything anywhere. Certain restrictions apply, as they say in the fine print of many business offers. Local protectionism for domestic industries, political considerations, the threat of disease or preempting potentially illegal activities are just a few of the plausible reasons certain items cannot be freely shipped or mailed. Exasperation compounds with foreign ministerial decisions that seem to lack logic (in the US) affect the flow of merchandise country to country.

Avoid Potential Headaches
For reasons Americans may not fully appreciate, horror comic books, unpopped popcorn and blue ice (a home remedy for treatment of minor injuries that solidifies in a freezer) create a panoply of intrinsic headaches for domestic mailers and shippers. This list of some of the more unusual prohibited items (at the time of this writing) for importation into certain key trading markets will be helpful to every U.S.-based mailer and shipper. A partial roster, by country, includes:

Australia: flammable nightwear, pine cones, unpopped popcorn and honey
Canada: switchblade knives
China: matches, play money, collectible coins and stamps, blue ice, printed materials and literature considered political by nature
France: Internet modems for personal use, chocolate, vitamins
United Kingdom: horror comic books and material for printing them, eggs, dried meat and jerky-style products, foreign-prison-made goods, soil and straw

Never Assume
These details are important to US mailers and shippers for the simple fact that many items commonly shipped within the United States are prohibited for importation into other countries. Failure to comply with this concept could result in delayed or returned shipments, fines and penalties and even a personal ban on importation into a market by a foreign customs authority. Never assume that you can mail or ship items overseas because they can be mailed or shipped in the US, even items that you might consider benign in nature. The key question: How do you know if your item is prohibited or restricted?

Information Resources
There are plenty of resources that can tell you if you can send an unsigned credit card from the US to India (you canâ¬t) as well as other specific and necessary pieces of mailing and shipping information. Consult with a licensed customhouse broker to determine if you can send an item to a particular country or if there is a limit on the quantity. If there is a quantity restriction, a broker might be able to petition a customs authority or consulate for the right documentation and recipient vetting so the item can be imported.

DIY Search
There is also a self-help solution. Take advantage of the free or low-cost resources available through the Department of Commerce (, the International Trade Administration ( and US Customs and Border Protection ( All three of these information sources provide extensive expertise on exporting from the US.

Remember This
Keep in mind that international mailing and shipping rules and regulations can â¬" and do â¬" change often. It is your responsibility to keep current on prohibitions and restrictions if you want to mail or ship successfully overseas.

Krish Iyer is Director, Product Marketing, Shipping Solutions for Neopost USA. Neopost USA provides mailing, business communication management and shipping hardware and software solutions. For generations, the company has worked with its customers to prepare, deliver and manage their customer communications in the most secure, efficient and professional manner possible. As businesses increasingly move to digital communications, Neopost USA continues to help its customers communicate via traditional mail, digital communications or parcels. For more information about Neopost USA, visit