What cannot be sent by mail in the USA

Updated on February 3, 2022

The US Postal Service sets strict requirements for the contents of parcels. You cannot send prohibited items without special permission from the Federal Agency. It ensures the safety of the entire organization. The list includes a large number of categories. We’ll specify the most common items:

  • alcohol (the shipment of alcoholic beverages requires a license);
  • some groups of biological samples (it includes bacterial/viral samples and cultures, as well as growth medium);
  • firearms and ammunition (the legislation regulates the prohibition);
  • cold weapons (in addition to bladed weapons, this category includes bows and crossbows);
  • explosives (transportation of parcels with dangerous cargo takes place through licensed companies in a special order);
  • objects of cultural and historical heritage (it’s crucial here to draw a line between legal collectibles and archaeological or other valuables);
  • things with a dog/cat fur (the decree has been in force since 2000. It provides for a fine of up to 10 thousand dollars with confiscation);
  • illegal or prescription pharmaceuticals (the Department of Health established the list of substances);
  • certain types of fish and wild animals (the list includes some products made from them);
  • offensive materials;
  • imitation of checks or other securities (this category of cargo may be regarded as a fake, which is prosecuted by federal law);
  • live or dead animals (exceptions are silkworms, leeches, and bees);
  • medicines, surgical instruments, and educational materials for performing an abortion (banned in some states);
  • certain types of products (the list of permitted and prohibited items in this category is discussed in detail on this website);
  • gold in the form of coins and bars (copies of them are also prohibited if there are no corresponding marks);
  • agricultural products (seeds of various crops and seedlings);
  • perishable products;
  • cargo that emits an unpleasant smell (you need to pack it hermetically);
  • any items that violate the copyright laws of the United States (most often, copies on disks fall under this prohibition);
  • soil (this term refers to the surface material of soil used for cultivation or other purposes).

You also need to take into account certain conventions. It includes ceramic tableware from other countries. While it’s not prohibited for shipment, it can be recognized as dangerous cargo in case of high lead content. The situation is similar with other goods whose production process did not comply with the requirements for safe concentrations of harmful substances.

If you have any doubts about the legality of sending any cargo, you need to contact the postal department and clarify it.

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