It’s important to know which items can be shipped via the US Postal System before you send the time and money packaging the item and paying for shipping. With increased security, many items are now inspected and scanned via X-Ray before they are shipped, and if your package contains hazardous materials, it may not reach it’s destination. This is a guide you definitely want to read before putting together a care package for your favorite troop overseas.
USPS Military Mailing Restrictions
Let’s start off by looking at the items on the restricted mailing list, regardless of to whom, or where, the item is being shipped. Then we will look in more depth at some of the restrictions that are in place for military members serving overseas.
USPS Military Mailing Restrictions
The best resource for locating which items may be banned or restricted by the USPS is their website, specifically on the following pages:
- Publication 52 – Hazardous, Restricted, and Perishable Mail.
- QSG 601 Basic Standards for All Mailing Services – Hazardous, Restricted, and Perishable Materials.
- Domestic Mailing Standards, section 10.0 Hazardous Materials.
As you can see from these lists, there are quite a few items which are banned or restricted, including items which are explosive, flammable, corrosive, combustible, are under pressure, liquids, perishable, oxidizers, poisonous, radioactive, drugs (including many prescription drugs, unless authorized), alcohol, tobacco, sharp items, produce, live animals, some batteries, and more. It is out of the scope of this article to list each banned item, but we did our best to give you some great resources so you can research any questionable items you may have.
Do you have a question? If an item is questionable, or you wish to determine if the item can be shipped, then use the USPS website to find more information, visit the post office in person, see section 215 Requests for Rulings of the Postal Code, or contact the Pricing and Classification Service Center (PCSC).
When contacting the US Postal System about shipping a restricted item, be sure to have the following information handy:
- Detailed description of the restricted or perishable matter.
- Special precautions necessary to permit handling without harm to Postal Service employees or damage to property.
- Proposed method of packaging.
- Explanation of any local, state, or federal regulations that apply to shipping such matter.
- Quantity per mail piece and per mailing, frequency of mailing, and post office(s) of mailing.
Mailing Restrictions When Shipping to Military APO and FPO Addresses
The above restrictions apply when shipping items to everyone, but there may be additional restrictions on shipments sent to military and diplomatic post offices overseas. For example, the USPS restricts shipping the following items to military members deployed in the Middle East:
- Obscene articles (prints, paintings, cards, films, videotapes, etc) and horror comics.
- Any matter depicting nude or semi-nude persons, pornographic or sexual items, or non-authorized political materials.
- Bulk quantities of religious materials contrary to the Islamic faith. Items for the personal use of the addressee are permissible.
- Pork or pork by-products.
Keep in mind this is a general list, and each specific APO or FPO may have additional items which are banned or restricted. For specific restrictions and mailing prices to an APO/FPO/DPO address, visit the Price Calculator. Here are more tips on what not to send troops.
Why Does the USPS Have Mailing Restrictions?
These restrictions are primarily in place for safety reasons – many of the restricted items are dangerous when not properly packaged or transported. Other restrictions are in place for legal reasons (for example, the restrictions on shipping alcohol and tobacco), or political (restrictions on shipping items to other countries which may be legal in the US, but are not legal in other countries).
Please visit the USPS for more information
This article is intended only as a quick reference guide. For more information, please visit the USPS website, call 1-800-ASK-USPS, or consult your local Post Office™.