USPS Mailing Restrictions for Military Members

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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 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.

As always, be sure to send your package early so it arrives on time!

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:

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™.

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About Ryan Guina

Ryan Guina is the founder and editor of The Military Wallet. He is a writer, small business owner, and entrepreneur. He served over 6 years on active duty in the USAF and is a current member of the IL Air National Guard.

Ryan started The Military Wallet in 2007 after separating from active duty military service and has been writing about financial, small business, and military benefits topics since then. He also writes about personal finance and investing at Cash Money Life.

Ryan uses Personal Capital to track and manage his finances. Personal Capital is a free software program that allows him to track his net worth, balance his investment portfolio, track his income and expenses, and much more. You can open a free Personal Capital account here.

Featured In: Ryan's writing has been featured in the following publications: Forbes, Military.com, US News & World Report, Yahoo Finance, Reserve & National Guard Magazine (print and online editions), Military Influencer Magazine, Cash Money Life, The Military Guide, USAA, Go Banking Rates, and many other publications.

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  1. Allen Smith says

    You sited domestic code to reference the laws about restrictions. Is that accurate or should it be the international code? I’m asking because perfume can be shipped domestically, but not internationally, so is APO considered international?

    • Ryan Guina says

      Hello Allen,

      I believe APO addresses are considered to be the same as mailing to a US based address. But you should confirm that with the USPO. 

      It is also possible that some APO addresses have any additional restrictions. I remember this being the case when I was deployed (certain items are prohibited in certain countries). You can contact the USPO for more information, or do a Google search for the specific APO zip code (or ask the person you are sending the package to if there are any restrictions).

      Best wishes.

  2. Frank Rudolf says

    As a family that sent few care packages to friends who serve our country abroad, we can tell you that sending to Muslim places such as Iraq, Bahrain, Kuwait, etc…. The local law does not allow sending alcohol, coffee and more.
    As for Japan, Korea, Germany, Poland, Italy, it’s a bit easier; however, you must use a service of a local gift basket provider.
    The reason is that the tax duty was already paid and since its ship from inside, the delivery is much easier.
    So if you need to send alcohol to Japan, use Japanese’s provider, for Korean, use Korean…. HOWEVER, for Europe, it’s even easier, as European Union countries are allowing to ship alcohol from one country member to another . For example, we found one Gift Basket company in Europe, that cover 26 European countries, so after we placed order with them (Their name is Walwater Gifts, I think) , they contacted the recipient to arrange the delivery to Italy, provided us with a courier company link ( DHL or UPS ) , made sure that the content is safe, and they actually send in the parcel a Jack Daniels 700ml bottle together with all the chocolates we added. So since then , if we have any delivery to Europe, either Germany, Italy, Poland , Belgium , we use their service, delivery is cheaper, the time delivery is faster, we get Proof of delivery , personal care for each parcel that goes to US army base , there is no tax fee for the recipient and more.
    I mean, service is good , actually the best we found in Europe, no many know about this kind of solution, in the past the Post was the only solution , but its always been limited , also for USA and Canada, Now times are different, you can place an order with websites, who usually use the local vendors , we found one gift baskets producer in Europe , that collaborate with many international website, we just not paying the middleman fee that other may pay if the use the international gift sites .
    So, for Muslim countries it’s almost impossible, for Japan / Korea and others, try to find a local gifts provider….. for Europe, the options are much bigger, if you know where to shop.
    Good luck!

    • Sean says

      Hoping you see this but do you know of a good gift basket company in South Korea? I’m trying to find one to deliver A gift basket to my son for his 21st birthday.

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