USPS Mailing Restrictions to Military Members

It's important to know which items can be shipped through the US Postal System before you spend time and money packaging the item and paying for shipping.
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It’s important to know which items can be shipped through the US Postal System before you spend 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 or restricted materials, it may not reach its destination.

If you’re putting together a holiday care package also take a couple of minutes to read our guide before putting together a care package for your favorite troop overseas.  Also send your package early so it arrives on time!

General USPS Mailing Restrictions

Many items are on the restricted mailing list, regardless of to whom or where the item is being shipped.

The best resource for locating which items may be banned or restricted by the USPS is Publication 52 – Hazardous, Restricted, and Perishable Mail.

There are quite a few items that are banned or restricted, including anything that is explosive, flammable, corrosive, combustible, 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.  When in doubt, review the publication or contact USPS for additional guidance.

When contacting the USPS about shipping a restricted item, have the following information available:

  • Detailed description of the restricted or perishable matter.
  • Special precautions are 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 APO/FPO/DPO  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.

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)

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.

This is a general list, and each specific APO/FPO/DPO may have additional items that are banned or restricted.

Contact 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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  1. Virginia Dale Talley says

    I shipped 5 flat rate priority boxes to my brother in Djibouti, Africa. He is a at the base there in a support role for the military. I just got one returned because it contained dangerous goods/contents! This was the contents, disposal men’s razors, wet wipes, mouthwash, and hand sanitizers! For goodness sake, when the postal worker filled out the paperwork, wouldn’t they have seen if something was dangerous? I am just confused. This is my 3 time to ship care boxes and this is the first time this has happened! I have shipped similar items before to Iraq, and Afghanistan. Can you tell me what is considered dangerous and I will replace with something else!
    Thank you

    • Ryan Guina says

      Virginia, The US Postal Service has a list of items you can and cannot send. However, some individual countries also have lists of prohibited items. I can’t speak for this specific instance. I just recommend reviewing the USPS website, searching for specific country lists, and going from there. It’s also a good idea to contact the recipient to see which items they actually need. Many deployed locations have well-stocked Base Exchanges (stores) that have all of the essentials, such as toiletries, clothing, over the counter medications, etc. I would be surprised if a member wasn’t able to obtain men’s razors, wet wipes, mouthwash, and hand sanitizer in a location such as Djibouti. These items are generally only difficult to obtain in more austere, forward-deployed locations.

  2. 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.

  3. 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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