DHL May Open Your Package (4 Scenarios Explained)

DHL is one of the world’s leading logistics companies.

Even though it was founded in the US, DHL is a German company. It provides courier, package delivery, and express mail services.

It operates in 220 countries and territories and is considered one of the most reputable companies for international shipping. One thing to know when sending packages through DHL is that they may open your package.

This does not happen as often as you think, but DHL does open packages when necessary:

1. To Check For Prohibited Items

This is probably the most common reason that DHL may open your package.

Although DHL workers scan packages through an x-ray machine to check if they contain any prohibited items, they may need to open a package for further inspection.

Some items are prohibited for obvious reasons. For example, they are dangerous goods that may risk DHL workers’ safety and parcel handlers’ safety.

Some items are illegal. Some, like money, cannot be shipped because there are other ways to send them – for example, wire transfers or online money transfers.

Here are the items that cannot be transported under any conditions:

  • Animals, except those that are listed in the Restricted Items below
  • Bullion, which pertains to gold and silver of high purity in the form of bars, ingots, or coins
  • Counterfeit or pirated goods
  • Credit cards
  • Currency, including banknotes and coins
  • Dangerous goods, hazardous or combustible materials
  • Firearms, weapons, and ammunition, including replicas
  • Human remains, including ashes
  • Illegal drugs and narcotics
  • Irreplaceable items
  • Knives and other weapons
  • Pornography

If DHL opens your package and finds any items listed above, your shipment will be canceled without notice. You will also not be issued any refund.

In some cases, you may be allowed to pick up those items at your own expense if the shipping was canceled.

However, they are often held up at warehouses thousands of miles away, so most people do not even bother recovering them.

Read also: Do FedEx Open Packages? 9 Scenarios (Explained)

2. To Check For Restricted Items

Don’t confuse this with the items listed above. Prohibited items are items that you cannot ship under any conditions.

Meanwhile, restricted items are items you can ship with DHL, provided pre-approval exists. You need documentation stating that you’re allowed to ship these items and that certain terms and conditions must be met.

For example, alcohol is a restricted item. You may be allowed to ship it if you are a business owner with the proper licenses to sell alcohol.

DHL may open your package if they suspect it contains restricted items without pre-approval or documentation.

Here is the list of restricted items:

  • Alcoholic beverages, like beer, wine, and spirits
  • Animals, but only limited to the following: non-venomous, frogs, insects, lizards, tortoises, sea life, and worms
  • Animal products, like animal skins, plant products, and plants
  • Antiques and fine works of art
  • Collectibles or rare items
  • Drugs and pharmaceutical products
  • Foreign lotteries, including circulars
  • Fur, ivory, and endangered animal products
  • Industrial diamonds and carbon
  • Medical samples
  • Milk powder
  • Perishable items, like flowers, food items, or items that require temperature control or special handling
  • Plant products like cotton, seeds, and teas
  • Precious metals and stones, including jewelry
  • Soil and earth
  • Tobacco and cigarettes
  • Watches and costume jewelry

If your package is found to have any of the restricted items without pre-approval or documentation, they may cancel your shipping without notice or a refund.

So if you plan to ship a restricted item, we recommend getting approval and securing proper documentation. You can ship them anyways as long as certain conditions are met.

Read also: Does USPS Open Your Package? 9 Scenarios (Explained)

3. To Clear The Package For Customs

For international shipments, all mail and packages must go through the customs of whichever country they enter.

Customs policies differ from one country to another. What may be allowed in one country may be prohibited in another country.

When a package is being shipped internationally, DHL may open your package to ensure that its contents adhere to the customs policies in whichever country it’s headed to. 

This is why it’s important to correctly and accurately fill out the necessary customs forms. This is to ensure you have declared exactly what is in your package and prevent it from being held up at customs.

Keep in mind that different countries have different customs policies.

So before shipping something internationally, check the laws in the destination country. Check if the item you’re planning to ship can be imported to that country.

4. To Properly Assess The Value Of The Items

When shipping items, be they domestically or internationally, DHL always asks you for the value of the items.

Your declared value is the value that you place on your items.

For domestic shipments, the declared value is often used for insurance purposes. If something happens to your package, you can file a claim equal to the item’s declared value.

For international shipments, the declared value is also used for insurance. More importantly, it will determine the amount of duty paid when importing items to another country.

If DHL suspects that something is off with the declared value of your items, they may open your package for proper assessment.

This ensures that correct duties and taxes are paid when importing these items. There may be penalties if you don’t properly declare the value of your items.

Here’s What Happens To International Packages Shipped Through DHL:

International packages travel thousands of miles by land, air, and sea, depending on the point of origin and destination.

Knowing what happens to packages during the international shipping process is important so you can properly prepare them and avoid any delays, especially at customs:

  1. Once the packages are collected or dropped off at a DHL location, they are brought to a local depot, which will be sorted and routed to a hub.
  2. Upon arrival at the hub, the packages will be sorted again before it is brought to the airport for customs clearance.
  3. The packages will go through customs at the airport and be scanned and x-rayed.
    • In some cases, the packages may undergo another screening method wherein trained dogs sniff packages to check for prohibited substances.
  4. As part of the screening process, the packages may be opened if the workers have any cause for concern.
  5. Once the packages have been properly cleared for boarding, they will be loaded onto a plane.
    • DHL usually uses regular passenger planes, and the packages are placed in the cargo hold.
  6. The packages will undergo another customs screening process upon arrival in the destination country.
    • All packages must be cleared in customs of both the country of origin and the destination.
  7. Once the packages are cleared, they will be brought to a local hub for sorting before loading them onto delivery vehicles.

Read also: Does UPS Open Packages? 9 Scenarios (Explained)

If you are shipping items internationally, make sure that you pack them securely and add the labels correctly. Also, please do your due diligence to ensure it reaches its destination without delays.

Do not ship any prohibited item. If the package contains a restricted item, ensure you have pre-approval from DHL.

Lastly, always fill out the necessary forms correctly by declaring the correct value of your item.

If you do your due diligence before shipping a package through DHL, you can avoid any delays in your shipment, and it will reach the destination in time.


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DHL Shipping Restrictions & Prohibited Items

DHL: Journey Of An International Package

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