Purchase retained in customs? Know what to do!

Parcels arriving from other countries may be retained by Brazil Customs for a number of reasons. However, this does not mean the purchase will not be delivered.

Brazilians are avid online shoppers. As a matter of fact, in 2018 eMarketer registered 21.2 million cross-border digital buyers. Consumer electronics pulled ahead as the main product category purchased from other countries, representing 34%. Computers and equipment, along with fashion and accessories, hold 24% and 25% respectively of cross-border market share. The same report also showed that 53% of shoppers in Brazil purchase from China.

Nearly 20 days after the arrival of purchases, most of them are sent to Brazil Customs in Curitiba – which receives approximately 300,000 packages daily. After that, the parcels go through a verification process, meaning a package may take up to an additional 40 business days to arrive at the delivery address. For that matter, consumers and even merchants may have the impression that the purchase has been lost or retained by Brazil Customs for legal matters, when, in fact, the delivery process is delayed only because of the extensive and bureaucratic system.

Even so, there are a few reasons why the purchase may be held indeterminately. If the package arrives with incomplete address information or the label has low printing quality, the parcel will not be delivered. According to Brazil’s national postal service Correios, this accounts for over BRL 1 billion losses annually. In addition, local legislation may also hinder the entry of particular sorts of products. Pharmaceuticals, food and supplements, telecommunications and LED products, among others, need special licenses to be imported.

So, when should customers be concerned about their purchase? What are the proper procedures they should follow to guarantee their product will arrive? In order to answer these questions, we must first understand the Brazilian delivery process.


Understand the delivery process for import goods in Brazil

According to Receita Federal, final customers are responsible for 40% of legal entries of import goods into Brazil. However, the delivery process still causes confusion among Brazilian digital buyers. In addition, cross-border merchants should be aware of the process, so they can guide their customers through specific situations.

Most import goods arrive through Correios’ postal shipping and are sent to Curitiba, and, according to the state-owned company, 80% of international parcels that arrive in Brazil are from China. In this case, the customer must pay for the despacho postal, a handling fee charged by Correios, in addition to import duties whenever the product is over a total value of $50 – which can add up to 60% to the purchase price. If the buyer does not pay for this extra charge, the delivery process will not be resumed, meaning the parcel will not be delivered.

Understand the product’s path when arriving through Correios’ postal shipping and what to do in this circumstance:


1. Parcels arrive in Brazil and are sent to Brazil Customs

As mentioned previously, once parcels arrive in Brazil, they are sent to Brazil Customs, either in Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo or Curitiba. The products are distributed according to the following criteria: weight, shipping model and transportation.

Products sent by express shipping mode – such as FedEx, for instance – and that weigh between 2kg and 30kg, are sent to Rio de Janeiro. The center located in São Paulo, on the other hand, receives non-urgent packages weighing up to 30kg that arrive by sea. Finally, Curitiba receives all small packages of up to 2kg labeled with codes beginning with “L” or “R.”

Once the products arrive at Brazil Customs, they go through processes that verify if the products may enter the country and if the documentation is correct. After that, Brazil Customs evaluates which products are subject to import duties.


2. The customer is notified of additional costs

After the products are verified, the customer is notified of the situation. If the product is subject to taxation, the customer will receive an invoice regarding tax payment – in addition to the despacho postal, the handling fee we mentioned earlier. However, if the product is released without tax, then the customer will only have to pay for the despacho postal.

A step-by-step guide on how to pay for the handling fee and import duties may be found on the Correios website.


3. The delivery process is resumed

Once the additional costs are paid, the delivery process is resumed, and the customer will receive the purchase at his registered address. However, there are certain situations where the customer must collect the product at the agency. More information can be found at the Correios website.

Delivery process for import goods in Brazil

How to track import goods arriving in Brazil

The best way to track the product’s delivery status is through the postal service’s website. Full tracking will be provided through a code allocated at the moment the customer completed the purchase.

With this code, the customer may access an online environment that provides the status of the delivery, with links redirecting the user for tax and fees payment. This way, the buyer may pay for import duties and the despacho postal.

However, if there are any additional problems, the customer may also open a request on the Correios website.

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  • DK 8 de January de 2020

    First, thank you for this amazing article.
    If the package is considered a gift and got stuck in Customs in Rio – is there way for me to call the custom in Rio, so I can pay the tax or whatever fees needed to be paid?
    The package I sent is a surprise gift to my girlfriend.

    • Paula Martins 16 de January de 2020


      If the package was sent through Correios, you may access the web environment “Minhas Importações” and create an account. Here is the link: https://bit.ly/3aeGg59 (in Brazilian Portuguese).

  • Pierre 18 de January de 2020

    Hi. I sent a package on December 24th 2019 to Salvador, bahia. It arrived at customs in Sao Paulo on December the 30th and it held to this day. I’ve went to the United States postal service and they can’t help me. Please help me on what to do next

  • Pedro Badra 26 de February de 2020

    I sent a gift from USA to Brazil for my siblings and they had to refuse the parcel because Brazil’s government taxed the crap out of the parcel. It wasn’t their purchase, I bought them for myself and decided to send something MINE to family members, and the Receita Federal took it like it was a purchase. It wasn’t even worth appealing. Ridiculous, they couldn’t receive my gifts. If the parcel is worth more than $50 they WILL tax 60$ besides other BS taxes. The amount of money they asked was unacceptable, they are straight up mercenaries

  • Michael 22 de June de 2020

    My sister visited me in the US back in Feb 2020. She left her reading glasses in the car going to the airport, so I mailed it back to her in Sao Paulo. It was stuck in Rio customs for a long time and finally, it said it was processed and enroute to destination since April. What’s going on and what can I do?