By Robert Szostek, USAREUR Customs Public Affairs
WIESBADEN, Germany (June 8, 2015) — German law prohibits many items from being imported into the country by mail. These banned articles could be things you order online or by mail order, or that relatives and friends mail to you.
Items intended for a home-based business, medications, vitamins, health care supplements, meat products and coffee are some of the products that can’t be sent to your Army Post Office box.
“German customs and USAREUR postal inspectors have conducted 60 APO inspections throughout Germany in FY15, and a total of 468 shipments were confiscated,” said Fred Evans, chief of services at the USAREUR Customs Executive Agency.
German customs may seize and destroy any illegal imports, and violators may face disciplinary action under German law and U.S. regulations, he added. Some packages are simply returned to the sender.
Evans added that people should not buy medications, diet pills or nutritional supplements by mail order because the importation of those items is forbidden. Even items like vitamins or ginseng in highly measured doses may be subject to restrictions. A news release from Landstuhl Regional Medical Center has more information on this complicated subject and is available online at www.army.mil/article/97298/.
Food products are also tricky due to animal and plant health regulations.
“Meat or meat products like beef jerky, dog food or ham are banned from the mail, as are canned meats, soup mixes or pasta containing meat,” said Evans.
Caviar from sturgeon is forbidden because all species of sturgeon are faced with extinction. There are further restrictions on potatoes, milk products and eggs.
“Using the APO to import any item for resale, a business or volunteer organization is banned too,” Evans said. “You should also remember that coffee, tobacco products and alcoholic beverages are still rationed in Germany and may not be mailed via the APO.”
Evans explained that to import commercial items, one must have them delivered to a German home address and pay any import duty or taxes due. Those who don’t are violating the law and U.S. military regulations by evading taxes. The same rule applies to restricted items such as coffee, liquor and cigars.
Counterfeits of trademarked items are another example of things barred from the mail.
“Trademark violations are the illegal use of signs, names, logos and business names that brand manufacturers use to distinguish their products,” Evans said.
Many producers of DVDs, CDs or designer goods such as purses, shoes or clothing have registered their trademarks with customs, which inspects the mail for fake products.
Firearms and ammunition are also restricted items that should only be mailed to Germany if you have the required German permits. Evans said some types of paintball guns and air-soft rifles available stateside are more powerful than German law allows, and so people should consult customs before ordering these kinds of weapons.
Endangered species products are another area of concern. People buying these products add to the risk of animals and plants becoming extinct, and customs can confiscate the goods and fine those who ship these items through the mail.
For example, reptile skins are often used in watchbands, handbags, belts, wallets and shoes. Most crocodile, lizard, snake and all sea turtle products are prohibited too. Customs will also stop ivory and whale teeth decorations (known as scrimshaw and netsuke), as well as many plants such as cacti and orchids.
Avoid nasty mail box surprises and keep prohibited items out of the APO. The local customs office can provide more advice on these mail questions, and information is also available in English on the German customs website at this Shipments to Germany webpage.