What Does Clearance Delay Mean FedEx? (Full Guide)

Going through customs is a required part of the process if you’re shipping something internationally (or receiving something from abroad). Moreover, each country has policies on inspecting and approving packages, which makes predicting delays difficult.

One hold-up that can occur when shipping internationally with FedEx is a clearance delay. This article will tell you what this means, why it happens, and how long it will take to clear. So, if you’ve ever wondered what a clearance delay is, then this is the article for you!

What Does Clearance Delay Mean FedEx In 2024?

Clearance delays at FedEx indicate that a package has been held up at customs or an international border as of 2024. Clearance delays occur for a number of reasons, including missing commercial invoices, incorrect Harmonized Tariff Codes, or inaccurate values. Fixing a clearance delay is usually the responsibility of the shipper. 

If you need to know more about clearance delays and how to avoid them at FedEx, make sure you keep reading!

What Is A FedEx Clearance Delay?

Seeing the term “clearance delay” on your tracking information means that your package is being held at customs.

Unfortunately, the tracking information doesn’t specify the reason behind a clearance delay, so it’s essential to get in touch with FedEx or the shipper to sort out the issue.

Also, clearance delay packages will be stuck until the shipper can either correct errors in the shipping paperwork or provide additional information.

Why Do Clearance Delays Happen?

Why Do Clearance Delays Happen? FedEx

As mentioned above, FedEx’s tracking information will tell you that a clearance delay has occurred, but not necessarily why.

Naturally, not knowing why your package is stuck can be very frustrating, so here’s a list of six common reasons clearance delays happen.

1. Improper Documentation

Nearly 80% of all clearance delays happen due to missing or incomplete information on shipping documents.

For example, some common mistakes include:

  • Values, pages, and quantities are inaccurate or incomplete
  • Product codes are incorrect
  • Incorrect Harmonized Tariff Code
  • Commercial invoice missing
  • Currency not specified

In addition to these mistakes, missing paperwork is another reason behind many clearance delays.

Remember, when shipping abroad, the following documents are required to clear customs:

  • Purchase order (from the buyer)
  • Certificate of Origin (issued by the exporter to confirm a product’s country of origin)
  • Commercial invoice (legal document between customer and supplier)
  • Airway Bill/Bill of Lading (issued by the carrier; shipper gets after receiving cargo)
  • Packing list (used to document the number of items in your shipment)

2. Poor Product Description

Border personnel need to know exactly what they’re letting into the country, which is why inaccurate or poor product descriptions are likely to cause delays.

For example, writing “250 bolts” is better than writing “parts” because it’s more detailed. That said, being as specific as possible will lessen your chances of having a package detained.

3. Incomplete Consignee Or Shipper Information

Incomplete names or addresses can cause delays as the carrier spends time figuring out what to do with the shipment.

4. Incorrect Quantity Or Value Of Goods

If you misrepresent the value or quantity of the items in your shipment to avoid taxes, there’s a good chance your package will get held up.

5. Outstanding Taxes Or Fees

Ensure to take care of any taxes or fees prior to shipping to avoid a clearance delay.

Further, this is especially important for packages valued at more than $2,500.

In cases like these, it’s best to hire a customs broker to take care of taxes and get deliveries released efficiently.

6. Packing Regulations Not Followed

Each port of entry has requirements for mandated packing methods, so be sure to check these out before shipping.

What Terms Might Trigger A Clearance Delay?

In addition to the reasons listed above, certain words could trigger a hold-up if included on your shipping paperwork.

For example, some of these words include:

  • Alcohol
  • Ammunition
  • Animal
  • Bacteria
  • Chemical
  • Cigarette
  • Food
  • Fur
  • Gas
  • Pill
  • Seed

Additionally, be aware that this is an incomplete list. Therefore, if you have any doubts or questions about import/export rules, check out FedEx’s country and territory-specific lists.

What Happens If A Package Is Stuck In Clearance Delay?

If you noticed that your package is held up due to a clearance delay, you might want to contact the company shipping to you as a first step. 

In most cases, it’s up to the shipper to correct the information or provide additional documentation in the event of a clearance delay.

Also, you can try getting in touch with FedEx to find out more information.

In some instances, you (the recipient) may be able to provide missing information and get the package moving again.

How Long Does A Clearance Delay Take With FedEx?

There isn’t a set amount of time for a clearance delay to get resolved. Essentially, everything depends on why the package gets delayed and how long it takes the shipper to fix the issue.

In most cases, this should only take a couple of days.

To learn more, you can also read our posts on FedEx informed delivery, what happens when a FedEx package is stolen, and what does pending delivery mean FedEx.


Clearance delays are one of the annoying risks that come with shipping internationally.

So, while I can’t promise you that this article will help you avoid delays in the future, I hope you have more insight into why delays happen and how to avoid them!

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Marques Thomas

Marques Thomas graduated with a MBA in 2011. Since then, Marques has worked in the retail and consumer service industry as a manager, advisor, and marketer. Marques is also the head writer and founder of QuerySprout.com.

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