February 16, 2018

U.S. Postal Service Restricting Mail To Iran – But There Is A Solution

UPDATE: Read NIAC’s updated guide for detailed instructions and information on shipping to Iran here.

Have you tried to send a package to loved ones in Iran via USPS and been told you can’t do that due to sanctions? At NIAC, we have received numerous reports recently that USPS has essentially stopped shipping packages to Iran. Specifically, several Iranian Americans have reported to us that packages shipped to Iran have been returned by the United States Postal Service with notice that such packages lack an “electronic export information (EEI) filing or exemption per the U.S. Census Bureau.” NIAC has investigated and we both have answers as to why this is happening – and how you can still mail items to your family in Iran using other carriers.

This new situation has understandably been the source of significant distress for some, as the U.S. Postal Service appears to be rejecting shipments to Iran – including, for instance, gifts valued at equal to or less than $100 and medicines – that are authorized under licenses issued by OFAC and have never before been rejected by the U.S. Postal Service or any other U.S. authorities.

In response to these events, NIAC has contacted the U.S. Census Bureau, the U.S. Postal Service, the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol, and the Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (“OFAC”) to understand the basis for these rejections.

Under current regulations promulgated by the U.S. Census Bureau, shippers are required to file an export electronic information (EEI) through the Automated Export System (AES) for all shipments from the United States to foreign countries. Shipments to most countries, however, are exempt from this requirement as long as shipped goods are valued at less than $2500 and the goods do not require an export license. Unfortunately, this exemption does not apply to Iran.

Because the U.S. maintains a comprehensive trade embargo with Iran, most transactions between the U.S. and Iran require an export license. In the case of goods like food, medicine, communications materials, or gifts valued at equal to or under $100, the export license comes in the form of a general license issued by OFAC. The intent of a general license is to ensure that the export of humanitarian and other goods are not encumbered by the trade embargo. But because the Foreign Trade Regulation exemption, cited above, needed to actually send these goods to foreign countries does not apply to goods that require an export license – shipments to Iran are being rejected without an EEI prior to shipment.

If this is indeed the rationale behind the recent rejections, it would mean that the purpose of issuing general licenses is being frustrated. It is interesting that this policy was not previously enforced in this manner. For the most part, Iranian Americans have not had their shipments to Iran rejected in the past – even the most recent past. It appears, though, that the U.S. Postal Service has taken a more rigid stance in its enforcement of existing federal regulations.

While we indicated previously that an alternative option would be to ship to Iran through DHL – which allegedly requires a signed letter of indemnity, submits the package to 100% inspection and applies a surcharge to the shipment – we have heard reports of Iranian Americans seeking to ship to Iran through DHL that have been turned away. Neither FedEx nor UPS ship to Iran. If you have tried shipping through DHL and have either been successful or unsuccessful in recent months, please contact us to let us know as this could be of interest to our members.

NIAC will continue to reach out to the relevant federal agencies to clarify the basis for their rejection of shipments to Iran of licensed items and to ensure that the shipment of such licensed goods is facilitated to the greatest extent possible, including, for instance, by nullifying any regulations that require U.S. persons to jump through hoops to send licensed goods to Iran. We will continue to update our membership as we move forward in this process.

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