Straight forward shipping not always so straight forward!

In the ever changing landscape of Global Mobility, one constant remains- Compliance. Compliance of laws and regulations whether they be immigration, tax or social. Compliance is not simply the threat of a fine or loss of face publicly but also adhering to regulations which are the only way to achieve a goal. One such goal for global companies with an international population is effectively distributing mail internationally, especially when the company is handling their expat mail internally.

Every country has their own shipping regulations and these tend to be lengthy lists of do’s and don’ts , not just related to what can/cannot be shipped but also what sizes can the items be shipped in. to make things even more complicated, these regulations change all the time, and often without notice. The burden of keeping abreast on these rests solely on the shipper.

Things can go wrong very quickly when shipping regulations are not strictly adhered to. Here are some real life examples that have happened:


  • An Assignees Personal Item disrupted company shipping


An Expat, on assignment in Venezuela, shipped an outboard motor to his company address, where it was added to the company shipment being sent to Venezuela. The company did not know that Venezuela does not allow the import of motors from the US. The ENTIRE company shipment was held in customs for over 4 weeks causing an exceptional loss to the company. The company HR, Compliance and Legal departments had to get involved to sort out the messy issue. Such gaffes are common when the HR or global mobility people are handling complex shipping regulations instead of experts in mail forwarding.


  • Mishandling of employee mail lands company in violation of HIPPA laws


A doctor’s prescription with a note was opened by a mailroom employee handling expat mail as she was preparing to repack the items to be shipped to the company overseas office. Within a couple of weeks, via the grapevine, many folks in the company knew the employee was taking medication for depression and was asked about it! The company was sued and had to pay a heavy price for that inadvertent leak.


  • Innocent family pictures land company mail to be discarded in Saudi Arabia


Family members mailed some pictures to their loved ones on assignment in Saudi Arabia. The company had a policy to not allow any boxes to be shipped but an innocent mail package with pictures was added to company shipment. Saudi Arabia does not allow pictures where a woman’s arms and legs are not completely covered. The shipment was confiscated and destroyed by the Saudi Post despite company efforts to release the rest of the shipment carrying urgent documents and other expat mail.


The best practice to avoid such cases is to have global companies use a mail and package forwarding service rather than handling expat mail internally, for example. Mail forwarding services have considerable experience with and understanding International Shipping regulations and the effect this can have when not properly adhered to.

Useful information

List of some Shipping Regulations

This article was provided by US Global Mail subsidiary Global Mobility Matters