DHL Shipment on Hold


November 14, 2023

DHL (Dalsey, Hillblom, and Lynn) is one of the world’s leading logistics companies and boasts of delivering 1.668 billion parcels annually. With this volume, maintaining on-time deliveries can be challenging for the company.

Still, despite its best efforts, DHL encounters circumstances out of its control that cause delivery delays. If you send packages through DHL, such delays can place your item’s delivery on hold.

What does it mean when your shipment receives a “DHL shipment on hold” status? What circumstances can cause the company to hold your shipment? Is there something you can do to address this situation?

This article answers these questions and discusses how you can track and inquire about your DHL shipment.

You can visit for more information about DHL services and other shipping-related topics. If you’re looking for a post office for your mailing needs, has an online search tool to help you locate a post office near you.

What Does DHL Shipment on Hold Mean?

Suppose you send a package and see the “DHL shipment on hold” notification. This status usually means your shipment’s delivery will get delayed.

Numerous circumstances can delay your package’s delivery. For example, there may be a problem with your recipient’s address, or heavy traffic along the route is causing the delivery truck to take longer.

If your package is heading to an overseas destination, clearance problems with border Customs offices can cause the delay and place your item under this “on hold” status.

Reasons Behind DHL Shipment on Hold: “Why Is My DHL Package on Hold?”

The following sections discuss the common causes of delayed packages and having an on-hold status.

Sender’s Information Is Incomplete

Whether DHL or another company delivers your package, the courier will almost be unable to complete the delivery if your contact information is incomplete.

Suppose the courier needs to contact you about your recipient’s delivery address but cannot reach you due to incomplete sender information. The driver transporting your shipment may encounter problems preventing the item’s delivery to its destination.

Bad Weather Condition

Adverse weather conditions, like hurricanes in the sender’s area or along the transit route, can delay deliveries.

For example, the plane or ship carrying your package may not depart on time due to a storm or must make an emergency stop at a different port until travel becomes safer, leading to delays.

Other Forms of Natural Disasters

In the insurance industry, “acts of nature” are adverse events that include bad weather conditions and other natural disasters such as fire, floods, and earthquakes.

Such events can happen in the sender or recipient’s area or along the parcel’s transit route. Natural disasters can put your package’s delivery status on hold until travel goes back to normal and becomes safe again.

Insufficient Delivery Information

Aside from incomplete sender information, another common reason for a shipment being on hold is when the package’s delivery information is lacking.

When DHL has insufficient recipient information, such as an incomplete name and phone number, the carrier may not deliver the item. The carrier can hold the package until they confirm the recipient’s identification and phone number.

Changes in Shipping Routes

It is not uncommon for DHL to change its shipping routes, especially when there is port congestion and the company must transition from one carrier to another.

When this situation happens, DHL can hold your shipment for an extended period until the company confirms that another carrier can deliver your package to the destination address.

Shortage of Shipping Space

Ships, trucks, and planes have limited cargo space, so your package may need to wait for another vehicle for transportation if the previous carrier is at full capacity.

Depending on the replacement vehicle’s availability, DHL can hold your package for hours or days. 

You can contact DHL for information on your package’s upcoming shipping schedule in these cases.

Port Congestion

As mentioned earlier, port congestion can be a possible reason for your package’s “DHL shipment on hold” status. Port congestion usually means the ship carrying your cargo has no available berth due to too many ships at port.

At this time, the ship must wait for another vessel to leave port before berthing at an empty slot. If other ships are at anchorage, your ship will need to queue up.

Port congestion is a challenge that increases annually. In July 2022, only 40.5% of container vessels worldwide arrived on time to their destination. 

Another report showed that in August 2022, a late ship would be delayed by an average of more than six days.

This problem can create a domino effect as port congestion can affect the delivery times of connecting ships or trucks bringing your parcel to your destination.

Furthermore, port congestion can impact the shipping company’s entire schedule. If you have a work-related parcel, such delays can also affect your work.

DHL Error

Shipping companies are not perfect, and DHL is no exception. DHL can still commit mistakes, such as making errors in updating delivery information or tracking status while holding your package.

Although DHL has systems to track shipments, these tracking systems may sometimes not update or update incorrectly.

These mistakes can be due to clerical errors on the company’s part or that it has not received the necessary information about your package.

If you’re the sender, DHL will hold the package when these errors occur and attempt to contact you or your recipient. The company will let you know if it needs more information.

Shortage of Vessels or Vehicles

Aside from insufficient cargo space on ships, planes, or trucks, DHL can also encounter a shortage of vehicles themselves. For instance, DHL may have freight or packages ready for loading onto a vessel or truck but none may be available.

Vehicle shortage was a significant issue for the company during the COVID-19 pandemic, primarily due to a lack of drivers. This shortage means the number of vehicles is insufficient to deliver your DHL parcel on time.

Social Unrest

Social unrest is a public disturbance involving violent acts committed by certain groups of people who cause immediate danger, injury, or property damage.

While social unrest is uncommon in the U.S., other countries, such as the Middle East, can experience this situation frequently. Such events can cause delays in the delivery of your package.

DHL considers it unsafe to attempt package delivery through countries experiencing war or other forms of social unrest.

When such disturbances happen, the courier will attempt to find other routes or hold your package until the social climate in the area calms down.

DHL will not risk its drivers’ safety to deliver your package on time. Since no one can predict how long a social unrest event will last, the time it takes for the company to keep your item on hold can vary widely.

Sender or Receiver Is Not Available

If you send a package, another common reason for DHL to hold it is if the company attempts a delivery but the receiver is unavailable to accept the item.

One reason for this situation is when the recipient is out of town at delivery time. In such instances, consider waiting until DHL updates the tracking information.

Similarly, if DHL returns the package and you’re unavailable to receive it, DHL can place the item on hold.


A pandemic can be one of the worst events affecting deliveries because it can cause many companies to stop shipping indefinitely.

In such cases, DHL can hold your package, especially when you or your recipient resides in an area with confirmed disease cases, or your parcel is going to an affected area with potential exposure.

Even when your item can finally move, it may get stranded in some areas it needs to pass through. This occurrence can lead to further delays.

Information Regarding DHL Express Transports as a Result of the Outbreak of COVID-19

While DHL Express delivers to and from all countries worldwide, the company also follows the local authorities’ decisions regarding local barriers and takes the appropriate measures to ensure employees’ and customers’ safety.

Whether you’re the sender or recipient, expect these measures to cause delivery delays to and from specific areas in affected countries.

If you track your shipment and the information shows that the package is on hold at the destination, the receiver may have stopped accepting deliveries.

In such cases, contact your recipient to inform them of the delivery or ask when they can accept the package.

DHL can make another delivery attempt when the receiver resumes accepting deliveries.

Other Reasons

Aside from the abovementioned reasons, other situations that can put your shipment on hold with DHL include holidays and incorrect shipping routes.

If you need assistance understanding why your package is on hold, don’t hesitate to contact DHL customer service.

“Why Is My DHL Shipment Not Moving?”

Many different reasons can cause your shipment to stop moving. These reasons include bad weather, social unrest, a natural disaster, or a lack of vehicles.

If your recipient doesn’t receive your package on time, contact DHL’s customer support for more information about the delay.

What to Do When Shipment Is on Hold in DHL

Having a shipment on hold can cause concern, especially when you need your package to arrive on time. The following sections discuss what you can do when DHL holds your shipment.

“Should I Worry if DHL Shipment Gets on Hold?”

You don’t need to worry if your DHL shipment is on hold. This status usually means DHL needs more time to verify your package’s shipping information.

DHL should take a few working days to resolve the issue, and you’ll receive an update on your item’s location. Still, you can contact DHL’s customer care services to know more about your package’s status.

“Where Will Be My Nearest Delivery Point?”

If you need to know your nearest DHL Express shipping delivery point, search for it on the DHL website and locate the nearest service point based on your postal address or ZIP code.

What Does Return to Shipper Mean With DHL?

“Return to shipper” is a standard policy among shipping companies and involves holding or resending the package to the sender’s address if the item has an issue.

If you’re the shipper, DHL can return your shipment if you have incorrect contact details or do not pay the customs fee.

DHL can also return the shipment to you if the recipient does not collect the package within seven days.

What Will Happen if No One Is Home to Collect the DHL Shipment Package?

If you’re the recipient, the DHL delivery boy will contact you to verify your location and verify the delivery time before bringing the shipment to you.

Suppose you’re unavailable or not home during the agreed time. You can inform the delivery person by contacting their number and agreeing on another destination or time you are available.

“How Can I Get My Shipment Status to Change From “On Hold”?”

In most cases, all you need to do to change your shipment’s status from “on hold” is to wait for DHL to complete some processes or until adverse conditions have subsided.

For example, the delivery can resume when the port finally frees up a berthing slot for the ship or when the weather calms down. You only need to wait for DHL to update your item’s delivery status.

How Long Does “On Hold” Last?

The time it takes for a shipment delay to last depends on what caused it, such as port congestion, which may resolve relatively quickly, or severe weather, which can last a few days.

Because of the uncertainty of how long this status can last, you can contact DHL’s customer service as soon as this issue happens.

What Delivery Status Confirms That Shipment Is Not on Hold Anymore?

Once your shipment starts moving again, you will receive an update stating that your item is “in transit.”

This update does not provide information about why DHL holds your package. Instead, it only informs you that the issue has been resolved.

“Can I Pick Up My Package if It’s on Hold?”

If DHL holds your package due to incorrect documentation, the company can’t release the item until the issues are resolved.

If the package is on hold because you or the recipient are not available to receive it, you can retrieve the item.

“What Do I Need to Do to Release My Shipment?”

If Customs authorities hold your package, they require the necessary documentation before releasing your shipment. Documentation can include your commercial invoice, packing list, arrival notification, and bill of lading.

Documents Required by Customs

One of the most frequent causes of your shipment’s status becoming on hold is a delay caused by U.S. Customs. If you send a package outside the U.S., Customs authorities can hold your DHL package if it has incomplete documentation.

For example, U.S. Customs will require commercial documentation, such as a commercial invoice, before an importer can make a customs entry. If any of these documents are missing, the importer must work with the seller and recipient to complete them immediately.

Invoice for Commercial Use

The commercial invoice, also called the sales invoice, contains the buyer’s and seller’s name, source, and product list for the shipment. 

Aside from this invoice, U.S. Customs can request additional requirements depending on what is transported. These requirements include any of the following:

  • Dangerous goods declaration
  • Toxic Substance Control Act (TSCA) declaration
  • Other paperwork required by U.S. government agencies like the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Federal Communications Commission FCC), or the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)

Bill of Lading

The bill of lading is a legal document a carrier issues to a shipper and contains details regarding the quantity, type, and destination of the goods being shipped.

Packing List

This list specifies the categories of the shipped products and their weight, dimensions, and quantity. This document helps establish whether or not the vessel carrying the package complies with U.S. Customs standards.

Notification of Arrival

The arrival notice is special paperwork that the carrier sends to all involved parties regarding the shipment’s whereabouts. This notice also means the consignment is ready for release by Customs authorities.

Missing “Notify Party” or Broker

If the package comes from overseas, importers cannot always wait at the port to track their shipments. To address this limitation, they hire a customs broker, or someone called the “notify party.”

A notify party plays an essential role in the shipping process by coordinating with other parties to monitor the shipment’s movement. Without the notify party, there is a significant chance of shipment delay.

Is DHL Tracking Accurate?

DHL has a reputation for low pricing for international shipments and on-time delivery. However, DHL also provides domestic shipping within the U.S. through the DHL eCommerce service. This app still needs further improvement, but its tracking capacity is usually accurate.

How Can You Track Your DHL Package?

You can track your parcels by visiting the DHL website and entering the tracking number you received from the company upon shipping the item.

How Can You Avoid DHL Shipment on Hold Status?

There is not much you can do to prevent DHL from putting your shipment on hold once the item is already in the company’s hands. For example, port congestion and bad weather are situations that you have little to no control over.

However, you can minimize the chances of your package becoming on hold by ensuring you complete all necessary documentation and pay the applicable fees.

Doing these things helps ensure the package delivery attempt goes as smoothly as possible.

Is There Any Special Shipping Plan to Avoid “On Hold” Status?

Even if you pay extra for a premium delivery service, doing so won’t lessen the chances of your package being put on hold.

To reiterate, having complete documentation and payment are some of the best ways to help minimize the occurrence of the “on hold” status.

Still, courier companies cannot overcome adverse situations like natural calamities and port congestion regardless of how much you pay for the shipment. These companies also cannot influence Customs, which is one of the primary causes of your package getting delayed.

In other words, DHL can place any package on hold, whether you pay for the cheapest or most expensive service.

When and How Can You File a Claim?

You can file a claim with DHL if you encounter any of the following situations:

  • Your package is damaged or does not arrive.
  • Your DHL Express Time Definite shipment is late.

If your concern falls under any of the abovementioned situations, you can file a claim under any of the following requirements:

  • The DHL account holder or direct-billed party (the person or company billed for the shipment) can file a late delivery claim.
  • The party with the claim right, usually the shipper, can file a damage claim.

Afterward, you can file a claim within the following periods:

  • For cargo: You can claim within 30 days of the pickup date.
  • For DHL Express Time Definite shipments: You can claim within 14 days after DHL picks up the parcel.

While filing your claim, you must provide the following documents:

  • Waybill number
  • Shipment date
  • Receiver information
  • Account number, if available

DHL Policies on Shipment Delays

Although DHL strives to maintain a high standard when providing services, unavoidable circumstances can cause shipment delays. If you experience these situations, you can contact DHL for assistance.

Suppose you’re the recipient and you did not receive the package on the expected delivery date. Contact the sender first, as they will coordinate with DHL since the transaction happened between these two parties.

You can also track your shipments by inputting your package’s tracking number on the DHL website’s tracking tool.

If you still have difficulties contacting the sender or tracking the package, you can ask for assistance from DHL’s customer service.

How to Deal With DHL Customer Service

You can get more details about your package on hold by contacting DHL customer service. The following sections discuss how to contact DHL online, through mail, and by phone.

Complete a DHL Online Form

Filling out an online form is among the most convenient ways to get feedback from DHL about your shipment. To fill out the form, follow these steps:

  • Open the DHL website’s contact page.
  • Click the “Tracking” link in the “How Can We Help?” section.
  • Fill out as much information as you can in the pop-up form.
  • Click “Submit.”

Prefer Writing to DHL Customer Service?

If you prefer sending a letter to DHL, you can mail your customer correspondence to the following address:

DHL Express
Executive Office Contact
1210 South Pine Island Road
Mail Stop #44
Plantation, FL 33324

Call Customer Service

Suppose you want a representative to address your inquiries about why your shipment is on hold. You can call the DHL customer service phone at 1-800-CALL DHL (1-800-225-5345).


  1. What does it mean when a shipment is pending?

DHL can put a shipment in “Pending” status if the company receives the package, but due to whatever reason, the item got stuck waiting for processing. Reasons for this situation include paperwork issues or special handling requirements.

“Pending” can also mean DHL has received the package, but details about the item are unavailable. This occurrence can often happen with international shipments.

Suppose you’re in the U.S. and waiting for a shipment from overseas. You must be patient until your item has cleared customs and DHL has updated your parcel’s tracking information.

  1. Can DHL give me a new estimated arrival time?

Depending on the situation, you can receive an estimate on how long your shipment’s hold status can take and when your DHL package will move again. You can ask a DHL staff if they can provide an approximate delivery date.

  1. How do I check if my package has been shipped?

Use the package’s tracking information to track your shipment and determine if DHL has shipped it.

  1. How does DHL mail tracking work?

You can use mail tracking by entering the item’s tracking number in the search box on the DHL website. Upon entering, you should see your package’s tracking details.

  1. What do you do when you have a delay in the DHL shipment?

When DHL experiences a delay in delivering your shipment, one thing you can do is track your package online on the DHL tracking page.

If your item’s tracking info doesn’t update, you may need to wait a few days before the shipping information starts updating.

You can also get helpline numbers from the DHL Express website and contact DHL customer service.

  1. How long does DHL customs clearance take?

Customs clearance usually takes around 24 hours. However, if your documentation is incomplete, your shipment may take days or weeks to clear customs.

  1. Does DHL process refunds?

Yes, DHL can refund the premium paid by the customer for a DHL Express shipment if the company delivers the item later than the quoted delivery commitment.


  1. About Us
  2. Average monthly delays for late container vessel arrivals worldwide from January 2019 to July 2022
  3. Social Unrest
  4. Bill of Lading: Meaning, Types, Example, and Purpose