Have you recently checked your DHL tracking, only to see a message that the shipment is on hold?

This can be incredibly frustrating, especially if you are hoping for the package to arrive as quickly as possible.

Thankfully however, this isn’t usually anything to be alarmed about.

In this article, I’ll go over what the ‘shipment on hold’ message actually means, how it will affect the delivery of your package, and even how you can potentially get refunded for the package!

So without any further ado, let’s get started.

What Does It Mean When DHL Tracking Says That The Shipment Is On Hold?

DHL Vehicle

If DHL tracking is showing that the shipment is on hold, this means that there is something that is delaying the transit of the package.

Therefore, it is temporarily unable to continue making progress towards its destination, at least at the moment.

However, this does not mean that the package is lost, or that there will be any significant delays. I’ll talk more about the exact causes and how long you should expect to wait in just a moment, but it’s important to understand that your package is still on its way.

Remember, shipping is a complex industry, and this is especially true if your package is being shipped internationally.

Chances are, DHL has dealt with this exact situation plenty of times, and is working to resolve it as quickly as possible.

What Causes The ‘Shipment On Hold’ Message To Appear?

Unfortunately, DHL will not state the specific reason that the shipment is being held up, in most cases. While couriers like UPS or FedEx often give more detailed information, DHL leaves you stuck with the shipment on hold message.

Thankfully however, we know a lot about what causes this message to appear, based on other people’s experiences.

So, here are some of the most common ones!

1. Weather Delays / Natural Disasters

Unfortunately, this one is completely outside of DHL’s control.

If there are extreme weather conditions or natural disasters occurring wherever the package is currently at, DHL may not be able to continue moving the package until the situation has passed.

This is to ensure not only the safety of the drivers, but the safety of the cargo as well. If planes are unable to take off or road conditions do not allow drivers to safely move packages, they will have to wait until conditions improve.

Thankfully, these delays tend to be short in the majority of cases.

2. Staff Strikes / Shortages

Like any company, DHL is prone to staff strikes and staff shortages.

These are usually confined to specific areas at any one time, but shortages may be more common during peak shipping seasons, such as around the holidays.

There simply may not be enough people to process the packages quickly enough. While it will still see movement, DHL may notify you that the shipment is on hold because they know there will be a delay.

3. Incomplete / Missing Paperwork

This one is particularly common in two scenarios:

  1. The shipper is inexperienced, and does not ship a large volume of packages.
  2. You’re ordering something internationally.

Exporting a product to another country – and importing it into yours, is a complicated legal process.

Customs requires paperwork be filled out completely and accurately in order for the import and export to be accepted. If anything in the paperwork is incorrect, then it will need to be fixed before the shipment can continue.

In rare cases, this can result in significant delays, or even the package being destroyed or returned to the sender.

If your DHL tracking already says, ‘Shipment Has Been Given Release By Customs’ however, this is unlikely to be the cause of the shipment being held. This is because this clearance event message states that the package has already cleared customs in your country.

If you can, try looking for further details on the tracking page. You may see messages stating, ‘Customs Duty Is Due’, ‘Further Clearance Processing Is Required’, or ‘Uncontrollable Clearance Delay.’

If any of these messages are present, the clearance issues are likely the reason why DHL is stating that the shipment is on hold.

4. Full Ports Or Warehouses

Another thing that is common during peak shipping seasons is full seaports, or warehouses.

Unfortunately, this can happen at any point during the shipping process. DHL may move your package through multiple warehouses during its transit, and if any one of these is over capacity, your package will experience delays.

Likewise, port congestion is a very real issue during certain parts of the year, when large volumes of shipping containers are being processed through customs.

Unfortunately, all DHL can do is wait their turn, for their containers to be processed.

Thankfully, if specific ports are having issues, DHL likely reroutes containers to different ports in order to hit their delivery promises.

5. The Package Was Misplaced

It’s also possible that your package was temporarily misplaced.

Most commonly, this issue occurs when your package ends up being sorted incorrectly, and ends up on the wrong plane or truck.

The vehicle carrying your package must complete its route before the error can be resolved, and the package can be sent back towards where it’s supposed to be going.

This can add several additional days to your package’s delivery time, depending on which route it ended up getting placed on.

Unfortunately, there is nothing DHL can do at this point but wait!

6. Delay In Transferring To Your Local Courier

USPS Vehicles

Finally, it’s also possible that there’s a delay in transferring the package to your local courier. This is particularly common if your package is being shipped via DHL eCommerce.

This is because DHL does not have a huge network in many countries, including the United States. It isn’t economically feasible for them to deliver all packages themselves, so they tender the packages to USPS for final delivery.

This means that the package is given to USPS, and they are the ones that actually end up delivering the package.

If this is the reason DHL says ‘Shipment On Hold’, you will usually see a message in your tracking beforehand stating, ‘Arrival Destination DHL eCommerce Facility.’ This message means that it’s arrived at the final DHL facility before it’s given to your local courier. 

Is It Possible To Find Out The Exact Reason For The Delay?

As mentioned earlier, the most recent tracking codes that appear on DHL’s tracking page can give some insight. However, they are only helpful for a few potential issues – such as customs clearance issues, or issues tendering the package to a local courier.

What if no other information is available, though? Is there any way to find out the exact reason the package was delayed – so you can determine how long it will be before the shipment is no longer on hold?

Thankfully, you have a few options!

Parcels Package Tracker

First, consider using a free piece of software called Parcels.

Many people don’t know this, but DHL might not actually be in possession of your package for the vast majority of your shipment. This is especially true if you are ordering internationally.

Instead, much of the delivery may be handled by local couriers from the country the package is currently in.

By putting your tracking number into Parcels rather than using DHL’s tracking, you may have a lot more information available to you. This is because Parcels tracks from hundreds of different couriers at once, meaning it’s likely to get information directly from whichever courier is actually in possession of your package right now.

Next, you may consider looking up the city that you believe your package is in.

This can alert you to any extreme weather, natural disasters, or DHL strikes that may be affecting movement of your package. If the city is in a midst of a hurricane or typhoon for example, this is likely the reason for the delay.

Finally, you can try contacting DHL’s customer service directly. DHL has more information available than what they share on the tracking page, so the customer support agent may be able to look into this for you, and give you some more details. Just be sure you have your tracking and shipment information on-hand, so they can quickly look it up in their system!

How Long Will It Take Before The Package Moves Again?

Now, the important question – how long will it take before your package is no longer showing ‘shipment on hold’, and starts moving again?

Unfortunately, there’s usually not any sort of way to know for sure. However, most packages end up moving again in 1-3 business days, depending on the cause of the delay.

In very rare circumstances, delays can take up to a week or more. This is most common if there are issues with the product clearing customs, as this has to be manually fixed by the shipper or the customs agent.

Never forget that DHL and the shipper are the ones responsible for getting your package to you in a timely manner.

So, if the delay lasts longer than a few days, get in touch with them to find out exactly what needs to be done to get the package moving again.

Will DHL Give A New Delivery Estimate?

You were expecting your package on a certain day, and now this unexpected delay has slowed things down. But will DHL give a new delivery estimate?

The answer is yes, but not until the package starts moving again.

If you are seeing the ‘Shipment On Hold’ message, the package is currently stuck. Even DHL may not know exactly how long it will take for the issue to resolve, even if they are able to tell you the cause of the issue.

However, once the package gets moving again, you should see an update with a new estimated delivery date. DHL tracking is usually quite accurate, so as long as there aren’t any further delays, you should expect your package to arrive on the new delivery date provided.

Until the ‘Shipment On Hold’ message disappears however, DHL won’t be able to provide you a new delivery estimate. However, you can assume for example, the message has been present for 2 days, then the package will be delivered 2 business days later than what the original estimated date was.

Tip: Contact The Sender For A Potential Refund!

Remember, it is not your fault that the package was delayed!

If you ordered your item from a marketplace like Amazon or Aliexpress, check to see if they have any sort of delivery guarantees.

It’s possible you may be eligible for a refund – either on the entire purchase, or at least the shipping, if the package is delayed.

Of course, these marketplaces don’t tend to give out these refunds proactively. You will need to reach out to the seller if the package is significantly delayed in order to inquire about potential refunds.

However, it’s certainly worth giving it a try – especially if the package is too late to be useful to you!


When DHL tracking says that the shipment is on hold, this means that there is an unforeseen delay that is preventing your package from moving. However, the message does not clarify exactly what’s causing the delay, or how long it will take to get resolved.

Thankfully, most packages end up moving again within 1-3 business days, depending on the reason the shipment was on hold. Therefore, you should expect to see additional updates on DHL’s tracking page soon.

I hope that you’ve found this article helpful, and your package will arrive safely. If you have any other questions about DHL, ask them using the comment form below and I’ll be happy to help.

Thanks for reading, and I’m wishing you the best!

– James McAllister

About the author 

James McAllister

James is the owner of JamesMcAllisterOnline.com. He started his first blog at the age of 11, and has since gone on to start several successful businesses. In total, these businesses have sold hundreds of thousands of units and have touched millions of lives. Here on JamesMcAllisterOnline.com, he shares his knowledge that brought him to where he is today. If you want to connect with James, follow him on your favorite social networks!

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