Read these 29 Prohibited and Restricted Items at Customs Tips tips to make your life smarter, better, faster and wiser. Each tip is approved by our Editors and created by expert writers so great we call them Gurus. LifeTips is the place to go when you need to know about Travel Insurance tips and hundreds of other topics.
In general, there is no limit to how much fabric and clothing you can bring back as long as it is for your personal use, that is, for you or as gifts. (You may have to pay duty on it if you've exceeded your personal exemption, but the amount you may bring in is not limited.) Unaccompanied shipments (packages that are mailed or shipped), however, may be subject to limitations on amount. The quantity limitations on clothing and textiles are called "quotas." In order to enter the United States, clothing and textiles may need to be accompanied by a document - you could think of it as a passport for fabrics - called a "visa." Sometimes, instead of a visa, an export license or certificate is required from the country that produced the clothing. A formal entry must be filed for all made-to-order suits from Hong Kong, no matter what their value, unless they accompany you and an export license issued by Hong Kong is presented with this entry. If you plan to get clothing or fabric on your trip and have it sent to you by mail or courier, check with Customs about quota and visa requirements before you travel.
Imagine you're taking a tour of a rain forest in some part of the globe. The guide points out that this soil is excellent for growing. You won't find anything this good anywhere else for your rose garden. So you grab a bunch of soil and place it in a plastic bag to bring back to the states. There's no harm in that right? WRONG! Believe it or not even dirt can be a restricted item at customs. Why? Introducing foreign soil on our soil could have major repercussions. The soil could contain some foreign organism that could wreak havoc on our plant life. Which in turn could spread disease to animals and yes, us. Ok, maybe it's a bit farfetched, but the government doesn't want to leave “unknown” factors with people that don't what they're doing. The only way soil could enter this country is if it was in the hands of a professional with the proper permit.
Automobiles imported into the United States must meet the fuel-emission requirements of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the safety, bumper, and theft-prevention standards of the Department of Transportation (DOT). Trying to import a car that doesn't meet all the requirements can be a vexing experience. Here's why: Almost all cars, vans, sport utility vehicles, and so on that are bought in foreign countries must be modified to meet American standards. Passenger vehicles that are imported on the condition that they be modified must be exported or destroyed if they are not modified acceptably. And even if the car does meet all federal standards, it might be subject to additional EPA requirements, depending on what countries you drove it in. Or it could require a bond upon entry until the conditions for admission have been met. So before you even think about importing a car, you should call EPA and DOT for more information. Information on importing vehicles can be obtained from the Environmental Protection Agency, Attn.: 6405J, Washington, DC 20460, telephone (202) 564-9660 , and the Department of Transportation, Office of Vehicle Safety Compliance (NEF 32) NHTSA, Washington, DC 20590. Copies of the Customs Service's pamphlet Importing or Exporting a Car, can be obtained by writing to the U.S. Customs Service, P.O. Box 7407, Washington, DC 20044. EPA's Automotive Imports Fact Manual can be obtained by writing to the Environmental Protection Agency, Washington, DC 20460. Cars being brought into the United States temporarily (for less than one year) are exempt from these restrictions.
People who run customs at foreign borders can be intimidating. Especially if you don't speak their language. Plus, it doesn't help that they are usually in uniforms and sometimes carry an Uzi. However, keep in mind that underneath that rough exterior lies a human being. So if they ask questions be polite. Be courteous. Basically, treat them and their country with respect. 'Cause although their level might be low on the official totem pole they can still give you lots of trouble.
Most countries have laws that protect their cultural property (art/artifacts/antiquities; archaeological and ethnological material are also terms that are used). Such laws include export controls and/or national ownership of cultural property. Even if purchased from a business in the country of origin or in another country, legal ownership of such artifacts may be in question if brought into the U.S. Make certain you have documents such as export permits and receipts, although these do not necessarily confer ownership. While foreign laws may not be enforceable in the U.S., they can cause certain U.S. law to be invoked. For example, as a general rule, under the U.S. National Stolen Property Act, one cannot have legal title to art/artifacts/antiquities that were stolen, no matter how many times such items may have changed hands. Articles of stolen cultural property (from museums or from religious or secular public monuments) originating in any of the countries party to the 1970 UNESCO Convention specifically may not be imported into the U.S. In addition, U.S. law may restrict importation into the U.S. of specific categories of art/artifacts/antiquities: U.S. law restricts the import of any Pre-Colombian monumental and architectural sculpture and murals from Central and South American countries. U.S. law specifically restricts the importation of Native American artifacts from Canada; Maya Pre-Colombian archaeological objects from Guatemala; Pre-Colombian archaeological objects from El Salvador and Peru; archaeological objects (such as terracotta statues) from Mali; Colonial period objects such as paintings and ritual objects from Peru; Byzantine period ritual and ecclesiastic objects (such as icons) from Cyprus; Khmer stone archaeological sculpture from Cambodia. Importation of items such as those above is permitted only when the items are accompanied by an export permit issued by the country of origin (where such items were first found). Purveyors of such items have been known to offer phony export certificates.
The regulations governing meat and meat products are very strict: you may not bring back fresh, dried, or canned meats or meat products from most foreign countries. Also, you may not bring in food products that have been prepared with meat. The regulations on importing meat and meat products change frequently because they are based on disease outbreaks in different areas of the world. APHIS, which regulates meats and meat products as well as fruits and vegetables, invites you to call for more information on importing meats. Contact USDA-APHIS Veterinary Services, National Center for Import/Export (NCIE), 4700 River Road, Unit 40, Riverdale, MD 20737-1231; call (301) 734-7830.
An important rule of thumb is that when you go abroad, take the medicines you'll need, no more, no less. Narcotics and certain other drugs with a high potential for abuse - Rohypnol, GHB, and Fen-Phen, to name a few - may not be brought into the United States, and there are severe penalties for trying to bring them in. If you need medicines that contain potentially addictive drugs or narcotics (e.g., some cough medicines, tranquilizers, sleeping pills, antidepressants, or stimulants), do the following: Declare all drugs, medicinals, and similar products to the appropriate Customs official. Carry all drugs, medicinals, and similar products in their original containers. Carry only the quantity of such substances that a person with that condition(e.g., chronic pain) would normally carry for his/her use. Carry a prescription or written statement from your physician that the substances are being used under a doctor's supervision and that they are necessary for your physical well-being while traveling. U.S. residents entering the United States at international land borders, who are carrying a validly obtained controlled substance (except narcotics such as marijuana, cocaine, heroin, or LSD), are subject to certain additional requirements. If a U.S. resident wants to bring in a controlled substance other than narcotics such as marijuana, cocaine, heroine, or LSD, but does not have a prescription for the substance issued by a U.S.-licensed practitioner (e.g., physician, dentist, etc.) registered with and authorized by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) to prescribe the mediation, the individual may not import more than 50 dosage units of the medication. if the U.S. Resident has a prescription for the controlled substance issued by a DEA registrant, more than 50 dosage units may be imported by that person, provided all other legal requirements are met. Please note that only medications that can be legally prescribed in the United States may be imported for personal use. Be aware that possession of certain substances may also violate state laws. Warning: The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) prohibits the importation, by mail or in person, of fraudulent prescription and nonprescription drugs and medical devices. These include unorthodox "cures" for such medical conditions as cancer, AIDS, arthritis, or multiple sclerosis. Although such drugs or devices may be legal elsewhere, if the FDA has not approved them for use in the United States, they may not legally enter the country and will be confiscated if found, even if they were obtained under a foreign physician's prescription. For specifics about importing controlled substances call (202) 307-2414 . For additional information about traveling with medication, contact your nearest FDA office or write Food and Drug Administration, Division of Import Operations and Policy, Room 12-8 (HFC-170), 5600 Fishers Lane, Rockville, MD 20857, or read the FDA's Subchapter on Coverage of Personal Importations.
People go against customs regulations everyday. Unfortunately, they pay the price for this. When someone brings something in illegally, the government seizes it. It becomes their property. Currently, in their possession the government has a surplus of items like cars, electronic equipment, jewelry and many other things. Once these items are found to not contain any potential evidence or valuable information they can be sold to the public. This is usually done by auction. These auctions are hosted throughout the country in a variety of areas. You can find information on these locations, plus information on how to buy seized stuff online at www.governmentauctions.org.
Bringing home fruits and vegetables can be quite troublesome. That apple you bought in the foreign airport just before boarding and then didn't eat? Whether Customs will allow it into the United States depends on where you got it and where you're going after you arrive in the United States. The same is true for those magnificent Mediterranean tomatoes. Fresh fruits and vegetables can carry plant pests or diseases into the United States. You may remember the Med fly hysteria of the late 1980s: Stories about crop damage caused by the Mediterranean fruit fly were in the papers for months. The state of California and the federal government together spent some $100 million to get rid of this pest. And the source of the outbreak? One traveler who brought home one contaminated piece of fruit. It's best not to bring fresh fruits or vegetables into the United States. But if you plan to, call APHIS and get a copy of Traveler's Tips, which lists what you can and can't bring, and also items for which you'll need a permit. For more information, visit http://www.aphis.usda.gov/travel/ or http://www.aphis.usda.gov/ppq/permits.
World politics also plays a part in customs. If our country was at war with another nation our government might impose what's called a trade embargo. This means that anyone in the US is prohibited to export or import goods from that country. Sometimes embargos are even used when we are not at war. We might not buy goods from a country that treats their workers unfairly or does harmful things to the environment. Whatever the case maybe the government usually provides all of this information on their US Customs & Border protection site -- www.cbp.gov.
If you plan to import game or a hunting trophy, please contact the Fish and Wildlife Service before you leave at (800) 358-2104. Currently, 14 Customs ports of entry are designated to handle game and trophies; other Customs ports must get approval from the Fish and Wildlife Service to clear your entry. Depending on the species you bring back, you might need a permit from the country where the animal was harvested. Regardless of the species, you'll have to fill out a Fish and Wildlife form 3-177, Declaration for Importation or Exportation. Trophies may also be subject to inspection by the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) for sanitary purposes. General guidelines for importing trophies can be found in APHIS's publication Traveler's Tips. Contact USDA-APHIS-PPQ, Permit Unit, 4700 River Road, Unit 133, Riverdale, MD 20737, or call (301) 734-8645. Also, federal regulations do not allow the importation of any species into a state with fish or wildlife laws that are more restrictive than federal laws. And if foreign laws were violated in the taking, sale, possession, or export to the United States of wild animals, those animals will not be allowed entry into the United States. Warning: There are many regulations, enforced by various agencies, governing the importation of animals and animal parts. Failure to comply with them could result in time-consuming delays in clearing your trophy through Customs. You should always call for guidance before you depart.
The US Customs Service has been entrusted with enforcing some 400 laws for 40 other government agencies, such as the Fish and Wildlife Service and the Department of Agriculture. These other agencies have great interest in what people bring into the country, but they are not always at ports of entry, guarding our borders. US Customs is always at ports of entry - guarding the nation's borders is what we do. The products we want to keep out of the United States are those that would injure community health, public safety, American workers, children, or domestic plant and animal life, or those that would defeat our national political interests. Sometimes the products that cause injury, or have the potential to do so, may seem fairly innocent. Before you leave for your trip abroad, you might want to talk to Customs about the items you plan to bring back to be sure they're not prohibited or restricted. Prohibited means the item is forbidden by law to enter the United States. Examples are dangerous toys, cars that don't protect their occupants in a crash, or illegal substances like absinthe and Rohypnol. Restricted means that special licenses or permits are required from a federal agency before the item is allowed to enter the United States. Examples are firearms and certain fruits, vegetables, pets, and textiles.
Fish, wildlife, and products made from them are subject to import and export restrictions, prohibitions, permits or certificates, and quarantine requirements. It is recommended that you contact the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service before you depart if you plan to import or export any of the following: Wild birds, land or marine mammals, reptiles, fish, shellfish, mollusks, or invertebrates. Any part or product of the above, such as skins, tusks, bone, feathers, or eggs. Products or articles manufactured from wildlife or fish. Endangered species of wildlife, and products made from them, generally may not be imported or exported. You'll need a permit from the Fish and Wildlife Service to import virtually all types of ivory, unless it's from a warthog. The Fish and Wildlife Service has so many restrictions and prohibitions on various kinds of ivory - Asian elephant, African elephant, whale, rhinoceros, seal, pre-Endangered Species Act, post-CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species), and many others - that they urge you to contact them before you even think of acquiring ivory in a foreign country. They can be reached at (800) 358-2104. But you may import an object made of ivory if it's an antique; that is, if it's at least 100 years old. You will need documentation that authenticates the age of the ivory. You may import other antiques containing wildlife parts with the same condition: they must be accompanied by documentation proving they are at least 100 years old. (Certain other requirements for antiques may apply.) For example: If you plan to buy such things as tortoiseshell jewelry, leather goods, or articles made from whalebone, ivory, skins, or fur, please, before you go, contact the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Division of Law Enforcement, P.O. Box 3247, Arlington, VA 22203-3247, or call (800) 358-2104. Hunters can get information on the limitations for importing and exporting migratory game birds from this office as well. Ask for the pamphlet Facts About Federal Wildlife Laws. The Fish and Wildlife Service has designated specific ports of entry to handle fish and wildlife entries. If you plan to import anything discussed in this section, please also contact the Customs Service. We'll tell you about designated ports and send you the brochure Pets and Wildlife, which describes the regulations we enforce for all agencies that oversee the importation of animals. Some states have fish and wildlife laws and regulations that are stricter than federal laws and regulations. If you're returning to such a state, be aware that the stricter state laws and regulations have priority. Similarly, the federal government does not allow you to import into the United States wild animals that were taken, killed, sold, possessed, or exported from another country if any of these acts violated foreign laws.
It is illegal in the United States to import, export, distribute, transport, manufacture, or sell products containing dog or cat fur in the United States. As of November 9, 2000, the Dog and Cat Protection Act of 2000 calls for the seizure and forfeiture of each item containing dog or cat fur. The Act provides that any person who violates any provision may be assessed a civil penalty of not more that $10,000 for each separate knowing and intentional violation, $5,000 for each separate gross negligent violation, or $3,000 for each separate negligent violation.
The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) regulates and restricts firearms and ammunition; it also approves all import transactions involving weapons and ammunition. If you want to import (or export) either of them, you must do so through a licensed importer, dealer, or manufacturer. Also, if the National Firearms Act prohibits certain weapons, ammunition, or similar devices from coming into the country, you won't be able to import them unless the ATF specifically authorizes you, in writing, to do so. You don't need an ATF permit if you can demonstrate that you are returning with the same firearms or ammunition that you took out of the United States. The best way is to register your firearms and related equipment by taking them to any Customs office before you leave the United States. The Customs officer will register them on the same form CF-4457 used to register cameras or computers. For further information about importing weapons, contact the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, U.S. Department of the Treasury, Washington, DC 20226; or call (202) 927-8320 . Many countries will not allow you to enter with a firearm even if you are only traveling through the country on the way to your final destination. If you plan to take your firearms or ammunition to another country, you should contact officials at that country's embassy to learn about its regulations. And please visit your nearest Customs office before your departure to learn the latest requirements for weapons and ammunition registration.
It is true that in our country we are guaranteed certain rights as Americans. When it comes search & seizure the laws state that there must be probable cause & paperwork before anyone can be searched. However, that all goes out the window when you are dealing with US customs regulations. Custom agents have a right to do a total search without needing any probable cause. Though that doesn't mean you are destined for a strip search every time you come back to the states. Since there are so many people coming and going through this country most searches are completely random. Though, officials still try to pay close attention to everyone. If you give them a reason they will search you. So to avoid an unnecessary hour of detainment at the airport its best make sure you are honest, friendly and have nothing to hide.
If you plan to take your pet abroad or import one on your return, please get a copy of Customs booklet, Pets & Wildlife. You should also check with state, county, and local authorities to learn if their restrictions and prohibitions on pets are more strict than federal requirements. Importing animals is closely regulated for public health reasons and also for the well-being of the animals. There are restrictions and prohibitions on bringing many species into the United States. Cats must be free of evidence of diseases communicable to humans when they are examined at the port of entry. If the cat does not seem to be in good health, the owner may have to pay for an additional examination by a licensed veterinarian. Dogs, too, must be free of evidence of diseases that could be communicable to humans. Puppies must be confined at a place of the owner's choosing until they are three months old; then they must be vaccinated against rabies. The puppy will then have to stay in confinement for another 30 days. Dogs older than three months must get a rabies vaccination at least 30 days before they come to the United States and must be accompanied by a valid rabies vaccination certificate if coming from a country that is not rabies-free. This certificate should identify the dog, show the date of vaccination and the date it expires (there are one-year and three-year vaccinations), and be signed by a licensed veterinarian. If the certificate does not have an expiration date, Customs will accept it as long as the dog was vaccinated 12 months or less before coming to the United States. Dogs coming from rabies-free countries do not have to be vaccinated. You may import birds as pets as long as you comply with APHIS and U.S. Fish and Wildlife requirements. These requirements may include quarantining the birds at one of APHIS' three Animal Import Centers at your expense. You must make advance reservations at the quarantine facility. If you intend to import a bird, call APHIS' National Center for Import and Export at (301) 734-8364 for more information. In any case, birds may only be imported through ports of entry where a USDA port veterinarian is on duty, any you must make arrangements in advance to have the bird examined by a USDA port veterinarian at the first U.S. port of entry. There is a user fee for this service of a minimum of $23.00 based on an hourly rate of $76/hour. For more information, you may contact the USDA, APHIS, Veterinary Services, National Center for Import and Export (NCIE), 4700 River Road, Unit 40, Riverdale, MD 20737-1231; phone number (301) 734-8364.
There are only 2 definite things in life --- death & taxes. When it comes to traveling the latter couldn't be more true. It seems like wherever you go you are subject to some kind of tax. Even when it comes time to leave the country. Most countries charge what's called a departure tax. This is usually a tiny amount -- $5- $10. However, if you forget to pay it, it could equal a lot of trouble. It is usually the responsibility of the airline to collect this tax. So to be on the safe side you should ask about it when checking in at the airport. Also, you might also want to take this international travel recommendation -- Keep some extra currency of the country with you. Just case that is the way the government would prefer you the pay that tax.
The plants, cuttings, seeds, unprocessed plant products, and certain endangered species that are allowed into the United States require import permits; some are prohibited entirely. Threatened or endangered species that are permitted must have export permits from the country of origin. Every single plant or plant product must be declared to the Customs officer and must be presented for USDA inspection, no matter how free of pests it appears to be. Address requests for information to USDA-APHIS-PPQ, 4700 River Road, Unit 139, Riverdale, MD 20737-1236; phone (301) 734-8295 ; or visit www.aphis.usda.gov/travel/.
Priceless art & antiques don't fly coach. Meaning, they belong in museums. Behind glass in prominent government buildings. They do not belong in your suitcase. That is a US customs “No No” or any customs for that matter. If it was legal, countries would have a hell of a time tracking art thievery. Basically, if your paperwork was official enough any Joe Schmo could transport the Mona Lisa out of sight. However, even though you can't bring these national treasures through customs that doesn't mean you can't bring in artwork. Even artwork of the expensive kind. Though, if you do decide to do this make sure you get a receipt from the gallery. It should clearly state that the painting (or whatever) was allowed to be sold. Break this US customs regulation and you could be staring at serious jail time.
Generally, you may not bring in any goods from the following countries: Afghanistan, Cuba, Iran*, Iraq, Libya, Serbia, and Sudan. The Office of Foreign Assets Control of the U.S. Treasury Department enforces this ban. You may, however, bring in informational materials - pamphlets, books, tapes, films or recordings - from these countries, except for Iraq. If you want to import merchandise from any of these countries, you will first need a specific license from the Office of Foreign Assets Control. Such licenses are rarely granted. There are restrictions on travel to these countries. The restrictions are strictly enforced, so if you're thinking about going to any of the countries on this list, write to the Office of Foreign Assets Control, Department of the Treasury, Washington, DC 20220, before you make your plans. *The embargo on Iranian goods is being revised to allow the importation of carpets and foods for human consumption such as caviar and pistachios. Please check with your local port to find out when the new regulations are scheduled to take effect. Until the new regulations are published, the complete embargo is still in force.
When most people think of smuggling they tend to think of people hiding massive amounts of drugs on or in body parts while crossing some southern border at midnight. True, this does occur. However, there is a possibility of smuggling something by accident or sorta by accident. When going on a trip whatever you buy you need to declare. Usually you can spend a certain amount without paying duties. However, if you go over that limit you will have to pay a fee. Sometimes people might just squeak over that amount. So they might selectively forget to list an item or two. Just remember if you do happen to not declare certain items and customs catches it, you might wind up paying a fine. So the best custom tip is to be honest. Pay a little now so you're not paying a lot later.
We can never truly leave the world behind when we go away. Especially when the trip starts winding down. One of the main things that pops into our heads is thinking about the gifts we have to get everyone. Before you buy just remember that you are allowed $200 worth of items -- duty free. Which means anything over that amount you will be taxed. $200 means $200. It doesn't mean a family of four traveling receives $800 in duty free shopping. Though, you can get bigger monetary exemptions if you apply for it. Also to save time getting through airport customs, save the gift-wrapping until after you get back to the states. All items bought overseas must be available for inspection.
It is illegal to bring drug paraphernalia into the United States unless thay have been prescribed for authentic medical conditions - diabetes, for example. Customs will seize any illegal paraphernalia. The importation, exportation, manufacture, sale, or transportation of drug paraphernalia is prohibited by law. If you're convicted of any of these offenses, you will be subject to fines and imprisonment.
Bringing back pets or plants is strictly regulated by US customs. This means just having the proper paperwork doesn't give you the right to bring your new pet parrot Waldo right from customs to your car. It just means that you are allowed to bring the bird to US customs. They still have to check the animal out. Which in some cases means a thorough health inspection. Your pet would need to be quarantined. Given the proper vaccinations. Then once they were convinced this pet could spread no new diseases in our country it could be released into your care. So you might want to think twice before you buy that cute little foreign bird that catches your eye.
Gold coins, medals, and bullion, formerly prohibited, may be brought into the United States. However, under regulations administered by the Office of Foreign Assets Control, such items originating in or brought from Afghanistan, Cuba, Iran, Iraq, Libya, Serbia, and Sudan are prohibited entry. Copies of gold coins are prohibited if not properly marked by country of issuance.
Although ceramic tableware is not prohibited or restricted, you should know that such tableware made in foreign countries may contain dangerous levels of lead in the glaze; this lead can seep into foods and beverages. The Food and Drug Administration recommends that if you buy ceramic tableware abroad - especially in Mexico, China, Hong Kong, or India - you have it tested for lead release when you return, or use it for decorative purposes only.
U.S. Customs enforces laws relating to the protection of trademarks and copyrights. Articles that infringe a federally registered trademark or copyright, i.e., that use the protected right without the authorization of the trademark or copyright owner, are subject to detention and seizure. Articles bearing marks that are counterfeit of a federally registered trademark are subject to seizure and forfeiture. Additionally, the importation of articles bearing counterfeit marks may subject an individual to a civil monetary penalty if the registered trademark has also been recorded with Customs. Articles bearing marks that are confusingly similar to a registered trademark, and gray market articles (goods bearing genuine marks not intended for importation into the United States) may be subject to detention and seizure. However, passengers arriving into the United States are permitted to import one article, which must accompany the person, bearing a counterfeit, confusingly similar or restricted gray market trademark, provided that the article is for personal use and is not for sale. This exeption may be granted not more than once every thirty days. The arriving passenger may retain one article of each type accompanying the person. For example, an arriving person who has three purses, whether each bears a different infringing trademark, or whether all three bear the same infringing trademark, is permitted one purse. If the article imported under the personal exemption provision is sold within one year after the date of importation, the article or its value is subject to forfeiture. In regard to copyright infringement, articles that are determined to be clearly piratical of a federally registed copyright, i.e., unauthorized articles that are substantially similar to a material protected part of a copyright, are subject to seizure. Articles that are determined to be possibly piratical may be subject to detention and possible seizure. A personal use exemption similar to that described above also applies in respect of copyrighted articles. You may bring back genuine trademarked and copyrighted articles (subject to duties). The copyrighted products most commonly imported include CD-ROMs, tape cassettes, toys, stuffed animals, clothing with cartoon characters, videotapes, videocassettes, music CDs, and books.