If you’re a first-time international traveler (or even a seasoned traveler!), customs can seem a bit intimidating and unpleasant. U.S. Customs and Border control put together this list of what international travelers need to know when traveling into and out of the U.S. this summer, which my family found very helpful on our summer trip to Europe.
What International U.S. Travelers Need to Know About Customs
Travel Documents: Travelers should have appropriate passports and any other associated travel documents ready when approaching a CBP officer for processing or visiting a foreign country. Find out more information about approved travel documents for entry into the U.S. as well as country specific information at travel.state.gov. Remember to carry these documents with you; do not pack them.
Familiarize yourself with Automated Passport Control (APC) and Mobile Passport Control: These two programs are making the entry process more efficient, intuitive and paperless for travelers. Learn which option works best for you and speed up your entry into the United States. APC expedites the entry process for most international travelers by allowing them to submit their biographic information and answers to inspection-related questions electronically at self-service kiosks located at 49 airports worldwide. At 23 U.S. airports, U.S. citizens and Canadian visitors can submit their passport information and answers to inspection-related questions to CBP via a smartphone or tablet app prior to arrival. Android and iPhone users can download the Mobile Passport app for free from the Google Play Store and Apple App Store.
Note: When we flew out of Dublin Airport, this process was taken care of BEFORE we boarded the plane bound for the U.S. rather than after we’d landed.
Declare goods: Truthfully declare everything you are bringing from abroad including duty-free items. If duty is applicable, credit cards or cash payment in U.S. currency is acceptable.
Declare foods: Many agriculture products can bring damaging pests and diseases into the country. If you have questions about what food is allowed or not allowed in to the U.S. visit https://help.cbp.gov and remember don’t pack a pest!
Apply and pay for an I-94 online: Speed up your entry into the U.S. by providing your biographic and travel information and paying the $6 fee for the I-94 application online at https://i94.cbp.dhs.gov/ up to seven days prior to entry.
Monitor border wait times: Download the Border Wait Time app or use the border crossings wait times website to plan your trip across the border. Know which ports of entry have heavier traffic and possibly use an alternate route. Information is updated hourly and is useful in planning trips and identifying periods of light use/short waits. The official Border Wait Time app can be downloaded from the Apple App Store and Google Play.
Obtain a radio frequency identification (RFID)-enabled travel document to use a Ready Lane at some land ports of entry: At some ports of entry, processing in Ready Lanes is 20 percent faster than normal lanes and provide a time savings of up to 20 seconds per vehicle. To use Ready Lanes, adult travelers (over 16 years of age) are required to have high-tech RFID enabled cards. These include RFID-enabled U.S. Passport cards, Legal Permanent Resident cards, B1/B2 border crossing cards, Trusted Traveler Cards (Global Entry, NEXUS, SENTRI, and FAST) and Enhanced Driver’s Licenses.
Declare gifts: Gift you bring back for your personal use must be declared, but you may include them in your personal exemption. This includes gifts people gave you while you were out of the country and gifts you have brought back for others.
Prohibited vs. Restricted: Know the difference between prohibited merchandise (which is forbidden by law to enter the United States) and restricted merchandise (items needing special permit to be allowed into the United States). For more information, visit the Restricted/Prohibited section of the CBP website.
Traveling with medication: Travelers must declare all medicine and similar products when entering the United States. Prescription medications should be in their original containers with the doctor’s prescription printed on the container. It is advised that you travel with no more than personal use quantities, a rule of thumb is no more than a 90 day supply. If your medications or devices are not in their original containers, you must have a copy of your prescription with you or a letter from your doctor. A valid prescription or doctor’s note is required on all medication entering the U.S.
Traveling with pets: Cats and dogs must be free of disease and illness when entering the United States. In addition, dog owners must be able to show proof of rabies vaccination. If crossing with a puppy, certain paperwork will need to be completed at the border for the “new addition to the family.” All pets are subject to health, quarantine, agriculture, or wildlife requirements and prohibitions. The regulations about bringing a pet into the United States are the same whether you drive over the U.S. border with your pet in your car, fly, or travel by other means. Pets taken out of the United States and returned are subject to the same requirements as those entering for the first time. For more information about traveling with your pet to a foreign country or bringing your pet into the U.S., visit APHIS’s pet travel website.
Report Traveling with $10,000 or more: There is no limit to how much currency you may take in or out of the United States; however, U.S. federal law requires you to report your total currency of $10,000 or more. Currency includes all forms of monetary instruments. Travelers who fail to truthfully report all of their currency risk their currency being seized and may face criminal charges.
For citizens of Visa Waiver Program countries, an approved Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) is required before boarding an aircraft. For those traveling by air or sea on a visa, CBP has automated the Form I-94 removing the need for travelers to fill out a paper copy. Travelers will still be able to obtain their I-94 number and/or a copy of their I-94 online.
For your next trip, consider joining the ranks of a Trusted Traveler. Trusted Traveler members enrolled in Global Entry, NEXUS or SENTRI continue to enjoy the most expedited CBP processing experience. Trusted Traveler members retain their membership for five years.
Here’s hoping you have smooth travel into and out of the U.S.!
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