What are US Customs?
Hassle-free travel is every travelers dream. Dealing with baggage checking and customs regulations are perhaps the second most overwhelming parts of the travel. We are assuming that keeping travel documents safe and arriving at the port of departure is the first priority! That said, things can get very simple if you pack your luggage as per the restrictions. On the other hand if you are clueless about what luggage you should and should not carry you will have to clear customs and entry regulations. This may result in loss of items that are not allowable at the port of destination. In this context, understanding USA customs and import regulations will help you to pack wisely.
If you are returning to USA from India, you have to declare everything you brought back that you did not take with you when you left the United States. For example, any purchases made in India. These are subject to minimum allowable limits and some restrictions. Here is what you should expect.
Tips on customs regulations in USA
On boardYou will be asked to fill out a Customs and Border Protection (CBP) declaration form on board. If you do not receive this form, ask the air staff to give you the customs declaration form. A sample form is attached at the end of the article.
Fill the CBP formIt is easy to fill out your declaration form and clear the customs if you:
- Have sales slips for all purchases made in India.
- Pack things that you have to declare separately to save time during inspection.
Fill information related to items you are carryingThe declaration form provides CBP with information on
- your travel itinerary,
- your basic information such as name, passport number, and,
- particulars about what you are bringing into the country, such as fruits, vegetables, other agriculture products,
- any recent visit to a farm, especially prior to traveling to the United States.
One form for the familyIf you are traveling with other immediate family members, you do not have to fill multiple forms. You can simply complete one form for your entire family.
Declare Foreign Exchange/CurrencyYou have to declare foreign exchange/currency before the custom officers in the following two cases:
- If the value of foreign currency notes exceed US $ 5000 or equivalent.
- If the aggregate value of foreign exchange including currency exceeds US $ 10,000 or equivalent.
Duty Free Allowance
For Passengers 10 years and above
For Passengers 10 years and below
Used personal effects (like clothing, shoes, etc) but not including jewelry
Other articles carried on person or in accompanied baggage
1) If stay in India is more than 3 days
2) If stay in India is up to 3 days
Valued up to Rs. 25,000/-
Valued up to Rs. 12000/-
Valued up to Rs. 6,000/-
Valued up to Rs. 3,000/-
I. The free allowance does not apply to the following goods
- Fire arms
- Cartridges of fire arms exceeding 50.
- Cigarettes exceeding 200 or cigars exceeding 50 or tobacco exceeding 250 grams.
- Alcoholic liquor or wines in excess of 2 liters.
- Gold or silver, in any form, other than ornaments.
II. Alcoholic drinks and tobacco products imported in excess of free allowance also attract customs duty. These items are chargeable to custom duty at the rates applicable on their commercial imports (Customs tariff Act).
III. You can also carry one laptop computer (notebook computer) over and above the said free allowances mentioned.
IV. The goods over and above the free allowances shall be chargeable to customs duty @ 35% + an education cess of 2% for a total of 35.7% as the effective rate.
V. If the value of one item exceeds the duty free allowance, the customs duty is calculated only on the excess of such amount.
Green Channel: Green means go!If you are not carrying any items listed on the form just tick the box 'No'. Once you get through immigration and take your luggage you can simply walk to the exit from the Green Channel. If you do not have any dutiable items simply walk out of the green channel. Please read the signs in the arrival area.
Red Channel: Red means stop!If you are carrying any items listed on the form please mark 'Yes'. Once you get through immigration and take your luggage, you will have to go to the red channel. The Customs Officers will then inspect all dutiable goods that are in your luggage. Once you pay the duty you can proceed through the final CBP checkpoint.
Import of Indian currency is prohibited. However, for an Indian resident who is visiting the home country and returning to the US, Indian currency up to Rs. 5000 is allowed. Hence you do not have to give away all your Indian currency before you reach the Indian airport. In fact, it is always good to keep some Indian currency for expenses on the airport.
Understanding the customs regulations in the U.S. will help you to travel safely and know what to expect in advance.