Returning home from a trip abroad can be pleasant, even nostalgic. Or it can be nightmare of frustration and delay. The best way to be sure your first phone call will be to a friend instead of to your lawyer is to know in advance what you’ll encounter at your port of entry. This information is for U.S. citizens returning to the United States. If you are a non-citizen or are a citizen returning to a country other than the U.S., the procedures are likely to be similar, but you should check with your home country’s regulations for the legal requirements.
The first thing you have to clear is Passport Control or Immigration. This is where you establish that you are eligible to enter the country. A Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officer will review your declaration form, examine your passport and ask you about your trip and the items you are bringing back with you. There are usually separate lines for citizens and non-citizens. There may even be a special line for passengers with connecting flights. Then it’s off to Customs.
Customs is where the things you’re bringing back with you into the U.S.A. are checked. You can save a lot of time and aggravation by knowing what you can bring home with you and whether you need to declare these items or not. You should also know what things are subject to “duties,” the tax you pay on many items, including some that may never have occurred to you. Rules and regulations change frequently for many different reasons, so the best advice is to know before you go. The U.S. Customs Service has an extensive list of articles you can read. Do so and you’ll save a lot of hassle.
Before your plane lands, flight attendants will distribute customs documents to passengers. U.S. citizens returning home are required to complete a customs declaration form. Non-citizens also need to fill out an I-94 immigration form. Be sure to complete the forms before disembarking the aircraft. Preparedness keeps the agents’ cheery demeanor intact.
Pay particular attention to food, plants and organic components including clothing and souvenirs made from plant fibers. Depending on what the specific organic components are and where they originated, they may be prohibited or tightly regulated. When that cute official dog in the green vest sits down next to your bags, you’ll have some explaining to do. These dogs are trained to sniff out organic aromas, hemp for example, and they’re very good at it. Simply having carried some food in your bag before you left may have left enough residual odors for the dog to detect. At the minimum, you’ll have to wait while your bag is inspected.
Agri-tourists can face some special issues, too. Something as simple as a horseback ride can expose your clothing to biohazards that won’t pass muster at Customs. The solution may be a disinfectant spray on the bottoms of your shoes, but there have been cases where people have had their shoes confiscated and had to pad out of Customs in their stocking feet. Remember, Customs officers have the authority to conduct examinations without a warrant, up to and including a personal body search.
Keep receipts for your foreign purchases handy to show the documents if requested. And if you’re leaving home with items that might be misconstrued as being purchased in a foreign country, make a list before you start your trip and carry it with you. For valuable items such as computers, cameras and jewelry, register them in advance of your trip with Customs before you travel. That way, both you and the government will have proof of prior ownership.
Don’t presume that because your purchases were duty-free at your point of departure means they will be when you arrive. Duty-free shops and zones in your host country simply don’t charge you the export taxes customarily charged by that nation. It doesn’t mean there won’t be import duties at home. Know the rules governing the $800 exemption on goods brought back from abroad. And speaking of duties, be prepared with cash, check, or money order. Not all facilities take plastic.
Passengers making connections to a final destination need to retrieve their bags at the international baggage claim and re-check them for their connecting flight. If you have a tight connection, it’s all the better to experience the least amount of delays in Customs. Don’t let a piece of fruit in your backpack cause you to miss your flight. You will go through the normal TSA screening process, so limit liquids, gels and aerosols to less than 3 ounces. It’s a good idea to make sure your baggage routing tags match your final destination, too.
A good practice is to pack as carefully for your return trip as you do when leaving home, and Magellan’s has luggage and accessories to make it easy. Place all the items you bought on your trip in a single piece of luggage, if you can, and carry valuable items on your person at all times.
Your passport and money are precious when travelling. Magellan’s RFID Blocking Passport and Ticket Wallet keeps your passport, boarding pass, credit cards and other valuable documents safe and organized for easy access. This Magellan’s exclusive has RFID blocking compartments to stop electronic thieves and can be worn around your neck, across your body or on your belt.
For more carrying capacity, our best-selling Magellan’s Travel Vest has been redesigned with even more travel-friendly features. It has five pockets on the outside to keep your essentials handy and three interior pockets to keep your documents and valuables safe. It looks great with any shirt or blouse and is comfortable in any environment. Buy two or more and save big!
There’s plenty of room for your imports in the TourSafe 29 Anti-Theft Wheeled Duffel from pacsafe™, maker of the world’s most secure luggage. The roomy and versatile main compartment keeps your declarables handy for quick inspection, and the eXomesh™ ballistic nylon gives slash-proof protection to the contents. A zippered front organizer pocket holds a laptop computer, and a telescoping handle makes navigating through tight spaces easy.
With luggage and travel accessories from Magellan’s your journey will be safe, convenient and comfortable. We’ve been a favorite with experienced travelers since 1989. We invite you to shop and order safely through our online catalog at Magellans.com secure in the knowledge that we stand behind our products 100%. While you’re there, be sure to check out our Deal of the Week and other great sales and specials, too.
Oh, and be sure to turn your cell phones off when you get to Customs. Customs officials are strict about no cell phone use allowed and will confiscate your phone, possibly not returning it.