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Customs Regulations

Updated Oct 05 2014 04:43 PM EST with 2 listings

Useful Web Sites

A great well-written deep site with a clear explanation of the US customs regulations
US Customs Travel Spotlight

Other import regulations:

The Department of Agriculture (USDA): The USDA restricts the import of most foodstuffs, plants and wild animals to protect the country from accidental importation of diseases and pests that could harm US agriculture. Fruits, meats, vegetables and seeds are prohibited.
Cooked processed food is generally allowed. Baked goods, candy and cheeses are allowed.
The USDA uses specially trained Beagles to sniff at luggage, handbags, coats, etc. for prohibited items. These items are usually confiscated.

US FTA: Will access Federal excise tax on alcohol and tobacco over the exempt amount.

NY State Dept. of Finance and Tax: You may be subject to sales tax on items (cars, fur coats, furniture, etc.) you purchase abroad. The first $800 of merchandise per person is not taxed, if it was purchased anywhere other than a Caribbean Basin country or a U.S. insular possession. There are special rules if the merchandise was purchased in either of these areas, or in more than one country. After the intial exemption, the next $1,000 of merchandise is taxed at a flat rate of 3%. After that, the amount of tax depends on what the item is. See Duty-Free Exemption for a more in-depth explanation of the duty-free rules..

Customs Regulations

Customs Regulations Worldwide

brief overview of the customs regulations of foreign nations
Website: ourworld.compuserve.com

Traveler Information :Customs

the official US custom's website guide for travelers
Website: customs.ustreas.gov

Custom Regulations for Arriving Visitors

Returning residents: Customs summary $400 on items accompanying individual every 30 days, if gone for 48 hours or more( $200 if you used any portion of your $400 exemption in the past 30 days). Families may combine exemptions on a joint declaration.
The exemption is $600 if returning from many (but not all) Caribbean islands: From Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and Panama, you only get a personal exemption.

Specific limitations: Alcohol 1 liter, tobacco 200 cigarettes or 50 cigars (not Cuban) or 2 kg of smoking tobacco. Amounts above these limitations are subject to State and Federal Excise Taxes.

Duty: 10% on the first $1,000 above the exemption. Amounts above $1,000 are taxed at applicable rates The highest duty rates are included in your exemption and $1000 (thus reducing applicable duties). Items mailed to yourself are not eligible for the $400 exemption or the $1000 flat 10% rate.

TYPNote on Gifts Mailed from Abroad:

Gifts mailed to friends and costing less than $100 may be received without duty. Note that perfume, tobacco and alcohol are not eligible for this gift exemption. You may mail gifts to as many friends as you wish (even in one package with separate addresses of the parcels inside) and you may mail more than one gift to the same friend as long as the gift packages do not arrive for customs processing on the same day.
Mark the outside of the packages with the name and address of the recipient and write the following on the outside of the package.

"Unsolicited gift"
Description of items
Fair market value

"Consolidated gift packages" should give the names and addresses of each recipient and the fair market value of each gift.


  • Vehicles can be imported and used duty-free for one year.
  • Get and use an ATA Carnet for temporary import of sample merchandise, household furnishings, registration of foreign goods and tools of trade.
  • Items purchased abroad during a prolonged stay will be valued at a depreciated value considering the age of the item.
  • Antiques, fine art, books, prism binoculars are imported free of duty.

TYP Warning: Illegal drugs, pirated copies of copyrighted material, certain firearms may not be imported without prior written permission. Smuggling of drugs is a very serious criminal offense.