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Tobacco Products

Tobacco Products: Passengers/travelers may import previously exported tobacco products only in quantities not exceeding the amounts specified in exemptions for which the traveler qualifies. Any quantities of restricted tobacco products not permitted by an exemption will be seized and destroyed. These items are typically purchased in Duty Free Stores, on carriers operating internationally, or in foreign stores. These items are usually marked "Tax Exempt. For Use Outside the U.S.," or "U.S. Tax Exempt For Use Outside the U.S."

For example, a returning resident is eligible for the $400 exemption, which includes 200 cigarettes. If the resident declares 400 previously exported cigarettes, the resident would be permitted 200 cigarettes, tax-free under the exemption and the remaining 200 restricted cigarettes would be confiscated. If the resident declares 400 cigarettes, of which 200 are restricted and 200 non-restricted, the resident would be permitted to import the 200 restricted cigarettes tax free under the exemption and the resident would be charged duty and tax on the remaining 200 unrestricted cigarettes.

Alcoholic Beverages

Alcoholic Beverages: One liter (33.8 fl. oz.) of alcoholic beverages may be included in your exemption if
  • You are 21 years old.
  • It is for your own use or as a gift.
  • It does not violate the laws of the state in which you arrive.

Federal regulations allow you to bring back more than one liter of alcoholic beverage for personal use, but, as with extra tobacco, you will have to pay duty and Internal Revenue Service tax.

While Federal regulations do not specify a limit on the amount of alcohol you may bring back for personal use, unusual quantities are liable to raise suspicions that you are importing the alcohol for other purposes, such as for resale. Customs officers are authorized by Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) make on the spot determinations that an importation is for commercial purposes, and may require you to obtain a permit to import the alcohol before releasing it to you. If you intend to bring back a substantial quantity of alcohol for your personal use, you should contact the Customs port you will be re-entering the country through, and make prior arrangements for entering the alcohol into the U.S. Having said that, you should be aware that……

State laws may limit the amount of alcohol you can bring in without a license. If you arrive in a state that has limitations on the amount of alcohol you may bring in without a license, that state law will be enforced by Customs, even though it may be more restrictive then Federal regulations. We recommend that you check with the state government before you go abroad about their limitations on quantities allowed for personal importation and additional state taxes that might apply.

In brief, for both alcohol and tobacco, the quantities discussed in this booklet as being eligible for duty-free treatment may be included in your $400 (or $600 or $1,200) exemption, just as any other purchase would be. But unlike other kinds of merchandise, amounts of alcohol and unrestricted cigarettes, beyond those discussed here as being duty-free are taxed, even if you have not exceeded, or even met, your personal exemption. For example, if your exemption is $400 and you bring back three liters of wine and nothing else, two of those liters will be dutiable. Federal law prohibits shipping alcoholic beverages by mail within the United States.

$600 Exemption

If you are returning directly from any one of the following 24 Caribbean Basin countries, your customs exemption is $600:

Antigua and Barbuda
El Salvador
Aruba Grenada Panama
Bahamas Guatemala Saint Kitts and Nevis
Barbados Guyana Saint Lucia
Belize Haiti Saint Vincent and the Grenadines
British Virgin Islands Honduras Trinidad and Tobago
Costa Rica Jamaica Dominica
Montserrat Dominican Republic Netherlands Antilles

You may include two liters of alcoholic beverages with this $600 exemption, as long as one of the liters was produced in one of the countries listed above (see section on unaccompanied purchases from insular possessions and Caribbean Basin Countries).

Travel to More Than One Country

If you travel to a U.S. possession and to one or more of the Caribbean countries listed above (for example, on a Caribbean cruise), you may bring back $1,200 worth of items without paying duty. But only $600 worth of these items may come from the Caribbean country(ies); any amount beyond $600 will be dutiable unless you acquired it in one of the insular possessions.

For example, if you were to travel to the U.S. Virgin Islands and Jamaica, you would be allowed to bring back $1,200 worth of merchandise duty-free, as long as only $600 worth was acquired in Jamaica. (Keeping track of where your purchases occurred and having the receipts ready to show the Customs inspectors will help speed your clearing Customs.)

If you travel to any of the Caribbean countries listed above and to countries where the standard personal exemption of $400 applies—for example, a South American or European country—up to $400 worth of merchandise may come from the non-Caribbean country. For instance, if you travel to Venezuela and Trinidad and Tobago, your exemption is $600, only $400 of which may have been acquired in Venezuela.

$1,200 Exemption

If you return directly or indirectly from a U.S. insular possession (U.S. Virgin Islands, American Samoa, or Guam), you are allowed a $1,200 duty-free exemption. You may include 1,000 cigarettes as part of this exemption, but at least 800 of them must have been acquired in an insular possession. Only 200 cigarettes may have been acquired elsewhere. For example, if you were touring the South Pacific and you stopped in Tahiti, American Samoa, and other ports of call, you could bring back five cartons of cigarettes, but four of them would have to have been bought in American Samoa.

Similarly, you may include five liters of alcoholic beverages in your duty-free exemption, but one of them must be a product of an insular possession. Four may be products of other countries (see section on unaccompanied purchases from insular possessions and Caribbean Basin Countries).

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