Rule of thumb: When you go abroad, take the medicines youíll
need, no more, no less.
Narcotics and certain other drugs with a high potential for
abuse-Rohypnol, GHB, and Fen-Phen, to name a few-may not be brought
into the United States, and there are severe penalties for trying to
bring them in. If you need medicines that contain potentially
addictive drugs or narcotics (e.g., some cough medicines,
tranquilizers, sleeping pills, antidepressants, or stimulants), do
- Carry all drugs, medicinals, and similar products in their
- Carry only the quantity that a person with that condition
(e.g., chronic pain) would normally carry.
- Carry a prescription or written statement from your physician
that the medicinals are being used under a doctor's supervision
and that they are necessary for your physical well-being while
Warning: The Food
and Drug Administration (FDA) prohibits the importation, by mail
or in person, of fraudulent prescription and nonprescription drugs
and medical devices. These include unorthodox "cures" for such
medical conditions as cancer, AIDS, arthritis, or multiple
sclerosis. Although such drugs or devices may be legal elsewhere, if
the FDA has not approved them for use in the United States, they may
not legally enter the country and will be confiscated if found, even
if they were obtained under a foreign physicianís prescription.
A new federal ruling allows U.S. residents reentering the United
States at international land borders to bring back, without a
prescription, up to 50 dosage units of medications on the Drug
Enforcement Agency's (DEA) controlled substances list, Schedules 2
through 5. You may bring in more than 50 units if you have a
prescription written by a U.S.-licensed physician whom DEA has
authorized to prescribe these medications.
Please note that this rule applies only to medications that can
be legally prescribed in the United States. You still can't bring
back drugs or medications not permitted in the United States, such
as anabolic steroids, laetrile, or heroin.
If you are returning by a land border and you are bringing back
medications that qualify under this rule, you must declare them.
Also, they must be for your own personal use, and they must be in
their original container. Finally, you should be aware that drug
products not approved by the FDA may not be allowed under this rule.
Such unapproved drugs are often of unknown quality, may have been
manufactured under inferior conditions, and may not be as safe or
effective as their U.S. counterparts, even when they have the same
name. Take the generic drug diazepam, for example. It is
manufactured in the United States, Canada, and Mexico as Valium. But
itís also sold in Canada under the names Neo-Calme and Rival, and in
Mexico as Pacitran and Relazepam. Are all these brands equally
effective or safe? Not necessarily.
For specifics about DEAís controlled substances list, call (202)
(202) 307-1000. For additional information about
traveling with medication, contact your nearest FDA office or write
Food and Drug Administration, Division of Import Operations and
Policy, Room 12-8 (HFC-170), 5600 Fishers Lane, Rockville, MD 20857
or visit: http://www.fda.gov/ora/compliance_ref/rpm_new2/ch9pers.html
Merchandise from Embargoed CountriesThe importation of goods from the following countries is
generally prohibited under regulations administered by theOffice of Foreign Assets
Control:Cuba, North Korea, Sudan, Yugoslavia (Serbia), Taliban,
UNITA (Angola) Libya, Iraq, and Iran. These restrictions do not
apply to informational materials such as pamphlets, books, tapes,
films, or recordings.
Authorization from the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC),
in the form of a license may be required to import merchandise from
these countries to the U.S. Foreign visitors to the United States
may be permitted to bring in small articles for personal use as
accompanied baggage, depending upon the goods' country of origin.
Travelers should be aware of certain travel restrictions that may
apply to these countries. Because of the strict enforcement of these
prohibitions, those anticipating foreign travel to any of the
countries listed above would do well to check OFACís website at www.treas.gov/ofac
or write in advance to the Office of Foreign Assets Control,
Department of the Treasury, Washington, D.C. 20220, U.S.A.
NOTE:As of April 28, 2000, the Office of Foreign Assets
Control has removed some of the restrictions on imports from Iran.
regulation now permits the importation of food items for human
consumption and carpet and other textile floor coverings as well as
carpets used as wall hangings.
If you plan to take your pet abroad or import one on your return,
please get a copy of Customs booklet Pets, Wildlife, U.S.
Customs. You should also check with state, county, and local
authorities to learn if their restrictions and prohibitions on pets
are more strict than federal requirements.
Importing animals is closely regulated for public health reasons
and also for the well-being of the animals. There are restrictions
and prohibitions on bringing many species into the United States.
Cats must be free of evidence of diseases communicable to
humans when they are examined at the port of entry. If the cat does
not seem to be in good health, the owner may have to pay for an
additional examination by a licensed veterinarian.
Dogs, too, must be free of evidence of diseases that could
be communicable to humans. Puppies must be confined at a place of
the owner's choosing until they are three months old; then they must
be vaccinated against rabies. The puppy will then have to stay in
confinement for another 30 days.
Dogs older than three months must get a rabies vaccination at
least 30 days before they come to the United States and must be
accompanied by a valid rabies vaccination certificate if coming from
a country that is not rabies-free. This certificate should identify
the dog, show the date of vaccination and the date it expires (there
are one-year and three-year vaccinations), and be signed by a
licensed veterinarian. If the certificate does not have an
expiration date, Customs will accept it as long as the dog was
vaccinated 12 months or less before coming to the United States.
Dogs coming from rabies-free countries do not have to be vaccinated.
You may import birds as pets as long as you comply with APHIS and
U.S. Fish and Wildife requirements. These requirements may include
quarantining the birds at one of APHIS's three Animal Import
Centers, at your expense. You must make advance reservations at the
quarantine facility. If you intend to import a bird, call APHIS'
National Center for Import and Export at (301) 734-8364 for more
information. In any case, birds may only be imported through ports
of entry where a USDA port veterinarian is on duty, and you must
make arrangements in advance to have the bird examined by a USDA
port verinarian at the first U.S. port of entry. There is a user fee
for this service of a minimum of $23.00, based on an hourly rate of
$76/hour. For more information, you may contact the USDA, APHIS,
Veterinary Services, National Center for Import and Export (NCIE),
4700 River Road, Unit 40, Riverdale, MD 20737-1231, phone number
(301) 734-8364; or on the internet at http://www.aphis.usda.gov/ncie
Textiles and Clothings
In general, there is no limit to how much fabric and clothing you
can bring back as long as it is for your personal use, that is, for
you or as gifts. (You may have to pay duty on it if youíve exceeded
your personal exemption, but the amount you may bring in is not
Unaccompanied shipments (packages that are mailed or shipped),
however, are subject to limitations on amount. The quantity
limitations on clothing and textiles are called "quotas." In order
to enter the United States, clothing and textiles may need to be
accompanied by a document-you could think of it as a passport for
fabrics-called a "visa." Sometimes, instead of a visa, an export
license or certificate is required from the country that produced
the clothing. A formal entry must be filed for all made-to-order
suits from Hong Kong, no matter what their value, unless they
accompany you. If you plan to get clothing or fabric on your trip
and have it sent to you by mail or courier, check with Customs about
quota and visa requirements before you travel.
Money and Other Monetary Instruments
You may bring into or take out of the country, including by mail,
as much money as you wish. But if itís more than $10,000, youíll
need to report it to Customs. Ask the Customs officer for the Currency Reporting
Form (CF 4790). The penalties for not complying can be quite
"Money" means monetary instruments and includes U.S. or foreign
coin currently in circulation, currency, traveler's checks in any
form, money orders, and negotiable instruments or investment
securities in bearer form.