Travelling Back And Forth Across the Border
If you cross the U.S. border into a foreign country and reenter
the United States more than once in a short time, you might not want
to use your personal exemption ($400 in this example) until you’ve
returned to the United States for the last time. Here’s why:
When you leave the United States, come back, leave again, and
then come back again, all on the same trip, you can lose your
Customs exemption, since you’ve technically violated the “once every
30 days” rule. So if you know that your trip will involve these
so-called “swing-backs,” you can choose to save your personal
exemption until the end of your trip.
For example, say you go to Canada, buy a liter of liquor, reenter
the United States, then go back to Canada and buy $500 worth of
merchandise and more liquor. You would probably want to save your
$400 exemption for those final purchases and not use it for that
first liter of liquor. In this case, on your first swing-back,
simply tell the Customs inspector that you want to pay duty on the
liquor, even though you could bring it in duty-free. (If you did,
you would lose the $400 exemption, since it’s only available to you
once every 30 days.) In other words, all you have to do is tell the
inspector that you want to pay duty the first (or second or third)
time you come back to the United States if you know that you’ll be
leaving again soon, buying goods or getting them as gifts, and then
reentering before the 30 days are up. In such a case, you’re better
off saving your exemption until the last time you reenter the United
Photographic FilmCustoms will not examine film you bought abroad and are bringing
back unless the Customs officer has reason to believe it contains
prohibited material, such as child pornography.
You won’t be charged duty on film bought in the United States and
exposed abroad, whether it’s developed or not. But film you bought
and developed abroad counts as a dutiable item.
Customer Service ProgramsThe Customs Service is expanding its methods of improving
customer service to international travelers at major U.S. travel
hubs. One method is having supervisory Customs inspectors, called
passenger service representatives, available to travelers on a
full-time basis at more than 20 international airports and some
seaports that handle cruise ships. The representatives’ major
purpose is to help travelers clear Customs.
Photos of the passenger service reps are posted wherever the
program is operating, so you can find them if you need assistance.
If you have a concern or need help understanding Customs regulations
and procedures, ask to speak with the passenger service rep on duty.
The second initiative involves kiosks, the sort of automated
booths you see in malls, banks, department stores, and airports.
Customs Service kiosks are located at international airports.
Think of them as automated passenger service reps: They’re
self-service computers with a touch-screen display. All you have to
do is type in your country of destination and the computer will
print the information for you. The screen displays a telephone
number to call for more information. The kiosks also have pockets
with Customs pamphlets on a variety of topics of interest to
travelers: regulations on transporting currency, agriculture and
food items, medicines, and pets, to name just a few.
Customs kiosks are located in the outbound passenger lounges at
the following international airports: Atlanta; Boston; Charlotte,
North Carolina; Chicago; Dallas/Ft. Worth; Detroit; Houston; JFK,
New York; Los Angeles; Miami; Newark, New Jersey; Philadelphia; San
Francisco; San Juan; and Washington/Dulles. More are planned.
If you have any questions about Customs procedures, requirements,
or policies regarding travelers, or if you have any complaints about
treatment you have received from Customs inspectors or about your
Customs processing, please contact
Director, Passenger Programs
U.S. Customs Service
Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20229