US Customs Regulations: What to Declare Before Entering US Territory

US Customs Regulations: What to Declare Before Entering US Territory

If you are an international traveler intending to visit the United States with an EVUS, you must be wondering what you have to declare when entering the US. Common things such as money or food —including chocolates purchased at the airport, gifts you’ve received, or even crackers served during your flight that you may have placed in your bag to eat at a later time— may cause issues or fines if not declared.

Questions such as “Do I need to declare food at US Customs?", or "What happens if you don't declare at US customs?" often go through travelers minds as well.

Read our expert recommendations on US customs declaration, to ensure you know what must be declared when entering the US so your arrival to the country can be smooth and trouble-free.

Customs Declaration upon Arrival to the USA

As a general rule, foreign visitors entering the US are advised to carefully review their customs declaration and declare every item they carry that is mentioned on the form, in order to avoid declaration issues.

Sometimes, visitors inadvertently forget to declare one of the items in their bag. Should an undeclared item be discovered when a traveler has been selected for a random screening, this may result in serious consequences.

A CBP agent may confiscate the goods or ask the traveler to pay a fine if they discover a passenger has intentionally or unknowingly failed to check “yes” on what must be declared when entering the US on their customs form.

The consequences vary depending on the quantity and the characteristics of the items found during screening and remain at the discretion of Customs and Border Protection agents dealing with the case.

How to Avoid Issues with Us Customs

It is especially important to declare “yes” to “I am bringing fruits, vegetables, plants, seeds, FOOD, insects” on your customs form, even if the only food item you are carrying is something as simple as chewing gum.

Declaring that you are carrying food into the country ensures that you have met your legal customs requirement. This way the CBP agent can determine whether the food you are carrying into the country is permissible or if they need to confiscate it.

How Much Money Do You Have to Declare with Us Customs and Border Protection?

The US Customs declaration form clearly states: “I am carrying currency or monetary instruments over $10,000 US or foreign equivalent”. Monetary instruments include US or foreign coins or bills currently in circulation, currency, travelers’ checks in any form, as well as money orders, and negotiable instruments or investment securities in bearer form.

In the event that you are entering the US with more than the amount mentioned above, make sure to ask the CBP officer for the Currency Reporting Form, since the penalties for non-compliance can be severe.

If you are a Chinese citizen planning to travel to the United States of America for business or leisure with an American visa, remember to apply online for your EVUS prior to your departure. The application takes just a few minutes to complete and can be submitted without leaving the comfort of your home or office.

What Items Must I Declare When Entering the United States?

Visitors entering the USA with an ESTA US Tourist Visa or EVUS are advised to declare the following items at customs:

  • Items you purchased and/or are carrying with you upon entry to the United States. (This includes items you may have purchased to give as presents or items you have received as gifts)
  • Items you inherited
  • Items you bought in duty-free shops, on the ship, or on the plane
  • Repairs or alterations to any items you took abroad and then brought back, even if the repairs or alterations were performed for free
  • Items you are bringing into the USA for a third person
  • Items you intend to sell or use in your business, including business merchandise that you intend to take out of the United States on your trip
  • All monetary instruments such as traveler's checks, cash, gold coins, negotiable checks, money orders, promissory notes, and securities or stocks.

Travelers who have acquired items in the U.S. Virgin Islands, American Samoa, Guam, or in a Caribbean Basin Economic Recovery Act country and asked the seller to send them to their US address must declare these items when going through customs. Visitors must state the price paid for each item in US currency on the CBP declaration. The price must include all taxes.

Additional US Customs Information

Foreign visitors entering the United States with items they bought and used during their trip must declare them upon entering US territory. This includes gifts they may have received, which must be declared at market value on their customs declaration form.

All of these customs regulations are in place to protect the USA’s economy, residents, jobs, environment, etc., by controlling the flow of goods, especially restrictive and prohibited goods, into and out of the nation.

The United States of America is a vast and wonderful country full of modern cities as well as breathtaking landscapes. Whether the USA has always been on your bucket list or you just decided it will be your next travel destination, make sure to enroll in EVUS at least 72 hours before your trip.

If you are not sure whether you are required to apply for EVUS before your trip to the US, please read our article on Nationalities which need an EVUS registration prior to your departure.

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