U.S. Customs Information

Domestic dogs must be accompanied by a health certificate stating that they are free of evidence of diseases communicable to man. Dogs to be used with livestock must be examined for tapeworms at the port of entry and, if found infested, must be freed of tapeworms.

Dogs must be vaccinated against rabies at least 30 days prior to entry into the United States, except for puppies and kittens less than three months of age and for dogs and cats originating or located for six months or more in areas designated by the Public Health Service as being rabies free.

A valid rabies vaccination certificate should accompany the animal. This certificate should identify the animal, specify the date of vaccination, date of expiration, and bear the signature of a licensed veterinarian. If no date of expiration is specified, the certificate is acceptable if the date of vaccination is not more than 12 months before the date of arrival.

The state of Hawaii and the territories of Guam and American Samoa have special requirements in addition to those listed above. All dogs entering the state of Hawaii and the territories of Guam and American Samoa are subject to a 120-day quarantine in accordance with state and territorial regulations.

Yes, but all domestic cats must be free of evidence of disease communicable to humans when examined at the port of entry. If the animal is not in apparent good health, further examination by a licensed veterinarian may be required at the owners expense. However, cats arriving in the state of Hawaii or the territory of Guam, both of which are free of rabies, are subject to state or territorial quarantine requirements.

Be sure to fill out the international customs declaration with a full, accurate description of the goods inside and attach it to the parcel’s exterior.

Bona fide, unsolicited gifts will clear Customs duty-free as long as their fair retail value does not exceed $100 and the recipient does not receive more than $100 worth of gifts in the same day. There is no duty waiver for shipments containing alcohol-based perfume or tobacco products unless the entire shipment is worth less than $5 retail. Detailed information on sending packages to the U.S. from abroad is available from the U.S. Bureau of Customs & Border Protection document on International Mail Imports. Please also refer to the special section on “Shipments eligible for duty waivers – gifts”.

If you plan to send an article of food by international mail, the FDA must receive prior notice before food is imported or offered for import into the United States. The prior notice must be submitted before the food has been sent to the United States and the parcel must be accompanied by confirmation of FDA receipt of prior notice. Also, you can submit a prior notice electronically.

Among the food articles exempt from prior notice are:

  • Homemade goods shipped as gifts
  • Food contained in household goods
  • Food (as a gift) shipped/mailed from an individual to an individual

More information on the U.S. Customs & Border Protection website.

U.S. Department of Agriculture regulations prohibit tourists from bringing fresh, dried, and canned meats and meat products from most foreign countries. If any meat is used in preparing a product, it is prohibited. Bakery items and all cured cheeses are admissible. Imported foods are also subject to requirements of the Food and Drug Administration and may be seized upon inspection if, in the opinion of the FDA, they pose any health risk of any kind. Please check the Department of Agriculture’s list of approved products!

If you are not sure, if you can bring a certain product, the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service of the Department of Agriculture will be able to assist you.

Narcotics and dangerous drugs are prohibited entry and will be seized. A traveler requiring medicines containing habit-forming drugs or narcotics (e.g., cough medicine, diuretics, heart drugs, tranquilizers, sleeping pills, depressants, stimulants, etc.) should:

  • have all drugs, medicines, and similar products properly identified;
  • carry only the quantity that might normally be used by an individual having a health problem requiring such drugs or medicine;
  • have either a prescription or written statement in English from your personal physician that the medicine is being used under a doctor’s direction and is necessary for your physical well-being while traveling.

Further information is available from U.S. Customs & Border Protection and the FDA.

Adults at least 21 years of age who are not residents of the United States may bring in, free of duty and internal revenue tax, not more than one liter of alcoholic beverages beer, wine, liquor for personal use. Quantities above one liter are subject to duty and internal revenue tax and all must be declared.

Duty and Tax Rates Samples (Approximate):

Beer – 16 cents per liter
Still Wine – 36 cents per liter
80 Proof Scotch – $2.89 per liter

In addition to U.S. Federal laws, the traveler must also meet state alcoholic beverage laws which may be more restrictive if the state in which you arrive permits less liquor than you have legally brought into the United States, that State’s laws apply to your importation of alcoholic beverages.
The shipment of alcoholic beverages by mail is prohibited by United States postal laws.

Yes, you may temporarily import an automobile, trailer, airplane, motorcycle, boat, or similar vehicle for the transportation of yourself, your family, and your guests.

Motor vehicles and motor vehicles equipment for personal use may be imported for a period of one year or less. The vehicle must be imported in connection with your arrival and be owned by you or on order prior to your departure.

A vehicle not complying with all applicable Federal laws (EPA + DOT) cannot be sold in the United States.

Firearms and ammunition intended for legitimate hunting or lawful sporting purposes may be brought into the United States provided you take the firearms and any remaining unfired ammunition out of the United States when you depart.

All other firearms and ammunition are subject to restrictions and import permits. Fully automatic weapons and semi-automatic “assault” type weapons are prohibited. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) provides further information.

There is no limit on the total amount of money or monetary instruments that may be brought into or taken out of the United States. However, if you transport or cause to be transported, more than $10,000 in monetary instruments on any occasion into or out of the United States, or if you receive more than that amount, in behalf of someone else and then transport it, you must file a Customs Form 4790 with U.S. Customs. Failure to comply can result in civil and criminal penalties, including seizure of the currency or monetary instruments. Monetary instruments include U.S. or foreign coins, currency, traveler’s checks, money orders, and negotiable instruments or investment securities in bearer form are all considered when determining the total $10,000 reporting requirement.

Sales tax you pay in the U.S. is not comparable to Value Added Tax (VAT) levied by many European Countries. Sales taxes are levied by individual states, and the regulations regarding tax refunds differ from state to state. Contact the Department of Revenue (Sometimes called the Taxation and Finance Department) in the state your are planning to visit for more information. In many cases, you are required to have a State Sales Tax Exemption Certificate before making any purchases.

For more information please see the U.S. Bureau of Customs & Border Protection website.