Some would argue that half the reason we travel is to bring back souvenirs and treasures from far off lands to always remember the amazing times we had. Amazing wines and cheeses, hand woven blankets and tapestries, trinkets and jewelry...we all like to collect delicacies of all kinds from around the world to remember our travels.
But before you start piling up your spoils into that second suitcase you had to buy, it’s critical to know what you can and cannot bring back into the U.S. through Customs, and be aware of things like duties on items.
Now, the list is long and detailed, especially if you look through the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) site, so we’ve tried to filter through to simplify it so you'll know what you can bring through...and what will have to be left at the gate.
Of course, you should always double check with CBP before you even jump onto your flight to ensure that it's allowed, since they strongly urge travelers to follow a “Know Before You Go” policy.
Some items fall under prohibited, which are absolutely not allowed entry into the country, period. Examples include: dangerous toys, bush meat and absinthe. Restricted items mean you need a special license approved for entry of those items. Examples include: firearms, certain fruits and vegetables, animal products and some live animals.
Here’s a list of items that could snag you on your way home.
Alcoholic beverages: Wine is okay! Rules are different according to each state, so make sure to check with your home state regulations before returning.
Ceramic tableware:Who knew, right? But certain lead properties in ceramics can leak into food, so double-check what you’re bringing back.
Fish and wildlife: Skins, bones, feathers, eggs must go through the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service before entry.
Prepared Food Products: Bakery items and cheeses are fine (Hallelujah!). Condiments, spices, honey and tea are admissible.
Prior Notice for Food Importation: Buying a food basket and shipping it to a friend is totally fine; shipping it to yourself opens a bunch of paperwork and notices that most vendors will refuse to do, so choose wisely.
Fruits and Vegetables: In general, don’t bring either unless absolutely necessary - everything must go through CBP, even the apple you bought before departing.
Gold: Coins and medals are typically allowed unless from embargoed countries.
Medication: Bring only what you need - no more, no less, and keep everything in the original containers. Declare all medications and carry a prescription.
Merchandise from Embargoed Countries: Generally, items from Cuba, Iran, Burma and most of Sudan are not allowed. These regulations change frequently, however.
Exceptions include: informational material in the form of books, CDs, magazines, posters, works of art etc. and gifts up to $100 in value. Household and personal effects not intended for sale.
Household and personal items.
Photographic Film: Film won’t be examined unless suspicious of lewd material. Film bought in the U.S. and brought to another country will not be dutied - exposed or unexposed. However, film bought and developed abroad will be.
Plants and Seeds: All plant products - including straw items must be declared and presented for inspection. Threatened or endangered species require special permits from the country of origin.
Textiles and Clothing: As long as what you’re bringing is for personal or gift usage, there’s really no limit here. Things only get messy when excessive amounts (like extra boxes) are needed to be shipped.
Trademark and Copyrighted Articles: Genuinely trademarked items, like a Louis Vuitton purse, are okay, but subject to duties. As long as you’re not bringing back falsely copyrighted software or DVDs, these shouldn’t be an issue.
Our bottom line? Pay attention to duty-free items as they won’t require extra fees when you return. Make sure to follow the federal rules of declaration for the above stated items to make your traveling legal and easy.