With more than 60,000 employees, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, CBP, is one of the world’s largest law enforcement organizations and is charged with keeping terrorists and their weapons out of the U.S. while facilitating lawful international travel and trade.
As the United States’ first unified border entity, CBP takes a comprehensive approach to border management and control, combining customs, immigration, border security, and agricultural protection into one coordinated and supportive activity.
The men and women of CBP are responsible for enforcing hundreds of U.S. laws and regulations. On a typical day, CBP welcomes nearly one million visitors, screens more than 67,000 cargo containers, arrests more than 1,100 individuals, and seizes nearly 6 tons of illicit drugs. Annually, CBP facilitates an average of more than $3 trillion in legitimate trade while enforcing U.S. trade laws.
ESTA – Electronic System for Travel Authorization
All eligible international travelers who wish to travel to the United States under the Visa Waiver Program must apply for authorization to do so. International travelers do this by applying for an ESTA.
For background information see the CBP InfoCenter page: About the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA).
Please visit the official ESTA website to apply: https://esta.cbp.dhs.gov/esta/
>>> BE AWARE OF SCAMS! The site above is the ONLY official U.S. ESTA website <<<
Transportation Letters for Lawful Permanent Residents
The Department of State – U.S. Consular Section – Immigrant Visa Unit handles applications for Transportation Letters
Can I still be issued an I-94 or I-94W card if ESTA is supposed to replace it?
When crossing a land border such as from Canada or Mexico you maybe subject to an I-94 Arrival/Departure card. If you then depart from North America from a country other than the United States the I-94 card may not be removed.
If this happens then it is in your best interest to forward it to the appropriate authorities so that your record is corrected – see our I-94 page.
I did not turn in my I-94 when I left the U.S.; what should I do?
Why did I receive an email from U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) asking me to check my status on the I-94 website?
Where can I see my Arrival and Departure history?
What can I do if my Arrival and Departure history is incorrect ?
What is the allowance for alcoholic beverages brought into the United States?
Adults 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 the one-liter limitation are subject to duty and internal revenue tax.
Duty and Tax Rate Samples (Approximate):
Beer – 15 cents per liter
Still Wine – 34 cents per liter
86 Proof Scotch – $3.06 per liter
Be aware, however, that in addition to federal laws, you must meet state alcoholic beverage laws which may be more restrictive than federal liquor laws. This means that if the state in which you arrive permits less liquor (wine, beer) than you have legally brought into the United States, that state’s laws apply to your importation of alcoholic beverages for personal use.
Note: Shipping alcoholic beverages by mail is prohibited by U.S. Postal laws.
How do I bring my prescription medicine into the United States?
The FDA is responsible for pharmaceutical admissibility determinations. If you have any questions as to whether a specific pharmaceutical may be imported into the United States, please contact the FDA, Division of Import Operations and Policy,at (301) 796-0356 or see the Contact FDA webpage.
Generally speaking, a traveller requiring medicines for a personal condition is usually allowed to bring their medication as long as it is prescribed and provided that the importation is not otherwise prohibited under other Federal laws. If the medication is also available on prescription in the U.S., the traveller should be allowed to bring those with for personal use only. They should provide the following:
- The substance must be in the original container in which it was dispensed. (If a day pack is used you should at least bring along the section showing the prescription details)
- Have either a prescription letter or written statement from the physician indicating the medicine prescript for the patient physical well-being.
- The individual must declare that the substance is for personal use and the trade or chemical name or if the name is not present, shows the address of the pharmacy or practitioner who dispensed the substance and the prescription number, if any.
- Carry only the quantity that might normally be used by an individual having a health problem requiring such drugs or medicine for their length of stay. (An extra 2/3 day supply is normal in case of delays or emergency). But no more than 3-months as prescribed by the doctor.
Further information is available in this FAQ at help.cbp.gov .
Please Note: Final discretion for entry is determined by the CBP Officer at the Port of Entry.
What are the requirements for bringing my cat or dog into the United States?
To bring a dog or cat from the UK into the US you should have a health certificate from a veterinarian. There is no special form for this certificate. Such a certificate is usually required by the airlines, so you should check with the airlines shipping your pet for any time limitations or other details.
The UK is a rabies-free area so your pet will not be quarantined and will not need a rabies vaccination unless required by the state or local authorities in the place of your final destination. We do not have information on any state and local regulations and laws. It is suggested, therefore, that if you have a contact in the area where you are going, they should call the city or county health department for local requirements.
Can I get a refund of the tax paid on merchandise and services purchased in the United States?
Sales taxes in the United States are assessed and collected by various State and local authorities, not by the Federal Government. According to information available to this office, only the State of Louisiana has any provisions to refund the sales tax to visiting tourists and business travelers. Therefore, unless purchases were made in Louisiana, no sales tax refund is possible.
What kind of food products can I bring to the U.S.?
Food, Plant, and Animal Products
General List of Approved Products
For the latest information including on baby foods, please see this FAQ on the CBP InfoCenter.
This list covers products from all areas except Canada, Mexico, Hawaii, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
- Bamboo – dried poles only
- Beads made of seeds – (but not jequirity beans)
- Breads, cakes, cookies, and other bakery goods
- Candies, confectionery, chocolates
- Cheeses – fully cured hard cheese only
- Coconuts – (but husks or milk must be removed)
- Coffee – roasted beans only
- Dried foods – including polished rice, beans, and tea
- Flower bulbs
- Fruits – canned or dried products only
- Herbarium plants – (but not witchweed)
- Herbs – dried, for medicinal use
- Nuts – (but not chestnuts or acorns or nuts with outer husks)
- Sauces – canned or processed
- Seeds – (but not avocado, bamboo, barberry, coconuts, corn, cotton, currant, elm, hibiscus, lentil, mahonia, mango, pearl millet, potato, rice, sorghum, and wheat)
- Shamrocks – without root or soil
- Soup and soup mixes – (but not those containing meat)
- Spices – dried (but not curry leaves)
- Straw animals, hats, baskets, and other souvenirs – (but not items stuffed with straw)
- Vegetables – canned or processed
Remember the three basic rules:
- No Fresh Vegetables
- No Fresh Dairy, and,
- No Meat Products (including OXO cubes)
Can I send personal food products by post?
The Public Health Security and Bioterrorism Preparedness and Response Act of 2002, commonly known as the “Bioterrorism Act”, or BTA, was enacted on 12 December 2003, requiring that certain information be provided to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) prior to the arrival of a food shipment.
This applies to any manufactured food for either humans or animals but does not apply to homemade or manufactured foods being sent as a personal gift to individual persons in the USA but you should clearly indicate this on the Customs Form if this is the case. If you don’t your parcels or packets containing food may be returned to you or even destroyed. This act also doesn’t apply to personal importation of food products carried by Air Passengers.
Note that air passengers or postal shipments are still subject to the normal food restrictions as stated above.
Those sending food products commercially will need to go the FDA web site at www.access.fda.gov (Embassy personnel cannot enter this information for you).
Further information on the BTA can be found at www.fda.gov
Sending gifts not exceeding $100 in value via Mail
Gift packages, including consolidated gift packages, will clear CBP easier if they have the words “Unsolicited Gift” marked on the outside wrapping.
Gift packages should also be marked with the donor’s name, the nature of the gifts in the consolidated package (e.g., toy, sweater, glassware), each gift’s accurate, fair retail value and the name of each recipient.
For the very latest on this topic please also see this CBP InfoCenter FAQ.
How much money can I bring into the United States?
Customs and Border Protection (CBP) does not collect duty on currency. However, travelers leaving or entering the U.S. are required to report negotiable monetary instruments (i.e. currency or endorsed checks) valued at $10,000 or more on a “Report of International Transportation of Currency or Monetary Instruments” form FinCEN 105.
You can obtain the form in advance and download it from here FinCEN 105, or a CBP Officer can give it to you upon your departure or return to the U.S.
Failure to declare currency in amounts of over $10,000 can result in its seizure.
Information on the FinCEN 105 is provided to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), and they determine whether or not the importation of monies constitutes income subject to taxation.
The requirement to report currency on a FinCEN 105 does not apply to imports of gold bullion.
Failure to file the required report or failure to report the total amount you are carrying may lead to the seizure of all the currency or instruments, and may subject you to civil penalties and/or criminal prosecution.
What items are prohibited from entry into the United States?
Please see the CBP InfoCenter website.
Two FAQs on the InfoCenter which may be of use are:
I am experiencing problems when I enter the United States; what should I do ?
CBP is tasked with protecting our nation’s borders as well as enforcing numerous laws at our nation’s ports of entry on behalf of other government agencies at federal, state and local levels. Any international travelers attempting to enter the United States, including U.S. citizens, are subject to examination upon arrival in the United States. Occasionally, CBP may delay or inconvenience law-abiding persons in its efforts to detect and deter threats from those individuals who are involved in illicit activities. CBP relies on the patience, cooperation, and understanding of travelers to ensure the effective protection of our borders.
To better serve the traveling public, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has created the Traveler Redress Inquiry Program (TRIP) to serve as a single point of contact for individuals who have inquiries or seek resolution regarding difficulties they experienced during their travel, which may be the result of information derived from other government authorities. DHS-TRIP serves as a mechanism to share redress-related information, to facilitate efficient handling of redress requests, and to facilitate communication of redress results across DHS components and other Federal departments and programs, as appropriate, and to facilitate a response to the redress request.
If you feel that the U.S. government’s record of your personal information is inaccurate or you continue to encounter difficulties when entering the U.S., you are welcome to contact DHS-TRIP either online at www.dhs.gov/trip or by mail at the following address:
DHS Traveler Redress Inquiry Program
601 South 12th Street, TSA-901
Arlington, VA 22202