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Getting Through Customs
Making your way home from international travel can be a pain-free process when you are fully prepared to pass through customs. Here are a few tips to ensure there will be no issues getting you back safely into the U.S.
Have your passport at the ready. The first document you will be asked to show when re-entering the country is your passport. While you can return to a select few areas with only a birth certificate -short trips to Canada, some parts of the Caribbean, and Mexico- you will be required for all other travels to show passport identification.
Don’t forget to always have enough room to be stamped back into the country on your passport! Buy a passport insert if space is running thin.
Keep a list of purchases. While on your trip, it can oftentimes be easier to keep track of purchases directly after buying them as opposed to making a list at the time you receive your customs sheet. Make a running list that you can add to while shopping to miss nothing when declaring items on your return trip.
Be ready to answer for certain items. Things like large amounts of cash, fruit, plants, or extravagant purchases are the items that customs is there to help properly traffic. If you are planning on crossing the international borders with these items be ready to explain why you are traveling with them, and make sure to declare them on your form.
Know declaration values for your country of travel. Each country will have a different standing range in terms of the dollar amount for how much you can bring back into the country. Exemptions for goods brought back into the U.S. range from 400 to 1,200 U.S. dollars.
Have all your paperwork ready when standing in line. Do not linger in filling out your customs claim form as it can take a surprising amount time to remember the details of all your purchases and personal items. Most flyers nowadays will be given the option to start filling out their customs claim onboard nearing the end of their flight home. Take advantage of this to ensure plenty of time to finish your form correctly.
Ask the flight attendant remaining questions instead of the customs agent. Don’t wait till you reach the customs agent to double check your form and if you have filled out a portion correctly. If you are at all unsure about whether to mark an item on your customs form, request a flight attendant’s help.