Expats: Customs Requirements For Entry To America

Household goods and other personal belongings owned and used for at least one year may be taken into America duty free. A complete list of items and valuations is necessary.

Items must remain in your possession for at least one year after your arrival in America. Disposing of them in any way during the first year requires customs authorisation.

If the shipment is arriving unaccompanied, a customs form entitled Declaration for Free Entry of Unaccompanied Articles is required in clearing customs. Items carried into the country with you should be recorded on the customs declaration form.

Household goods shipments bound for America are subject to security measures, so be aware of the latest restrictions while preparing – and waiting for – your shipment. Click here for the current statement from the Department of Homeland Security. Check with your household goods carrier for the current status of these measures.

Motor Vehicles
Imported vehicles are subject to taxes and duties unless previously exported from America. Required documents include certificate of title and registration; purchase invoice; driver’s licence copy; a listing including the make, model and year of the vehicle; and Form 3520-1 from the Environmental Protection Agency.

The US Customs and Border Protection agency requires a completed Form 7501. There is also a ‘gas guzzler’ tax, applicable on imported passenger cars with poor fuel economy – typically less than 22.5 miles per gallon (mpg).

Imported vehicles must conform to current emission standards and other regulations, which vary in some respects from state to state. General compliance requirements are available from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Emission requirements in California, for example, are exceptionally strict. Modifications necessary to make foreign-made cars conform can run to several thousand dollars, depending upon make and year of manufacture. Imports are also tested for bumper collision-resistance and other safety features.

US Customs and Border Protection’s website has extensive information on Importing a Vehicle.

Restricted Items
Banned from importation are drugs, firearms and ammunition for other than sporting purposes, goods produced in countries placed on the prohibited list. Current information is available upon request from the Department of the Treasury, Foreign Assets Control. There are also restrictions on gold and items made of gold.

Permission for importation of guns and ammunition for sporting purposes must be obtained in advance from the Firearms Division of the Internal Revenue Service.

Tobacco and alcohol amounts may be limited by the state you are moving to. Alcohol may not be shipped by mail, and large amounts transported to your new American residence (i.e. for a personal wine cellar) may be subject to taxes.

Plants and animals, as well as animal products such as furs or skins, are prohibited.

Currency Restrictions
There are no restrictions on the amount of money visitors are permitted to take into America. However, currency or other instruments of monetary value over US$10,000 must be declared to customs.

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