Frequently asked U.S. Customs Questions

One liter of alcohol per person is duty-free to travelers who are 21 or older. You may bring additional quantities, although they will be subject to duty and Federal excise taxes, which will be assessed and collected at the port of entry – link U.S. Postal Service regulations prohibits sending alcoholic beverages through the mail. Shipping alcoholic beverages through a courier is permitted, however, duty will be collected on the entire shipment (there is no duty exemption for alcohol not accompanying a traveler), and the courier will probably charge handling and Customs Broker fees that could significantly raise the cost of the shipment. For more details on this topic, refer to the Customs and Border Protection website From the home page click on “Contact Us”.

Visitors are prohibited from bringing or mailing fresh meats or produce. As a general rule, you may bring or mail commercially packaged candies, condiments, spices, coffee, teas, bakery goods, hard cheese and homemade goods such as cookies. Kinder eggs are prohibited. For more details on this topic, refer to the Customs and Border Protection website at From the home page click on “Contact Us”.

Household effects are furniture, dishes, linens, libraries, artwork and similar household furnishings for your personal use. In order to avoid paying duty on these items, the articles must have either been available for your use or used in a household where you were a resident for one year, and are not intended for any other person or for sale. For more details on this topic, refer to the Customs and Border Protection website at From the home page click on “Contact Us”.

If you are traveling with prescription medications, they should be in their original containers, with no more than personal use quantities. If your medications or devices are not in their original containers, you should have a copy of your prescription with you or a letter from your doctor. If you are traveling with medical devices such as needles or oxygen tanks that could pose a security or safety concern to others, be sure to have a copy of the prescription for those items from your doctor. You should also contact the Transportation Security Administration about any additional requirements they may have. As a general rule, the U.S. Food and Drug does not allow prescription medications to be mailed to the U.S. However, if you are in the U.S. temporarily ask your physician to write a letter explaining that you are under their care, and that they have prescribed the drugs for your use. The letter should also explain the circumstances for sending the drugs to you, that you are temporarily in the U.S. and have either run out of your medications, lost them, etc. The letter should accompany the package and be addressed to a CBP Officer or customs broker. For more details on this topic, refer to the Customs and Border Protection website From the home page click on the “Contact Us”.

Dogs: A valid rabies vaccination certificate is required. This certificate should be in English or be accompanied by a translation. Dogs who have never been vaccinated against rabies must be vaccinated at least 30 days before entering the United States. Cats: As a general rule, there are no restrictions on bringing domestic cats into the U.S. There are no vaccination requirements for cats, although cats arriving in Hawaii or Guam are subject to that state’s/territory’s quarantine requirements. If you are bringing your pet on an airplane, you should check with the airline in which you intent to fly as they may have additional requirements. Other pets: For more details on this topic, refer to the Customs and Border Protection website at From the home page click on the “Contact Us”.

Requirements for exporting specific commodities depend on a wide variety of criteria. Some information, such as whether an item is subject to quota restrictions, eligible for reduced rates of duty, or restricted from entry because they originate in an embargoed country, can be determined only if you know the item’s Harmonized Tariff Schedule classification number. Other requirements depend on other U.S. government agencies’ standards on safety, energy efficiency, health, and other criteria. It is advisable to call a Customs Broker for specific guidance on importing your particular commodity. To contact a customs broker, logon to the CBP website Select the state and city where your goods will arrive in the United States by clicking on “Locate Port Information”; click the “Brokers” link.

Please visit the Customs and Border Protection website From the home page click on “Contact Us” link.

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 you 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.

Please fill out the international customs declaration form which you will receive by your provider. Bona fide, unsolicited gifts will clear CBP 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. The duty waiver for gifts does not apply to “gifts” mailed to oneself or mail-ordered from the United States. It also does not apply where two or more persons traveling abroad together mail gifts to each other. But in these cases, the personal use waiver of $200 would apply, which is more generous than the gift waiver. For further information on sending packages to the U.S. from abroad please contact the U.S. Postal Service (USPS). Their website is If you are not sure whether it is allowed to send the item you wish to send please contact U.S. Postal Service (USPS) as well. Please note: It comes as a rude surprise to many people that recipients of gifts mailed from abroad will have to pay any duty owed on the item before they can receive it. Duty cannot be pre-paid by the sender (duty can’t be paid until the duty rate is assessed by a Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Officer.) This can’t happen until the item actually arrives in the U.S; it can only be paid by the recipient. CBP are aware that this can place the sender in an awkward position, but there is nothing CBP can do. We suggest you include a note with the package offering to reimburse the recipient for any CBP duty they are charged. Imports of goods valued at more than $2,000 (or $250 for textiles) cannot be sent on to the intended recipient through the mail. Further information is available on

Please visit the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s website for information on how to import food for commercial use.