Passing Through Customs

Whilst passing through an international hub, port of entry or border-crossing, you will be requested to complete a customs declaration form. Each country or trade zone will have different legislation relating to the movement of goods, and it is important to be aware of local customs’ laws when entering a country or returning home with souvenirs and purchases from abroad.

The permissible items allowed into a country will vary from place to place, but, commonly, there are a list of banned items, restricted items and items that are free to pass as long as they are gifts or for personal use. Attempting to transport any of the banned items may result in confiscation and destruction or a harsh punishment if caught. Non-disclosure of restricted items can also lead to other legal offences.

It is strongly recommended that you declare all items that you are unsure of, and never, under any circumstances, carry anything from the prohibited items list. Such items include, not surprisingly, drugs of any form (please be aware that, in some countries, you may also run into difficulties carrying in your own, personal medication and it is wise to carry a doctor’s letter with you) and any weapons, such as knives, knuckledusters, swords, etc., or other dangerous items. Counterfeit goods, including DVDs, CVs, clothing and handbags are forbidden, as well as pornographic material in many places.

There are also international restrictions on the import of foodstuffs, particularly meat and dairy products, some vegetables and seeds, etc. Some free trade zones, for example the European Union, allow a restricted amount of certain foodstuffs, but you should check on the relevant custom’s website. There are also restrictions on the import of firearms and hunting equipment, and you should check local import requirements on animal fur and any other animal products (endangered or not).

Importing commercial quantities of anything are usually subject to a different set of regulations than those governing holiday-makers or other non-commercial travellers.

Probably the most common restriction that the general traveller will face is the import of tobacco and alcohol. Each country will allow a limited amount of these items, if deemed for personal use, but this varies from country to country and can be determined by point of origin. There are also restrictions on the amount of currency permitted into or out of some countries.

If you are passing through customs and have any of the above items or anything that you are unsure of, you should fill in the customs declaration form accordingly. Even if you have items that are not restricted or banned, you may need to pay duty on them.

Under no circumstances should you try to pass through customs without declaring an item. You could, at best, lose the item or, at worst, face a jail sentence.

(Image by CBP Photography on Flickr)

Date posted: 7th September, 2011

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