What Is the U.S. Custom Clearance Process?


Quick Answer

The U.S. Customs clearance procedure begins when a traveler entering the United States presents a completed Customs and Border Patrol Declaration Form 6059B to a Customs agent. This form enables more citizens and visitors who purchase things abroad to file joint customs declarations. Travelers may print out the form ahead of time, or may use forms distributed by airline or ship personnel. Anyone entering the United States must display a passport or equivalent identity card that is recognized by Customs.

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Full Answer

Certain restrictions apply to travelers who return to the United States from Mexico and a number of other foreign countries. For example, travelers may not import Cuban cigars through Mexico. No illegal drugs are allowed to cross the border into the U.S. Products made from endangered species are also forbidden, including boots made from sea turtle skins. Travelers must declare agricultural items and anything else acquired abroad, and imports of alcohol are limited. Passengers carrying more than $10,000 into the United States must declare the amount using a FinCEN 105 form.

Customs agents are authorized to search people or belongings at their discretion. The agency encourages travelers to patiently and cooperatively submit to searches in order to expedite the process. Customs can also collect information on travelers entering or leaving the United States. To help make travel more convenient, the Customs Agency posts airport wait times and wait times at the country's northern and southern borders on CBP.gov. Travelers can check these reports and plan their trips accordingly.

At some airports, including Boston-Logan International Airport and Chicago O'Hare International Airport, Customs provides Global Entry kiosks to streamline entry for pre-approved, low-risk travelers. Global Entry travelers scan their passports in a kiosk to enter the country. The process for qualifying for the program includes a background check and an interview.

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